Some LibreOffice and OpenOffice Differences

Regular readers of this blog will note I posted about the ham fisted decision of the Ubuntu world to force in the “O” versions of Linux Libertine fonts instead of the “G” versions which come bundled by default with LibreOffice. Some of my fellow authors and people I “know” on-line asked me to kick the tires on OpenOffice. I had a Ubuntu 18.04 Mate minimal VM set up so I decided to kick the tires.

  1. Install Ubuntu 18.04 in a virtual machine checking the minimal installation box. If you don’t yet have Oracle Virtualbox installed directly from Oracle read this post.
  2. From inside of your VM installation open a browser and visit the Apache OpenOffice site to download the latest.
  3. Open a terminal window and issue the following:
sudo apt-get install default-jdk
sudo apt-get install ttf-mscorefonts-installer

Technically you don’t need the mscorefonts but they do help browsing a bit.

Use the GUI file browser tools of your distro to navigate to Downloads and extract the file you downloaded.

download dir image

It will create the en-US (or whatever your language is) directory in your Downloads directory. Go back to your terminal window.

install commands

Navigate to the DEBS directory under your country and language. Notice there is also a desktop-integration sub-directory.

sudo dpkg -i *.debcd desktop-integrationsudo dpkg -i *.deb

oo install image 2

I always reboot but in theory you should be able to run OpenOffice from the graphical menu now.

I must admit OpenOffice seemed faster. It loaded my 598 page test document complete with images very snappy. A quick tire kicking did spot some obvious differences as the code bases for each product is now diverging significantly.

Libre Office right click menu image
LibreOffice right click menu for selected text

When you select text and right click you see a “Clear Direct Formatting” option. This is handy for when a font or something else got changed within a paragraph. I’ve had to use it quite a bit given the “Linux Libertine O” catastrophe Ubuntu forced on me.

OpenOffice right click menu image
OpenOffice right click menu

I wasn’t brave enough to click “Default Formatting” to see if this is just a naming difference.

LibreOffice page gap image
LibreOffice page gap

Notice how clean the page split looks with LibreOffice. Just the little corner markers to point out the boundaries.

OpenOffice page gap image
OpenOffice page gap

OpenOffice draws boxes around everything. While they are not offensive, I really worry about that blank one underneath the footnote on page 14.

LibreOffice image
LibreOffice image handling

The “image” itself looks much cleaner than in OpenOffice. You will note the gap between the image and top of its frame/box? That can’t be fixed in the current LibreOffice.

OpenOffice image
OpenOffice image

In fairness, I didn’t try to fix the gap while in OO. In truth it may not be fair to point out the icky image handling. LibreOffice was running native on KDE Neon with direct access to the NVIDIA driver. OO was running in a Virtualbox VM with a fake video driver glad handing stuff out. It may be just as good as it gets.

LO Fontlist image
LO Font List

LibreOffice on Ubuntu installs Linux Libertine G font family.

OO Font List image
OO Font List

OpenOffice installed into a minimal Ubuntu installation does not. This alone may make it worth switching.

General observation. OO should have been dramatically slower. Much of it uses Java which is a P-Compiled then interpreted via JIT language. The JVM has a long, horrible history when it comes to memory management, especially when images are involved. Great strides must have been made since LibreOffice forked away. I tried writing books with OpenOffice before the fork and it was physically impossible. After a few hundred pages with running page headers and a few images, things just ceased to be even remotely tolerable. I was pleasantly surprised.

For those who want to run Linux, but don’t want to mess with a minimal installation, you can always run OpenSUSE. The don’t force Linux Libertine O fonts on you either.

LO Fonts on OpenSUSE image
LO Fonts on OpenSUSE

1500 Words

Now that we have finished planting and are about caught up with the crop spraying, I’ve had more time to catch up on my reading. It may shock many of you, but I don’t subscribe to any geek magazines anymore. I think there is a DB2 magazine that keep showing up, but that is only because I haven’t figured out how to get myself off it. Hell, I’m not even certain why I started receiving it, but I believe it had something to do with my days of subscribing to DevCon for my OS/2 development.

Much of the reading I’ve been catching up on has to do with the writing magazines I receive. I actually pay for these magazines, unlike the vast majority of geek magazines I used to receive. When you take the time to pay for a magazine in this day and age, it means that you actually read it…or that you are in that financial world which spends $20 million per year on “entertainment and living” expenses and simply can’t keep track of all the $20 magazine subscriptions you have floating around the world.

