LibreOffice on Android – one less barrier to public sector Open Standards

Today’s launch of the first LibreOffice application for Android pushes our community into exciting new waters. As we speak, new infrastructure is being prepared by Document Foundation Staff for documentation, translation, and bug reporting of the new app, laying the foundations for a busy future. This is just the beginning.

Rather than awaiting perfection, this Beta release strives to follow Eric S. Raymond’s revered principle of “release early, release often”. The app supports only newer versions of Android, and simple documents. More sophisticated features like embedded media and change tracking are also not available. The pace of development however has been rapid, and in the last week alone several major features including the built-in file browser have been added. Semi-weekly releases are planned to advance performance and stability at a steady pace.

The app comes at a sensitive time for Open Standards in the public sector. Many Governments are currently moving to require open formats, such as Open Document Format, internally. So far this month, France, Spain, Sweden, Slovakia, Germany and Finland have all announced commitments to making greater use of Open Source productivity tools. Open Forum Europe’s “Fix My Documents” campaign has meanwhile assessed the many file-types published EU institutions, revealing minimal adherence to current Open Standards policies and adding pressure for adoption of Open Document Format.

Bringing a new Open Source viewer of Open Document Format files to mobile devices can only help to remove barriers to public sector adoption of Open Standards and level the playing field for proprietary formats such as Microsoft Office, which already have mobile applications available. In theory 6,806 devices are compatible with LibreOffice for Android – a staggering amount belying the incredible reach that this operating system now brings to the LibreOffice brand.

Having led development of the initial launch application, we’re looking forward to swelling the ranks of LibreOffice for Android with volunteers of all descriptions. Please join us and the wider LibreOffice community in making Open Source productivity the best that it can be. Find out how to contribute at the Document Foundation website.

Major announcements from the ODF Plugfest


Last night Open Forum Europe and The Community For Open Interoperability Standards published a press release about the Open Document Format (ODF) Plugfest event from earlier this week.

Collabora attended and wrote our expectations for the meeting on Monday; now here are the outcomes. The announcements, some of which have already been reported, are very encouraging for the future of ODF and the spread of the native LibreOffice format. Here is the press release verbatim:

Cabinet office Plugfest builds momentum for ODF

On Monday and Tuesday, 8th-9th December, a group of technologists, SMEs, corporations, individuals, and representatives of Governments gathered in Bloomsbury, London over two days to collectively improve the implementation of Open Document Format (ODF).

“Plugfests provide both vendors and organisations implementing the standard with knowledge about ODF and the software that supports it.” said Linda Humphries, Senior Technical Adviser at the Government Digital Service. “The aim is to help vendors to improve their products so that users have a better experience when they exchange documents.”

The Government’s policy mandating ODF for editing and sharing documents, announced in July by the Minister, commits all departments to adopting the format to boost the strength and diversity of apps which read and write ODF documents. The Cabinet Office partnered with the OpenDoc Society to host this week’s event. Magnus Falk voiced Government priorities when his speech on Monday demanded “serious choice” for Government IT buyers, and a level playing field for suppliers based on the use of Open Standards and ODF.

Several major announcements highlighting an increased commitment to ODF were made. A major strength of ODF lies in its many independent implementations providing choice and flexibility. Ten independent implementations of ODF were represented, and significant technical progress was made in automated testing by 50+ delegates from 30 organisations, including 17 Government representatives.

The Dutch Government representatives commended the UK Open Standards policy, which shares it’s own aims, for delivering interoperability and avoiding vendor lock-in. They also announced they will host the next Plugfest in Summer 2015

“This week’s Plugfest marked a historic high for co-operation between ODF stakeholders in Government, software vendors, and small to medium enterprises” said Basil Cousins, Director of Open Forum Europe, “it’s encouraging to see the Cabinet Office participating in ODF implementation to drive their ground-breaking policy of file-format openness, interoperability and competition”.

Following strategic presentations and meetings on Monday from leaders including Government Deputy CTO Magnus Falk, Google’s Chris DiBona, Collabora’s Michael Meeks and Boris Devouge of Microsoft , Tuesday provided a day for technical development and testing. Particular progress was made with support for tracked changes within documents – a key feature for Government ODF users, which is yet to be implemented in Microsoft Office products and Google Docs. Compatibility between change-tracked documents was demonstrated in three Open Source implementations including LibreOffice, Apache OpenOffice, and EuroOffice, and 183 new tests were written to check formatting and interoperability with other applications.

