Developers begin work on LibreOffice for Android

A first beta version of the Libre Office productivity suite for Android devices is planned for March

Two companies have started working on a full-featured version of the free office suite LibreOffice for Android. They hope to have a beta version available in March.

It's too soon to say what features will be included in the beta version, said Italo Vignoli, spokesman at the Document Foundation, which leads the development. A series of beta builds with increasing advanced functionality will then be released over time. The foundation didn't say when it expected LibreOffice for Android to become generally available.

U.K. open source software company Collabora and Spanish Free Software consultancy Igalia have been handed the task of developing the technical framework, following a tender that was presented in September.

Once the beta software is available, the foundation hopes users will download and play with the application, and provide their feedback to help improve the quality of the software, Vignoli said in a blog post on Tuesday.

Last week saw the release of LibreOffice Viewer for Android, which lets users read Microsoft Office, Google Docs and Open Document Format files on their smartphones and tablets. That tens of thousands of people have already downloaded it confirms there is an interest for OpenOffice on Android, Vignoli said.

The app uses the same engine as LibreOffice for desktops and a new front-end based on Firefox for Android.

In general, interest for Office apps for Google's operating system has been growing. In addition to LibreOffice, Microsoft is working on Office for Android tablets. Preview versions of the Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps are available to download from Google Play. So far, Word is the most popular of the three apps, with between 100,000 and 500,000 installs.

Dropbox also wants in on the action, and acquired Israeli company CloudOn last week to help it add Office functionality to its apps.

Other already existing options are Google's own apps and Mobile Systems' OfficeSuite. The growing interest can only be good for users, since increased competition usually results in better products.

Fans of LibreOffice and Free Software can head over to the donations page and contribute to help make the Android version a reality.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

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Mikael Ricknäs

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