back to article LibreOffice 7.2 release candidate reveals effort to be Microsoft-compatible

The Document Foundation has released LibreOffice 7.2 RC1, including a large number of fixes intended to improve import and export compatibility with Microsoft Office. Version 7.2 of LibreOffice, the most popular free and open-source productivity suite, is set for full release in mid-August. New versions appear roughly every …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "improve import and export compatibility with Microsoft Office"

    I applaud the effort, but it is misdirected.

    It is Borkzilla that should improve its compatibility with the Open Office standard.

    That said, we all know what standards mean to Borkzilla . . .

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "improve import and export compatibility with Microsoft Office"

      I agree, but if they can tread into MS territory it opens up options.

      We've looked at open office and libre office before in health care and been very close to adopting one or the other over MS office - that would be huge if we did.

      Backwards and clinical system compatibility has always held us back.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "improve import and export compatibility with Microsoft Office"

        We switched a few years back. We still have a machine somewhere that runs ONE copy of Office in case of compatibility issues, but our staff have actually taken it as a personal challenge to not use it :).

        What I liked about the update to the 7.1.2 we're now running is that it gives you real deep access to the document formatting structures. I wouldn't say it's like WordPerfect of old because that was far simpler than what you can cook up with LibreOffice, but this gives you the whole picture.

        It gives you access to the one thing you can still utterly screw up Microsoft Word document with (to the point of crashing): accidentally copied formatting code fragments during cut & paste. We already have the Paste command defaulted to "paste as text" in our setups and LibreOffice silently fixes problems in espoecually MS Word documents, but now you can actually see what's going on.

        I cannot overstate how useful that insight is for people who write real documents.

        1. ricegf

          Reveal Codes RIP

          WordPerfect's Reveal Codes (which were an unrelated precursor to the web's HTML) was the last time I felt truly in control of a document's content and layout. That Microsoft used their Windows monopoly to cram Word down corporate throats will forever be to their shame - not that Gates' or Ballmer's Microsoft had any. At least Sayella has given up his predecessors' irrational jihad against free and open source software.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Reveal Codes RIP

            At least Sayella has given up his predecessors' irrational jihad against free and open source software.

            Leopard, spots. I don't think so, he just goes about it in a far more subtle way. Then again, it's easy to be more subtle than Ballmer was.

            1. Terry 6 Silver badge

              Re: Reveal Codes RIP

              And it does look as if Microsoft has retained its age old ( in computer terms) culture of deciding (often too late) what the future will look like (often wrongly) and forcing people to adopt it (often unsuccessfully).

              They seem to be incapable of identifying which are genuine trends* or of having the confidence to then allow these to develop naturally.

              In other words, they're slightly dim playground bullies.

              *I'm sure their abject failure to recognise that the internet would become important is part of this. It seems to run through them as a trauma. So that even when they do have a good product they fuck it up by chasing shadows. But instead of sorting out the failure they repeat it, e.g. in the mobile phone fiasco.

              1. kurkosdr

                Re: Reveal Codes RIP

                Every company the size of Microsoft has an interest in pushing trends in the direction they want them to go. For example, back in the 90s, Microsoft wanted information delivered via MSN and Windows apps (and not via the browser) because that's where they had their monopoly (in the win32 API). The fact they lost the battle (thankfully) doesn't mean they didn't know that the browser was a much better idea, they just lost the battle. Similarly, when they introduced ActiveX in Internet Explorer to tie the web to COM and OLE (and by extension to Windows) it's not that they didn't know it was a bad idea, it was a strategic decision to see if they could tie the web to Windows. Come the mid-2000s, and when tried introducing WinFS into Windows, it's not that they didn't know a relational-database filesystem was a silly thing to have in an OS (when SQLite is a thing) or that a relational-database filesystem would open a ton of security issues, it was a calculated move to create more work for Wine, which was catching up to Windows XP. Eventually, they introduced so many new APIs with Vista that indeed Wine was slowed down. So, they kept alive the trend of having Windows be the OS you really want on the desktop and laptop if you want Windows apps.

