Developing in C++ is not easiest thing you can do in ICT. But if you have some C++ knowledge and skills, it brings you great possibilities. What to think of building LibreOffice and working somewhere in the million lines of code? In Ankara, at the Hacettepe University’s Beytepe Campus, 40 students joining the LibreOffice Developer Bootcamp, just arrived at that point.
Muhammet Kara, Collabora Productivity developer, who gives the courses, tells:
“We have finished the 5th session/week of the Bootcamp. So far, we did the following. The first four weeks we did C++ basics, and covered topics such as syntax, operators, data types, arrays, pointers, exceptions.. You name it. On week 2, 3, and 4 the students had to do three home works /assignments. In week 5 we looked at LibreOffice development: how it is organized, who are involved, tooling, habits. And of course: what is good about contributing to LibreOffice. The next week the students should have a complete building environment. So we’ll start the real development: working on easy hacks. More on that in the next report! “
Collabora is really glad about the enthusiasm for LibreOffice development and happy to sponsor the Ankara Bootcamp.
The training program attracted much interest from the students side. In the first weeks, which were mainly about the basics of C++, were attended by 120 to 140 students were attending the course. The weekly plans for week 3 and week 4 (in Turkish), published on Muhammet Kara’s blog, show the ambitious amount of content they have been introduced to. The LibreOffice Development Bootcamp was also widely noticed beyond the sphere of the Hacettepe University. The tweets posted on the topic generated many hundreds of interactions and over ten thousand views in the social network.
In week five the specific work on LibreOffice moved more into focus. It was discussed why it makes sense to contribute to it. 40 students took part in this phase of the bootcamp, a great number if you consider that it is not a mandatory course and the demands on the participants were very challenging. The weekly sessions will be given until the end of the semester, January 2020. We will keep you updated here and report about the next weeks of the LibreOffice Developer Camp in Ankara.
In common with other Collabora Productivity products, this new Android release enables people to edit their documents without compromising on privacy. There is no longer a reason to hand over your data to get rich mobile editing.
The new release marks the end of a period of rewriting important parts of the application. We now share much of the code and user experience from Collabora Online’s collaborative editor as well as Collabora Office 6.2 for displaying the documents.
Once you have got Collabora Office (Google Play), your feedback is much appreciated. Report any problems you find to the bug tracker, and attach any documents related to the issue so developers can investigate. You can also checkout the Online code and build it yourself.
Rich history and community growth
The road to the current version of the Android app was a long one, one with many companions and some detours. The first version that brought LibreOffice to the Android platform was released in 2011 after an intensive process of cross-compiling and a number of bug fixes. This version was rather a proof of concept and by no means suitable for productive work.
Two years later, in 2013, the application had developed into a document viewer rendering entire pages and including basic user interface to handle pages. During the years 2014 to 2015, the rendering was changed to split the pages into „tiles“, the same way as other applications like Mozilla Firefox were doing. We have extracted the Mozilla’s compositing from their code and reused it in our Android app – still only a viewer. Later in this period, editing was added as an experimental feature.
Between 2016 and 2018 further features and functions were implemented thanks to community involvement, however the vision of a full editor was not realized.
In 2019 we decided to do a complete rewrite of everything above the LibreOffice rendering core. Inspiration for this was the development of the new Collabora Office for iOS app, which Collabora is driving forward together with our Swiss partner Adfinis SyGroup. The current, newly developed Android app benefits greatly from the Collabora Online code base and work for the iOS version and includes also features implemented this year during the GSoC, mentored by our engineers.
Thanks to everyone that contributed
This new Office app for Android obviously came by a huge investment from Collabora. As with all open source projects, it has also been made possible by the open source community as a whole, by many organizations and the personal dedication of many individuals that contributed. Specifically, for this Android app we want to mention the initial Android port funded by SUSE. The initial app used the tiled rendering funded by CloudOn, and was driven by Smoose, IceWarp and many customers of Collabora Productivity. The Document Foundation’s donors also funded the initial basic editing functionality.