I have noticed one thing which strikes me as quite odd in all of this reading. The bulk of the “successful author” interviews I’ve been reading talk about how they force themselves to write 1500 words per day when they are writing. What struck me as odd is that so many seem to be tossing out this exact number. It is almost as if the magazines themselves agreed on that number and stick it into every interview article. Perhaps these writers don’t partake of nicotine, caffeine and booze? Mayhap the publishing industry won’t exist if they raise taxes on any of these. Okay, they can raise taxes on coffee all they want since that is the beverage of the damned, but not the other sources of caffeine. We’ve all read the statements and seen the television commercials which talk about how Hemingway was “at his best in the morning”. If you actually read up about Hemingway you will find that he was thought/known to be an alcoholic and that he smoked various forms of tobacco. The TV commercials simply didn’t finish out the sentence: “Hemingway was at his best in the morning when he was imbibing caffeine and nicotine to get rid of the hang over.”

Back in mid-April I gave up on the nicotine, not because it was ruining my life or health, but because they jacked the tax on it yet again. (See blog about Holier Than Thou Tax.) I have noticed that my writing, when I have time to write, doesn’t come as easily without it. Oh, I have things to say, but I simply can’t “chase a roll”. When I was writing “The Minimum You Need to Know to Be An Application Developer” it was nothing for me to write 18-26 hours at a stretch. I’m working on four books right now and haven’t managed to put more than a four hour stretch into any of them. I have to jump to a different project rather than chase a roll.

What really strikes me about 1500 word comment is how unrealistic it sounds. Just a little while ago I completed the blog entry “Book Publishing and the Porn Industry”. According to OpenOffice the article weighed in around 1300 words. I didn’t spend 45 minutes on the thing. (Yes, I have to use OpenOffice for blog entries because Lotus Symphony doesn’t have a plug-in to publish directly to my Blog.) This article will weigh in at more than a few hundred. The question which keeps haunting my mind is “Do they hate what they are writing or is it simply because they cannot type?”

 

Today I Realized Just How Much I Miss Lotus Wordpro

Today was one of those days where my mind wandered a lot. This happens on weekends when I’m writing. It happens to a lot of writers I’m told. You are “supposed” to be writing chapter X, but your mind decides to paint a really intriguing scene before its own set of eyes. The scene has absolutely no place in the chapter you are supposed to be writing, it may not even fit in the book you are writing, but you know it’s good.

Those who try to teach people to be professional writers tell them to write these things down in a notebook or in a new document file. There is a reason why those people tend to not be professional writers themselves. You need not only the scene, but the context which caused it to appear. A notebook or directory full of well written yet unconnected scenes is a cross between Chinese Water Torture and failure for a writer.

WordPro had one feature no other word processor has bothered to implement. If there was a good way to get the Lotus SmartSuite running under Ubuntu I would still be using it today instead of OpenOffice. WordPro had tabbed document divisions. Not only did you make each chapter a tabbed division in your file, you added tabs for these wonderful scenes right there, when they happened. A simply glance down the right margin told you the chapters which gave you the most inspiration and the chapters which captivated your attention. Most importantly, everything was kept in the same file. At the end of your process, you could then choose to collect or discard the tabs which didn’t make it into the final document. Each division which made it in made it because you had a frame of reference as to “why” you wrote it.

I used WordPro for a lot of technical documentation writing over the years. Novel, short story, system user manual and developer’s guide all benefited because a word processor worked like a writer’s mind worked. Today, the industry is awash with word processors that all have the same boring and nearly unusable interface. One of the real reasons so few books and movies fail to inspire us today is that writers don’t have a word processor that helps their mind put the story together.

 

Converting Lotus WordPro to OpenOffice

I must confess. Back in the days when I was forced to use that God forsaken Windows platform, I fell in love with the Lotus SmartSuite. When I migrated to OS/2, SmartSuite was right there with me. Yes, I had to run WordPerfect in the Windows 3.1 emulation thing for some work I did, not because WordPro couldn’t do it, but because people wanted to use WordPerfect. Sadly, IBM didn’t migrate the SmartSuite product to 64-bit Ubuntu or any other Linux. People are only willing to deal with that Wine contraption for so long.

Having been in love with Lotus WordPro for so long, I amassed a lot of LWP documents. I probably should have converted them with that obscure Windows XP partition I have, but I only boot that partition about twice per year to play “Lords of the Realm” or “Starcraft”. The rest of the year, it is just consuming disk space which could be better utilized.

