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LibreOffice Turns Five 147

An anonymous reader writes: Italo Vignoli, founding member of The Document Foundation, reflects on the project's five-year mark in an article on Opensource.com: "LibreOffice was launched as a fork of OpenOffice.org on September 28, 2010, by a tiny group of people representing the community in their capacity as community project leaders. At the time, forking the office suite was a brave -- and necessary -- decision, because the open source community did not expect OpenOffice.org to survive for long under Oracle stewardship." The project that was OpenOffice.org does still exist, in the form of Apache Open Office, but along with most Linux distros, I've switched completely to LibreOffice, after some initial misgivings.
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LibreOffice Turns Five

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Could you imagine what Oracle would have done to companies and governments that switched to open document standards?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Libreoffice had all the cool new stuff while OpenOffice didn't want to change so I switched and have not regretted it.

  • Neato (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 28, 2015 @12:27PM (#50613595)

    Microsoft Office is 24. That's 4.8x better!

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Microsoft Office has the ribbon, which is 1000x worse.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It looks like you're starting a flamewar. Would you like help?

        • Re:Neato (Score:4, Funny)

          by KGIII ( 973947 ) <uninvolved@outlook.com> on Monday September 28, 2015 @01:36PM (#50614157) Journal

          There was a Clippy for Linux project, I found an online variant at one point as well but that was AJAX but one could port it I suppose. I should revive that project as an add-on for LibreOffice. I guess it would be better for the terminal. "I see you're trying to invoke sudo, would you like the man pages for that?" I'm pretty sure that I'd lose any shred of remaining credibility at that point.

          • I guess it would be better for the terminal. "I see you're trying to invoke sudo, would you like the man pages for that?"

            If Clippy was available for the terminal in Linux, I'm sure it would just be full of random Easter eggs, coupled with its general pattern of random annoyance. I can just see it now...

            [After a few minutes of inactivity...]

            It looks like you're trying to take a break. Can I help?
            ~/ $ Clippy, leave me alone
            Malfunction. Need input.
            ~/ $ Fine. Clippy -- make me a sandwich
            I'm sorry, Dave. I can't do that.
            ~/ $ sudo make me a sandwich
            Would you like some coffee with that?
            ~/ $ Now you're talking,

  • by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Monday September 28, 2015 @12:38PM (#50613679)

    I'm still using a crusty old copy of MS Word/Excel 2002 but I'm considering switching to either Open Office or LibreOffice...LO seems to have been kept more current, but I suspect either of them would suffice for my modest needs (word processing and the occasional spreadsheet).

    Could anyone tell me...

    1) Are there any genuinely significant differences between them that make one preferable to the other?

    2) Do either of them properly open those f*cking .DOCX files? I'm using the MS Word inline converter but opening and saving are a crap shoot. Sometimes it works, sometimes it scrambles shit beyond comprehension.

    3) Do either of them save as .DOCX or .DOC, since that seems to be what most employers and recruiters insist on sending/receiving?

    • Re:Switching (Score:4, Informative)

      by mlw4428 ( 1029576 ) on Monday September 28, 2015 @12:53PM (#50613793)
      Frankly it depends more on what you use the word processor for. If it's business and most of your clients use MS Office, then cough up the $100 a year and get Office 365 (includes an offline copy of Office). If it's for personal use you could arguably do alright (I've not had many problems with *.docx files) with LO. However, and I know this will get attacked, for $150 it's a one-time fee and you get the full copy of Office (or you could pay $100/year and get an always updated copy of it).
      • Re: Switching (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward


        Documents with all but the most basic formatting usually end up reformatted poorly by both LibreOffice and OpenOffice.org. If you need to have professional communications using Microsoft office documents as a base, you need to go with Microsoft.

        That said, I've found that more often than not, my clients can accept an OpenDocument file. When Microsoft Word butchers that, I tell them Microsoft Word is fucked up. Blaming MSO for not supporting a standard document format places the blame on MS, and

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        $10/mo for this, $20/mo for that.. I refuse to pay for SaaS.

        • If you add out the cost, it often times isn't any more expensive than an outright purchase of the full software (assuming you keep it upgraded with each new update).
          • Sure, but if I'm buying each new version of some software as it comes out, I can decide to stop paying at any time, on no notice, for any reason or none, without consulting anyone, and continue to use the last version of the software that I bought, and it will continue to work with the files I've created. That's not usually how SaaS works.

            • I believe w/ MS you get a full copy with your subscription that you keep regardless of the active subscription (if you pay annually). That's my understanding and I'm open to the very real possibility I could be wrong. I hate to say it, but SAAS is the future for any commerical/supported software.
              • That would work. IIRC, JetBrains does something similar.

