Updated: February 11, 2015
An interesting moment, don't you think, the official announcement by the Document Foundation about the availability of LibreOffice for Android. Now, this is only a beta, and this is only a viewer, allowing you to read but not yet create office documents on an Android device. Like they say in The Wheel of Time series, it was a beginning.
A full suite is planned much later down the road. But for now, you can test the Viewer. The application is available in the Play Store, and side by side with the remote control Android utility for LibreOffice Impress, it gives you an early set of official tools for the most popular open-source and free office suite out there. I did my share of testing and screenshots. Just a sampling, but let's see.
Setup and first steps
The installation is trivial. Just wait for the 46MB worth of data to download. Once you launch the program, the user interface is simple, unassuming and, frankly, not very inviting. Basically, you have a simple file manager for LibreOffice files, which displays directories as ugly black circles, and it allows you to filter objects based on their type, like documents, presentations, spreadsheets, and such. Then, you can select and display files in supported formats. Indeed, to see how it all works, I downloaded some templates from the official site.
At the moment, you can't really do much. You can just view documents, without any interaction. It's a little boring. But perhaps useful, if you happen to have relevant files you'd like to read on your mobile device. Then again, the whole point of an office suite is that you can react to viewed content, add new text, comments, something. This kind of work is more suitable for PDF, less so for office. It misses the point, in a way.
LibreOffice Viewer supports also Microsoft file formats, so you should be fine in that regard, and if the fidelity is high, which might not be the case, the you could potentially be saving yourself money, if you don't have to go with expensive payware. Then again, if you have been reading the tech news lately, Microsoft is offering a lot of its content for free, future operating system upgrades will be free, Windows 10 will most likely include Office right from the start, and Office viewer tools have always been available without any charge. So it's all rather interesting. We shall have to seen how things progress.
In my brief testing, LibreOffice Viewer behaved well, without any crashes, glitches or bad surprises. It's still a beta, so we must reserve our opinions, it's still limited in its functionality, and the full potential has yet to be revealed. Hopefully.
Overall though, it's a decent start. LibreOffice now has a foothold in the Play Store, and we can expect to see more good stuff coming soon. Naturally, we all want a free office suite, but can it behave and offer an excellent user experience on touch devices, well, that's a tough nut to crack. Which means the waiting and anticipation will be pretty high. For now, I invite you to take the LibreOffice Viewer for a spin and see for yourselves. And that's all for today. Oh, version 4.4 review coming soon!