New open source Calligra Suite release enhances ODF document support

Calligra is a fairly young open source office suite that shows promise, an expert said

Calligra has published the second stable release of its open source suite that includes word processing, spreadsheets and a sketching program. The new version greatly improves the support of Open Document Format (ODF) documents, said one of its main developers on Tuesday.

The Calligra Suite is an application suite for Linux that includes programs not found in traditional office suites, so the development team prefers to call it an "integrated work applications suite."

"Calligra is for the kind of people that are allergic to the word 'office'," said Boudewijn Rempt, maintainer (head developer) of Calligra's Krita sketching program.

Calligra 2.5 is the second stable version of the suite. The team also released a QML (Qt Modeling Language) -based version for tablets and smartphones called Calligra Active, and said that Calligra Active will be the main mobile version of the suite going forward.

Calligra is currently developing a version of Calligra Active for Android, Rempt said.

Krita was updated with a new composition docker that is useful for storyboard generation. And Krita added textured painting and performance improvements among other enhancements, Calligra said on its website. Database program Kexi, diagram application Flow and presentation program Stage were also updated, as well as spreadsheet program Sheets.

Version 2.5 also brings improvements that benefit all the suite's applications. For instance the management of autosave files is improved, there is a new system for managing user profiles and there is a new system connecting shapes like diagrams or flowcharts, according to Calligra.

Rempt said that Calligra could still use some other improvements. "The next step is Windows," he said, adding that the installer for Calligra for Windows isn't perfect. The main problem is finding open source developers that want to make Calligra available on Windows, according to Rempt. The Windows effort may require financial backing instead of relying solely on volunteers, he added.

Calligra's actual user base is hard to estimate, Rempt said. However, at the moment there are between two and three million Nokia N9 phones that use a documents app based on Calligra. Krita is downloaded about 20,000 times every month on a Windows machine, and the experimental Windows installer for the whole suite is downloaded about 5,000 times a month, he said, Besides that, Kubuntu, a popular Linux distribution, has decided to make Calligra a default application, according to Rempt.

One of Calligra's biggest competitors is open source office suite LibreOffice, according to Rempt. "That really is a good and mature suite," he said, adding that while Calligra currently has a fraction of LibreOffice's user base, it has more applications and is not as dependent on big vendors such as Novell and RedHat as LibreOffice is.

That Calligra does not attract as many users as LibreOffice is "perfectly alright at this moment", said Rempt, since the team would like more time to improve the functionality of the suite.

Calligra is a relatively young but promising suite, said Michiel Leenaars, vice chairman of the OpenDoc Society, an organization that promotes the use of ODF and open document standards in the Netherlands. "The market for Office suites is dominated by a small number of solutions that originated from the eighties and nineties of the past millennium," he said in an email. Calligra does not have that ballast since it is from this century, it was forked from KOffice in 2010, and was built from scratch, he added

Calligra's Krita competes at the moment more with specialized software than with simpler editors in other office suites, Leenaars said. One other plus for Calligra is that it is developed keeping touch devices like tablets and mobile phones in mind, he added.

Loek covers all things tech for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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