                SaaS has been the future for commercial software for a long time. I'm still skeptical.

    • Re: Switching (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Dr_Barnowl ( 709838 ) on Monday September 28, 2015 @12:54PM (#50613797)

      1) Libre is preferable to Open - it has more developers and because of how it's licensed it can adopt all the changes Open makes - not so the other way around.

      2) Compatibility with .docx sucks. Compatibility with Excel is _terrible_.

      3) I don't trust LibreOffice to output documents that won't embarrass me in front of my boss. People will say "PDF", but bosses always want to edit things.

      I'm sure it's a useful office suite - it frustrates me no more than MS Office does when I have to use it. And some of its tricks like opening PDF documents for editing (in Draw) are very useful.

      But I keep a Windows VM for various programs, and Office is one of them. Bottom line is, the only code that's good at being compatible with MS Office is.... MS Office.

      If I had my way we'd do everything as version controlled Markdown, but I'll never get my way.

      • 3) I don't trust LibreOffice to output documents that won't embarrass me in front of my boss. People will say "PDF", but bosses always want to edit things

        What kind of weird features are you using in your documents?

        • Re: Switching (Score:4, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 28, 2015 @01:42PM (#50614197)

          It's docx. Don't rely on a document created on one computer, even using MS Word, to look like it will on another computer. Lines and pagination will change. Tables will change. Anything with spacing will change. Trying to open the document in another word processor, like LibreOffice, pretty much guarantees that layout will not be the same. Your beautiful one-page form with blanks extending across the page to the right margin and tables and hookers and blow will turn into two pages that don't align, and your hookers will turn out to be trannies who have already snorted all your blow.

          This is why many people prefer LaTeX: LaTeX is a psychobitchmistress who won't even respond unless you please her just right, and she'll never give you what you expected, but it will always be mindblowingly good when you do get something out of her.

          • by tibit ( 1762298 )

            I know that we've all heard it before somewhere, but I'm firm in my belief that people really don't seem to have a clue how to format MS Office documents properly. You should not depend on spacing. You should style, anchor and otherwise set everything up so that when spacing does inevitably change, things still work. That's very much doable - heck, I've had wonderful, LaTeX-like lab reports done in ~1998 that gasp open fine and look right on LibreOffice 5 on Mac. We're talking of 17 year old .doc files with

        • Not even headers and footers work right. And since corporate types LOVE headers and footers, that buggers up pretty much everything.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by halivar ( 535827 )

        Agreed on saving .docx, but I think it does better at opening them than MS Word, especially those created by older versions. When someone has problems rescuing an old or corrupted .docx, and Word barfs all over it, the first thing I do is fire up my trusty LibreOffice.

      • Re: Switching (Score:5, Insightful)

        by gQuigs ( 913879 ) on Monday September 28, 2015 @01:25PM (#50614075) Homepage

        >3) I don't trust LibreOffice to output documents that won't embarrass me in front of my boss. People will say "PDF", but bosses always want to edit things.

        Then you better use the same exact version of MS Office with the same fonts installed on your machine....

        • by Anonymous Coward

          And same printer driver and same default printer. My boss has larger left margins for his laser printer since he likes to punch holes in the paper and keep things in notebooks. More often than not, when we send him something in Word, he has to muck with it to get the pagination correct. Sometime Word will kick the far right of the page over onto another page. The .docx files should be printer-independent, but they are not.

          • Failure Rate (Score:2, Interesting)

            by DingerX ( 847589 )
            Look, it's like this: Microsoft Office products get things right 80% of the time. Windows (or MacOS) also gets things right 80% of the time. Printer Drivers get stuff right 80% of the time. So half the time, things go wrong, and figuring out why takes way too much time. LibreOffice has some kind of nuisance/showstopper fault 40% of the time (so "Gets stuff right" 60% of the time). Every time I've run a presentation through Impress, some slides have been seriously screwed up (after all, go to a random site,
      • by noldrin ( 635339 )
        > 2) Compatibility with .docx sucks. Compatibility with Excel is _terrible_.

        True, although I have the same problem with Excel. Micrsoft broke excel document compatibility, and all of a sudden, all of my users could no longer open the excel generated by our local servers. I had to switch everyone to LibreOffice so people could do continue to do their jobs.
      • by jp10558 ( 748604 )

        Honestly, for the little I do, LibreOffice is fine. No one seems to notice that I used it to generate docx or, more frequently xlsx. That said, they're also used to dealing with docs from Mac MS Office, which seems to foobar formating about as often as LibreOffice or other versions of MS Office... so where I work, unless it's a PDF, no one expects it to look the same between computers anyway.

