Tech

Office package LibreOffice 7.0: “Skia” graphics library is coming, brand strategy remains

LibreOffice 7.0 is now available, announced “The Document Foundation”, which is a non-profit foundation taking care of the development of the free office suite. A change in the rendering engine is noteworthy: away from the long-used “Cairo” to the better-maintained “Skia” library with volcano support. This has already been completed in the Windows version, but remains optional in the Linux edition. LibreOffice, however, leaves open the question of a marketing strategy for free software. This creates discussions.

LibreOffice 7.0 now supports the Open Document Format (ODF) 1.3 as a separate file format that natively allows cryptographic signatures of documents and encryption using OpenPGP. Compatibility with Microsoft Office and its file formats DOCX, XLSX and PPTX has also been fine-tuned. DOCX is no longer saved in backward-compatible mode for Microsoft Office 2007, but in the format of the current Office versions. The new LibreOffice provides the individual programs with numerous new, smaller functions and in places polishes the surfaces. These changes are meticulously listed in the release notes. Mac users can look forward to a suitable icon theme that follows Apple’s guidelines.

As was already apparent at the end of July, LibreOffice maintains the previous brand policy and does not appear with the previously mentioned addition “Personal Edition”. This adorned the release candidate and was to distinguish the free edition from an enterprise edition with paid support and any extras. After largely negative feedback from the user community, the Document Foundation decided not to reorganize the Office package two weeks before the current release. According to a blog post, there was simply not enough timeto address any concerns. So the Foundation wants to wait until they present a new marketing strategy that should make marketing the software easier for corporate customers, but nothing should change in the license model and free availability.

After all, the discussion drew attention to the challenges facing developers, the costs and hassle behind the free office package in the medium term. Michael Meeks, one of the key minds behind the service provider Collabora, who also carries out a considerable part of the development work at LibreOffice, detailed the overall situation regarding the office package and the inadvertent conflict with the Document Foundation in his mailing list at the beginning of July: The difficulty is also loud Meeks at work to turn LibreOffice into a viable business. After all, more than 70 percent of the submits in LibreOffice 7.0 come from developer companies like Collabora.

The move to the “Skia” graphics library sponsored by AMD in the Office package editions for all operating systems has not yet been fully completed. So far, LibreOffice used the C library “Cairo”, which has an OpenGL backend, to render geometric shapes and the program interface. In contrast, the newer “Skia” library, which has been used in Mozilla’s Firefox and Google’s Chrome browser for a long time, promises better performance with hardware-accelerated graphics output via a Vulkan backend. So far, “Skia” is only activated by default in LibreOffice 7.0 for Windows. The Linux builds still use “Cairo”, as Vulkan support is still dependent on too many factors such as graphics drivers. If you want to test “Skia” under Linux, you can do that Use of the new library under X11 force with the environment variables “SAL_ENABLESKIA = 1” and “SAL_USE_VCLPLUGIN = gen”. The dialog “About LibreOffice” in the help menu under “UI Renderer” then shows whether the use works.



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LibreOffice 7.0 is available for download for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. For Linux, the software is not only available in the DEB and RPM package formats, but also as a universal app image. LibreOffice is also available as a flat package, as well as in Ubuntu and as a snap package.


(emw)

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