Making it official

LibreOffice devs seek Android help

Elliot Bentley
help-wanted1

A mobile port of LibreOffice is “frustratingly close” to completion, but needs additional support to make it onto Android.

It’s been almost two
years since The Document Foundation, the organisation behind
OpenOffice fork LibreOffice, discussed their

plans for an Android port
. However, development hasn’t been as
smooth as hoped, and those spearheading initial efforts are now
reaching out to the community for help.

In an
interview with Ars Technica
, LibreOffice developer Michael
Meeks said that while the Android version is already in a
“pre-alpha” form, a lot of work is needed before release.

“What’s there is pretty encouraging,” said Meeks. “The sad thing is
we’re frustratingly close to having a viewer that is actually
usable. The problem is getting it to be packaged into the app store
and then doing a bit of debugging on that.”

Linux distributor SUSE sponsors Meeks to work on LibreOffice
full-time, but only covers the costs of developing the desktop
version. This leaves Meeks and fellow SUSE employee Tor Lillqvist
to work on the project in their free time.

In a
presentation given at Berlin Conference
last October, Lillqvist
said that time had been lost fighting “broken OS runtimes or
tool-chains”, warning: “the Android kernel might be Linux, but
nothing else in Android is”. While progress has been slow,
daily builds
are stable enough to be side-loaded.

One of the biggest problems, Meeks told Ars Technica, is the large
size of LibreOffice. He suggests that “a small Java wrapper to
download the rest of the app from somewhere else and then run it”
is needed to overcome the Android Market’s 50MB limit, presumably
referring to restrictions on the size of the APK file (rather than
the app overall, which was
lifted to 4GB last year
).

Another issue is UI. While Meeks says that “input stuff” such as
pinch-to-zoom are definitely on the to-do list, the pre-alpha
screenshot betrays a very un-Android-like desktop interface clearly
far from optimised for touchscreens. “That takes a little bit of
effort,” he said.

Those interested in helping out should contact the LibreOffice
developer mailing list
, or take a look at the
relevant wiki page
.

While LibreOffice may have
reduced its reliance on Java
, it still retains a strong
connection with Java, as OpenOffice was also developed by Sun
Microsystems.

Photo by Andreas Klinke
Johannsen
.

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