Hacking LibreOffice in Budapest

Earlier this month, we were pleased to sponsor the Libreoffice Technology Hackfest in Budapest, Hungary, and enjoyed meeting up with some of our fellow LibreOffice Technology hackers. Over two days, a dozen developers from Collabora Productivity and the wider community met up in the Eco Community Space to work on the LibreOffice codebase, and reap the benefits of spending time together.

 

A hackfest is an event where developers from multiple organisations meet each other, work on what they want and also more freely exchange ideas while being together in person. While having an international community working remotely on the codebase is excellent, there are still many benefits to more directly seeing what problems are being tackled by other developer sitting next to you; and this friendly environment allows building relationships that can then help even more in the future (even remotely).

As one attendee Miklos Vajna shared with us after the event, “It was really great to spend a couple of days with the other developers. I found it very helpful seeing what other people are working on, sharing ideas about the future feature possibilities, and especially enjoyed going out for a dinner with everyone in Budapest after a hard day’s work!

For this reason, we were very pleased to sponsor this most recent meet up. Many thanks to all who joined us in Budapest, we look forward to seeing you soon at the next meeting!

If you would like to find out more about joining the Collabora Online or LibreOffice community, we would encourage you to join the Collabora Online Community Forum or have a look at the Collabora Online Github to learn about how to get started.

For more information about our upcoming events, and to learn where you could meet us next, do have a look at our events page.

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger! Collabora Online 24.04 is here with enhanced performance, interoperability, and useability

The annual major release of our flagship product Collabora Online is here

Cambridge, 23 May 2024 – We are happy to announce the new major release of Collabora Online 24.04. Collabora Online is our fully-supported enterprise-ready office suite, with millions of supported users globally.

Collabora Online is a powerful, Open Source, collaborative office suite that supports all major document, spreadsheet and presentation file formats, which you can integrate into your own infrastructure on-premise. Collabora Online provides data security and sovereignty, and is ideally suited to the demands of a modern distributed working environment. Delivering a familiar look and feel, Collabora Online’s document collaboration represents a real alternative to other big-brand solutions, giving you control and flexibility.

“We’ve been working hard over the past 12 months to bring even more features, faster performance and smoother interoperability to Collabora Online. We’d love for you to put us to the test, get involved with our latest developments, give us feedback, and work with us to free your documents!”

– Michael Meeks, CEO, Collabora Productivity

Try the Online Demo

Usability

Improving the user experience continues to be a key focus area for development on Collabora Online. Over the past year, we have made a number of changes to the user interface and general usability of Collabora Online as we seek to make Collabora Online more intuitive, simpler to use, and accessible for all users.

Contextual tooltips for easier spreadsheeting

Now working with spreadsheets is easier than ever. With the newly added contextual tooltip a user can start to type a formula – “=s” – and a list of available formulas appear. If there is only one completion candidate – “=sum(” – then the tooltip displays a list of accepted parameters for that particular function followed by its description.

 

Contextual tooltips for easier spreadsheeting
Contextual tooltips for easier spreadsheeting

 

Better and Faster Change Processing

In a bid to speed of the acceptance/rejection process of tracked changes, two new buttons have been added to the user interface – ‘Accept and Move to Next’, and ‘Reject and Move to Next’. While not adding any new functionality, the combination of these two processes into one easy to access button should greatly improve and expedite the processing of tracked changes for our users.

Quick navigation through changes
Bulk accept and reject changes

Additionally, improvements have been made to the change tracking feature – you can now track changes within tables, and also see what changes have been made within a tooltip when you hover over a selection in Writer.

Follow Users – redesigned for better useability

Collaborative working is at the heart of Collabora Online. We have had ‘follow the editor’ functionality for some time in our offering, but this has received a new lease of life with an even more intuitive interface. This is especially useful for conference calls or meetings, enabling all users to follow the note taker without any input required, or to catch up to a location in a document being referred to by another user.

The user list has been reordered, with your own avatar or the user you are following pinned to the top. The remaining editors will be ordered by when they joined the document. To unfollow any user, you need simply to click on either your own, or that user’s avatar.
Follow users for smoother document collaboration

Search for help and keyboard shortcuts

Simplifying things greatly, users can now search within the Online Help and Keyboard shortcuts dialogs to filter for topics and key words. The content is filtered at every keystroke, making it easier to find and discover information while minimising scrolling.

search for help and keyboard shortcuts
search for help filter keywords

 

Insert Comments

Simplifying the process greatly, you can now add comments into your documents with just two clicks. Simply right click > ‘Insert Comment’. No need to go menu diving with Collabora Online 24.04.

right click to insert comments

PDF Improvements

In our continued journey of improving accessibility for all, we’re excited to announce a number of improvements to the handling of PDFs, namely exporting to PDF v.1.7 by default, tagged PDFs produced by default, and hybrid PDFs now storing original ODF documents.

