Recent Contributions from Collabora to LibreOffice

We’re continually contributing improvements to the LibreOffice code-base as a member of the community (Collabora Online Forum). Here are a few highlights of the last week’s work on behalf of our customers.

“Collabora is a commercial organisation; of course we serve the needs of our paying customers, but it is a real pleasure to be able to contribute alongside the development community to LibreOffice,” said Michael Meeks, General Manager of Collabora Productivity. “It, not only, helps us offer our customers business values and benefits other companies can’t, but it provides us with an incredibly robust development and support resource.”

There’s a lot going on in the community and here are few current projects that demonstrate what people are hacking.

Enabling Calc support for 16384 columns by default

Over the last couple of weeks Luboš Luňák (Llunak) has been working for Collabora on the 16k columns support in Calc. There’s been a lot of work on this already by Noel Grandin and others, but so far this has been hidden behind the experimental option, and normally documents open only with the “normal” 1024 columns support. The goal of this work is to finish the 16k support stable enough for it to be the default, so that people who need this many columns can finally get them without any complications.

If all goes well, and so far Luboš doesn’t see why it shouldn’t, LibreOffice 7.4 will ship with 16k columns being the default. Calc users will then be able to get a lot more columns to work with.

This work is funded/sponsored by DEVxDAO as part of its mission to support Open Source and transparent research and development of emerging technologies and frameworks. Interestingly finishing this work was also a project that was proposed by to be funded by TDF, and ranked as one of the top requested features, it is great that this budget can now be re-applied to another task.

If you have ever been bitten by the “too many columns” dialog box then, why not find out more about what Luboš is working on.

Word-style border fixes in Writer: pages, tables and paragraphs

Miklos Vajna (vmiklos) has been looking at Writer and how it can better render Word-style borders around pages, tables and paragraphs.

Word users expect to able to import their documents to Writer and experience high-fidelity rendering. This means Writer has to support the way page / table / paragraph borders are painted according to the OOXML model as well. This is all done conditionally, so existing ODF documents are left unchanged.

As a result of this work, Writer now has a set of improvements to better render Word-style borders around pages, tables and paragraphs.

Thanks must go to Docmosis and TUBITAK that have made this work by Collabora possible.

Find out more and take a look at some of the improvements that have been made.

Sparklines in Calc

Sparklines are mini charts available in OOXML (XLSX) documents that up to now were not supported by LibreOffice Calc.

Tomaz Vajngerl explained that to add support in LibreOffice for sparklines, they first needed to be read into the LibreOffice data model, but the data model for sparklines didn’t exist, so it first needed to be created. Once the data model was ready we could render the sparklines in the cell area.

Currently the code for this is in a feature branch (feature/sparklines), but it’s in the process of being up-streamed to master. The feature will be available in LibreOffice 7.4.

Thanks to the funding of NGI and the European Union, this missing feature is now being implemented. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871498.

Find out more about the work going into the development of sparklines in Calc.

These are just a sample of the good work going on to support and develop LibreOffice for the next release. If you’d like to find out more about what Collabora is doing or, perhaps, you’d like to get involved then please visit the Collabora Online User Forum.

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HiDrive Office by Collabora Online

Collabora Online Available Through STRATO HiDrive Office

Working in partnership with Collabora Productivity, STRATO has launched its collaborative office documents solution – HiDrive Office. Based on Collabora Online, HiDrive Office provides business customers with a powerful office document solution that delivers a complete range of collaborative functionality. HiDrive Office supports productivity whilst protecting data security, and it represents a real alternative to organisations looking for an office document solution that is ideally suited to today’s distributed working environment.

STRATO HiDrive supports all major document formats and offers a large range of professional features in a familiar, tried and tested environment.

Commenting on the partnership with STRATO and the launch of HiDrive Office, Michael Meeks, General Manager of Collabora Productivity, said:

Our partnership with STRATO means their business customers can now benefit from the secure office collaboration functionality offered by Collabora Online, which is increasingly being used by organisations keen to support the productivity of their staff, many of whom now work at home.

Collabora Online is available by default for HiDrive Business customers without additional cost. Users of the HiDrive consumer tariffs can order Collabora Online as a paid add-on.

Supported Document Formats

Clients using HiDrive Office by Collabora Online can now edit text documents, presentations and spreadsheets both in Microsoft’s OOXML format and in the Open Document Format and benefit from Collabora’s excellent interoperability. Every of these documents can be opened and edited together with team members inside the browser. Additionally, also 2D vector drawings and illustrations saved in the ODG format can be opened and edited online in Collabora Online’s Draw module. Collabora Online provides HiDrive users with a secure and feature-rich office solution in the Cloud that includes real-time collaboration, spellchecking, versioning, conditional formatting, charts, pivot tables, pdf and epub export, a vast support for different image formats and all the features you would expect from a professional office suite on the desktop.

