New interface styles and feature improvements are available in version 6.2 of LibreOffice—the most popular open-source office suite—released Thursday by The Document Foundation. As with any software update, bug fixes and feature enhancements are present, making this release a significant upgrade, particularly for users coming from Microsoft Office, or working with files created with those programs.
Interface improvements and options
LibreOffice now supports SVG-based icons for toolbars in the Breeze, Colibre, and Elementary icon sets as an experimental feature, to better support HiDPI displays increasingly found in notebook PCs. The Elementary icon set was also improved significantly, adding a 32px PNG version, and fixing inconsistencies between the 16, 24, and 32px versions, as well as adding more icons across the set to prevent reverting to defaults.
SEE: Comparison chart: Office suites (Tech Pro Research)
In LibreOffice 6.2, the "Tabbed" interface is now available for Writer, Calc, Impress, and Draw, and is considered sufficiently stable to be a default option. This interface mimics the oft-maligned "Ribbon interface" in Office 2007. The "traditional" Office-style toolbar is default, though the Tabbed interface can be enabled through the "View > User Interface" menus.
The Ribbon interface, like the interface formerly known as Metro, was the creation of ex-Microsoft employee Steven Sinofsky. Both of these design languages were met with intense disapproval when first released, though the Ribbon interface has been slowly more accepted as pain points have been addressed in successive versions.
An alternative interface, the "Groupedbar Compact" is also available for all four programs in the LibreOffice suite. It combines the traditional and tabbed interfaces, helpful for notebook or netbook users with 720p displays where vertical space is at a premium.
Improved file compatibility
LibreOffice 6.2 includes improvements to EMF+ vector images used in Microsoft Office documents, particularly in String Drawing components used frequently in graphs. Additionally, support for animation in PowerPoint files has been improved.
Other new features and improvements
Major improvements to the way tracked changes in Writer are handled makes them significantly faster than before. As such, documents with extensive tracked changes no longer suffer from performance slowdowns.
Writer also gained native support for copy and paste of spreadsheet data.
Calc now supports signature lines for printed document signing, a feature that came to Writer in LibreOffice 6.1.
For statistics users, it is now possible to perform multivariate regression analysis, alongside other newly-added statistical measures added to the analysis output, including confidence intervals.
Getting started with LibreOffice
LibreOffice 6.2 requires, at a minimum, Windows 7 SP1 or Mac OS X 10.9 (Mavericks). You can download it freely from LibreOffice.org. For Linux users, updates are typically distributed via your package manager, with major version increments usually reserved for new releases, such as the forthcoming Fedora 30 and Ubuntu 19.04. If you don't want to wait, you can download an installer in DEB or RPM format directly from LibreOffice using the link above, or download the Flatpak from Flathub.
TechRepublic's Jack Wallen has written extensively on how to use LibreOffice. Check out these helpful how-tos for using LibreOffice features.
- How to configure LibreOffice to automatically save in MS Office format
- How to save a LibreOffice document to an SSH server
- How to enable digital signatures in LibreOffice documents
- How to load styles from LibreOffice templates
- How to digitally sign a LibreOffice 6 document with GnuPG
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James Sanders is a technology writer for TechRepublic. He covers future technology, including quantum computing, AI, and 5G, as well as cloud, security, open source, mobility, and the impact of globalization on the industry, with a focus on Asia.