back to article AMD joins LibreOffice, adds GPU grunt to free software suite

LibreOffice, the open source office suite created by disaffected Oracle developers, has signed up Advanced Micro Devices to the free software cause and plans to add the chip company's GPU acceleration system to the code base. The Document Foundation (TDF), which produces LibreOffice, already has Intel on-side for silicon and …

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  1. hplasm Silver badge
    Linux

    Another nail in the MS Office Coffin...

    Excellent! Full speed ahead, guys!

    1. Primus Secundus Tertius

      Re: Another nail in the MS Office Coffin...

      But still nothing in Libre/Open to compare with MS Access.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge
        Coffee/keyboard

        Re: Another nail in the MS Office Coffin...

        But still nothing in Libre/Open to compare with MS Access

        I'm not really sure what to say to that. Is MS Access worthy of emulation?

        1. Mad Chaz

          Re: Another nail in the MS Office Coffin...

          Actually, it does as have an "access like" tool. The real nice thing about it, I will admit, is you can use it to connect to a number of databases as well, so it makes a nice, if very basic, table design tool too if you want to use it like that.

          1. Jordan Davenport

            Re: Another nail in the MS Office Coffin...

            StarOffice/OpenOffice.org/Oracle Open Office/LibreOffice do have Base, but from my experience with LibreOffice 4.0, it does have some quirks that Access doesn't have. I tried setting a compound primary key for a table to establish a many-to-many relationship, and LibreOffice just errored out and didn't allow it. I ended up just prototyping a recent database using the SQLite Manager extension in Firefox.

            And to be fair to Access, it can connect to a few database backends as well... but why would you want to? Prototyping forms is about the only reason I can think of and was the only reason I've ever tried that... that, and it was part of a class assignment in university. Access can only handle the more appropriate data types and SQL syntax if you do use something like SQL Server as a backend, anyway.

          2. Anonymous Dutch Coward
            Happy

            Re: Another nail in the MS Office Coffin...

            Yep, and they're working on replacing the standard embedded HSQLDB with embedded Firebird this summer (Google Summer of Code project). Hope this will improve Base functionality.

        2. Jonathan 29

          Re: Another nail in the MS Office Coffin...

          Access was a superb database for single users (secretaries and admin staff) to replace their god awful Excel 'databases'. In 15 years I have not seen a query builder interface that was better for first time users to manage their data than the QBE grid in Access 97.

          1. itzman

            Re: Another nail in the MS Office Coffin...

            I tried access once. I could make a table and a simple form.

            I utterly failed to get beyond that point.

            MysQL? a different story. Making a simple table was hard, but once that and a programmable API was understood, debvelopment rocketed along.

            1. jmk89
              Pint

              Re: Another nail in the MS Office Coffin...

              MS Access is handy as hell for when you need to temporarily treat data like a database, but whenever somebody has built an entire application with it...badly...and it's being used to run a company and you have to maintain it's...er...not so great!

              1. TeeCee Gold badge

                Re: Another nail in the MS Office Coffin...

                That's not Access' fault.

                People have been doing that since user applications became capable of doing useful stuff on desktops. One place I worked had umpty-something hundred linked spreadsheets in Lotus 123 v3 doing all the financial reporting and budget modelling.

        3. Wayland Sothcott 1 Bronze badge
          Linux

          Re: Another nail in the MS Office Coffin...

          MS Access allows sophisticated business applications to be developed quickly and easily. Admittedly it's not as easy to use as Excel but it does more and is by far the easiest way to develop a powerful database application. I emphasize ease and power, clearly there are more powerful tools like raw SQL and C++.

          The fact is that LibraOffice has nothing for this so does not replace MS Office in all cases.

      2. Roo
        Pint

        Re: Another nail in the MS Office Coffin...

        "But still nothing in Libre/Open to compare with MS Access."

        MS Access has caused more pain than gain, so that's a win.

      3. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Another nail in the MS Office Coffin...

      First off, I think competition is greatly needed in office suites. That said, you can hook up Excel to an MS HPC cluster, you've been able to do this for years. So how is a single GPU going to compete with this?

      1. Tomato42 Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Another nail in the MS Office Coffin...

        if you need a compute cluster for a spread sheet then something somewhere went horribly wrong

  2. NoneSuch Silver badge

    Love it. Crack on lads.

