This New Major Release Brings Grammar Checking, Giant Spreadsheets and Performance Wins
Cambridge, August 4, 2022 – Collabora announces the availability of a new major release of Collabora Online 22.05. The latest major release targets three key areas: ease of use, performance, and interoperability. It demonstrates the company’s mission of being the technology leader in collaborative editing. Collabora Online provides businesses the most effective and secure document creation environment with dedicated support backed by deep experience.
Collabora Online is the collaboration suite that offers business and professionals the best features, interoperability, LTS, and custom support in open source, while respecting user privacy and corporate data security. We highlight some of the latest functionality added to Collabora Online below:
Using Grammar and Style Checks in the Browser
Starting with version 22.05 we have introduced the support for external grammar checkers. You can now benefit from the great style and grammar checker by LanguageTool in your browser. To make use of this feature, you have to enable this inside Collabora Online’s configuration file. Depending on whether you are using a free or a premium account, both the quality and amount of the suggestions may vary. We would like to express our gratitude to Nicolas Christener and his wonderful team at Adfinis for making this great feature a reality. And of course to the team for their great work creating, maintaining and improving LanguageTool. You can support their open-source work by buying their premium service. Find more details on how to benefit from this feature in our dedicated blogpost on LanguageTool in Collabora Online.
“Jumbo Spreadsheets” with 16k Columns in Calc
Collabora Online now supports up to 16384 columns in spreadsheets. This is a sixteenfold increase in the maximum number of columns compared to previous versions. Previously, and annoyingly, Calc would display an error message on opening large sheets that exceeded 1024 columns. Combined with up to one million rows per spreadsheet, Calc can now handle enormous amounts of data on the right hardware. Previous performance improvements in Calc paved the way for this feature, which also increases the interoperability with Excel spreadsheets from Microsoft. This work was funded by DEVxDAO as part of their mission to support open-source and transparent research and development of emerging technologies and frameworks.
Sparklines Now Available for Calc
Sparklines are mini-charts found in Microsoft’s XLSX format. The support for them premiered with the release of Collabora Office 22.05. Sparklines are always defined for one cell, but different ones can be grouped together. There are three different ways of displaying Sparklines: as lines, bar charts or stacked as win-loss charts. The Sparklines feature can be accessed through the right-click dialog. The source data for a Sparkline is defined in an associated data range.
This feature was made possible by funding from NGI and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871498. For more information on the technical background, see Tomaz Vajngerl’s blog.
Webp support available for all types of documents
WebP is a graphics format for lossy or lossless image compression. It can be used for both static and animated images, and is also supported by the vast majority of modern browsers. The current version of Collabora Online now allows for importing images in WebP format. The graphic format can also be used in all document types, i.e., in text documents, spreadsheets, presentations as well as Draw files.
Content Controls in Writer: Dropdown, Picture and Date Types
Writer now has content control: a new way to set properties on a piece of text, primarily for form filling purposes. This feature improves compatibility with the DOCX format around forms. There are now five types of inline Content Controls that can be imported and added to Collabora Online. Writer had already included form controls and fieldmarks, providing similar features. However, there are some differences in their behaviour – among other differences, Content Controls can contain rich text and a set of properties. However, unlike fieldmarks, they can’t span over different paragraphs. Here is a small summary of the capabilities of the new Content Controls.
- Rich Text Content Controls simply show an indicator when you’re inside the content
- Checkbox Content Controls contain a single character, but you can interact with them: clicking on the content control toggles the checked state of the checkbox
- Dropdown Content Controls have a list of dropdown items. Each item is a display-text and value pair, allowing to differentiate between a human-readable string and a machine-readable value.
- Picture Content Controls allow the author of a form to pre-format the image before the filler of the form inserts the actual image.
- Date Content Controls were emulated with Writer fieldmarks in the past, which created trouble during export, since Word itself doesn’t have a date form-field.
This feature has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871498. For more information on the technical background, see Miklos Vajna’s blog post.
New HTML Formula Input Bar
We continue working in the conversion of various UI components in Collabora Online to “native” HTML widgets. This helps us to get better user experience, especially on touch and mobile devices. This time we have converted the formula bar which is used to edit data in cells inside a spreadsheet.