Without ever doing justice to the entire crowd of supporters, we would like to thank a few people whose performance in this development has been outstanding. At this point, we would like to mention the pioneering work of our fellow two collaborators Tor Lillqvist and Michael Meeks and on the initial version of the App that among others included a first loader developed by Iain Billiet, during his GSoC ‘12 program and other components by Matúš Kukan.
Tomaž Vajngerl contributed to the already mentioned tiled rendering to the app in 2014/2105. Miklos Vajna’s efforts made editing possible at that stage. Christian Lohmaier, Ximeng Zu, and Mert Tumer have made important and substantial contributions by adding more features to the toolbar in the last few years.
Tor Lillquist was also responsible for the development of the Collabora Office for iOS app, which had a significant influence on the version for Android, and was made possible thanks to the great personal commitment of Nicolas Christener of Adfinis SyGroup. Thank you to Kaishu Sahu for his large amount of features programmed during the GSoC this summer, while our team member Jan Holesovsky has been the main developer of the current release.
Would you like to be part of the story ? get involved today.
About Collabora Productivity:
Collabora Productivity is the driving force behind putting LibreOffice in the cloud, providing Collabora Online and a range of products and consulting to enterprise and government. Powered by the largest team of certified LibreOffice engineers in the world, it is a leading contributor to the LibreOffice codebase and community. Collabora Office for Desktop and Collabora Online provide a business-hardened office suite with long-term, multi-platform support. Collabora Productivity is a division of Collabora, the global software consultancy dedicated to providing the benefits of Open Source to the commercial world, specializing in mobile, automotive and consumer electronics industries. For more information, visit www.collaboraoffice.com or follow @CollaboraOffice on Twitter.
A Customer Case Study showing how students & staffs are allowed to collaborate on common online office documents at the University of Lille, France.
Arawa, a French services company specialized in Open Source and collaborative software, has successfully delivered a Collabora Online implementation to streamline collaborative efforts and support a new generation of student services, deployed at the University of Lille, in the north of France.
Seamlessly integrated with Nextcloud, the on-premise file share and collaboration platform, the University of Lille implemented another service aiming at easing collaboration projects between students and also between staff members: they now provide potentially more than 70 000 people with Collabora Online to help them work on a common framework of online office tools.
“The University is really aiming at facilitating open standards across the whole campus. Students especially came from different IT cultures and used so many different office tools and software products, that it made sense and became crucial to put a common solution at their disposal. And following our benchmark, Collabora Online fits in perfectly with Nextcloud.”
— Cédric Foll, IT Director at University of Lille
Reducing the number of tools used internally had also become an important challenge. The large number of tools mainly used by students did not really help secure a Research environment, and all the confidential information that is produced in such an environment.
“The project is aligned with our ambitions for the University of Lille”, said Pierre Boulet, VP of digital transformation. “In this case, Collabora Online is helping to support a huge student community. It will also increase the University’s attractiveness to candidates and provide extra resources to make student life easier.”
— Pierre Boulet, VP of digital transformation at University of Lille
The digital transformation of the University of Lille is really about the wider picture. It will help the University team enhance the overall student experience, and in the meanwhile, it will reinforce the image of the University as one in an on-going process of improvements.
“This project is a great example of how Collabora fulfills requirements of a powerful online office suite, ideally suited within Nextcloud. Data security was a key requirement here. They needed a solution which could be hosted on premises, and where they have a total control of the data.”
— Philippe Hemmel, CEO of Arawa
“Arawa is an excellent partner”, said Michael Meeks, General Manager, Collabora Productivity, “We love to work as part of their their expert and dedicated service for their customers, and congratulate them on this implementation of Collabora Online.”
— Michael Meeks, General Manager, Collabora Productivity
About Université de Lille
The University of Lille is a multidisciplinary, research-intensive university whose researchers collaborate with many partners throughout Europe and the world. With 67,000 students (including 7,300 international students), 6,300 staff members, 66 research units, and diplomas in all fields of study, the University of Lille is a major player in the region in training, research, innovation, and its commitment to social issues.