“Interoperability is a core benefit of Open Standards such as ODF, and technically speaking the situation has never been better” said Michael Meeks, of the Document Foundation Board of Directors. “It was great to see the progress around change tracking, and we look forward to all vendors contributing to positive improvements in both implementations and the standard in this area. Across desktop, mobile, and server, ODF has never worked more consistently better”.

About Open Document Format (ODF)

Approved as an OASIS standard in 2005 and as an ISO standard in 2006, ODF is supported by a wide range of desktop office suites, web-based editors and mobile applications including leading commercial offerings from Google, Microsoft, and IBM, as well as multi-platform Open Source products including LibreOffice, OpenOffice, WebODF, EuroOffice, and Calligra Suite. It has since been adopted as an official document standard by national governments in Europe and Latin America.

About The Community for Open Interoperability Standards (COIS)

COIS is the British division of OpenForum Europe (OFE) which supports OFE’s Vision, Policies and Code of Conduct with the mission of creating a level playing field for ICT suppliers and freedom of choice for the citizen/user by supporting the drive to adopt Open Standards through the UK public sector. COIS seeks to connect the Public Sector with the technology community, guided by the Cabinet Office’s Open Standards Principles. It is committed to transparency, politically and technologically neutral, non profit & self funded with industry support and managed by a co-operation of industry organisations. Views expressed by COIS do not necessarily reflect those held by all its supporters.

Google, Microsoft, and Collabora speak to Government hosted Plugfest


This morning British and American businesses are gathering for a strategic two day conference targeting the compatibility of documents used in Government. Under discussion is Open Document Format (ODF) — the family of Open Standard file formats used by LibreOffice by default. Although this is the 10th ODF Plugfest event organised by The OpenDoc Society, and the third to be held in the UK, this is the first time such an event has been hosted by central Government. The Government Digital Service (GDS), which is the in-house IT unit of the Cabinet Office, has provided premises, hospitality, and representatives for speaking. 50 Attendees from a range of international organisations are today hearing from leaders of the field, including:

  • Chris DiBona, Google’s Director of Open Source
  • Magnus Falk, Government Deputy Chief Technology Office
  • Graham Taylor, Chief Executive at OpenForum Europe
  • Chris Rae, Standards Professional at Microsoft
  • Michael Meeks, Vice President at Collabora Productivity
  • Dr. Steven Pemberton, National Research Institute, Netherlands
  • Boris Devouge, Senior Cloud architect at HP
  • Svante Schubert, Committee chairman at OASIS

Work on advancing the compatibility of ODF between supporting applications comes at a critical time for British technology policy. Having adopted the format as the defacto document standard for all departments, the question is now how and when public bodies will become compliant with the requirements. The move to ODF is driven by a shift towards Open Standards in the public sector, in order to realise the many benefits that they offer. Because of that, the degree to which files in ODF format work across the many applications that support them is crucially important. Improving compatibility is the purpose of Plugfest events, as Linda Humphries of the GDS writes:

“Plugfests provide both vendors and organisations implementing the standard with knowledge about ODF and the software that supports it. The aim is to help vendors to improve their products so that users have a better experience when they exchange documents… Speakers will share lessons learned. Developers also have the opportunity to engage in testing and coding to fix interoperability issues in private sessions.” — Linda Humphries, UK Government Digital Service

After a year of calls for greater flexibility and value for money from ICT services, the push for Open Standards has never been stronger. In January Chief procurement Officer Bill Crothers promised to end the “appalling” behaviour of some software suppliers to Government, proclaiming that an “oligopoly” of companies “have had it too good for too long”. Government Paymaster General Francis Maude echoed this sentiment in May, stating “Government must be militant about interoperability standards”.

ODF is a key standard for the public sector as it encompasses formats for exchanging the most commonly used documents, including reports, spreadsheets, and databases. Being vendor-neutral, free of license and patent fees, and supported by more than 20 different server, desktop, and mobile applications, it offers the freedom and independence that Whitehall now demands.

Two of today’s presentations come from Collabora staff: Product Manager Andras Timar and Vice President Michael Meeks. They’ll share interoperability experiences from working on LibreOffice-From-Collabora, the results of which are all included in stock LibreOffice releases from The Document Foundation. As the second largest contributor to LibreOffice (the world’s most popular Open Source ODF implementation), we’re one of the many ODF stakeholders participating in today’s Plugfest, working together to deliver the industry’s best — and most open — document formats.

