LibreOffice vs. OpenOffice Part 2: All Bugs Are Shallow When Blogged to a Linux News Feed

October 10, 2012 at 9:10 am | Posted in Operating Systems, Technology | 4 Comments

In my prior blog post, my intended lessons for OpenOffice vs. LibreOffice were  1. Try both. 2. Use both. 3. Use what works best for particular cases. 4. Where there is no problems with either, prefer LibreOffice for its community support.  5. I had a specific important case for my usage where I had to use OpenOffice. Now it appears my options will expand in a month.

The comments represented the general community preference for LibreOffice.  Not only that, they were enough for Michael Meeks, a well-known open source developer to comment, find the outstanding bug report for it, which was miscategorized but had already been fixed in the 3.7 branch, and backport it to next month’s 3.6.3 LibreOffice release.  Thanks LibreOffice team, community, and Mr. Meeks!

So now, the opposite of the last post,  I am blogging a longstanding OpenOffice bug that is fixed and “just works” in LibreOffice.  So will the OpenOffice community respond as quickly to fix the problem as the LibreOffice community did to my last blog post?

When I go to “print preview” in Apache OpenOffice Calc 3.4.1, (and all older releases I recall) and then hit the print button from there, it defaults to printing every single worksheet instead of just the active one, even though I carefully selected the print range on the active worksheet to print a precise area and only one sheet.  In my case, OpenOffice prints 22 pages instead of just one.  There is a workaround, that as long as I close out of print preview first before hitting the print button, OpenOffice will print only my selected worksheet.

LibreOffice inherited this long standing OpenOffice bug (I would dread this waste of paper and ink being called a feature.) However, LibreOffice fixed it, I think around their 3.5.0 cycle.

So a final tangent about being for below average in technical skills relative to the Linux community.  Everyone recommends bug reporting, and I occasionally do that.  However, I have had little success in my six years of using Linux in bug reporting.  If there is a proper existing bug report already out there, I have little to add. Certainly not any programming skills to fix it.  If I’m creating a new one, assuming it does not get marked as a duplicate by my failure to find the existing one, I usually don’t have enough precise details to aid in a solution or convince anyone it is important.  I also say this without a solution.  Maybe I need a class on bug reporting for dummies.  Getting bugs fixed by getting a blog linked on a Linux news feed (Thanks Lxer.com!) is surely cheating.

Maybe if this blog post is especially lucky in drawing the right readers, someone will have an idea on fixing this 3 year old Wine bug on 15 year old software.  I can at least say that I reported a bug that has stayed outstanding that long without being either fixed or closed for other reasons.  That almost counts as an accomplishment, right?

Last thought: The particular usage of LibreOffice and OpenOffice on .xlsx files was not just because of desire to use open source, but because Excel 2003 to Excel 2010 have a bug that does not let me hide the full 130 columns I need hidden.  Notice, despite the helpful comments for LibreOffice and OpenOffice, no one had advice on making Excel work.  That, I believe, would truly be a lost cause in attempting to report a bug to Microsoft.

LibreOffice vs. OpenOffice, Not Always Simple

October 1, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Posted in Operating Systems, Technology | 37 Comments

[Final Update: This post got a lot of notice, but I also had a follow up post that received less notice here that should be read for full perspective before commenting on this one now.]

If you are like me, you prefer LibreOffice over (Apache) OpenOffice because (1) It has a better open source license. (2) It has more community support. (3) It is more rapidly developing and releasing updates.

But at the same time, when I try to use them in a hard-core power user work environment, ideals go out the window and I use what works to keep my job.  My employer briefly flirted with OpenOffice around 2005, and supposedly it was really bad experiment, but I wasn’t there at the time.  So sadly, no one here contemplates a change from MS Office.  Take an example spreadsheet I use. It is very complex to the point it would be better off in a database, but that’s beyond the scope of this post.

The surprising part is that MS Excel fails my needs even with working with its own .xlsx spreadsheet format. I need to hide 130 columns and Excel 2010 warns me “Cannot shift objects off sheet.”  Prior Excel versions had the same problem.  I’ve spent some effort looking for a solution, but the only thing I found to work is opening in an open source office suite.

MS Excel 2010:

I can open up this Excel document in either OpenOffice 3.4.1 or LibreOffice 3.6.1, and both are able to successfully hide the large number of columns I need hidden where Excel fails itself.  However, LibreOffice has a bug that has persisted for many months, whereas OpenOffice just works.  LibreOffice is making all comments visible by default.  The only solution I’ve found in LibreOffice discussions is to manually close each one.  In this case, that is an insane waste of time, as there are hundreds of comments showing, poking through the hidden columns.

LibreOffice 3.6.1:

Apache OpenOffice 3.4.1:

So in this case, the solution is to use OpenOffice.  I’d rather point to a LibreOffice victory, but the open source community has to acknowledge failures for them to be fixed.  And the bright side is that Apache OpenOffice is both still open source, and still free.  There is nothing stopping people from using both office suites when necessary to see which better renders specific documents.

Update:  Here is discussion where LibreOffice users have known and tried work-arounds for the past six months.  I think that OpenOffice might have had a greater focus on MS Office document compatibility, while LibreOffice has focused on advancing features.  I’m afraid my employer needs are squared directly over MS Excel compatibility vs. new features.

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