LibreOffice 5.1 is out this week, bringing with it what every open source enthusiast wants to see in the office suite: Better compatibility with external file formats and a redesigned interface.

The Document Foundation, which sponsors LibreOffice development, announced the new release Wednesday. It succeeds LibreOffice 5.0, which debuted six months ago.

While the jump from version 5.0 to 5.1 may not imply any major changes, the updated feature list is significant. Of particular note are these enhancements:

  • A "completely reorganized" interface, which reflects user-preference testing, according to the developers. In reality, the interface changes are not actually huge and don't seem to reflect complete reorganization, in our view. Most users won't notice them at first unless they look deliberately. And no doubt some people will still find fault with the interface. Still, since interface design has never been the strong suit of the open source world, any improvement -- especially one that takes the likes of actual users, not programmers, into account -- is a good one.
  • Improved support for importing and exporting files from other office suites. The developers have also added support for Apple Keynote 6, Microsoft Write and Gnumeric files. Here again, it's a safe bet that file conversions between the OpenDocument format and proprietary ones are not going to be perfect (and I am going to have to keep a copy of Microsoft Word installed in Wine for those times when I need my .docx files to be perfect), but updates can't hurt.
  • Streamlined access to files hosted remotely.

The full list of new features is available online.

To be sure, nothing in LibreOffice 5.1 is revolutionary. But the latest version of the open source office suite reflects real, steady progress by developers -- a healthy sign for the project more than five years since the OpenOffice-LibreOffice schism.