New features in LibreOffice 5

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Round Five

LibreOffice 5.0 does not come with revolutionary innovations, but this latest version of the software does offer visual and functional improvements. A closer look shows numerous changes – not least of which is better compatibility with Microsoft formats.

The open source software LibreOffice contains an extensive office package built out of the most popular workplace tools used today. These tools include text editing, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings, and database management.

Because the program makes it easy to add extensions, you don't need to worry if a tool you need is not part of the original package. You will find all kinds of functions and document templates on the platform that has been built for this product.

The developers for LibreOffice 5 have thoroughly overhauled and updated the office suite [1]. All of the programs have newly designed logos and user-oriented improvements. Nonetheless, the interface and its optics have not been changed much for this new version.

The developers concentrated on smaller extensions and changes under the surface that should make routine work with the programs easier. Additionally, the engine for the spreadsheet Calc has been completely rewritten. This work has removed numerous errors, which in turn speeds up the boot process for the office suite considerably.

LibreOffice 5 also offers improved compatibility to office software by Apple and Microsoft. In particular, it can now import MS office files in .docx and .doc formats with fewer problems. It also now has more import filters for MS works and Lotus WordPro documents.

According to the developers, spreadsheets with OLE links can also be exchanged easily for users of Microsoft Office. The PDF export now supports the time stamp protocol. The send options for emails offer the possibility of preventing the removal of hidden content when sending documents by email.

Modern Interface

The first thing that a user will notice when opening the office suite is a new and more colorful splash screen. The user will also see that the sidebars have been enlarged to include more options. The entire layout looks cleaner and more neatly arranged. When no documents are open, you can see the start center and its two areas next to one another (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Access to individual modules, templates, and files is located to the left on the start center. The previews for the most recently opened files are on the right.

Using the dialogs on the left, you can open either an existing file or template. Or, you can click on a symbol to open a new document. The right-hand area shows a welcome page as long as no document has been loaded.

Once a document has been loaded, this area shows the previews for the most recently opened documents. If you hover over a document with the mouse, then LibreOffice will highlight the document and display an info box with information about where the document is stored.

To the upper right of the preview, you will find a symbol for deleting the image from the area and also from the list of the most recently opened documents. You can open the highlighted document by simply clicking on the preview image.

Some icons and graphical elements are better suited for high-resolution displays. The developers revamped the interface for showing and hiding the sidebar and improved its visibility. On the other hand, they left the program interfaces for Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, and Base the same as before (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Despite all the changes under the hood, the icon set is still the same.

Almost all of the dialogs were redone so they occupy less space on the display screen. LibreOffice 5 now shows only those functions that are the used most frequently. Numerous formatting functions have disappeared from the context menu while basic functions like cut and copy are always visible. Another very practical improvement is that previews for format templates now appear in the sidebar (Figure 3).

Figure 3: You can now immediately see the effect that a template will have on the text.

LibreOffice now also supports Unicode 6 for fonts that make a number of different special characters available. A new function in autocorrect lets you add ideograms like emojis as well as other symbols in the Unicode universal character set when you enter the corresponding keyword between two colons.

For example, when you type :poisons: , LibreOffice will replace the text with the symbol of a skull and crossbones. Entering :alpha: results in the corresponding letter of the Greek alphabet. This method also works for a series of characters such as :alpha::alpha::alpha: . You will find a list of all the keywords under Extras | AutoCorrect Options… in the tab Replace (Figure 4).

Figure 4: A wide range of emojis and smileys can be produced using the new autocorrect feature.

Improvements in Writer

Highlighting and shading is still part of text editing for the import and export of MS Word documents. Additionally, text areas with comments have been kept for importing documents from the .doc format. The developers fixed a scrolling error, which would cause the number of pages in a document to appear incorrectly.

Just as with Calc, Writer now makes allowance for selections when adding table columns and lines. It is also possible to add new columns and lines to the left and above the current position of the cursor instead of just underneath or to the right as was previously the case.

Saving graphics is done similarly in Writer and also Impress and Draw. You can use the menu Format | image menu, a context menu, or symbols in the image symbol bar to save images, replace one image with another, or crop an image.

Cropping requires only that you reposition one of the eight handles (Figure 5). If you simultaneously press the Shift key, the image will be cropped to a rectangle proportional in size to the original. LibreOffice will perform the change when the Esc key is pressed or when clicking with the mouse outside of the cropped area.

Figure 5: A new function lets you crop images very precisely via mouse click. A preview frame shows the results you can expect.

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