                Google has created its own trends, for example the trend of syncing data by having everything online. Instead, Microsoft would have preferred if you used Windows Mobile Sync center or whatever it was called and sync things locally by plugging your Windows CE/WIndows Mobile device and your MP3 into your computer, turning Windows into the center of your data.

                Trends? We will try and make some of those.

            2. martyn.hare
              Megaphone

              SaaS

              Subtlety as a Service or should we call it by its proper name? SPYING!

    2. AMBxx Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: "improve import and export compatibility with Microsoft Office"

      Given Microsoft's dominant market share, why would they spend time improving compatibility with anything else?

      Bit like testing a website compatibility with users of old browsers - they might make a lot of noise, but there aren't very many of them, so don't waste your time.

      1. SImon Hobson Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: "improve import and export compatibility with Microsoft Office"

        More to the point, it is against MS's interests to have compatibility. They need incompatibility because if users had a choice of software, then MS would have lost it's grip. So it is vitally important to MS that no other package can import/export with high fidelity an MS document - and I'm sure that if anyone every achieves it, they'll change the standard to break it. it's what they've always done, and I can't see them changing.

        Office Open XML is an example of the finest non-standard money can buy by stuffing national standards bodies. it really should have been rejected, and would have been had MS not stuffed the committees with paid shills to approve it. It's (as the article mentions) not implementable, and it not possible to build (an independent) compliance test for the same reason. Now, if only a few large governments had turned round and demanded MS subject their own products to an independent test of standard compliance - that would have been interesting, but I guess MS would simply have paid an "independent" to create a test that passed everything regardless.

        Very old joke alert ! How many MS people does it take to change a light bulb ? None, they just change the industry standard to dark. That's always been their approach to standards, and I don't see the leopard changing it's spots.

        1. Alumoi Silver badge

          Re: "improve import and export compatibility with Microsoft Office"

          So it is vitally important to MS that no other package can import/export with high fidelity an MS document...

          Including their own office suite.

          1. Ken G Bronze badge
            Linux

            Re: "improve import and export compatibility with Microsoft Office"

            I've been using WPS (Kingsoft) Office on Linux for years, having given up on StarOffice, Open Office, Lotus Symphony, SoftMaker and only checking on LibreOffice every few years to see whether it's as clunky as I remember.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "improve import and export compatibility with Microsoft Office"

          I recall the first time I tried opening an OpenOffice file in Excel. It looked ok - until I changed a value and nothing else updated. Then I realized that Excel hadn't actually imported the FORMULAS, just the values. Almost like they wrote an import module just bright enough to look like it worked so they could blame OO for the incompatibility...

        3. kurkosdr

          Re: "improve import and export compatibility with Microsoft Office"

          I don't blame Microsoft for coming up with their own format. To quote Joel Spolsky, "A file format is a concise summary of all the features an application supports [...] They have to reflect all the complexity of the applications. Every checkbox, every formatting option, and every feature in Microsoft Office has to be represented in file formats somewhere. That checkbox in Word’s paragraph menu called “Keep With Next” that causes a paragraph to be moved to the next page if necessary so that it’s on the same page as the paragraph after it? That has to be in the file format."

          Microsoft would never, ever allow a standards committee to decide the makeup of Microsoft Office's default editable formats, because then they are locked out of adding new features to Microsoft Office. If an open format becomes mandatory, they will immediately extend it (they are kind of doing that with ODF). Just like Adobe will never, ever allow a standards committee to decide the makeup of PSD. They are fine with committees deciding on "export" formats such as PDF and JPG respectively (where things can be flattened into a bitmap and fixed in place), but not with the editable format.

          Where Microsoft gets the blame is for not giving us a clear spec. Yes, I agree, that was a calculated move to lock out competitors, and shame on ISO for approving their horrible spec.

          1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

            Re: "improve import and export compatibility with Microsoft Office"

            Actually, I don't think it's as prescriptive as that. It;s entirely possible to allow for a standard to be extensible - and I vaguely recall the open standards support that. That's one of the beauties of properly structured standards and file formats - it's possible to support additional features which older versions of the software (or different packages) might not be able to understand, without making that file un-openable to the other version.

