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10 Things to Look Forward to in LibreOffice 3.5

A new release candidate offers an early look at the free productivity software's next major update.

Hard on the heels of the release of the bug-fixing LibreOffice 3.4.5 last Monday, the Document Foundation on Friday published a release candidate version of LibreOffice 3.5, which will be the next major version of the office productivity software.

More than 150 volunteers helped in a "bug hunt" to refine the free and open source software in late December, identifying and filing more than 70 bugs. Now, continuing that effort, this new release candidate was subjected to similar testing this past weekend in the second official LibreOffice 3.5 bug hunt.

LibreOffice 3.5 is due for release in early February, and it's expected to include "a large number of interesting new features and performance improvements," according to a recent post on the Document Foundation blog.

Want an early taste? Though not intended for production purposes, there's nothing like a release candidate for a fairly reliable glimpse at what's to come, and LibreOffice 3.5.0 RC1 is available for free download for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X from the project's site.

Here are some of the highlights we can look forward to.

1. A Slimmer Package

Earlier this month I noted that LibreOffice developers have been making considerable progress in their effort to eliminate excess unused code, and it looks like that's already going to be noticeable in this new version. To wit: "Large amounts of dead code removal reducing code size & bloat" is explicitly mentioned in the core "Performance" section of the release notes for LibreOffice 3.5.

2. A Smoother GUI

A number of changes have been made to LibreOffice's user interface to make it more usable and attractive, including refined tools for customizing colors and better menu organization. Context-sensitive toolbars have now been moved to the bottom of the screen to prevent them from overlaying important parts of the document, and the dialog box that appears when you save in formats other than ODF has been improved.

3. Better Localization

Numerous new spelling dictionaries have been added in LibreOffice 3.5 for languages including Arabic, Bulgarian, Scottish Gaelic, Greek, Gujarati, Hindi, Latvian, Brazilian Portuguese, and Telugu. Locale data including date formats have also been refined for many regions of the world.

4. A More Capable Writer

Changes to the Writer word-processing module in LibreOffice 3.5 include a better interface for handling headers and footers, improved page break indicators, and numerous tweaks affecting word counts, layout, grammar checking, and printing. Auto-generated tables of contents now contain hyperlinks to the relevant pages by default, and comments are now supported for export and import with Office Open XML (.docx) documents. Positioning has also been refined for printing labels.

5. A Heavier-Duty Calc

LibreOffice 3.5's Calc spreadsheet module, meanwhile, now supports up to 10000 sheets and boasts faster performance for many operations, according to the software's release notes. Many new functions have been added in accordance with the ODF 1.2 specification, and a new multiline input bar gives users greater flexibility.

6. Richer Presentation Tools

In version 3.5, LibreOffice's Impress and Draw modules can now better handle elliptical paths, custom animations, embedded palettes, and custom-shape imports, among other features.

7. More Math Symbols

Also new in LibreOffice 3.5 are symbols for game theory and "does not exist" as well as support for the export and import of Math formulas in .docx documents.

8. A PostgreSQL Native Driver

A beta-quality but reportedly still reliable PostgreSQL native driver has been integrated in the Base module of LibreOffice 3.5, with further improvements coming in the next version of the software.

9. New Filters

An import filter for MS Visio documents has been added to LibreOffice 3.5, and various tweaks have been made to the importing of .rtf and .docx files.

10. Lots and Lots of Bug Fixes

Last but certainly not least, numerous bug fixes have already been made in LibreOffice 3.5, and more are surely on the way as a result of this past weekend's bug hunt.

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