These changes should improve accessibility greatly – tagged PDFs for example include hidden accessibility markups that can improve the reading experience of those who use screen readers and other assistive technologies. A properly tagged PDF can also re-flow to adapt its presentation to different screen sizes, for example to provide a high-quality experience to users of smart mobile devices.

Hybrid PDFs on the other hand store the original ODF document as a PDF compatible file attachment. This is very useful for sharing documents with others as a pdf, while retaining the greater functionality of being able to modify the original file.

pdf improvements collabora online

New Properties & Metadata

You can now apply more custom properties and metadata in additional fields to allow for easier information retrieval and improved contextual information for documents. The additional fields now available include: Contributor, Coverage, Identifier, Publisher, Relation, Rights, Source, Type. You can add these via File ▸ Properties… ▸ Description.
add custom properties and metadata


New Features

This year, we have worked on many exciting new features and UI improvements. Just some of these improvements are listed below.

Cell Protection and Section Editing

We’re excited to announce this new feature inspired by a number of our customers, including a French government ministry – the ability to lock and protect data within spreadsheets. You can now protect your Calc spreadsheets via individual cells, rows, columns or entire sheets. This exciting new feature empowers users to exert greater control over their spreadsheets and collaborate more effectively than ever before.
cell and spreadsheet protection
Similar to Cell Protection in Calc, in Writer you can now easily create and edit sections within text documents, allowing you more flexibility with your formatting and the ability to write-protect or hide parts of a documents. We previously supported sections in Writer, but they weren’t editable. There is now a new ‘Edit Section’ option in section’s local menu. The sections will also appear in the Navigator tab on the right hand side, allowing you to quickly navigate between them.

section protection
protect and lock spreadsheets

 

Improved AutoFilter and New Filtering Options

AutoFilter’s usability has been greatly improved with fewer redundant widgets and a clearer control set. New filter options such as “Filter by Colour” and “Filter by Condition” are also available.

Filter by Colour makes it possible to filter data by cell’s background or foreground colours.

Filter by Condition gives quick access to pre-canned filters (Empty, Not Empty, Top 10, Bottom 10).

filter spreadsheets by colour
filter spreadsheets by colour and condition

 

Improved Read-Only Mode

Access controls are vitally important for any modern document editing solution. Similar to Cell Protection in Calc and Sections in Writer, with our improved read-only mode, our industry-leading, server-enforced controls just got better. Previously, our read-only access was just that – 100% read only. Now we offer much more granular control for documents and spreadsheets. Should your read-only users retain copy and paste access? Or perhaps you want them to be able to read a document and add comments, but not copy or edit contents? No problem with the upgraded read-only mode on Collabora Online.

Additionally, you can now follow hyperlinks in read-only documents. Previously you were not able to click through links in read-only documents – now you can follow links.

Present in Window from Impress

There is now an option to present your slides in a new window (as opposed to a full-screen presentation). This comes handy when the user is in a video conference and has to show slides. The new button is located in the “View” tab called “Present in Window”.

present presentations in window
present presentations in window

Quarantine

We have introduced a new ‘Quarantine’ feature, designed to save documents in the event of the system failing to save changes made to a document due to an unexpected fault.

Collabora Online operates in stateless containers to maximise security and efficiently use system resources. This means no information from documents is saved within a user’s container, nor the ‘state’ of a container from instance to instance. Instead, data required by containers is stored externally in a database or file system. This brings about a number of advantages, for example efficient resource utilisation, since stateless containers require no resources to maintain a state, high scalability, since containers can be easy created without the need to synchronise states, and heightened security, since no file storage is carried out in the end user’s container.

In the unlikely event something unusual happens and the container is unexpectedly closed, the state is lost, and in the case of Collabora Online any document edits since the last save or autosave event will be lost. As explained above, this is by design, and brings about a number of advantages. If however this is of concern to system administrators, the new document quarantine feature (configured off by default) can be enabled, which will store the document in the container image should it need to be recovered after a failure to save.

Background saving

In another speed upgrade, auto-saving can now be carried out in the background. No longer will you or other users have their editing frequently interrupted by an unexpected ‘Saving’ notification. Sometimes it’s the little things that count!

fewer background saving interruptions
Fewer interruptions with 24.04

Interoperability

As well as providing a feature-rich, accessible solution, we also work hard to make sure our offering is compatible and works well with other document editors such as Microsoft Office, or Google Docs. In 24.04, we have aligned our product even more closely with these solutions, making sure that your documents always look their best, no matter who is dressing them!

