LibreOffice enhances its enterprise spreadsheet abilities

The GPU and the CPU can work together to quickly handle very large data sets, LibreOffice said

Open source office suite LibreOffice has overhauled its spreadsheet program, Calc, to try to make it better suited to the needs of enterprise users who handle big data sets.

Calc has gone through its largest code refactoring ever, said LibreOffice in a news release Thursday announcing LibreOffice 4.2.

The update mainly revamps performance for handling big data sets, especially when calculating cell values and importing large and complex XLSX spreadsheets, it added.

There was a need to improve the advanced configuration of LibreOffice, said Italo Vignoli, LibreOffice's spokesman.

Because LibreOffice was a product born in the nineties, the architecture of the suite was not very modern, he said. "It badly needed an update," he said, adding that the new version was mainly needed for Calc because spreadsheets need more processing power than text documents.

"So for Calc we generally improved the way we handle data," Vignoli said. This means that Calc is going to be quicker for all users for bigger spreadsheets, he said. New charting features were also added to improve the way users can visually present data, he added.

To enhance Calc's performance, LibreOffice has started interpreting the spreadsheet program as a huge video game on the processing side, Vingoli said.

LibreOffice introduced a formula interpreter designed to enable parallel calculation of formula cells using the GPU (graphics processing unit) rather than only relying on the CPU (central processing unit), which is traditionally used for calculations, Vignoli said. The GPU is used via OpenCL, which can give applications access to the GPU for non-graphical computing.

"Usually when you crunch numbers the GPU is sleeping while the CPU is working," said Vignoli, adding that having the GPU and the CPU work together will make it easier for a computer to handle very large data sets.

The new interpreter works best with Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA) systems such as the new AMD Kaveri APU (Accelerated Processing Unit), LibreOffice said.

In addition to improving Calc, LibreOffice also improved interoperability with Microsoft OOXML, particularly for DOCX files as well as legacy RTF, it said. New filters for Abiword documents and Apple Keynote presentations were also added.

LibreOffice 4.2 also supports Impress Remote Control for iOS which allows users to control their presentations from their iPhone or iPad. The iOS app is currently waiting to be reviewed by Apple. This feature is identical to the already available Impress Remote Control for Android, Vignoli said.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues 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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