            Unfortunately ISO would have been powerless to stop it. All MS had to do, and did do, was pay enough people to volunteer for the relevant national standards body committees and vote it through. In doing so they also crippled said standards bodies for a while as the paid shills then didn't take part and so many committees were left without a quorum to do other work.

  2. Duncan Macdonald

    Use early Microsoft formats where possible for interchange

    If you are using LibreOffice and want to send a document or spreadsheet to another person where you do not know what he/she is using then the best bet is to send it in old Microsoft formats (Word 97 for documents, Excel 97 for spreadsheets). All versions of MS office (and LibreOffice/OpenOffice) seem to be able to read these formats without corruption - this is not always true for later formats.

    1. Snake Silver badge

      Re: Use early Microsoft formats where possible for interchange

      True. Or, even better if the recipient only needs to read your output, convert to PDF.

      Personally I hate when general senders email us their DOC or XLS file directly. Thanks to VBA et al, it is a giant security risk to open up anyone else's files (even though I have auto run turned off on my own desktop, of course).

      Just because I have auto run turned off and know not to allow the script does not mean that others follow the same rigid guidelines; I immediately delete all emails with a document attachment so as to prevent the others from attempting to open the file. I'll ask if anyone needs that email restored and then check it myself before allowing them to continue.

      1. Tom Chiverton 1

        Re: Use early Microsoft formats where possible for interchange

        Because nobody ever put a self executing virus in a PDF...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Use early Microsoft formats where possible for interchange

          As far as I know, a PDF cannot hold active code.

          But, of course, you can make an executable look like a PDF in Windows, and that's all you need to become tomorrow's ransomware headline.

          We've come full circle to the early hacker dictum that real friends don't let friends use Windows.

          1. John Miles

            Re: Use early Microsoft formats where possible for interchange

            You can have JavaScript in a PDF Action Run JavaScript file and you can embed documents and it has been possible to run them - Can a PDF file contain a virus?

      2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Use early Microsoft formats where possible for interchange

        Microsoft disables a lot of features by default for files from elsewhere and macros have to be enabled specifically.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Use early Microsoft formats where possible for interchange

          They do now - because they caused such a problem with insecure software and auto-running macros in the past.

      3. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Use early Microsoft formats where possible for interchange

        We strip off the attachments before they even reach the users inbox. If it contains an old format Office file, or a zip file, among many others, including the macro variants of the new formats, the attachment is simply removed.

        The IT department can see the attachments and we often have to convert them to the new formats and send them on to the users. But we prefer that the users contact their email partner and inform them, that the format is unsafe and does not arrive.

      4. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: Use early Microsoft formats where possible for interchange

        Personally I hate when general senders email us their DOC or XLS file directly. Thanks to VBA et al, it is a giant security risk to open up anyone else's files (even though I have auto run turned off on my own desktop, of course).

        You do know that you can force security options that the users can't change via group policy, right? You can force disable unsigned VB scripts, disable office downloading content from the internet etc.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Use early Microsoft formats where possible for interchange

      XLS is limited to 256 cols and 65,384 rows…

      LibreOffice et al. has had some long-standing bugs in handling XLSX files that could easily have been fixed if they'd read the specification, which was at least published, unlike BIFF which was never published.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Use early Microsoft formats where possible for interchange

        The *cough* "Open" *cough* XML specification is specifically designed not to be readable. When they cooked this up to highjack the EU standardisation process it only had to look good, but MS itself has admitted they have problems following their own specs..

        Wouldn't it be nice if the EU for once actually mandated the use of the standard they chose (i.e. ODF)? But hey, they would then no longer be wined and dined by Microsoft to remain defined as "essential" by the EU and thus able to ignore most of the rules on, say, privacy..

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: Use early Microsoft formats where possible for interchange

          As someone who works with the specification I know how awful it is. Still, it is at least there and Microsoft does contribute actively to improvements in the documentation, though these generally affect the strict implementation although the world lives with the transitional specification. But you can do an awful lot with just the schema.

          ODF is definitely a better format – XLSX is largely an XML form of BIFF – but it's not without its problems and it is not really being actively maintained.