Smart Justify

After a new line-breaking algorithm was introduced to Microsoft Word, some users may have noticed small rendering differences across products. In a great win for the Open Source community, we’re pleased to announce this discrepancy has now been resolved, with many thanks for this contribution from László Németh, with financial support from the European Commission’s Next Generation Internet programme and NLnet.

The below image shows a composite of pages typeset by Writer (black) and Microsoft Word (red) before and after the update. Before the fix, it is noticeable that the difference in line breaks ultimately resulted in a two-page document for Writer, where Word rendered as one.

smart justify interoperability improvements

As well as being a great improvement in interoperability we also feel this update shows the strength of the Open Source community, the underlying LibreOffice technology , and the flexibility of Open Source solutions.

More information available here.

Simplifying Copy and Paste

Thanks to a new API, the copy and paste process has been much simplified. Permission may now be given for Collabora Online to directly access the clipboard in your browser, removing the previous requirement to download content. Click here for an up-to-date list of browsers with this API enabled (note some browsers may have API enabled, but not on by default).

simplifying copy and paste dialogs
Fewer ‘limited access to the clipboard’ popups in 24.04

 

Better Google Sheets copy/paste

This update should improve interoperability for users copying and pasting information to/from Google Sheets. This involved writing up the majority of previously undocumented protocol for Google Sheets, before ensuring that data copied from Calc includes markers such as <google-sheets-html-origin/> to fully work with Google Sheets. Additionally, data copied from Google Sheets into Calc will retain this marker despite not being used in Calc, ensuring round-trip functionality is maintained.

In our pursuit of ever-better interoperability between platforms as smooth as possible, we trust that this will help users who are either currently working with Google Sheets, or want to know that their data will retain functionality when pasted into other environments.

Improved graphics support

We have improved the way Collabora Online works with SVG and EMF/EMF+ files.

Scalable Vector Graphics files, or SVGs for short, are excellent for being scaleable. This means that when expanded, they will not encounter blurring problems in ways other image formats do. Previously SVGs opened in Collabora Online would default to the SVG’s fallback PNG, rather than rendering the SVG at the appropriate size leading to blurry images in some instances. With this new fix, OOXML should now render the SVG image correctly.

Three interoperability issues related to Windows EMF and EMF+ files have also been resolved – namely the lack of implementation of Polydraw MR, the inability to display bezier lines in certain EMF+ images, and an issue during conversion of especially large documents to PDF with watermarks (~1000 pages).

These fixes further improve our compatibility and interoperability with Microsoft Office and other document editors. Users can now expect a smoother experience when working with SVGs, EMF and EMF+ files containing advanced graphics features.


Performance Improvements

And of course, alongside the feature and user-experience improvement listed above, we have been working hard to further accelerate the performance of Collabora Online. Strap in – because we’re speeding up as we get technical with the performance upgrades!

Faster setup time

With this latest release, we will start authenticating a user as early as getting the first request to load a page – carrying out this authentication in parallel with downloading the document, and serving the related browser files. Compared to previously running these operations in series, this may cut page load times by as much as 50%, depending on the document and system configuration. This should lead to noticeably snappier document opening for end users.

18x faster tile compression

This recent speed-boost stacks two improvement, associated with optimising the rendering and re-rendering process of tiles, and changing the way the threading of this process is handled.

To keep things fast, save on bandwidth and reduce document latency, only changes to document tiles are sent from the server to the end user. For this to happen it is important to efficiently identify changes that require re-rendering for the end user’s screen at any moment. This has been accelerated by using RLE compression and AVX2 processing.

Previously, all potential pixel changes were identified using row cyclic redundancy check (CRC) when looking for changes requiring re-rendering. With the new solution, run-length encoded (RLE) rows are compared instead. Since RLE is a significantly compressed form of lossless data storage, this firstly means that nearly 4x the amount of rendered tiles can be stored in the cache (per view) whilst still making a memory saving. Compression of rows is now implemented using a single instruction multiple data (SIMD) algorithm, which as the name suggests, is able to carry out the same instruction on eight pixels simultaneously. This optimization accelerates RLE generation by 4.5x.

In addition to this 4.5x increase, further improvement to the threading of this process has led to a significant improvement in parallelism – with a 4x or more speed increase depending on how many threads are configured to be used. These wins compound to an 18x speed increase in this process of identifying pixels requiring re-rendering!

