Collabora Office available as first free open source office app for iOS

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!

Collabora Office on iOS for editing spreadsheets.
Collabora Office on iOS for editing spreadsheets.
Creating presentations in Collabora Office iOS
Creating presentations in Collabora Office iOS

 

Composing texts in Collabora Office iOS.
Composing texts in Collabora Office iOS.

 

Get Collabora Office on iOS from the App Store

There are currently two possible ways to get the app:

  1. 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

  2. Download the app through the Apple Store.

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:

  • Online — see e. g. Collabora Online

  • iOS — what we are presenting you now

  • 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.

Working with tables in text documents.
Working with tables in text documents.

 

Including pictures in Writer documents
Including pictures in Writer documents

 

Selection of cells in a spreadsheet
Selection of cells in a spreadsheet

 

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!

Spell checking in Collabora Office on iOS
Spell checking in Collabora Office on iOS

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.

Rich features in user interface
Rich features in user interface

 

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.

Selection handles in Collabora on iOS
Selection handles in Collabora on iOS

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

  • Reduce latency

  • 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.

2 http://eszkadev.blogspot.com/2019/09/native-widgets-on-mobile-for-online.html

3 https://conference.libreoffice.org/2019 )

 

 

For more information

Follow @CollaboraOffice on Twitter or send us an email to hello@collaboraoffice.com

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Full PDF Export for Spreadsheets

Review the full content of one spreadsheet-sheet as one page in PDF export

Have you ever wanted to have a way to see the full content of a spreadsheet document in a PDF, without the usual slicing of the sheets into separate printable pages?

Interesting new feature – also with Collabora document conversion

We publish some screenshots, showing why you should use Full PDF Export. First of a sheet containing some data and graphics:

Sample Sheet
Sample Sheet

And this is how it looks like when exported to pdf in the old/usual way:

Usual PDF Output
Usual PDF Output

Not enough? Think about what happens when there are multiple such sheets all with different sizes… 🙂
An very interesting use case is with (automated) document conversion. Full PDF Export makes it possible to do easier reviewing, evaluating, of the conversion.

How do I use it?

* Open your spreadsheet document in LibreOffice Calc
* From the menu, select **File – Export as PDF…**
* On the **General** tab of the **PDF Options** dialog, check the option named **Full-Sheet Previews**
* Click the **Export** button, and choose a location for your preview pdf
* Enjoy your pdf file of full sheet previews

Full-Sheet Preview PDF
Full-Sheet Preview PDF

Option on the dialog

Full-Sheet Previews option on the PDF Export Dialog
Full-Sheet Previews option on the PDF Export Dialog

Also available in the LibreOffice/Collabora Online api

If you happen to use the LibreOffice/Collabora Online REST api for document conversions, here is a command to get a preview output of your sheet:

curl --insecure -F "data=@YourSpreadSheetDocument.ods" -F "FullSheetPreview=true" https://localhost:9980/lool/convert-to/pdf > out.pdf

You can read more info about the REST api on the document conversion page.

Where and when?

The feature was developed on the cp-6.2 branch of LibreOffice code-base, which is the base for Collabora Office 6.2. Therefore Full PDF Export is already available in Collabora Office snaphots. And it is being backported to LibreOffice master, so it is available in LibreOffice development builds.

Tips

* Currently, this option disregards most of the other options on the pdf export dialog
* Preview pages will have different sizes (same as the source sheets)
* This is not meant for printing
* The export dialog remembers your last choice, so better not forget to uncheck this option next time you would like to get a regular (for-printing) output

More (technical) info

More (technical) info can be found on the blog-post by our developer Muhammet Kara. Thanks, Muhammet!

Use and test these new features

You noticed some glitches on the screenshots? We did too!
It’s work in progress and our developers work hard to get all right.
Regular updates will be released – so your feedback and of course patches are much appreciated.

Get & Test Collabora Office Snapshot

For more information

Follow @CollaboraOffice on Twitter or send us an email to hello@collaboraoffice.com

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Powerful Function Wizard in Collabora Online Spreadsheet

Doing your formulas right

Working with formulas is a great thing, and can even be fun with the proper tools 🙂 So therefore we’re proud to introduce the full Formula Wizard in Calc Online!

Let’s just show it in some pictures from our latest snapshot.

Collabora Online Function Wizard - Start
Start of the Function Wizard – and use off the Search function
Collabora Online Function Wizard - argumentts
Function Wizard – Filling all arguments
Collabora Online Function Wizard - Structure
Function Wizard – investigate formula structure
Collabora Online Function Wizard - results
Function Wizard – Make use of the results

 

Use and test these new features

You noticed some glitches on the screenshots? We did too!
It’s work in progress and our developers work hard to get all right.
Regular updates will be released – so your feedback and of course patches are much appreciated.

Get & Test Snapshot

For more information

Follow @CollaboraOffice on Twitter or send us an email to hello@collaboraoffice.com

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Easily working with Tables in Collabora Online

Another new feature in the Collabora Online snapshot!

Resizing tables with the tips of your fingers on your smart devices – or the cursor working on the PC.
This is how it looks in our latest snapshot.

 

Start using and testing the new features

You can get a snapshot of Collabora Office and try it right now – and we love to hear your feed back.
Regular updates will be released – so stay tuned!

Get & Test Snapshot

For more information

Follow @CollaboraOffice on Twitter or send us an email to hello@collaboraoffice.com

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Rich Table of Contents feature in Collabora Online

Try this new rich feature in the Collabora Online snapshot!

Why not have full control over the Table of Contents while working online?! How hyperlinks are used, formatting is done, and settings as columns and background..
Well, that is what we bring to you in Collabora Online now. It gives you the same rich scale of features that are known from the LibreOffice desktop, or of course our enterprise supported Collabora Office.

This is how it looks in our latest snapshot.

You’ll notice that the context menu of the index, allows you to update or delete it. To get access to the dialog with all the settings, use Insert > Table of Contents and Index >… while the index has the focus.

Start using and testing the new features

You can get a snapshot of Collabora Office and try it out yourself right now!
There’s a flow of new features to be expected. We’ll blog about it regularly, so stay tuned! And of course we love you to use and test it and let us know what you find.

Get & Test Snapshot

For more information

Follow @CollaboraOffice on Twitter or send us an email to hello@collaboraoffice.com

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