Trying Out The Skia+Vulkan Powered LibreOffice 6.5 Development Build
Written by Michael Larabel in LibreOffice on 13 December 2019 at 04:16 AM EST. 24 Comments
LIBREOFFICE --
While LibreOffice 6.4 isn't even coming out until the end of January, we are already stoked about the follow-on release to this open-source office suite... Currently the development builds are towards LibreOffice 6.5 (though given the big impact we wouldn't be surprised if it morphed into LibreOffice 7.0) and one of the features that landed at the end of November is the Cairo drawing being replaced by Skia and with that Vulkan-based rendering support for this free office suite.

As written about at the end of November, in the LibreOffice 6.5/Git code is Skia drawing code to ultimately replace the Cairo code and with the use of Google's Skia graphics engine is not only CPU-based rasterization but also Vulkan GPU acceleration for the LibreOffice office software collection.


Skia is more modern and much better maintained than Cairo so that alone is a huge win, but the Vulkan support makes it even more interesting with not being aware of any other open or proprietary office programs with Vulkan drawing support.

I tried out a new development build of LibreOffice and it's indeed working when activating the Skia code path. The Skia usage can be done either on a CPU or Vulkan if a Vulkan-supported GPU/driver is detected and needing Vulkan 1.1.

At least from some basic testing, the LibreOffice Skia+Vulkan configuration does appear to be a bit faster when dealing with scrolling / presentation of large documents/spreadsheets. Unfortunately I am not aware of any LibreOffice UI-representative benchmarks, but just from my experience so far in testing the latest LO 6.5 development build. I didn't try the CPU-based Skia support to know whether any changes "feel" like they are from the transition to Skia as opposed to the Vulkan-based drawing, but when this follow-on release to LibreOffice 6.4 approaches later on in 2020 I will be around with more testing. It would be great if LibreOffice has a representative UI benchmark (there is this LibreOffice test profile albeit limited to document conversion/handling operations and not encompassing the UI).


For those wanting to try out the Vulkan-enabled LibreOffice, the latest development daily builds can be found here. Via the LibreOffice "about" dialog will confirm if Skia and Vulkan are being used. If not set the SAL_ENABLESKIA=1 environment variable prior to firing up this LibreOffice Git build.
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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