Many other performance improvements

In addition to the above, we’ve carried out a lot of work on other under-the-hood engine upgrades for the latest release, which will continue to improve the user experience for our customers. This work is very wide-ranging in scope, but includes much faster threaded calculations in Calc, improved loading of .xlsx spreadsheets with larger numbers of comments, minimised re-rendering of sheets when switching, optimising rendering of rows to be displayed in Calc, and much more.

While it is difficult to quantify exactly how much each of these improvements have decreased load times for any given document, we have spent time profiling many real-world use cases since the last release, and observe noticeably faster load and improved responsiveness of documents in Writer and Calc.

Try the Online Demo

Community

Collabora has invested significantly in bringing a host of new features and functionality to this latest release and contributes a vast majority of the Collabora Online code. However, we want to acknowledge all of our friends and colleagues in the wider LibreOffice community who helped to contribute not only to this, but also to the underlying LibreOffice Technology upon which Collabora Online is built.

All of our code is Open Source, and you can try out all the above features in our latest Collabora Online Development Edition (CODE) snapshots on GitHub, along with some of our development work for the next version. Join the Collabora Online Community, take part in easy hacks and discussions in the forum.

Collabora Online 24.04 is built upon the code commits from LibreOffice 7.6 and LibreOffice 24.2.

About Collabora Productivity

Collabora Productivity provides Collabora Online, an open-source solution for editing and collaboration, alongside a range of other products and consulting services tailored to enterprise and government needs. With the largest team of certified LibreOffice engineers globally, we are dedicated to contributing to the LibreOffice codebase and community. Our business-hardened office suite, Collabora Online for browser and Collabora Office for desktop, ensures long-term, multi-platform support. Additionally, we extend our services with Collabora Office for iOS and Android.

Empowering R&D: Collabora Online and Secure Prototyping

In the worlds of manufacturing or research and development, where innovation drives progress and competition is fierce, protecting intellectual property is vital. Collabora Online, with its suite of powerful features, emerges as a game-changer for manufacturers and designers seeking secure collaboration and streamlined workflows.

Secure Prototyping for the Modern Manufacturer

You’re on the brink of a groundbreaking product launch, and your design team needs to collaborate with manufacturing on prototypes without risking leaks or unauthorised access. Step in Collabora Online’s Secure View. With Secure View, designers and product managers can securely share documents or presentations with stakeholders, partners, clients, or junior staff, without fear of leaks. How is that possible? Secure View disables printing, downloading, or copying of content at the server level, providing robust protection against data breaches. Additionally, to deter unauthorised sharing of screenshots, Secure View offers watermarking capabilities, allowing organizations to imprint documents with user login details.

As an additional bonus, since all security controls are enforced at the server level, you can confidently share sensitive data even with untrusted clients via their web browser. Find out more about Secure View here.

Streamlined Collaboration, Enhanced Efficiency

Collabora Online doesn’t just stop at secure prototyping, whether it’s collaborative editing of production schedules, real-time collaboration on technical specifications, or remote access to manufacturing guidelines, Collabora Online empowers teams to work together seamlessly from anywhere in the world. Its robust version history and tracked changes features ensure transparency and accountability, while its integration of all commonly used file formats ensures compatibility across diverse manufacturing environments.

Conclusion

From secure prototyping to streamlined collaboration, Collabora Online offers manufacturers a suite of tools tailored to their unique needs. Harnessing the power of secure collaboration, manufacturers can drive innovation, protect intellectual property, and stay ahead in a competitive market.

 


Keep your data secure with Collabora Online.

Try the Online Demo

Collabora Online – Safe, Powerful, Flexible.


Empowering Healthcare: Full Data Confidentiality with Collabora Online

As the reliance on third-party tools and data processors becomes more prevalent across various industries, hospitals and healthcare professionals find themselves at a crossroads. Bound by ethical and legal obligations to safeguard patient data, they are hesitant to adopt external solutions that require relinquishing control over data storage and processing. Consequently, many hospitals are left grappling with legacy systems, unable to leverage modern applications that demand outsourcing of data management.

The Data Dilemma

In this dilemma, Collabora Online emerges as a beacon of hope for healthcare institutions striving to balance innovation with data security. Unlike traditional cloud-based solutions that necessitate entrusting sensitive patient information to external servers, Collabora Online offers a different approach. By enabling hospitals to host their own instance of the software on-premises or within their trusted network, it provides a level of control and confidentiality unmatched by third-party platforms. This setup ensures that patient records and sensitive medical documents remain within the secure confines of the hospital’s infrastructure, safeguarding against unauthorized access and data breaches.

