LibreOffice is a free, open-source, cross-platform suite of office apps including software for creating spreadsheets, documents, and presentations. There are versions of LibreOffice available for Linux, Windows, OS X, and there’s even an early build for Android.

Now the folks behind LibreOffice have announced plans to bring the office suite to a new platform: the web.

libreoffice

Collabora and IceWarp are working on a web-based version of LibreOffice.

Work to make an online version of LibreOffice has actually been underway since 2011. But development has been largely stuck at the “proof of concept” phase. Now the Document Foundation says the goal is to make LibreOffice “into a state of the art cloud application, which will become the free alternative to proprietary solutions such as Google Docs and Office 365.”

Note that “free” in this case means free as in freedom or free speech, not free as in, you don’t have to pay money for it. You don’t have to pay a penny to use Google Docs or Microsoft Office 365, but you also cannot examine or modify the source code of those services the way you can with LibreOffice software.

LibreOffice Online will also be the first cloud-based office suite to use ODF (Open Document Format) as its native format.

An initial release LibreOffice Online should be available in early 2016. It will be based on JavaScript and HTML5 which means you shouldn’t need any browser add-ons or plugins to use the service and it’ll probably be licensed with Mozilla’s Public License version 2.0.

If you want to host your own instance of LibreOffice on your own server, you should be able to do that. What’s a little less clear from the announcement is if there are plans to offer a true Google Docs competitor that you don’t have to set up on a private cloud, but which you can visit just by pointing your web browser to a URL.

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11 replies on “LibreOffice Online will bring open source office suite to the cloud”

  1. When you say “Note that “free” in this case means free as in freedom or free speech, not free as in, you don’t have to pay money for it” you should also clarify that it is free in the sense of not paying for it. When I read that for a moment I thought you were going to say that we would have to start paying or LibreOffice and then I backtracked and realized that it was a referral to “free alternative” in the previous paragraph.

    On a different note, I think this could potentially be a good alternative for some companies. Give their employees cheap cheap laptops/chromebooks and host libreoffice on their own server in order to maximize security and costs. As for people hosting it themselves, I think only those who fear being out and about and needing to work on a document without having access on a device with good ODF support. On that note I wonder which will come out first, this or an full Android version.

  2. FTA: “LibreOffice Online will also be the first cloud-based office suite to support ODF (Open Document Format) files.”

    Maybe they’ll be the first cloud suite to use ODF as the underlying document format, but every single document I’ve ever uploaded to Google Docs has been ODF, and I download as ODF as well.

    I’m glad to see this, because I moved to my own hosting for mail and TT-RSS when Google Reader went away. Once I can self-host document editing, the only thing I’ll be relying on Google apps for on a regular basis will be navigation. Well, and search, for those odd searches that make DDG keel over.

    I just hope it goes further than their previous attempts to make it happen.

    1. Good point… I’ve updated that line and kicked myself for forgetting that Google Docs does that. The press release talks about “native” support for ODF, so you’re right — I think the difference is that there’s no conversion going on here… unless you upload a non-ODF file which is then converted.

  3. As a side effect, will libreoffice be neatly split into a backend and a frontend? And will that frontend be constructed with html5?

    If so, we have imminent custom GUI galore!

  4. I have been using StarOffice/OpenOffice/LibreOffice for many years. While a “cloud” version might have collaboration benefits, I don’t like the idea of someone else being able to flip a switch and making my files/programs unavailable.

    1. I think you missed some of the point. You can rely on others or you can host it yourself from your own computer. Once this comes out of Beta though I am sure many companies will host their own and you can decide whether you want to trust and rely on them.

      1. Small business may well host their own cloud. The average Joe will not (except for the very rare few).

        1. You should backup anyway (if the files are that important). Small biz should do it obligatory.

          But 95% of files from avg. joes/janes are one time use, temp reference or even get lost on hard drives, usb sticks or online , etc. and no one cares for them..

  5. “What’s a little less clear from the announcement is if there are plans to offer a true Google Docs competitor that you don’t have to set up on a private cloud, but which you can visit just by pointing your web browser to a URL.”
    I’m sure they’ll offer something like this as a potential revenue stream for the project, but realistically, there’s not much point to it when Google Docs and Office Online exist. The real benefit is being able to set up a privately hosted Google Docs equivalent to give you the benefits of a cloud-based document editor/manager (which hasn’t completely replaced desktop software for me, but has still been incredibly useful) without having to sell your privacy to Google or Microsoft.

  6. Well I use this on my mac but I could just use office online for free, only reason I use it on Mac is because it is free

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