LibreOffice 7.2 will be the next version of the free productivity and collaboration suite. At a release rate every six months, The Document Foundation has just released Release Candidate 1 and the final stable release is expected next August. The version is practically finished and you will not be surprised to learn that one of the efforts has been improve compatibility with Microsoft Office.
As you know, LibreOffice was born as a fork of OpenOffice.org in September 2010. It was created by a group of independent developers who did not trust that Oracle would keep it truly free after the absorption of Sun, after the cancellation of projects such as the Solaris OS. Since then, has been improving in each version while increasing the number of users and developers.
Released under license from open source and totally free, is the maximum alternative for local use to the leader in the office segment, Microsoft Office, and offers plenty of features for the vast majority of users without the need to use cloud development such as Office 365 or Google Apps / Docs.
LibreOffice 7.2, what’s new
Since the first version, the suite’s developers have had to go the extra mile to improve compatibility with native Microsoft Office formats. Although it supports the OpenDocument (ODF) formats used by LibreOffice and compatibility is relatively good for most general-purpose documents, it can be problematic in cases that rely on a more precise format or with advanced features.
When Microsoft introduced its rival XML document standard, Office Open XML, criticism from those who researched it in depth was that sometimes the specification essentially said “Do it like in Microsoft Office”, which makes it difficult to develop other alternative office suites. For better or for worse, the domain of Microsoft Office is patent, and developers have had to go the extra mile with it rather than applying exclusively to their own functions. LibreOffice 7.2 is one more that aims at this and includes dozens of fixes and improvements to compatibility with Microsoft Office.
The list of new features is extensive, although most of the new features are minor tweaks or bug fixes. One of the most notable is the ability to have multiple columns in text boxes in LibreOffice documents, including Writer, Calc, and Impress, which are the suite’s core applications for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations.
Writer already supports multiple columns on the main page, but this is for text boxes that can float anywhere, just like a desktop publishing application.
Writer has also improved the indexing with hyperlinks clickable for index marks in the document, background fills that can cover the inside of the page or include margins, gutter margins in page styles, and a few more enhancements like custom shading for ranges annotated text.
In Calc, users now have the option to use a “fat-cross” cursor instead of the usual arrow or Autofilter, to exclude rows via a dropdown at the top of a column, you can now use color as criterion. Impress and Draw have updated templates.
Additionally, LibreOffice 7.2 includes a great new feature for macro and extension developers, which is a developer tools panel for inspecting Universal Network Objects (UNO). It is the component model of Apache OpenOffice and LibreOffice, which plays a role similar to that of COM in Microsoft Office. These tools previously existed as extensions, but are now integrated and found in the Tools menu in all major applications.
The final version of LibreOffice 7.2 will be available in august with versions for Linux (reference version that many distributions pre-install), Windows, macOS and Android. Free and free, it will be a mandatory test for any user.