        2. H in The Hague Silver badge

          Re: Use early Microsoft formats where possible for interchange

          "When they cooked this up to highjack the EU standardisation ..."

          I don't think this has anything to do with the EU, I think it's an ISO standard (ISO/IEC 29500 Information technology — Document description and processing languages — Office Open XML File Formats?). But perhaps someone more familiar with the background could comment on this.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: Use early Microsoft formats where possible for interchange

            >I don't think this has anything to do with the EU

            Yes, MS simply didn't want International Standards - much preferring their own de jure proprietary standard which even then they had problems maintaining consistency across products.

      2. Malcolm 1

        Re: Use early Microsoft formats where possible for interchange

        All the "old" office binary file format specs have been published since about 2012, here:

        https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/openspecs/office_file_formats/ms-offfflp/6ae2fd93-51fc-4e75-a54a-1b175c627b51

    3. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Use early Microsoft formats where possible for interchange

      I agree. And in fact irrespective of OOO I tend to use older version formats for anything I might need to share. It's the principle of lowest common denominator. A more advanced format may exclude some users. An older format won't.At least not if you aren't using any of the newer functions, which most users probably aren't - at least not knowingly. Because most of us are not using much more than the same set of features that were in WORD 3.. I got into that habit years ago when sharing a document ( on a floppy disc probably) meant there was a pretty good chance of my getting a phone call from some remote advisor/teacher/team/service/school because the document wouldn't open in their ancient copy of WORD version n.

      Things are better now in terms of software that will open documents written in newer versions. But it's so much simpler to stick with the Word 2003 version for most use cases.

    4. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Use early Microsoft formats where possible for interchange

      Microsoft recommends not using the older formats.

      As well as formatting and features being stripped out of documents, when they are saved, the formats are also insecure. There are many known malware strains that use old Office formats as an infection vector.

      Our policy automatically rejects any attachments with .zip files, .doc, .xls, .ppt etc. and the new formats xlsm, docm etc. New formats, without macros, are the only ones allowed through the filter.

      The new formats aren't 100% secure, but it is more manageable and you have to draw the line somewhere - like still allowing the dreaded PDFs through, as they are pretty much the defacto standard.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Use early Microsoft formats where possible for interchange

        Because of course nobody would ever maliciously change the file extension...

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: Use early Microsoft formats where possible for interchange

          Then Office will refuse to open the file, because the contents are "corrupt".

          Luckily renaming a file back to the correct extension is beyond most of our users.

          And there is the AV software. But why rely solely on the AV software and user training, when you can stop a majority of the malware from even getting through the door.

        2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: Use early Microsoft formats where possible for interchange

          Microsoft's programs are particularly dumb when it comes to file extensions so an xls renamed as xlsx will not be opened. In fact, you can't mix and match xlsx and xlsm. I'm not sure if this is by accident or by design but I'm pretty sure that the number of infections due to the office formats declined with the switch. That, and the fact that it's easy to get people to click on links in e-mails…

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Use early Microsoft formats where possible for interchange

        >Microsoft recommends not using the older formats.

        That is expected, MS want you to pay for the new products.

        >Our policy automatically rejects any attachments with .zip files, .doc, .xls, .ppt etc. and the new formats xlsm, docm etc. New formats, without macros, are the only ones allowed through the filter.

        I assume you are applying your filter to both inbound and outbound email...

        Bet your business users think IT are a bunch of idiots, plus customers/suppliers can't be happy given the large growth in electronic documents where email is a good enough carrier.

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: Use early Microsoft formats where possible for interchange

          Not really. I think we get maybe half a dozen requests a week to access and convert an attachment. That over a company with in excess of 300 employees and tens of thousands of emails in- and outbound.

          All users' Office installations are set-up to use Open XML documents as standard, when saving documents.

          Likewise, a majority of external contacts use PDF most of the time. Unless you need to collaborate on a document, you shouldn't be sending the original format. As most of ours is commercial, it has to be PDF or signed PDF.

