Free LibreOffice office suite beefs up with version 4.0

The free open-source alternative to Microsoft Office now has a new edition with enhancements for both users and developers.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read
LibreOffice 4.0
LibreOffice 4.0 Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Fans of LibreOffice will discover a new and improved version with several features typically found only in Microsoft Office.

For those unfamiliar with the product, LibreOffice is an open-source desktop suite, one of several free alternatives to Microsoft Office. The suite includes applications for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, databases, and drawings.

Released today by the Document Foundation, LibreOffice 4.0 builds on its foundations with a host of new features and fixes.

As just a few examples, users of the Writer word processor can now add comments to entire blocks of text, more easily create different headers and footers for the first page of a document, and import native RTF math expressions. They'll also find better support for Word's DOCX format.

People who use the Calc spreadsheet program will see several new functions and formulas, the ability to export charts as image files, and better handling of OpenOffice's ODS format and Excel's XLSX format. The drawing and database programs also boast their own improvements.

Changes to the overall suite include new fonts, improved support for Visio file formats, the ability to import Microsoft Publisher files, and a new templates manager. The interface can now be customized thanks to support for Firefox Themes, and the Document Foundation promises a boost in performance when loading and saving different types of documents.

Along with the new features is the first release of an Impress Remote Control App for Android. This app lets users control LibreOffice presentations from their Android device. Currently, the app works only with certain distributions of Linux. But the Document Foundation says the next version will support Windows, MacOS X, and all flavors of Linux.

Many of the other enhancements will be of interest primarily to developers. A full list of these is available on the Release Notes page for the new version.

Since LibreOffice is an open-source project, developers can contribute their own code changes to help grow the program. During the development of version 4.0, developers committed more than 10,000 lines of code, according to the Document Foundation.

LibreOffice 4.0 and its Software Development Kit are both available at the suite's download page.