Efficiency and Collaboration in Patient Care

Beyond data security, Collabora Online enhances efficiency and collaboration among healthcare professionals. Its collaborative document editing features facilitate real-time collaboration on patient charts, treatment plans, and research documents. Physicians, nurses, and administrative staff can simultaneously work on documents from different locations, streamlining workflows and accelerating decision-making processes. Whether it’s updating patient records during rounds or collaborating on research papers, Collabora Online empowers healthcare teams to deliver optimal patient care without compromising on security or efficiency.

Compliance and Regulatory Standards

In addition to enhancing productivity, Collabora Online assists healthcare institutions in meeting stringent compliance and regulatory standards. With data privacy regulations such as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) in the US, or GDPR regulations in the EU mandating the protection of patient information, hospitals must ensure that their document management systems adhere to these guidelines. Collabora Online’s on-premise deployment option enables hospitals to maintain compliance with HIPAA and other regulatory frameworks by retaining control over data storage and access protocols. This level of compliance not only mitigates the risk of regulatory fines but also fosters trust and confidence among patients regarding the confidentiality of their medical information.

With granular access controls and comprehensive audit trails, healthcare administrators can monitor and track document activities to ensure compliance with regulatory standards.

Open Integrations

Furthermore, with an open-source codebase, the sky is the limit for interoperability with Collabora Online. By embedding Collabora Online into existing electronic health record systems or telemedicine platforms, healthcare providers can securely centralise document management and streamline communication workflows. This interoperable approach ensures continuity of care and facilitates seamless information sharing among care teams, ultimately improving patient outcomes.

Conclusion

As data privacy concerns loom larger and regulatory requirements continue to evolve, Collabora Online offers a transformative solution for healthcare organisations seeking modern, collaborative solutions whilst complying with stringent data security requirements. Empowering healthcare professionals with a secure, flexible, on-premise document editing and collaboration platform, Collabora Online enables hospitals to embrace modern workflows without handing over patient data to third parties.


Keep your data secure with Collabora Online.

Try the Online Demo

Collabora Online – Safe, Powerful, Flexible.


Unlocking Protection with Locked Cells in Collabora Online

Our road map and new feature development is driven by our users, and we’re excited to announce a new feature inspired by a number of our customers, including a French government ministry – the ability to lock and protect individual cells within spreadsheets. This exciting new feature empowers users to exert greater control over their data and collaborate more effectively than ever before.

Why is this feature useful?

Locking individual cells, rows, columns or entire sheets in Calc offers a multitude of benefits, including:

  • Data Integrity: By locking specific cells, users can prevent their own accidental modifications to critical data or formulas, ensuring data integrity and accuracy.
  • Collaborative Workflows: In collaborative environments, locking cells allows multiple users to work on a spreadsheet simultaneously without the risk of accidental or deliberate attempts to change important information. Junior and senior staff may therefore collaborate together.
  • Security: Locking cells adds an extra layer of security to sensitive data, restricting access to authorised users and minimising the risk of unauthorised changes. In addition to locking editing, ‘selection’ of protected cells can be toggled on or off, either allowing or preventing copy/paste functionality.
  • Template Creation: Users can create templates with predefined values or formulas, locking certain cells to preserve the template structure while allowing customisation in other areas.

How does it work?

Locking individual cells in Collabora Online is intuitive and user-friendly. Simply select the cells you wish to lock, right-click, and choose the “Format Cells” option from the menu. Cells can then be toggled as protected or not. To then apply the protection, right click on the sheet, choose “Protect Sheet”, and you may set a password and choose whichever permissions you intend to give to the protected/unprotected cells.

 

 

  • Go to the “Context” menu of the sheet tab – or go to the tab “Review” > “Protect Sheet”;
  • You can set a password in the dialogue, but this is not mandatory;
  • Click “OK” to apply sheet protection – notice the lock icon on the tab; this indicates that the sheet protection is active;
  • To customize cell protection, navigate to “Format” > “Format Cells”, and then select the “Cell Protection” tab;
  • Cell Protection is automatically enabled and works when the sheet is protected – you can adjust settings to unprotect cells, hide them, and more;
  • In addition to protecting cell content, you can also control whether users are allowed to insert or delete columns and rows;

Sheet protection is easy to use and helps you stay in control of collaboration.

We hope you now know how to get the most out of it.

Unlocking the Full Potential of Your Spreadsheets

With the new feature of protecting cells, Collabora Online empowers users to take control of their data and optimise their collaborative workflows. Whether you’re working on financial models, project plans, or data analysis, locking cells provides you with peace of mind and confidence in your spreadsheet creations.