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: Use early Microsoft formats where possible for interchange

            I sometimes think that on El Reg commentards over-emphasise the activity of bigger and corporate users. Unsurprising, since bigger organisations employ entire departments to manage their systems. People who may well wash up on these shores. Whereas much of commerce and IT use actually goes on within and between small Companies or organisations that don't employ many IT staff and certainly few fully qualified experts. Maybe their entire IT system is run by one techie minded staff member who's done the odd course or has an A level ( or just a GCSE) in IT. Possibly even just some old guy who entered computing as an amateur 50 years ago and has grown up doing it as a side line ( I know I'm not the only one on here like that). Many of whom also read El reg and even comment, but we're not part of a team and are probably outnumbered significantly by the corporate and contract professionals. And these small organisations don't run by those kinds of rule. If a client needs to send a document we need to accept it, not fuss over the format. We don't get to pick and choose. In many cases the organisation would be grateful just to get sent stuff, never mind fussing about the format. You have a report, or a product request to send them? They'll bite your hand off to receive it if that means they get the business. PDF? They'd accept parchment carried by a pigeon as long as it got to them.

            1. big_D Silver badge

              Re: Use early Microsoft formats where possible for interchange

              Very true. We are an IT department of 4, 2 of us have formal training in IT.

              That said, there is nothing wrong with pointing out how things should be done. I still learn things from reading other readers thoughts on subjects, and it is one of the reasons why I offer up my experience.

              Setting the policy takes 2 minutes, if the admin is experienced. If they aren't, the step-by-step way of setting up the policy shouldn't take more than 10 minutes or so, and if it is their first policy, maybe it will be an insight into what can be achieved and spur them on to learn more about how policies can make things safer and save the admin time.

              "Our IT department is a one-man-band," is no excuse to ignoring security warnings, in fact, it is probably more important, because (s)he won't have the time or resources to fix things quickly, if they go wrong.

    5. mmonroe

      Re: Use early Microsoft formats where possible for interchange

      I go for rtf and csv for maximum compatibility, when I send files to somebody.

      1. ricegf

        Re: Use early Microsoft formats where possible for interchange

        Or just txt or md - though in all 4 cases complex formatting is lost.

      2. Charlie Clark Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Use early Microsoft formats where possible for interchange

        RTF is okay. But CSV is a PITA as soon as you have non-ASCII because you have to get the encoding right. And then you have to do the type inference…

        Guess who got a non-ASCII CSV in his e-mail this morning?

        But I got the biggest laugh recently with some kind of export to Excel including \200e characters around dates which were subsequently cast to text. Oh how I laughed as I reached for the cattle prod…

    6. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Use early Microsoft formats where possible for interchange

      And DO NOT open and resave an extra "doc" or "docx" you created by Save As in LO Writer as editing THAT will convert it. Edit ONLY in ODT and "Save As" and EXTRA copy in "doc" or "docx" for the MS Office users remembering to embed fonts.

      Or for Read Only Export save a PDF. Works better than any MS Office PDF creation.

      There is a bug in many versions of MS Word where the last line before a page break looks ok, but is fully justified when created to a PDF or imported elsewhere. MS know about this:

      "Add an extra carriage return by pressing enter on the end of the last line, then Backspace to delete it"

      (From their site).

    7. This is my handle
      Thumb Up

      Re: Use early Microsoft formats where possible for interchange

      Honestly, other than more rows in an Excel spreadsheet, it would be really difficult for me to name an "improvement" to any of the Office Suite products since 1997. Not that I've been able to use them for a while (had to abandon those old 32-bit Windows apps after ... XP?) so maybe it's just nostalgia, but they pretty much lost me when they introduced "the ribbon" (2003?).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Use early Microsoft formats where possible for interchange

        SUMPRODUCT was a major improvement; there's no end to the fancy results you can get by abusing it. But otherwise, yes, most Office "improvements" have been garbage since 1997, the ribbon being the absolute #1.

        I guess they have to make noticeable changes to the interface to convince people to pay for the new version, which does... exactly the same thing as the old version. But for more money.

  3. The Original Steve

    Surprised

    I'm the first to say that it's fantastic for all that the incumbent has good competition to (at least try) to keep them something close to being honest.