Arawa is a French IT services company, distributing and implementing Open-Source software solutions. These solutions offer collaborative capabilities to edit, store and share on-premises contents, with a high-level of security and control of the data. Thanks to a combination of deep functional and technical expertise, Arawa’s consultants deliver personalized and tailor-made solutions around a suite of open-source products: Nextcloud, LibreOffice, Collabora Online, OnlyOffice et Nayego.
Visit Arawa or follow @Arawa_fr on Twitter.
Collabora Productivity is the driving force behind putting LibreOffice in the cloud, providing Collabora Online and a range of other products and consulting to enterprise and government. Powered by the largest team of certified LibreOffice engineers in the world, it is a leading contributor to the LibreOffice codebase and community. Collabora Office for Desktop and Collabora Online provide a business-hardened office suite with long-term, multi-platform support. Collabora Productivity is a division of Collabora, the global software consultancy dedicated to providing benefits of Open Source to the commercial world, specializing in mobile, automotive and consumer electronics industries. For more information, visit Collabora Office or follow @CollaboraOffice on Twitter
On November 13 more than 120 students in Ankara Hacettepe University’s Beytepe Campus joined the first session of the LibreOffice Developer Bootcamp, a course for students with interest in C++. There is a session every week, until the end of the semester.
The announcement of the course was received with enthusiasm at Twitter!
The first sessions gave a broad introduction on the course, Free Software & Open Source, LibreOffice & Collabora and requirements for the course. And after that, really into development: installations & setup, different IDEs, git, gcc, clang and the basics of C++.
The instructor of this course, Muhammet Kara, recently also held a talk about Google Summer of Code. Starting from that point, then doing a project for LibreOffice, he grew to a developer working for Collabora.
After the first session, Muhammet tells “There were many enthusiastic participants, even some from outside the town. I’m sure that at the end of the course, there will be many students with pretty good skills in C++ and LibreOffice development.”
This course in Ankara can be organized thanks to of course support of the Hacettepe University for the use of the amphitheater, Hacettepe ACM Student Chapter for the local/logistics organization, Collabora for sponsoring, and the enthusiasm and knowledge that Collabora developer Muhammet Kara is putting into it.
The weekly sessions will be given until the end of the semester, January next year. So if you’re motivated and love open source.. you may still be able to join 🙂 !
Effort by Adfinis SyGroup and Collabora bringing open source office to the world of Apple iOS and iPad
For the first time there is a free / open source office suite available on iOS: Collabora Office, thanks to the efforts led by Adfinis SyGroup and Collabora. What started back in around 1992 as the well-known StarOffice, then was OpenOffice.org and now lives on as LibreOffice, is finally available on every relevant platform including (but not limited to) iOS, iPadOS, MacOS, Android1, Chrome OS, Windows, Linux and also in the browser.
There is a lot we want to tell you about this first open source office app for iOS. In this blog we write a bit more on the technical part; the blog at Adfinis, has more focus on the interesting history.
But let us first show how it looks!
Get Collabora Office on iOS from the App Store
There are currently two possible ways to get the app:
Download Testflight through the Apple Store and use this link to join:
This will give you the latest releases – which are not fully tested, and available to just try and test
Over the past months, more than 60 versions have been released and the number of improvements and enhancements is for more than a hundred!
Built with online innovation
Collabora Online is built on technological innovation. And on a rich history, starting more than 30 years ago by StarOffice, following OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice. We suggest you to read the blog post at Adfinis with interesting details. The innovative part was already mentioned in our first blog post. Collabora Office for iOS is built on the technology that was developed by Collabora to bring LibreOffice to the cloud. An important part of this technology is called LibreOfficeKit. This is a layer allowing to use the LibreOffice we all know on the server side and from there publish documents in the browser. And since LibreOffice is capable of opening the largest possible set of documents, Collabora Online has the same capability in nearly every modern browser!
