LibreOffice for Android has long been one of the biggest demands in the open source world. The reason is simple, a majority of Android users (myself included) who are concerned about vendor lock-in don't save their data in Microsoft's controversial docx, or Apple's incompatible Pages formats. ISO approved ODF is the only way to go if you don't want your files to become inaccessible in the future.
Until recently, Google had very no support for ODF, despite being a supporter of open source. Still today, if I have an ODT file, Android will refuse to open it. That’s why we need LibreOffice for Android.
LibreOffice for Android is here
The application is created by Collabora, a UK based organization that created a new division to offer value added services on top of LibreOffice.
I interviewed Michael Meeks, who has been involved with LibreOffice since OpenOffice days and is now VP of Productivity at Collabora, at FOSDEM 2013 in Brussels, Belgium where he gave me a demo of LibreOffice running on Android.
The Document Foundation, the organization behind LibreOffice, said in a statement that "it is built on foundational work by the LibreOffice community, SUSE, and the Mozilla Corporation, with additional development by Jacobo Aragunde of Igalia, and Andrzej Hunt and Ian Billet as part of Google Summer of Code."
This is the very first release of LibreOffice Viewer that is capable of handling text documents and presentations.
I went ahead and installed the app on my Nexus 6 and suddenly instead of getting the 'there is no app to open this file' message I was used to, I had a dialog box asking me to open the ODT file in LibreOffice.
The app is really in a very early beta stage. While it does enable me to open ODT files in Android, the experience is not a good one. The app takes a few seconds to render the file and it it renders every time you scroll through a file.
We need more from LibreOffice
I'll keep my grumblings to a minimum because it is beta software, after all. However, I do feel that LibreOffice needs to bring a stable application for Android. There is a huge void of any free and open source office suite on Android. I also think that just a viewer is not enough. Documents are not created for viewing alone, that's what PDF is for.
In addition, LibreOffice, in its current state, is not solving any problems that Android users face. There are already a few document readers for Android that can open ODF files. Open source apps such as OpenDocument Reader can even edit and save ODF files.
Earlier, when I talked to Italo Vignoli about LibreOffice he told me that a majority of their resources were going into cleaning the code that they inherited from Sun's Open Office.
Code cleaning is also one of the reasons, despite demands, that LibreOffice hasn't received any heavy facelift to give it a modern look and feel.
Something is better than nothing
What's really exciting to see is that there is now an official LibreOffice application that can handle ODF files. I hope that things will get better with time as the app gets more users who try it and provide valuable feedback to the developers.
Because it's open source, developers can chip in and quickly improve the app, bringing the entire suite of LibreOffice to Android and other mobile platforms.
Go ahead, download and install the app from the Google Play Store and let us know what you think.
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