Open Source engages Government at Brighton event

On Tuesday representatives of Government and the third sector will engage with Open Source service organisations on the subject of business and the cloud. Eleven business will present benefits of Open Source business solutions to decision makers including John Jackson, Camden Council CIO, Chris Farthing of the British Chamber of Commerce, and Tariq Rashid of the Cabinet Office. 17 Sessions over two days make up the programme, hosted by Sussex Cricket Club. Consultants and public sector workers may register for free on the programme summary website.


At 15.30 Tim Eyles from Collabora Productivity will present the strategic and cost-saving benefits of deploying LibreOffice within enterprise organisations.

Presentation abstract

Although Open Source software continues to take server marketshare by storm cross-sector, user-facing productivity applications remain largely closed. Writing reports, calculating spreadsheet figures, and presenting slideshows are all core business activities that are dominated by a single software vendor and a single software product.


Does it have to be like this? LibreOffice (and its forebear OpenOffice) is the trusted productivity suite of more than 80 million people. From the French Gendarmerie, to the City Administration of Munich, to the Universities of Brazil, public administrations have embraced Open Source desktop productivity. In the process they’ve benefitted from interoperability between more than one hundred document formats – the result of a cumulative development process which has extended file support over 29 years. Other significant factors for choosing LibreOffice have been its ease of integration with other Open and proprietary applications, and huge savings in license costs and customisation. LibreOffice owes these advantages to it’s Open Source origins.

A recent development has expanded the potential userbase to new quarters however. For the first time, a supported enterprise build of LibreOffice is available for business-critical environments and very large-scale demployments. LibreOffice-from-Collabora is LibreOffice stress-tested, enterprise-hardened, with business support to match. It ships with deployment tools designed for easy installation and system manage across thousands of Windows, Mac, and Linux workstations. 3 Years of support patches sustain long term stability and security, and test and integrate newer features which would otherwise be unavailable. Software support contracts provide fixed cost code support with standard response Service Level Agreements.

To participate in the full presentation register to attend “Open Source, the Cloud and your Business” at the link above. Places limited.

Participating organisations

British Open Source service providers
  • Collabora
  • Omnis Systems
  • Fastnet
  • Synchro Media
European Open Source service providers
  • SecurePass
  • Collax
  • Zarafa
Other Open Source service providers
  • Virtual bridges (USA)
  • Catalyst (New Zealand)
British third sector
  • Open Source Consortium
  • Open Data Institute
  • Sussex Enterprise
  • Brighton and Hove Chamber of Commerce
British public sector
  • Camden Council
  • Brighton & Hove City Council
  • Sussex Innovation Centre

Why LibreOffice Certification matters

The new certification programme, announced on Wednesday by the Document Foundation (TDF), for professionals who train and migrate to LibreOffice as a service, is a watermark for the growth and development of businesses in the Open Source productivity ecosystem. Thirteen newly qualified individuals form the basis of the programme, representing six different companies and six independents.

Italo Vignoli – Certification Committee Chairman

The need for new types of certification reflects the growth and maturation of businesses supporting LibreOffice, as well as the leadership of the Document Foundation and its readiness to meet that need. Over the last two years The Document Foundation have granted certification to 45 software development engineers. Graduates include employees of leading Open Source multi-nationals Red Hat, SUSE, and Ericsson.

As a non-profit organisation with charitable status, The Foundation provides a degree independence and authority which corporate bodies can never achieve. With its three-tier management structure, TDF is well suited to non-partisan setting of standards and assessment of certificate applicants. Yet because many leading LibreOffice service providers are also board members, the foundation is uniquely positioned to assay best practice and learning resources, and foster cooperation between companies which may otherwise be marketplace competitors.

“In fact, LibreOffice Certification is the first of this kind to be managed by a community based Free Software project, as all other certifications in the open source environment are managed by a company” — Italo Vignoli, Certification Committee Chairman

The peer-to-peer certification process covers a broad range of themes from “certification theory” to “growth potential”. Some subjects are special to the application’s Open Source roots, including “basic knowledge and understanding of Free Software communities”, and “Free Software licenses”. Certification both incentivises professional learning, and provides a public directory of qualified experts for those seeking services related to LibreOffice.

Four of the six companies with newly qualified staff are Collabora partners, and 13 of 45 engineers already certified are members of our team. With more certified staff than any other company, we’re delighted to be part of the training and development of LibreOffice experts, and look forward to promoting certification to our international network of educators and integrators.