Word Processing, Spreadsheets, Presentations, 2D Vector Graphic Editor – The Four Components of Collabora Online

Word processing in HiDrive Office by Collabora Online
Spreadsheets in HiDrive Office by Collabora Online
Presentations in HiDrive Office by Collabora Online
Graphic editor in HiDrive Office by Collabora Online

Opening and Editing Documents in HiDrive

The different document types stored in HiDrive can be distinguished by their individual icons. Apart from the file endings – visible in list view – the different document types are easily distinguished by their individual icons:

  • Text document (doc, docx, odt): Icon displaying a blue “A”
  • Spreadsheets (xls, xlsx, ods): Icon displaying an orange bar chart
  • Presentations (ppt, pptx, odp): Icon displaying a green pie chart
  • 2D vector drawings (.odg): Icon displaying a yellow sun
Document icons in HiDrive’s cloud storage web interface

To view or edit these document types in Collabora Online just click on the stored file. This will take you to an intermediate screen allowing you to choose from opening or downloading the respective file. Inside this screen, it is also possible to browse through the files, delete them or access additional information. Alternatively, it is possible to open files directly by opening a dialog with a right-click.

Right-clicking a document file in HiDrive opens a dialog allowing to open the document directly in Collabora Online, or copying or renaming it.
Clicking on a document opens an interface allowing to download a document, see more information or edit it in Collabora Online.

How to get HiDrive Office by Collabora Online

The HiDrive Business Cloud by STRATO is available in different tiers ranging from 1 to 10 TB of storage. Some of the offerings are designed for the efficient teamwork of small teams, while others aim towards the storage of video, project data or back-ups. All of STRATO’s servers are located in Germany in datacentres that are ISO 27001 certified by German TÜV-Nord. Furthermore, STRATO’s service is certified as “trusted cloud” by German TÜV-Saarland. For testing purposes, STRATO offers its Starter tier free of charge for one month and reduced pricing on yearly subscriptions.

 

 

STRATO

STRATO is a reliable web host for everyone who wants to be successful online. STRATO makes web hosting fair and simple – at the best price and without unnecessary bells and whistles. The product range extends from domain, mail, website and server to online marketing tools and Germany’s largest cloud storage HiDrive. The complete packages include flexible contract terms, a 30-day money-back guarantee and six-time award-winning customer service.

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Log4j – When Business Choices Undermine Technology


Late in 2021, the Log4j software vulnerability hit the news. This was, and remains, a widespread security risk that impacted Government institutions and commercial organisations that knowingly or unknowingly installed this free piece of software distributed by the non-profit Apache Software Foundation.

Log4j seems not to be the best advertisement for Open Source as this incident has exposed some of the downsides of a more informal approach to software delivery and maintenance. Having said that, it’s well worth reflecting on the large number of derelict and unsupported systems out there in active use in many companies. From Windows XP, to obsolete or unsupported enterprise systems.

Michael Meeks, General Manager of Collabora Productivity, said:

“Organisations deploy solutions that use off-the shelf Open-Source components all the time, which is fine, but they often fail to get the necessary maintenance and support for them. The Log4j vulnerability is a stark reminder of the issues that can arise when this happens and organisations are left to sort out a major problem with little, if any, formal support.”

Open Source and Corporate Responsibility?

In the case of Log4j, the damaging bit of software is supported by a group of Apache volunteers. They are all well meaning and have worked hard to try address the root cause, but when it comes to important or even critical infrastructure, is it really appropriate to rely on software with such informal, part-time support?

Michael Meeks, commented:

“Open Source is unquestionably a force for good. It’s next to impossible to build a significant technology stack without it today. Nevertheless, the Apache Log4j incident calls into question the relationship between Open Source and commercial users and how they can safely unlock the huge business benefits offered by Open Source software deployment.”

“The point remains that when dealing with important infrastructure all software deployed in the enterprise should be supported by a team of dedicated, full-time experts, who can pro-actively engage with risks, and swiftly respond to users’ needs and any problems that may occur. That should create a positive, contributing linkage between between the end-user and the Open Source project.”

Collabora Online Support and Security

In the light of Log4j and the wide-spread problems this has caused, it’s important to emphasise that Collabora Online, which is based on the LibreOffice technology core, benefits not only from paid maintenance and support, but also a significant long term technical investment in code review, linting, fuzzing and extensive automated testing from the community that all end-users should demand of their software applications, combined with the obvious benefits of scrutiny of Open Source code.

Collabora Online is fully supported by a full-time team. Should any problems be discovered they can be easily reported, and dealt with. This includes a support platform and direct contact with engineers. This is further enhanced with a full and complete range of technical documentation, comprehensive SLAs and signed security updates. Users of Collabora Online are never left alone to deal with any problems.