    But as someone who's only ever really used Office (outside of dabbling with LibreOffice years ago in a failed attempt to minimise our Office licence fees on RDS) I'm rather surprised at both the general look and feel of today's LibreOffice and also that they are still so far behind in these "niche" features - like tables in a text boxes and clickable hyperlinks to index marks in the page. Whilst I'm sure the majority do not use these features in Word often if ever, it's this kind of thing that has limited it's market share more than anything Microsoft have done in my opinion.

    I'm not saying that Microsoft Office is great or perfect (far, far from it), but in terms of usability and features the competition appears to be rather behind still.

    1. Mike_R
      Devil

      Re: Surprised

      Well, enjoy Clippy:

      https://www.theregister.com/2021/07/15/microsoft_clippy_instagram_vote/

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Surprised

      Looking at the screenshots, I was surprised by how old-fashioned it looks and how much of the screen is taken up with toolbars and menus.

      I'm not sure, if, for the screenshots, every possible toolbar was turned on, or whether that is the default, but it really put me off. It really looks like it comes from the Land that UI Design forgot, which is a real shame, because for people who aren't beholden to MS file-formats, it is a great product.

      1. DrXym Silver badge

        Re: Surprised

        There is a ribbon mode you can enable which is a little more like MS Office but it's nowhere near as polished.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Surprised

          Thank God, it means nobody has wasted that much time on imitating that abomination.

          Amongst our customers, the ribbon appears to have been the push to jump to LibreOffice..

          1. DrXym Silver badge

            Re: Surprised

            I like the ribbon in Office TBH. It is very task / context sensitive and that makes much easier to get on with stuff without being overwhelmed with a menus & buttons that are not relevant to the current activity.

            As for LibreOffice, the reason it's not very polished is because it's still experimental I imagine as time goes on it will be more refined and at some point they may even flip the switch and enable it by default.

            1. dajames Silver badge

              Re: Surprised

              I like the ribbon in Office TBH. It is very task / context sensitive and that makes much easier to get on with stuff without being overwhelmed with a menus & buttons that are not relevant to the current activity.

              Context-sensitivity isn't a feature of the ribbon itself, it's just down to what the Office designers decided to put onto the ribbon and that they chose to vary that with context. It's perfectly possible to make menus context-sensitive, but the Office team never did so with as great effect.

              We didn't need to have a new and space-wasting UI idiom forced on us, except that that's apparently what it took to get the Office team to think seriously about context.

              1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                Re: Surprised

                The irony of that is that I used to give my team a set of menus in WORD that were tailored to the way we worked and the tasks we had - grouping together the menu items in ways that made sense to us. Moving or removing stuff that we would never need while making stuff we always used easier to find. No one had time to go looking for stuff because it wasn't in the menu where we would want it to be ( and most had no interest or patience for such stuff).. The Ribbon version of WORD's menus ( they are still menus- forget the marketing bullshit)- just makes it harder to find the items you need if you haven't used them in a while. You can't customise the core menus. You can only create a new version of them from scratch, manually adding all the items you need and then hiding the original.

              2. DrXym Silver badge

                Re: Surprised

                Microsoft have tried other ways to hide irrelevant crap. I still remember expanding menus and their ilk. The point for me is they've developed something that shows me the stuff I need for what I'm doing and if I want to change what I'm doing (e.g. I want to switch from drawing shapes to reviewing a document), I can click on a tab and that other stuff is there.

                I think the ribbon bar is a huge improvement for applications which are overwhelmed by their functionality. Instead of showing everything they show what you need. The place I see it most is not in an office app but in some CAD software. There are two parametric CAD applications called Fusion 360 and one called FreeCAD. I think you can guess which is the open source product from it's name. Aside from their license model they basically do the same thing. But Fusion 360 has an incredibly clean ribbon bar while FreeCAD throws the kitchen sink at you. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind which product suffers as a result.

      2. ricegf

        Re: Surprised

        This is a feature, not a bug. But LO has several alternate UI configurations, even the abominable ribbon one.

