Free and open source office suite LibreOffice was updated today, with its developers calling it "the most beautiful LibreOffice ever."
LibreOffice is a fork of the OpenOffice suite created in 2010 amid concerns of Oracle's stewardship of OpenOffice; OpenOffice was subsequently transferred to the Apache Software Foundation. Both projects have subsequently continued as open source alternatives to Microsoft Office.
The highlight of the new release is a far-reaching visual refresh, with menus, toolbars, status bars, and more being updated to look and work better. While LibreOffice retains the traditional menus-and-toolbars approach that Microsoft abandoned in Office 2007, the new version is meant to make those menus and toolbars easier to navigate.
The new appearance is most significant on OS X, where a new theme has been made the default. This theme, named Sifr, uses monochrome icons for a more restrained look that better fits the rest of the OS. The toolbars on Windows remain colorful. On all platforms, rulers have been made smaller and more discreet, and status bars have been redesigned to be easier to understand and fit better on small screens.
The new version promises better compatibility with Microsoft Office's OOXML files. Part of this comes from the use of additional fonts designed to replace the Microsoft "C-Fonts" that Office defaults to—chiefly Calibri and Cambria. LibreOffice ships with fonts named Carlito and Caladea that are designed with the same metrics and proportions as Microsoft's fonts, but with free and open licensing. While their appearance isn't identical, this means that documents using those fonts will open on open source platforms without having their layout thrown off.
Important features like Track Changes have been refined to look and work more like their equivalents in Office; accepting or rejecting a change now jumps to the next change, for quicker, easier document review.
PDF generation has been extended to include support for creating digitally signed PDFs.
This release also continues LibreOffice's move away from its heritage. The precursor to OpenOffice was StarOffice, and StarOffice was developed initially by German company StarDivision. As such, the codebase is still littered with comments written in German. With English as the lingua franca of open source development, LibreOffice developers have been since 2011 working on translating those comments (or removing them where they're redundant). The work is ongoing.
Perhaps the most exciting feature, however, is the inclusion of OpenGL-accelerated 3D slide transitions on Windows. Already a part of LibreOffice for OS X and Linux, these transitions are now available in LibreOffice for Windows, too.