  3. NoneSuch Silver badge

    I ditched OpenOffice for LibreOffice a while back.

    Now LibreOffice runs on AMD GPU's? Those ARE the droids we're looking for.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Every little helps!

    Libre Office is still painfully slow, especially to load, so I guess this is good news.

    Now the team just has to solve the slight issue of mangling every single .doc/.docx file I've ever attempted to open with it! Before the LO apologists arrive and spew some blah blah and Microsoft not respecting standards etc. etc., I've never encountered a problem doing the same when using the free version of Kingsoft Writer.

    1. keithpeter
      Windows

      Re: Every little helps!

      "Now the team just has to solve the slight issue of mangling every single .doc/.docx file I've ever attempted to open with it!"

      Most of the docx/docs I open work ok in my experience, they tend to be short - two to 20 pages and simple in format.

      I have problems with docx files that have tables within tables, bonkers made up headings instead of named styles, and any draw/formula objects &c

      The tramp: standards for Office docs please. No tables within tables within tables, use named styles, use a sensible range of fonts!

      1. itzman

        Re: Every little helps!

        Exactly, I write with whatever, but I exchange as PDF with *embedded fonts*.

        Lets face it if you send an MS Word doc to another MS word doc and the poor sod hasn't got party-pooper911.ttf loaded up, it will look a dogs breakfast, as well.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Every little helps!

          > Exactly, I write with whatever, but I exchange as PDF with *embedded fonts*.

          Lets face it if you send an MS Word doc to another MS word doc and the poor sod hasn't got party-pooper911.ttf loaded up, it will look a dogs breakfast, as well.

          I'm sorry but, in the real world, docs are routinely sent around for collaborative editing. LO/OO are not fit for this purpose. I'm not speaking about ridiculously complex documents either. The type of issues I encounter are images in the wrong place within a document and captions missing or incorrectly placed.

          1. Mikel
            Stop

            Re: Every little helps!

            In the real world any number of folk can do live simultaneous collaborative editing of a document without shipping the document around for sequential iterative edits as if this was still 1997.

      2. TeeCee Gold badge
        Flame

        Re: Every little helps!

        ...use named styles...

        Oh heck. I'd love to have that written on a club for occasional clueage use. You can add Page Breaks to that too.

        There's nothing worse than modifying someone else's document, inserting something and having the whole lot turn to catshit, 'cos they've formatted the entire fucking thing with spaces, carriage returns and "Normal + (long list of extras)".

        Given how long its been since typewriters were common in offices, I am continually mystified as to why most people treat a word processor as if it were one. Where the hell did they pick up the habit?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Linux

      Libre Office slow to load?

      > Libre Office is still painfully slow, especially to load, so I guess this is good news.

      As compared to msOffice, that's because Windows preloads the Office DLLs at boot. There is a preload app that can emulate that particular Windows feature. On this machine Libre Office takes six seconds to load the first time, after that it loads virtually instantaneously.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Libre Office slow to load?

        > As compared to msOffice, that's because Windows preloads the Office DLLs at boot. There is a preload app that can emulate that particular Windows feature. On this machine Libre Office takes six seconds to load the first time, after that it loads virtually instantaneously.

        Libre Office has always been notoriously slow to start and other office suites, such as the aforementioned Kingsoft, which are not preloaded, do not have this problem.

  5. keithpeter
    Boffin

    OK, what does this mean in practice...

    Suppose I have a complex spreadsheet in Calc (e.g summing a 2000+ term trigonometric series with arguments that are polynomial in time up to 5th degree, and a 256 by 256 array of these)

    What do I have to do to take advantage of a GPU?

    Will LO detect the presence of an AMD GPU automatically?

    Will it share the GPU that is actually putting pixels on the screen or do I need an extra one?

    Will nvidia support LO?

    1. P. Lee Silver badge

      Re: OK, what does this mean in practice...

      I would guess that this is in preparation for mobile/thin devices. Some APU optimisations perhaps?

      For mobile, offloading ops to the number-crunching bit of the APU is likely to be a gain. It also cuts into intel's value proposition advantage in single-thread performance if low power APUs are perfectly capable.

      1) Build a thin client,

      2) note that it runs linux apps really well locally too.

      3)...

      4) Profit!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: OK, what does this mean in practice...

