GSoC 2017: Charmap Integration

These awesome three months of summer spent developing for LibreOffice under Google Summer of Code, have filled me with great zeal and zest. A plethora of important additions was made to the software bundle under the project titled “Usability of Special Characters”, and these new features will be made available in the version 6.0 of LibreOffice (Release Notes for 6.0). Here is a glimpse of what the users will be receiving in the new update.

Note: Please zoom-in the web page or open the GIF’s in the new tab if the character grid is not correctly visible.

Screenshot from 2017-08-22 21-21-46.png

Special Characters in LibreOffice Master


‣ Search functionality via generic code point name


Glyph name properties have been introduced to LibreOffice using the API provided by International Components for Unicode (ICU). The program identifies glyphs according to their names provided by ICU and then, the search results are displayed. There’s a display label which is dedicated to glyph’s Unicode name.

‣ Inter-font dynamic glyph search

inter-font search.gif

As simple as it could be made, a user can now type the name of the glyph and scroll between fonts until the desired results are shown.

‣ Recently Used Characters and Favorite Characters


‣ Toolbar Dropdown control for Quick Access!

In pursuance of providing quick access to the above Recent and Favorite character list, a toolbar dropdown control has been developed. It is supposed to replace the current toolbar button which opens the special character dialog in the currently circulated LibreOffice 5.3.


The GIF below is an example of how easy a user can find the desired symbols and can pin it for quick access in future.


‣ Context-menu and Mouse click controls for easier interaction


Link to the major patch submissions:

Glyph View and Recent Characters Control in Special Characters dialog

Favourites feature in Special characters

‣ Special Characters Toolbar Dropdown Control

‣ Unicode Character Names Integration using ICU

‣ Search feature for Special Characters

I was mentored by Samuel Mehrbrodt, Heiko Tietze, and Thorsten Behrens in GSoC 2017. I would like to give my regards to the LibreOffice community which helped me through the deadlocks I faced during the project. It has been an awesome two-year journey with LibreOffice, and I hope it will remain the same in future and the open-source technologies will flourish with their full potential and thrive to its zenith.


Usability of Special Characters: GSoC 2017

Woah, Google Summer of Code with LibreOffice ( x2 ). This time, I’ll be working on improvement and rework of Special Characters feature in LibreOffice and adding some enhancements to it. I will be mentored by Samuel Mehrbrodt, Thorsten Behrens, and Heiko Tietze. I’ll encapsulate all the proposed changes with respect to the project in this blog.

The Idea

  • Create a way to quickly re-use recently-picked special characters, allowing the user to search in the whole character map, which has no filter to narrow down results.
  • Allow users to create their own ‘Special Characters’ subset (Individualization)
  • Sorting by last in, first out; items from the list of recently used characters are sorted to the beginning if selected.
  • Create a toolbar dropdown control to easily access recent symbols and the user-defined custom subset.
  • Have a preview along with the Unicode name.
  • Better UI for search (within font subsets) using Unicode name, hex and decimal code.
  • Different subsets within a font need a separation in the special character SvxShowCharSet custom widget.

Finalized enhancements for the dialog

Proposal for the toolbar dropdown for quick access to favorites and recently used characters.


Design for the toolbar dropdown.

A lot of challenges need to be addressed while working on this project. It’s about time to play with Unicode data and custom-widgets.

For other queries and discussions, please comment or ping me (IRC nick: Akki) on libreoffice-dev / libreoffice-design channel on Freenode.

Emoji Toolbar Control 😎

The use of Emoji in text based softwares and editors are properly justified. LibreOffice was lacking this cool feature 😐. Me and my mentors, Samuel Mehrbrodt and Yousuf Philips, decided to work on Emoji integration in LibreOffice as part of my GSoC contributions.We planned to create a working control with proper emoji font support by the end of summer of code. This post provides an overview of the work done. The entire description of the idea can be found here Discussion on Emoji Integration.