        I actually had to switch my last book from Word to Writer because Word kept moving images outside the margins. The bug report on it was rather old - no idea if it has been fixed since, because I don't see a reason to switch back, being happily non-corporate now.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Surprised

          Which has reminded me of the WORD bug that made me first look for an alternative. If you had a table at the top of a first/single page you couldn't insert anything above it. Use case would be, maybe, you'd created a table on a single page then decided (or had just postponed until you'd got the actual table data sorted), to add a title or explanation above it.

          There was a work around; insert a page break, this seemed to create a space above the table on the original page. Then you could do your typing and delete the page break. A bit of a malarkey and hard to explain to users. The alternative, not much better, was to remember to leave a space before you got started. Which would be good practice, but in every day life, I or my colleagues would have some data they desperately wanted to display or share and the first impulse would be to get it down on paper clearly, the niceties to be sorted out later.

          I wonder if it's still a thing.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Surprised

          "This is a feature, not a bug."

          To expand on that - it's a MAJOR feature to not have to relearn the interface every few versions of the software - everything is exactly where it was 20 years ago, they just added additional items too. That's a fantastically good way to do it.

    3. DrXym Silver badge

      Re: Surprised

      It's fair to say that LibreOffice needs to spend a lot more time on usability and presentation in releases.

      I would go as far to say they should have a single release where they prioritise 100 usability / quality of life issues and fix as many as they can.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "and also that they are still so far behind in these "niche" features - like tables in a text boxes"

    The article says that LO is supporting multicolumn textboxes, something that Word doesn't support, but can emulate with tables in text boxes. I don't know if LO supports tables in text boxes or not. I'll have to try it out on my home machine.

  5. Nifty Silver badge

    My confidence in LibreOffice was dented recently, as data was disappearing from column 1 in some rows. I'd repopulate the text and some days later the same would happen. Also had a case or two where Excel could not open a file but LibreOffice could (always .XLSX).

    Looks just like https://ask.libreoffice.org/en/question/167450/i-lost-a-significant-amount-of-data-from-an-excel-spread-sheet-suddenly/

    Due to helping son out with his new job I took a family sub of Office 365 so am using Excel again. When this sub ends in a years time it'll be back to LibreOffice, will see how reliable it is then.

    1. ricegf

      Back when I worked a corporate job, we had to switch one large team away from Word because its conditional text feature regularly corrupted documents. Fixing corrupted Word documents was actually a line item in their budget, as I recall. (We moved to FrameMaker, I believe, because the team had used it earlier and thus needed little training to implement the switch.)

      In general, back when I used Office, I found less popular features to be bug-ridden and unreliable, but perhaps we were just above the safe power user level. I've personally had fewer problems with LO. *shrug*

  6. DJV Silver badge

    What's UNO?

    Here you go!

  7. rcxb1

    I wish they would add MHTML (doc, xls) file format support

    There are a number of web services that offer "XLS" file downloads, which are actually MHTML files. Will open as a web page in Thunderbird and can be opened as a spreadsheet in Microsoft Office, but LibreOffice / OpenOffice don't have a clue what to do with them.

    Not as though it was only just recently reported:

    https://bugs.documentfoundation.org/show_bug.cgi?id=88701

    Just the kind of thing that keeps an office on Microsoft, preventing conversion of almost everyone to LibreOffice.

    I could throw a few hundred at a bug bounty for this, if it existed and was likely to happen quickly.

  8. Kev99 Silver badge

    For the most part, I prefer Libre over MSO although neither are as good as QuattroPro 4. Little to no garbage, had tabbed spreadsheets under DOS and didn't need several gig of storage or memory.

  9. _andrew
    Happy

    I think that I'm gradually starting to see "office" applications go away - pages are so last century

    I'm sure that everyone's work environment is different, and there are no doubt many people who still use these things, but it seems to me that their grip is finally starting to slip. Not replaced by yet another document format, but by web-native modes of communication. Corporate wiki document storage, email, various chat applications where once there might have been circulated memos, even markdown files for code project documentation. Blogs. Socials. I find that I can go weeks without firing up Word. Powerpoint seems to have some extra staying power, but that now has some competition from various non-page, continuous scroll presentation tools.

    1. sgp

      Re: to see "office" applications go away - pages are so last century

      Very cool, let me know what the web standard du jour happens to be. Meanwhile, I'll try and solve some of the 75 year retention problems for digital documents at my customer.

