August 11, 2014

LibreOffice is coming to Android


At the first LibreOffice Conference, the Document Foundation announced its plans to migrate LibreOffice to mobile devices. The plan didn't include a total rewrite of the code, but repurposing at least 90% of the current code base. That meant the majority of the work was already done. That last remaining 10%? The user interface. The 90% already compiles on Android, so there is a working model.

So why develop LibreOffice for Android? The answer is simple: Open Document Format. At the moment, getting odt or ods files open for editing on the Android platform is difficult. 
  • WPS Office (formerly Kingsoft Office) does not support ODF. 
  • Office Suite Pro does support ODF (however, it's not supported in the free version, which offers a subtle layer of irony), but you'll find the app crashes a lot (some devices, like the LG G3, can't even open Office Suite Pro).
  • Google Docs doesn't offer native support for ODF (though you can import and export).
  • AndrOpen is a ported version of OpenOffice for Android, but the interface is horrible, and working larger files is cumbersome at best.
Figure A
AndrOpen isn't the most pleasing to look at, but it does a decent job.
With the addition of a free office suite that fully supports the ODF format, the Android platform extends its reach even farther. This is especially significant, given how widespread the adoption of the ODF format has become. Even with Android's seamless Google Docs integration, not everyone depends heavily on Google's go-to office suite. Anyone who depends on open-source software knows this element is sorely missing from the Android ecosystem. One would think a platform based on the Linux kernel would be overflowing with quality open-source apps.

There is no set release date at this point. Until the developers get the file size below the Google limit, they are unable to predict a release. Until then, however, we'll just have to sit back and wait -- and hope this happens across the Google landscape. Even though LibreOffice would be in direct competition with Google Docs, it's clear that there are some users who not only need native ODF support, but rely on a more traditional office suite to fulfill those needs.

[Source: Tech Republic]