User Interface

  • Control to be available in Writer, Impress and Draw, accessible via Standard Bar.
  • No UI idea proposed throughout the discussion. Hence, I was free to use any sort of widgets to facilitate the purpose.
  • Use of tabs to filter emojis based on categories
  • Emojis should appear as a grid
  • Easy insertion, unlike special character control which uses a modal dialog as of version 5.2
  • Font support (Removal of tofu char 🤓 )
  • Functionality should be present as a toolbar control, primarily in Standard bar
  • Proposed search filter (Only after the emoji details are translated and made locale-dependent)

 Backend, JSON Database and Font Support

  • Populate the control by parsing a JSON file which contains the data of all the emoji glyphs
  • Support most of the unicode glyph by packaging a emoji-specific font ‘Noto Emoji‘ by Google
  • Insert the unicode glyph to the editing pad formatted by the Noto font
  • Orcus JSON Parser to parse the json data file
  • Glade for UI designing and custom widget integration
  • Creation of custom widget to render font glyphs as a grid
  • Facilitate glyph insertion using InsertSymbol uno command.

Emoji Toolbar Control

After some pre-planned development and tricky debugging, I finally managed to get the toolbar control working. The beta version of toolbar control was merged and is ready to use, thanks to the help and guidance I got from my mentor and LO developers. Patch: GSoC Emoji Control: patch which makes all the above changes to LO.


Emoji Toolbar Control

Emojis gets inserted into the pad on clicking the respective emoji.


One should remember that unlike svg or png emoji, these emoji are glyphs of a particular unicode sequence. They hold all the properties of normal texts. Their colour and size can be changed just like any other character glyph.


The enhancement still needs some love to become bug free. The emoji control is hidden in the standard bar by default. It can be activated by right-clicking on the standard bar and going to Visible Buttons > Emoji Control. Another way to do so is by using the Customize dialog. Go to Tools > Customize and navigate as shown in the picture below.


Activate Emoji control from customize dialog

The foundation for this enhancement has been built now. Further improvements have been proposed like:

  • Filtering of unsupported glyphs
  • Removal of duplicate glyphs (multicolor emoji are treated as duplicate glyph) as multicolor glyphs are not supported by any font
  • support for svg emoji, etc.

Cheers 🍻

Introduction: GSoC 2016 with Libreoffice

This is my first blog related to my Google Summer of Code project with Libreoffice. I would be working on the Template Manager of Libreoffice to solve the basic software design problems which were quite surfacing in it’s previous instance. I have been assigned two mentors for my project, Mr. Yousuf (Jay) Philips and Mr. Samuel Mehrbrodt, who will guide me and review my ideas. This blog mainly focuses on keeping all the proposed changes under one roof and will be followed by a series of related blog posts about the actual changes made in LibreOffice.

The Template Manager will undergo a major rework and installation of new features. Few insights to the changes and additions are given below:

  • UI concept:

    1. Redesigning the Template Manager

      • New User Interface for better UX
        • Remove the feels of a file manager
      • Fuzzy Search and Filter controls for easier accessibilty
      • Use of context menus instead of toolbox controls for non-browse focused entries
      • Removal of tabs (Drop 90’s design)
      • No regression on previous functionalities:
        • Non-browse focused functions (Edit, Set As Default, Delete, etc)
        • Browse focused functions (Move, Export, Import)
      • blog25

        Template Manager mock-up

    2. Making Impress A UX Princess

      • Scrap off the ‘Presentation Wizard‘ from Impress module
        • Exclude Libreoffice 5.2
      • Modal dialog for template selection
        • Minimal version of ‘Templates‘ dialog
      • ‘On’ by default with easy means of disabling
        • Impress > Tools > Libreoffice Impress > General > Start with wizard
  • Challenges:

    1. Improve Save as Template workflow

      • Current workflow fails to use Template Manager efficiently
      • Plan to create a new ‘Save as Template’ dialog
    2. Better integration of Template Manager with Start Center

      • Improved accessibility of templates in Start Center
      • Reduce back-end to minimal code
      • Better thumbnail previews
    3. Integration of online templates

      • Not decided yet ( Not mentioned in GSoC project proposal )
      • The current LO site does not provide with API
      • New website (not launched) has a JSON API
    4. CMIS Integration

      • Currently an experimental feature
      • Tools > Options > LibreOffice > Advanced > Enable Experimental Features
      • Not sure about interoperability w.r.t. templates.


For other queries and discussions, please comment or ping me (IRC nick: Akki) on libreoffice-dev / libreoffice-design channel on Freenode.