      1. _andrew

        Re: to see "office" applications go away - pages are so last century

        I'm quite a lot more confident of documents authored in markdown being useful in 75 years than any particular "office" format. Agree though that at least ODF seems to be heading in something of the right direction. I'm just not confident that a volunteer team can keep useful presentation software going for such a complicated specification in perpetuity. We'll see.

        I'd say that PDF probably stands a decent chance too, except for the javascript features and editable bits.

        (One of the) points about corporate wikis and web standards is that it's a different and interesting twist on longevity. The storage format isn't generally described at all, and the display implementation doesn't really matter, and can track whatever web standards exist at the time. Point is that the entire document repository is online and live all the time, so changes in the back-end ought to be applied as they go, fixing incompatibilities as they arise. As everyone who has ever had anything to do with software knows, there's a lot of "if" in that plan, and it does rather depend on your vendor staying alive, which I'm sure they love.

        I used to think that (La)TeX was a good basis for document longevity, what with being open-source and readily available, but it's currently aging poorly, IMO, and interacting badly with Unicode, so I'm no-longer so confident.

        Reckon I'll stick with unadorned ASCII, or perhaps markdown. Maybe troff?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Azure Information Protection

    Wonder if there is anything in the pipeline to add Azure Information Protection (AIP) to Libre Office.

    Head office uses MS Office and security demands they use AIP in documents.

    Everyone else uses Libre Office (to cut down on costs and licences) and can't open the AIP protected documents.

    The go to answer is "contact the author and get them to make the document public".

  11. Novex

    Shortcuts

    I take it that a decent replication of the shortcut keys in Excel are still missing? If I am to 'convert' to another spreadsheet program, it has to have Excel shortcuts available as I will most probably always have to use that when working for employers, and I can't get my finger memory to do two different shortcut systems.

  12. PTW
    Mushroom

    One question

    Have they moved "Contains header row" to the opening tab of data sort in Calc!?

  13. FuzzyTheBear
    Pint

    Why the same >?

    Why insist on making Libre Office a copy of MS Office products ? I understand usability and old habits for office personnel but i do believe making LO = O is a major mistake. When i look at either products i'm always left wondering . Most people aren't going to use all those functions to make a simple letter or document. It's insanely complex for everyday use. I'd rather have a dumbed down interface where specialised functions are available on demand rather than the horrible " all in your face " design model which is , imho , a mess. to beat MSO you have to think differently , not make an exact replica. Be yourself , not someone that tries to be like Elvis , dress like Elvis , haircut like Elvis .. These clunky user interfaces need to go west. It's too much lost real estate on the screen. learn to think differently or die just being a copy of a copy of ..

    1. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: Why the same >?

      Migrate 5000 people to a completely different UI and then come back.

      Or those that use MS at work, then at don't want to have to completely change their way of working just to knock something of to the school.

  14. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    A heartfelt and sincere thanks to StarOffice, and later, Sun Microsystems, who made StarOffice/OpenOffice available for free.

    I can remember the long nights spend downloading it on a dinky 33.6 modem, and getting it to run under OS/2...

    And, yes, it also enabled me to rescue a corrupted Word document. Kudos to the team.

    Well done.

  15. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
    FAIL

    Mailmerge

    Is that still a borked hot mess of nerdly uselessness?

    With an inability to simply tie a document to a spreadsheet, then merge the spreadsheet data?

    The current mess requires that the data in the spreadsheet has to be bound to a database schema. And then the database is the source for data for the merge. Sort-of-ok, but if I give you the doc and the spreadsheet, you can't then do a merge, without a load of geek-level stuff to re-establish the link.

  16. T-Rex Neb

    SoftMaker FreeOffice 2018 FTW!

    Being a Mac guy, and having 4 linux laptops, and having used MS Office for 20 years at work, I find SoftMaker FreeOffice 2018 pretty great. The look and feel and configurability make it a much easier transition from MS Office products. LibreOffice, regardless of it's technical attributes, looks and feels clunky. It's as if the UIX is stuck in the StarOffice mode, forever.

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