      They haven't said anything about the implementation yet, but they will most likely use OpenCL which is also supported by nVidia cards (although how well is beyond this discussion, nVidia would rather support their own CUDA instead). Note also from their announcement that they are more interested in the APU instead of a dedicated GPU.

      Will it share the GPU that is actually putting pixels on the screen or do I need an extra one?

      The part that puts the pixels on the screen consumes no resources and in the case of the APU, it is somewhere else (where the connector is). There are many parts in the GPU, one of which is a massive array of parallel cores. When you are not playing games, that array of cores is just sleeping and being useless; so CUDA (nVidia only) and OpenCL (many) provide you with an API that will let you use those sleeping cores for your calculations; be it for physics or AI or graphics processing or spreadsheet calculations. So don't worry, you won't need a separate GPU for this, unless you plan to play games while using a spreadsheet.

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: OK, what does this mean in practice...

        Or you could play Eve Online, which is basically Spreadsheets In Space!

    3. Wayland Sothcott 1 Bronze badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: OK, what does this mean in practice...

      The GPU is very good as doing calculations. It's not limited to shoving pixels about, in fact it does not need to do any graphics at all. You can fit two cards to a computer and using SLI use them as a single resource.

      The cleaver part is the OpenCL (yes CL not GL) language that AMD Radeon cards have when using the ATI Catalyst suit. They have added this feature to Photoshop 6 which massively speeds up some of the fancy filters.

      I expect it will be similar to Photoshop where the GPU is detected but you can go into settings and turn it off to try comparisons.

      You will need a AMD Radeon card of at least 4000 series and the current Catalyst suit to get the OpenCL working. Nvidia will probably get in on the act with their CUDA language.

      It's worth doing because a GPU is about 200 times faster at sums than a CPU.

    4. mmeeks
      Thumb Up

      Re: OK, what does this mean in practice...

      Hi KeithPeter,

      These are some great questions :-) so far the work is still in progress - so the answers to your questions are up for grabs; as for sharing the GPU that is putting pixels on the screen: yes of course, and for any openCL graphics card too.

      What intrigues me most about your reply is that you seem to have a use-case. We're really trying to collect these; any chance you can send me yours (or at least the outline/shape of it - what type of formulae, what size of data-set etc.) so we can construct a test case & do an analysis of that. We love looking at the shape of big/slow real-world test data for optimisation. Can you mail me at [email protected] ?

      Thanks !

      Michael Meeks.

  6. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Some people must be using some seriously complex spreadsheets if they need the GPU to speed them up in Libreoffice but its still good news that some big names are putting an effort into the project. All it needs now is some big OEM to start offering it pre-installed on their PCs instead of crappy trail versions of MS Office

    1. Roo
      Boffin

      That kind of acceleration could be a big win for Monte Carlo sims. I suspect a few folks writing 'risk engines' will get the can if that goes mainstream. ;)

  7. Herby

    Even better if...

    AMD decided not to share with the boys up in Redmond! Let them have a "second rate" spreadsheet for once.

    Well I can dream can't I!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Need?

    What can I possibly be doing in LibreOffice that will really benefit from GPU processing capability.

    Perhaps I don't use MS Excel enough ?

  9. James Hughes 1

    Not wanting to knock LO - use it all the time at home and work, but surely they should be spending time on improving the speed of Calc (not that I've noticed it being slow) for everyone, not just AMD GPU users?

    1. Roo
      Windows

      AFAIK no one is stopping Intel or Nvidia from stepping up to the plate like AMD has. Those other bozos may well step up if the AMD integration goes well... Also it's entirely possible they're using the OpenCL API to tickle the hardware, which potentially would make a port to NV/Intel HW fairly trivial.

      Intel's MIC stuff is potentially more flexible. LO would be able to accelerate a lot of stuff that way - a little bit like how folks use DLLs to make Excel dispatch jobs to Platform^WIBM Symphony - except a lot lower latency and with much higher bandwidth.

      Glueing distributed applications together has been going on a long time, but we're still short of a system that combines Occam's ability to easily, safely and elegantly compose communicating processes with the ability to manage the whole kaboodle easily and safely at run time.

      The old fella has seen it all before, mostly in his Blackthorn fuelled nightmares.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      A genuine question

      The software is slow, so instead of fixing that, we will use processing power to brute force it through.