Previous “tunnelled” approaches had some disadvantages, such as a blurry look under some conditions and unexpected cursor position behaviour. Now the edit field is rendered by the browser, ensuring a crisp display of text under all circumstances and resolutions with improved caret positioning. It has now become much easier to type into the formula bar, especially on touch devices.
Bandwidth wins and improved performance with Deltas
Previous versions of Collabora Online have managed documents as a series of tiles, when a tile is invalidated by its contents changing, new tiles have been compressed and sent. Interestingly, this cost usually outweighed all other rendering and managing of document content. In this version, we adopt a simple time-based compression – whereby for actively changing tiles, we send the user a small set of changes since the last tile. Thus, if you type a ‘period’ we can generate a tiny compressed change for just those pixels. This gives up to a 75% bandwidth saving depending on your workload – as well as saving CPU time. We also have laid the foundation for switching to a far faster zstd compression library in the 22.05 lifetime to save yet more CPU cycles and serve more users from the same server hardware.
Accessibility Check Helps to Create Documents According to the PDF/UA Standard
The current version of Collabora Online includes a new Accessibility Checker. This helps to create documents according to the PDF/UA standard. Published as an International Standard in 2012 (ISO 14289), the PDF/UA format provides clear normative terms for achieving accessibility in the PDF format. The goal is to enable users to easily create documents that are friendly to the impaired, without expert assistance, and to make that easier to do. This is accomplished by making it easier to set standardized content annotations within the document so that they can be made available to the end user, including PDF readers via assistive technologies (AT).
The Accessibility Check is a useful step in our ongoing journey to improve accessibility, both in Collabora Online (Browser) and Collabora Office (Desktop). The Accessibility Check button can be found in the Review tab. The dialog shows a list of all issues found in the text document. Through a quick access button, it is possible to access the critical element. The issue is highlighted. See this article for more details on the already implemented checks.
Faster Rotation of Bitmap Graphics
The rotation of bitmap graphics has undergone a significant speed improvement. When rotating graphics via the button (the slightly off-set filled circle above a selected graphic), the movement is now much smoother and easier to position. This improvement makes manipulating bitmap graphics much more comfortable. Here’s how you can try it for yourself. Select a bitmap graphic by clicking on it. Move the cursor to the grey circle above the graphic. The cursor now changes into a palm. Now move the palm cursor to the right and left as you wish while holding down the left mouse button.
Dynamic Configuration of Multiple Hosts
Collabora Online uses a WOPI-like protocol to interact with hosts who want to integrate Collabora Online. The improved admin configurations allow for multiple WOPI hosts with multiple aliases. This means you can use a single Collabora Online server with different software integrations at the same time. It is also possible to manage these hosts dynamically without a server restart. This makes Collabora Online much easier to deploy and configure, particularly when scaling to integrate with large numbers of different services. All of this saves cost and reduces management complexity, making this feature especially interesting for hosting companies. We have summarized the technical background information on Multihost Configuration inside our SDK documentation.
CODE and Collabora Online are built with LibreOffice Technology by the LibreOffice community in which we love to participate. We cannot thank everyone involved enough for their passionate work.
Thanks to the Community
This release is a community effort and we fully appreciate and acknowledge their hard work that has made it possible! A few weeks ago, we already celebrated the wonderful work of these people in this blog post.
About Collabora Online
Collabora Online 22.05 is our latest enterprise quality release. It’s suitable for large-scale deployment, and comes with SLA, enterprise support with signed security updates as well as interaction with product management, helping to direct our development priorities. Collabora Online integrates flawlessly into Nextcloud, ownCloud, Seafile, and many of the major file sync & share, groupware and hosting solutions. It’s ideal for organisations that want to collaborate on documents, without losing control over them or compromising on privacy. With the ability to host it on your own hardware or to integrate it into a trusted environment, Collabora Online is the ideal online office suite for digital sovereignty. Enterprises interested in using Collabora Online can check out our home page for more information on partner integrations and online demos. Hosting and Cloud businesses that wish to add Collabora Online to their product portfolio can become a partner. For any questions or tailored solutions, do not hesitate to contact firstname.lastname@example.org.