And there is more that is interesting: the document on the screen is published as tiled images, which means that it doesn’t leave the server, which is especially useful for working online securely. The UI itself, for different platforms, is build with HTML/JS, on top off the VCL, the LibreOffice Visual Class Library. This enables the Collabora app to use many elements of the extensive functionality of LibreOffice’s UI.
A really nice advantage of this approach is that we cover three major scenarios with essentially this one solution:
Android — work in progress, available through the Android Beta channel
This means that future improvements that are implemented for one platform will also benefit the other implementations.
Native look and feel & finger usage
Apple has put a lot of effort into creating great UX guidelines and great GUI widgets for iOS. However, VCL (the GUI toolkit used within the LibreOffice core) was born long before iOS and it doesn’t look and behave like a native iOS app. And even though development took the path of LibreOffice online, a lot of effort was needed in order to make VCL look, feel and behave more like an actual iOS app.
The sidebar makes settings easily accessible
A very important feature to make the app easier to use, is the sidebar. The sidebar contains contextual features and makes good use of the wide screens of the iPads.
Finger sized resize and rotate handles
Many tasks can be done with the fingers: resizing or rotating an image, change the size of a row or column in a table, etc.
The whole team has put a lot of effort in developing and testing those things work. And honestly we think that the result is quite nice.
Integrating iOS spellchecker
iOS offers spell checking as part of the basic system functionality. We integrated this functionality into the app. So now Collabora Office on iOS nicely uses the system spell checker in order to eliminate misspelled words!
GUI widgets in iOS style
Drop down menus and check boxes have their own style in Apple iOS and so we make the widget in Collabora look similar as much as possible. The result is nice and we’ll try to improve even further. This thanks to the work of for example Collabora developers Szymon Kłos, who wrote a blog post2 about the work of using native widgets in the future, and Tomaž Vajngerl, who gave a presentation about Custom Widget Themes during the LibreOffice Conference 20193 in Almeria.
Handles to select text in iOS style
The text handles look like those of a current iOS app. Currently they behave a bit differently and we work on improving this. That however turns out to be far from trivial.
Inserting pictures through the iOS camera / image gallery
Inserting pictures behaves like in any other app. You can either take a picture with the device camera or select one from your image gallery.
How this helps LibreOffice on Android
As already described above, Collabora leads the effort to use the same approach we use in the iOS app to deliver a new Android app.
During GSOC 2019 Kaishu Sahu did a great job and improved the Android app a lot. Jan Holesovsky (Collabora) is working to improve the situation even further and we should see a public release not too far in the future.
If you’re interested to learn more about the Android efforts or how to join, please contact Collabora.
What’s next for Collabora Office?
While we all work on further improvements, we there are very good reasons to be happy with what has been achieved so far 😉 And of course the good news is that you can experience that yourself.
For the near future, we already have the following things in mind:
Create shiny templates
Implement native widgets / improve UX
Better support hardware keyboards (and shortcuts)
Fix more rough edges
Make more core features accessible (math formulas, image cropping, …)
Reduce number of needed clicks for simple things (change cell background in a writer table, change text wrap of a picture, …)
Note that these points may change — this list is not a road map!
It’s your turn: you can help to make this better!
If you plan to use LibreOffice in an enterprise environment, whether on the desktop, on Android or on an iPad, we strongly recommend the enterprise ready version offered by Collabora. You’ll enjoy the advantages of an SLA, long-term support and last but not least it is a very good way to enhance the development of things like this iOS app!
Let’s be frank: money is very helpful to further speed up the development. So, if your organization plans to use LibreOffice on iOS (or any other platform) we’re happy to get you on board! Please don’t hesitate to contact Adfinis directly or Collabora Productivity to discuss possible ways to support the development.
Some words of thanks
This fantastic work would not be possible without the strong support and investment of Collabora and Adfinis SyGroup pays. Thanks to the entire crew that works hard every day to provide more free / open source solutions to the people out there!
(1 The Android App is still in Beta. The release is expected later this quarter.