I tried a lot of things and posted a lot of questions over the years. This week I found something close to an answer. IBM has come very late to the “free word processor” market. They have released IBM Symphony.

http://symphony.lotus.com/software/lotus/symphony/home.nsf/home

This product is no Lotus SmartSuite. The word processor can’t hold a candle to Lotus WordPro, then again, neither can anything else currently on the market. Every office suite on the planet is still trying to catch up to SmartSuite 98. Besides the watered down word processor, you will find they also didn’t bother to include Lotus Approach.

Despite everything which is missing, this product service one critical purpose for those used SmartSuite 98. You can directly open an LWP file and save it in Open Document Format. The search for a conversion tool is over.

 

Using Windows to Get Rid of Windows

It sounds like government logic, but that is the boat a lot of people and companies are in. With the industry wide move to Ubuntu and away from Legacy proprietary desktops like Windows XP and Windows Vista, a lot of companies are having to upgrade one sacrificial machine in order to save the others from viruses and other unexpected lockups.

 

There are only two nagging things I still need to be completely free of Windows. The first is a decent conversion of some books and documents I have in WordPerfect format to OpenOffice format. The second is very old expense data I created in DOS days with a product called DataBoss. I don’t “need” the DataBoss data, but I have it, therefore it must be converted before I reformat that partition to be storage for a more useful operating system. Many of my WordPerfect documents will open directly with OpenOffice since they are simple reports. The books, however, are too complex for the free stuff.

 

About a year ago, I got taken by the Corel marketing scam claiming:

 

Open, edit and save virtually any type of file with support for more than 60 formats, including Microsoft® Office 2007 and newer open standards, such as Open Document Format (ODF) and Office Open XML (OOXML).

 

In case you think I’m making that up, visit:

 

http://www.corel.com/servlet/Satellite/us/en/Product/1207939618939#tabview=tab0

 

It was written with the intent to defraud customers of money they would not otherwise spend. Because of it, I ended up buying a new sacrificial notebook with Worsta Home Premium on it. I got rid of the previous sacrificial notebook which had XP on it. Thousands of dollars in software updates and purchases later, I still had these books which couldn’t be gotten into ODF. You see, X4 only reads ODF, it doesn’t save in that format. As soon as they do that, they vaporize with the rest of the Legacy Windows market.

 

Since I finished my last contract and have been busy getting the eBook version of my novel posted via the various retail channels, I took another stab at getting the conversion completed. I’m in the process of ceasing all business with Amazon, so need to get everything in OpenOffice format. My eBook conversion tools use that format as input to create Sony LRF, ePub, and Palm PDB. Once “The Minimum You Need to Know” series has been converted to these formats, I will pull the plug on MobiPocket for good.

 

The last couple of days have been squandered searching in vein for a viable OpenSource means of jumping this hurdle. Once it became apparent that I was going to be forced into using Windows to get rid of Windows, I gagged profusely. I have nearly exceeded both my 5Gig monthly DL limit from Verizon and my pathetic 300Meg per day DL limit from HughesNet. (If you haven’t bought satellite yet, check out Blue Yonder. If I had it all to do over again…)

 

Just a few minutes ago, I got around to trying one of the free trials I had downloaded yesterday. Able2Extract. Speed is not something this product dreams about. This tool doesn’t understand WordPerfect, but it does understand PDF files. HTML is simply not an option since you lose every last bit of your formatting. Trust me, I tried every “Save-As” format common between WordPerfect, MS Office 2007, OpenOffice, and Lotus Symphony. How do you think I spent my last couple of days? (You might have noticed the increase in Blog posts and that they seem to be formatted a little nicer. OpenOffice has a plug-in which allows you to edit locally then post directly to your blog. Check it out!)

 

The short answer is that I should have the Application Development book ready to send to Sony before Friday. The rest of the series should follow in another week. If you were thinking about getting an Amazon formatted version for your Kindle, you had best snap it up before Friday.

 

If you are well and truly cheap, they have a 30 day $35 license. I’m old enough to now that the longest path between any two points is a shortcut. Every time I try a short term license like that I get a phone call the next day which has me on-site at a client’s for the next N weeks. I paid the $150 for a full license and a CD mailed to my home. Why did I pay for the CD? Bad things happen. I mean we are talking about Windows here. I’m surprised I haven’t had to re-install already this month.