        I do have Crossover and Office 2010, which... kind of works well enough, and I'd rather do that rather than a full VM

      • by JanneM ( 7445 )

        2) Compatibility with .docx sucks. Compatibility with Excel is _terrible_.

        Excel is almost hopeless, since you really need the full scripting environment as well.

        But docx has not really been a problem in practice. If you make sure you have the fonts installed, it's good enough. I asked one of our secretaries once about the doc files I send her. She said there were always some oddities - but there were oddities in files from everybody at the department. And most of them do use Office. Different versions; some

      • If I had my way we'd do everything as version controlled Markdown, but I'll never get my way.

        I use Org mode for documentation, I prefer it over Markdown.

        • Yeah - the beauty being that you have a structured text format that works for you and you can be a master of with the text editor of your choice.

          I'm a vim person myself - I kinda envy Org-Mode users but I can't get along with Emacs and the Org-Mode plugins for vim suck.

          I really prefer Textile as used in Redmine to Markdown. Markdown is too finicky and has too many varying implementations for my taste, but it is more widely supported (probably because of Pandoc - another tool that can't interoperate with MS

    • LibreOffice does and so far it has worked well for me but the documents I have used are net very complex and where mostly text.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      1) LibreOffice has better compatibility and can save to DOCX. It also has more devs working on it, so updates come more frequently, and has a license (Mozilla Public License) that allows it to take from Apache OpenOffice, but not vice versa (as the Apache license is more permissive).

      2) LibreOffice fares better in this respect, and is good enough in most cases, especially with Word documents. With presentations and spreadsheets, it's a bit worse.

      3) Both can save as DOC, LibreOffice can save as DOCX as well.

    • > 3) Do either of them save as .DOCX or .DOC, since that seems to be what most employers and recruiters insist on sending/receiving?

      Since you mentioned employers/recruiters, I assume you are talking about a resume?

      If so, use PDF for resumes. Sending resume as and .doc/.docx is not professional.


      • by Anonymous Coward

        Since you mentioned employers/recruiters, I assume you are talking about a resume?

        If so, use PDF for resumes. Sending resume as and .doc/.docx is not professional.

        Most employers demand a resume be submitted using Microsoft Word .doc or .docx, or they will even allow plain texf (.txt). It is a rare occurrence to see PDF as an acceptable document format.

        • by jp10558 ( 748604 )

          Not my experience. They either take plain text in a webform, a la Slashdot comments, or take PDFs, I've never had anyone ask for a docx file...

        • Nope. IME, most _employers_ will take pdf, most _recruitment agencies_ want .doc/.docx.
          This is, in fact, so they can edit it. Some of them will even kind of admit it "we need to ensure it goes out with our logo" etc., but in reality there are two reasons:

          1) removing your contact details so the agency doesn't get cut out of the loop
          2) editing your skills and experience to be buzzword-compliant for the opportunity

          Sometimes for extra fun they do (2) without understanding what the technical words mean, leadin

      • Frankly I don't think I've ever seen PDF, .doc/docx, or even .rtf as unacceptable or unprofessional options, unless you mean giving the recruiter an editabel document so they can fudge your resume. Every time I've submitted a resume online or emailed one to a internal or external recruiter, they wanted it in one of those forms.
    • by ssam ( 2723487 )

      OpenOffice has known security issues (its not safe to open untrusted documents with it). Given how few developers are still left at OO, it could be months or years before a fixed version is released (they recommend that you manually delete one of its library files).

      LibreOffice fixed the issue months ago.

    • LO vs OO (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Monday September 28, 2015 @01:18PM (#50614007)

      1) Are there any genuinely significant differences between them that make one preferable to the other?

      Mostly that LibreOffice seems to have the more vibrant development effort behind it. OpenOffice seems to stagnate by comparison. I'd recommend trying both (they're free after all) but LibreOffice will fit most people's needs better I think. I think LO is a bit more feature rich today.

      2) Do either of them properly open those f*cking .DOCX files?

      Usually but no guarantees. The more complex the document the worse the chances of it working well. That said, I've standardized our company on LibreOffice and it's been quite a while since I've had to drag out a copy of Word to view a document.

      3) Do either of them save as .DOCX or .DOC, since that seems to be what most employers and recruiters insist on sending/receiving?

      Yes they can do it and it does DOC fairly well in most cases. Just don't get too fancy with the formatting. I usually send PDFs to employers however.