      Shouldn't they be asking WHY it is slower than Excel, not oh we can make it better with extra horsepower?

      1. Anonymous Dutch Coward
        Happy

        @AC: Slow Calc cause

        If you follow the dev lists: they have been asking WHY it is slower. A Calc rewrite was started that would significantly improve speed. Don't know if it's finished yet - don't have very complex spreadsheets myself :)

      2. itzman

        Re: A genuine question

        Indeed.

        Sometimes its a simple case of changing a few lines of code...but sometimes its a question of changing the whole architecture...

  10. Dave Bell

    LibreOffice maybe a bit dodgy

    When I tried LibreOffice, I found several features I used did not work, and the help system was erratic, so I went back to OpenOffice.

    I reckon there was a bit too much politics involved. I can't really think of a technical reason why anyone should drop OpenOffice.

    1. Richard Neill

      Re: LibreOffice maybe a bit dodgy

      Did you report bugs on them?

      The LO team is pretty good at squishing bugs, but they're not telepathic!

      1. Primus Secundus Tertius

        Re: LibreOffice maybe a bit dodgy

        They would not need to be telepathic if they test their own software thoroughly, and had a personal commitment to getting it right. There is far too much "kick and rush" software about, in both the commercial and the free areas.

        I repeat: it is up to the developers to find bugs, not the users.

    2. itzman

      Re: LibreOffice maybe a bit dodgy

      I've tried both. Libre is for me marginally better, but bug free it aint.

      And its also unusually hard to find simple things, like 'start page numbering here' - that's buried deep in paragraph formatting.

      Styles are not always completely applied.

      Export to PDF leaves white lines on top of plain coloured backgrounds where images are inserted etc etc.

      Tend to use it to prep text and docs up, then if a quality result is needed, use quark or Scribus to do the layout PROPERLY.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have been using LO for a while. Very happy with it. The only thing I miss (not in a wistful way!) is Visio - would be nice to have something similar on Linux. Base & mysql is much better than Access.

    1. gerryg
      Terminator

      You miss a replacement for visio on Linux?

      You didn't look very hard...

      LMGTFY

      1. Jordan Davenport

        Re: You miss a replacement for visio on Linux?

        Don't forget LibreOffice Draw:

        http://www.libreoffice.org/features/draw/

        Maybe it's not as pretty as Visio, but it works and can even import Visio files as of LibreOffice 4.0.

      2. RAMChYLD
        Boffin

        Re: You miss a replacement for visio on Linux?

        Have you tried Dia? It's been around even before I first used Linux 13 years ago. And it's even been ported to Windows and Mac OS X now.

    2. Random K
      Linux

      RE: Colin Camper

      Visio replacement? Fear not Linux user. You want yEd. Works great on Linux/Windows/OSX and has much better options to add custom icons than Visio. The learning curve is not trivial, but once you get up and running you'll find it much more powerful and efficient. Also it's 100% free.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Megaphone

    That's Sun, not Oracle...

    "LibreOffice, the open source office suite created by disaffected Oracle developers".

    LibreOffice was an OpenOffice fork and one done in direct response to Oracle's take-over of Sun Microsystems. I strongly doubt that the majority of developers were Oracle employees at that time.

    I know I'm nitpicking a little bit, but it's stuff like this which helps people forget or even change the actual history.

    Because what's next? OpenOffice was developed by Oracle and then sold or given away to Apache?

  13. Sandtitz Silver badge
    Joke

    Just...wow!

    Speeding up the Writer was the final nail on MSOffice. DAAMIT has been cutting edge for over a decade now!

    http://www.bbspot.com/News/2003/02/ati_ascii.html

  14. h3

    Is it really wise to trust something like a spreadsheet to AMD graphics. (If it relies on fglrx at any point I cannot see how it would be a good idea - Maybe Sony have paid to get the drivers improved massively.)

    1. P. Lee Silver badge
      Facepalm

      > Is it really wise to trust something like a spreadsheet to AMD graphics

      Don't worry, most spreadsheets are project plans, contact lists and form templates. Very few calculations going on.

      1. Primus Secundus Tertius

        Re: > Is it really wise to trust something like a spreadsheet to AMD graphics

        Well said!

        One of my former employers used them for various tabular documents related to project plans.

