Regular readers will know how fanatical we are about LibreOffice as a great open source alternative to the grossly over-priced Microsoft Office products, which is hardly surprising since LibreOffice is a awesome. So imagine how pleased we are to announce the arrival of an Android office suite which promises all the same functionality for your tablet or smartphone.
The problem is the new AndrOpen Office suite is clearly not quite ready for primetime, as this known issues page illustrates. The suite, which is a fork of the Apache Open Office suite of programs, offers a word-processor, spreadsheet, drawing, presentation and database programs, as well as a maths equation component, and they all fit together nicely in the same look and feel.
The problem comes when you try to use the apps, at which point it becomes clear that there’s still a ton of work to be done to clean up the glitches and get the suite working as it should. For example, file saving in Writer (the word processor) is very hit or miss. Sometimes it saves the file, and at other times it doesn’t, and it’s not clear why.
Another issue is the fact that the interface on a phone is so small that it’s almost impossible to use with your fingers, which makes it almost impossible to get anything serious done. It took us several minutes to just enter in and sum a few numbers in the Calc spreadsheet program, simply because we couldn’t hit the right buttons accurately enough.
There is, helpfully, a scale function which lets you alter the size of the elements in each app, but we could only see a difference in the Writer app, which was a shame. Probably all this goes away if you use the suite on a tablet computer, but it would nice to have the same functionality across all Android devices.
Don’t get us wrong, we really love what they’re doing with this suite, the implementation is spot on for general use, and we can see it becoming an essential tool once the kinks are ironed out, but it’s just a little frustrating to have to deal with them, when the product looks so complete.
Another example is the fact that the keyboard doesn’t seem to support Swype properly, so you have to manually add in spaces, and the word correction doesn’t appear on screen. A small issue, but one that dramatically slows down your editing and text entry in the word-processor.
But boy what an ambitious project, to move a whole desktop computer suite intact across to the world’s most popular handheld device platform. And we take our hats off to the team for the results so far. It may be early days, and the interface may be frustrating to the max, but it’s amazing to realize just how cool this will be when it’s finished.
It’s available in around 26 different languages, handles a bunch of very popular file formats (including Microsoft docx, xls, ppt, and Adobe PSD and PDF for export) and also includes robust file encryption to let you secure your work on the move.
We love it, and wish the developers well as they move the software beyond version 1.4 and onwards. We installed it immediately and now await upgrades with anticipation.