    • Re:Switching (Score:4, Interesting)

      by jones_supa ( 887896 ) on Monday September 28, 2015 @01:28PM (#50614099)
      I wouldn't even consider OpenOffice at this point. LibreOffice is where all the big development happens. However there is still a risk that it will mess the formatting of Word docs. I personally plan to just purchase the fresh Office 2016 and live a relaxing life.
    • Re:Switching (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Dragonslicer ( 991472 ) on Monday September 28, 2015 @01:34PM (#50614149)

      2) Do either of them properly open those f*cking .DOCX files?

      Nothing properly opens DOCX files, including most versions of Microsoft Office.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        What kind of fucked up documents are you trying to open?

        I've never had a problem with DOCX. Now, DOC on the other hand, was a complete clusterfuck. It was all OLE'ed to hell and back and would shit itself at the slightest provocation. DOCX is just XML in a ZIP file, and is structurally not that different from ODF or even Pages/Numbers files.

        The top three reasons shit goes wrong with Office documents are:
        1) Your computer has different fonts and/or font substitution rules than the computer the document was cr

    • its free, download it and see for yourself, its the only way to get an unbiased opinion
      • its free, download it and see for yourself, its the only way to get an unbiased opinion

        Thanks. I'll probably do that but I wanted the opinions of people who were experienced with either or both of the applications, since they're more likely to know of things that I might miss. These are, after all, suites with a lot of moving parts and it's easy to overlook something unless you've used it a fair bit.

    • by Eythian ( 552130 )

      OpenOffice has a long standing, long reported, outstanding security vulnerability that no one seems to actually care to fix:

      http://reddragdiva.tumblr.com/... [tumblr.com]

    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      I'm still using Office 2000 SR3 on my very old, updated Windows XP Pro SP3 machine. I rarely use it these days and don't do fancy stuff.

      I also noticed OO and LO can't open password protected documents like .docx files even with their updated 2007 converter packs. This is by design according to MS [office.com]. :/

  • If you aren't using TeX with a version control system, you are doing it completely wrong.

  • by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Monday September 28, 2015 @01:33PM (#50614143) Journal
    Five years and still no sign of a OneNote clone.
    • by jp10558 ( 748604 )

      Isn't that what EverNote's (and all the evernote compatible clients) are for? Then again, I can't figure out what to do with any of these note-taking programs, so . . . I'm not really in a position to judge.

      • Evernote is no where near Onenote. Evernote doesn't have a linux version either. Clients? Are there Word clients, or Excel clients? Why would there be a OneNote client?
  • Most of the work done on "Word Processors" could be done faster and better in a text editor. You do not need fancy animated word art most of the time, and a simple text editor will do a far better job in most of those cases. Why deal with all the viruses, bloated files, and incompatible formats, when you can just output your work to a standard ascii or unicode file.
    • What are you putting in your documents? I'd say at least 90% of the things I use Word for would either fail miserably in a general text editor OR take longer to do and look like shit (ie embedded lists in note taking)
  • I suffered a lot of stress trying to get a final year university assignment finished in time for submission. One of the simplest operations - embedding audio clips within presentation slides - is still extremely flawed. In LibreOffice, it causes a 10-30 second hang after opening each slide. Completely unacceptable in any situation. On the other hand, Apache OpenOffice 4 works normally, exactly as it should.

    Then, there's the issue of exporting to MS formats. Some of my university papers require documents t
    • by Xtifr ( 1323 )

      I think I saw that problem addressed in the release notes for V5. In any case, you do realize you're complaining about something that MSO can't do at all, right? (Powerpoint is not part of MSO.) :)

      Impress is definitely not LO's strong point, though. Most of the focus is still on Writer and Calc, and Calc has some big quirks that are going to require some restructuring. Nevertheless, the speed at which LO is improving is really astounding, compared to its predecessor. It's almost as if welcoming developers,

  • by Xtifr ( 1323 ) on Monday September 28, 2015 @02:45PM (#50614761) Homepage

    Ok, we can argue all day about the relative merits of LO vs. MSO. That's nice and all, and I don't really care which one you prefer. That's up to you. But there's still something important we should be doing; even those of us who prefer MSO. Tell your friends that OpenOffice is dead, and they should look for LibreOffice instead!

    OpenOffice is the name that people know. It's been around for years. And a lot of people have tried it and found it satisfactory. You'd be surprised. And a lot of these people don't know about LibreOffice. Some of them may even still be using OOo. (I had one friend-of-a-friend who had been puzzled by the lack of updates for the last several years, but had never bothered to investigate further.)

