Update on LibreOffice support for ARM-Based Macs

It is always an exciting time to see freshly minted ARM based silicon arriving in the form of Apple’s massive shift to the ARM based M1. This of course means work for Collabora’s LibreOffice team too. The code needs to be prepared for M1, step by step. Here we update you on the status of the work, and what needs to be done.

With the launch of the new Apple devices nearing, it is important that suitable software arrives around the same time as new hardware. Apple ensures this by a translation layer, so that software for Intel Macs can be used, using Rosetta translation.

Nevertheless, given the code size of LibreOffice, for the best performance it makes most sense to have a pre-optimized native binary. As such Collabora joined the Universal App Quickstart Programme back in July and has been doing work on enabling LibreOffice for M1 since then.

This effort is made possible by the kind support of those who buy LibreOffice Vanilla in the Mac app store. Thank you! And thanks too to Tor Lillqvist for his patience and hard work here.

The status of the work

All of these changes are in master, or in the gerrit queue getting past our CI automation:

  • Configuration changes (mostly there). It should now possible to configure and build a native LibreOffice on a Apple Silicon, as well as cross-compiling to x86_64.
  • Patching and fixing of lots of bundled libraries to make them build cleanly.
  • Then there is a first attempt at a new C++/UNO ABI bridge – we need to match Apple’s ABI by tweaking Linux’s ARM64 support to match. This allows UNO scripting to work (in theory).
  • We still have some failing unit tests, that need investigation, as well as some other bits, described below.
All of this means that LibreOffice should start and work on M1! So far it has had only very basic Writer & Calc testing. The more exciting, complex features are not yet tested.

Update: as of 2021-02 we have working native M1 binaries in the Apple app-store for users.

What’s next .. want to get involved?

Post-launch, if you can get an M1 Mac, then help is always most welcome! We have several missing pieces that will require further work, with some unusual low-level bits.

  • The new C++/UNO ABI bridge requires more testing, to ensure the UNO scripting support works smoothly.
  • Enabling bits we didn’t compile in yet: Firebird, Java (when there is a JDK).
  • Scripts to combine builds for arm64 and x86_64 into one universal app (i.e. one where binaries are “fat,” consisting of separate parts for each architecture)
  • Adaptation to whatever new checks are added for universal apps in the App Store. This is an ongoing unpredictable part of our work: adapting 8 million lines of code to the latest updated rules, keeping our builds compiling and signing with the latest tool chains.
Of course we’ll continue to work to bring the best LibreOffice possible to Apple Silicon as time permits, and we are confident that even if we don’t make it in the next month or two, Rosetta 2 will fill the gap using dynamic instruction set translation. And when all is done, our open source desktop productivity tools will benefit the full power of the new Macs!

18 thoughts to “Update on LibreOffice support for ARM-Based Macs”

  1. Dear LibreOffice community,
    I really appreciate this announcement. I am using StarOffice from the very first time on OS/2 and in the meantime I fully migrated to LibreOffice on Mac. The new Mac mini with M1 SOC will be ordered soon and I cannot wait to run LibreOffice on it. It is really a great piece of software and I support you also financially with a yearly donation.
    Thanks for all your work!
    Best regards

  2. This is obviously a naive question, but why is the M1 migration so hard? The source code is(??) 64-bit clean, so there shouldn’t be the same kind of alignment issues seen when going from 32->64 bits (and 8->16 and 16->32).


    1. The UNO bridge is a fun part – we unwind the ABI to be able to generate synthetic virtual tables, collect function arguments from trampolines by assembler magic, with constructed in-memory trampolines. But with any 8 million odd lines of code + tons of depdendencies you will find some architectural quirks, quite without needing to adapt to the new Apple app-store submission policy changes & tooling issues =) As you say the alignment issues shouldn’t be hugely problematic, we already run on other 64bit ARM devices.

      1. Hello Michael,
        Long time no see, Evelyn Bleasdale here. Hope all is well with you and the family!
        I am totally confused by all the computer speak. I would like to load Libre Office onto my new Macbook Pro M1.
        Do I have to be a programmer to do it, and will it work with this new chip?
        Eddie sends his regards,
        Best wishes

        1. What an unexpected pleasure Evelyn! =) Wonderful to hear from you both again. You can indeed run LibreOffice from TDF on the Macbook Pro M1. For a small sum (~£9 or so) you can get a version from Collabora from the app-store which natively supports M1, but – all M1-ness should be fine. No need to be a programmer – although there is never a better time to start learning. Hope all’s well with you and yours – do drop me a mail; Michael.

    2. It’s because of the difference in architecture. ARM doesn’t run the same as Intel. The assembly code (lower level code that the compiler generates) is different. This is no different than when Mac switched from ppc to Intel

  3. I had to switch from LibrOffice Vanilla to LibreOffice, because LibreOffice Vanilla couldn’t send documents as email attachments on my new M1 Mac, while LibreOffice had no problem doing that. I could never fix that problem and never found a solution among the community-support postings.

  4. This update is a couple of months old now.
    I have new MBAM1.
    Is LibreOffice Vanilla now working on my new Mac?
    I can’t really tell from the comments I find on the web.

    1. Yes, both LibreOffice Vanilla and Collabora Office in the Mac App Store are universal apps, i.e. they come with both x86_64 and arm64 code in their binaries. (And even without that, x86_64-only builds work fine on Apple Silicon Macs, too, thanks to Rosetta.)

  5. I would love to use LibreOffice on my M1 Mac but the lack of support of Java in the Vanilla version from app store complicate things as I cannot use any of those Java-based bibliography managers for schoolwork. Will there be a non-app store version that will run on M1 eventually? I am not sure if I would want to use a Rosetta version

    1. The intentional lack of Java support is not related to the arm64-based Mac support, though. LibreOffice Vanilla and Collabora Office in the Mac App Store have never included Java support.

  6. I have M1 Pro Macbook Pro and macOS Monterey 12.3. Is it possible to use LibreOffice Base and how?

    1. Hello JP,
      I’m afraid I can’t give you a technically qualified answer for this. My assumption would be you can, since we put significant effort into making LibreOffice run on M1. LibreOffice Vanilla for Mac is available through the App Store. This is recommended for users who want the convenience of installing from the App Store and getting automatic updates. Find it here: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/libreoffice-vanilla/id921923693?mt=12

      For more details on LibreOffice on the Mac or manual download, please investigate the LibreOffice community: https://ask.libreoffice.org/

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