Interview: Meet Collabora Online

Meet COLLABORA – A team which works on development of a selection of missing interoperability features in LibreOffice Technology & Collabora Online. Learn more from this interview with Miklos Vajna.

Can you briefly introduce yourself and your team?

I’m Miklos Vajna, Consultancy Lead at Collabora Productivity, working on Collabora Online / LibreOffice more or less since 2012. I also worked on the “clearing break” and “content controls” parts of the project myself. The team also included Andras Timar for project management, Eloy Crespo for business development, Rashesh Padia for content control development, Tomaz Vajngerl for sparklines & chart data tables, Lubos Lunak for jumbo sheets.

What is your motivation to work in the data portability field?

We believe that the ability to run your own office suite in the cloud and/or premise is an important step towards digital sovereignty. We move towards this goal by checking what features office documents in the wild contain and we address some of these gaps in Collabora Online & LibreOffice: so you can move your data from public clouds (especially from the ones running outside the EU) into private clouds or on-premise, without losing features.

In simple words, what challenges does your project address?

The project addresses the challenge that public cloud offerings from tech giants are really comfortable for the users, they provide a huge feature set. We want to improve the privacy of users, provide them with digital sovereignty as they move their data & document editing service to an open-source solution like Collabora Online – without having to give up on feature they like from previous solutions.

What solution are you developing?

We develop missing interoperability features for Collabora Online and LibreOffice, so that its already quite good rendering gets even closer to perfect. We saw these features frequently requested, but this project allows accessing necessary funding to actually develop them. These features are unique because LibreOffice Technology didn’t support them so far, and we like to believe that it’s the most mature office codebase outside Microsoft. Everyone will benefit from this work who uses LibreOffice on the desktop or Collabora Online from a browser: clearing breaks, content controls, sparklines, large spreadsheets and chart data tables are commonly observed in sample consumer documents.

What are the next steps?

We plan incremental improvements on top of the added features, e.g. having 16 thousands columns in Calc is great (compared to the old 1 thousand limit), but perhaps we could also expand 1 million rows to a higher limit. We’ll see, based on input from customers, community forum, etc. We’ll also check what are the new top few problems which are now the new bottleneck for service portability, now that NGI DAPSI allowed us to solve the above-mentioned problems.