    Now, claiming that OpenOffice is actually dead may be a mild exaggeration, but I think it's close enough to true to make it worth saying. The project seems to have lost most of its IBM support, which is really the only thing that gave it any hope, post-Oracle. It operated without a release manager for nearly a year, and recently lost its project lead. It's been being distributed with a known security vulnerability since April, and they haven't even been able to put together a point-fix release, let alone a full new release! That's an effectively-dead project.

    Open Office is dead! Tell your friends to get LibreOffice instead, if they're interested in something like that!

    Forget about whether you think LO is adequate or not. Forget about whether it fits your needs. Tell your friends that they should get LO instead of OO! If you're on social media, post something there. Let people know about LO. I think you'll be stunned to find how many of your not-so-geeky friends are quietly running AOO or even OOo, and really need to know that they should switch to LO!

  • Governments don't understand how important LibreOffice is. They should support LibreOffice for all government work. The would be FAR cheaper than being abused by Microsoft.

    Government employees would soon learn to use LibreOffice.

    But: The user interface of LibreOffice needs to be improved. There are many, many hassles, at present.

    Also, it seems that Microsoft Word has problems that even people at Microsoft don't understand. I've gotten the impression that the code and underlying design is a mess.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Voyager529 ( 1363959 )

      I'd love to see this happen. Really, I would. However, let's take a walk down Pragmatism Road for a moment...

      Government decides, "screw MS Office 2016, LibreOffice from here on out." They begin the rollout. And the user training. They train all the users who have /just/ gotten used to the Ribbon that "lol jk no more ribbon". This is the high point of the transition.

      LibreOffice has no meaningful replacement for Outlook. Thunderbird doesn't do ActiveSync natively, and it's missing a number of advanced feature

      • Mod parent up. That, it seems to me, is the beginning of a realistic assessment of the difficulties.

        These ideas may be useful in seeing more of the long, difficult story:

        1) Governments are spending billions. There is money for doing the job correctly.

        2) Libre Office could have an option to make the user interface whatever is familiar to the user.

        3) The MariaDB CEO seems sensible to me. He seems like the kind of person who could coordinate moving away from what I understand are the many, many problems of SharePoint. (But, of course, I haven't investigated that in detail. I had only a short conversation with him.)

        4) The "transitional process" could be carefully designed to take one step at a time.

        5) The Excel transition seems difficult to me. I have ideas about that too complicated to mention here.

        6) Microsoft has, apparently, been slowly killing Mozilla Thunderbird. Most of Mozilla Foundation's money comes from Microsoft through Yahoo for making "Yahoo Search", which is actually Microsoft Bing search, the default in Firefox. Somehow the Thunderbird user interface is being damaged. The damage looks deliberate to me. So, the world needs a comprehensive open source email client.

        7) I've noticed that technically-knowledgeable people usually don't deal very well with conflicts or abuse. That is, however, what we need.

        8) Microsoft's business is deflating. Sooner or later people won't need another version of an operating system, or another version of office software. So, Microsoft is trying to get more control of Windows customers by making Windows 10 even more dependent on Microsoft. It is easy to guess that the unhealthy dependence that exists now will become far worse in the future.

        9) Governments can say that they will buy no more new versions, only additional copies if needed.

        10) I wrote an example of ideas about living with older software: Microsoft Windows XP "end of life": Conflict of interest. [futurepower.net] Many people who do routine things every day don't want new software, with what they view as the annoying necessity of learning new methods of doing the things they already know how to do robotically.

        11) There is comflict of interest. If Microsoft delivers very few needed improvements in each version, Microsoft can sell more versions.

        12) Unfortunately, the world doesn't have very many people who are both technically knowledgable and socially sophisticated enough to coordinate that work.

        Those are 12 more ideas. I'd love to see 100 more. Humans found a way to cure polio. We can find a way to cure unhealthy dependence on flawed software.
  • When I'm printing rows that I want to easily discern from one another, I shade alternating rows. Copying grey cells on a copy machine is unreliable, usually losing the shading over a few generations. Instead, I prefer to use hatching patterns.

    Unfortunately, LibreOffice doesn't offer this feature in Calc. Neither does OpenOffice, though the feature was requested 12 years ago.
    • by oever ( 233119 )

      In ODF, hatching is allowed in pages and graphical objects, but not on table cells or paragraphs. You could ask LibreOffice to implement this and when this works well there and in one other implementation, the ODF specification could be extended with the new feature.

      As a workaround, you could use images with a hatch pattern as background.

Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced -- even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it. -- John Keats