        I use them personally for:

        1. Membership lists; and address labels, mail merge.

        2. Accounts of small voluntary groups, and for reconciling my own bank statements with my own records.

        3. Occasional serious sums, e.g. sums of mathematical series; and occasional graphs.

        In item 1, I count the number of members. Item 2, totals, obviously, and checking whether entries balance. But as you say, really rather few calculations .

  15. Mad Chaz

    "There's still a large OpenOffice user base, but the increasing industry support for LibreOffice has got to be worrying for the original squad."

    Well, not really, as the original squad left openoffice.org, due to Oracle basically not saying ANYTHING for a year or so. That, as you so nicely said in your article, is how libreoffice got started.

    Come on el'reg, at least be consistant inside the article ;-)

  16. jubtastic1
    WTF?

    It's 2013

    Fifty years of Moore's law and we're adding GPU support to a fucking office package because users are complaining about it lagging?

    The public think Governments are inefficient, they have no idea.

    1. Khaptain Silver badge

      Re: It's 2013

      The GPU is required for the forthcoming inclusion of Clippy, Links, Rover and Merlin and not to forget everyones favorite office addin Microsoft Bob.

      Which would then become LibreOffice Bob. ( Jokes starts here)

      User : LO Bob........

      Bob : Well hello to you too, what can I help you with today.

      User : I can't find the ribbon bar.

      Bob : That's Ok this is Linux we don't use a Ribbon bar.

      User : And where are the TIFKAM tiles

      Bob : FOAD.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    MS Access

    please guys and gals point me to an alternative quick and easy desktop solution that I can join various remote dbs together via odbc etc and link them with adhoc local tables

    - and if i really need to transform, load and update data - albeit smaller recordsets maybe up to 100K rows.

    good for quick and dirty reporting as well.

    I would LOVE an Access replacement for my desktop ideally something cross platform.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "created by disaffected Oracle developers"

    Didn't you mean StarDivision > Sun > Oracle? Most of the stuff was coded during StarDivision's existence. So I would not say that it was created by "disaffected Oracle developers". Just a bit of history for the ignorant.

  19. JDX Gold badge

    Stupid

    Seriously? GPU acceleration for spreadsheets with a few thousand rows? Considering someone wrote a 3D renderer for Excel (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XeXISSrIaJA) that runs on old hardware, this seems ludicrous.

    Why don't you just tighten up your code? GPU is a sledgehammer for processing stuff that a CPU cannot handle... this is the kind of stuff a Pentium 1 can handle. I mean, Google Docs even does it in JavaScript at adequate speed!

  20. jmk89
    Pint

    Still looks atrocious though

    You have to admit, MS-Office looks a hell of a lot nicer than any of the open source clones out there. Fix the appearance, and you've got a deal!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Still looks atrocious though

      That pretty much sums up most of the Linux applications.

      1. Richard 22
        Thumb Down

        Re: Still looks atrocious though

        I disagree that most Linux apps look poor. They did a few years ago, but these days I use Linux apps daily which look at least as good as their Windows counterparts. I also tend to prefer Linux font rendering (I use Linux Mint with Cinnamon and Windows 7 on adjacent monitors at work, and mostly prefer the look of apps on the Linux machine).

        LibreOffice 4 looks much better on both Windows and linux than LO/OO 3 ever did, so I think they're improving on that score.

  21. Aoyagi Aichou
    Unhappy

    "App"

    Sure, if we can measure with childish units, like feets, inches, hands and alike, why shouldn't we all use shorthands for everything? But I digress...

    Nice to see AMD doing something, at least.

  22. Mikel

    Refactor all the code

    Time to put the entire thing into a proper trim, sweep the cobwebs out. A California remodel of sorts where you leave one wall standing as the rest of the house is rebuilt, then tear down and rebuild that one wall.

    But if you're going to all that effort why not just build new?

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does it still take 3 days to compile LibreOffice for Windows?

    One of the supposed advantages of Open Software is that you should be able to take the source code, make your own modifications, and recompile.

    I have a minor modification that I'd like to make in LibreOffice - when I have Write open, and I click File/Open, I'd like the file picker to default to Text documents instead of All Files. When I do File Open in Calc, I'd like it to default to Spreadsheets.

    That seems like a reasonable thing to be able to achieve in an Open Source package, don't you think? But reading the Documentation Foundation Wiki, it's not a task I'm going to complete in any reasonable sort of time.

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