Security is a critical factor in design. Not only does Collabora Online ensure end users can collaborate securely, confident that only those permitted can access documents, but because it can be easily implemented onto an end user’s own infrastructure they have full control over network access and the servers it is hosted on, further protecting data sovereignty.

“All complex software has problems and, despite our best efforts, there are always more to find,” said Michael Meeks. “Having a supplier who is continuously engaged with the community in identifying, fixing, designing around and keeping their customers safe should be a key part of all enterprises open source procurement.”

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Collabora Online 21.11.2.4 Brings Accessibility Checker and Improved UX

The latest update of Collabora Online brings several improvements regarding accessibility and the user interface. Also, the rotation of images has been accelerated, making the experience much better. Inside this blog, we are highlighting some of the latest features of the Collabora Online 21.11.2.4 update. All the technical details of this version are available in the release notes.

Accessibility Check Helps to Create Documents According to the PDF/UA Standard

Accessibility Check in Collabora Online 21.11.2.4

Collabora Online introduces the accessibility checker with the update to version 21.11.2.4. It helps to create documents according to the PDF/UA standard. Published as an International Standard in 2012 (ISO 14289), the PDF/UA format provides clear normative terms for achieving accessibility in the PDF format. The goal is to enable users to use documents without assistance from others, and to be able to receive the same value from the content as people without disabilities. This is accomplished by standardisation of the content structure within the PDF files and the technology capabilities available to the end user, including PDF readers and assistive technologies (AT).

The Accessibility Check is part of the first step in an ongoing journey to improve accessibility, both in Collabora Online (Browser) and Collabora Office (Desktop). The Accessibility Check button can be found in the Review tab. The dialog shows a list of all issues found in the text document. Through a quick access button, it is possible to access the critical element. The issue is highlighted. These checks are currently implemented:

  • Check if the document title is set
  • Check if the document language is set, or all styles in use, have the language set
  • Check all images, graphics, OLE objects for the alt (or title in some objects) text
  • Check for heading order. Order of the headings must increase incrementally with no skips
  • Check, if text conveys additional meaning with (direct) formatting
  • Check if tables do not include split or merged cells, which could be disorienting for users with visual impairments
  • Check for fake/manual numbering (not using integrated numbering)
  • Check that hyperlink text is not a hyperlink itself – hyperlink should be described
  • Check for the contrast between text and the background
  • Check for blinking text, which can be problematic for people with cognitive disabilities or photosensitive epilepsy
  • Check for footnotes and end notes, which should be avoided

Faster Rotation of Bitmap Graphics

Fast image rotation in Collabora Online 21.11.2.4

The rotation of bitmap graphics has undergone a significant speed improvement. When rotating graphics via the button (the slightly off-set filled circle above a selected graphic), the movement is now much smoother and easier to position. This improvement makes manipulating bitmap graphics much more comfortable. Here’s how you can try it for yourself. Select a bitmap graphic by clicking on it. Move the cursor to the grey circle above the graphic. The cursor now changes into a palm. Now move the palm cursor to the right and left as you wish while holding down the left mouse button.

Goodbye, Hamburger Menu 👋 The User Interface Experiences Many Improvements

Home Tab in Collabora Online 21.11.2.4
View Tab in Collabora Online 21.11.2.4

The Collabora Online 21.11.2.4 update brings some clearly visible changes to the user interface. The tabs have been streamlined in favour of a more floating style. The appearance of Collabora Online on iPads has been harmonised with the appearance on desktops and notebooks. By clicking the current tab, you can collapse the menu or display it again. Additionally, we are waving the hamburger menu goodbye. Many of the functions contained therein were already available via buttons in other tabs. Now the remaining functions have also found a new home, in places that are less generic. For instance, Select All can be found inside the Layout tab, the Full Screen icon now lives in the View tab, and so does the possibility to toggle the ruler. At the same time, the Undo & Redo buttons have been moved to the Home tab. And there are even more small UI enhancements to be discovered. All dialogs experienced visual improvements, and so did many elements in the Sidebar and the formatting icons. Thanks to the community, that contributed a lot to this specific area.

 

 

About Collabora Online

Collabora Online 21.11 is our latest enterprise quality release. It’s suitable for large-scale deployment, and comes with SLA, enterprise support with signed security updates as well as interaction with product management, helping to direct our development priorities. Collabora Online integrates flawlessly into Nextcloud, ownCloud, Seafile, and many of the major file sync & share, groupware and hosting solutions. It’s ideal for organisations that want to collaborate on documents, without losing control over them or compromising on privacy. With the ability to host it on your own hardware or to integrate it into a trusted environment, Collabora Online is the ideal online office suite for digital sovereignty. Enterprises interested in using Collabora Online can check out our home page for more information on partner integrations and online demos. Hosting and Cloud businesses that wish to add Collabora Online to their product portfolio can become a partner. For any questions or tailored solutions, do not hesitate to contact hello@collaboraoffice.com.

 

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