I am left questioning a few things based upon the feedback in this thread. I'll preface this that I'm trying to be cordial and tactful here.
Why is it so bad that Microsoft charges for their product? I use Office in my professional life and Libre+Office in my personal life. I think if you make a decent product, it's perfectly okay to charge for it. Am I missing something ideological?
I constantly read that Office is clunky and unstable, and I haven't experienced that in years at this point, probably since Office 2007 after they famously had to rip out CustomXML in a hurry. For me, both Office and LibreOffice perform well, and I often only use one over the other when I find support for one or the other is lacking because of some crazy scenario.
P.S. To those barking about "scary" warning for ODF files. It does the same thing for Office 2003-2007 documents too...
I have seen people waste hours doing things in MS Office that should take 5 minutes because of how broken its UX is. They got a tiny little bit better but then you try setting the print area for an Excel table again and spend a good 15 minutes and you know they still have the same problems at their core.
The problem with LibreOffice & Co is that they basically just copy Microsoft's mistakes, making UX an afterthought with wobbly, unaligned buttons and illogical grouping and hierarchies of different elements. We'll likely won't escape that office software hell any time soon but projects like LibreOffice at least have the freedom to chisel at its foundation.
This is what I see:
With the ribbon, MS came up with something that was nice and innovative. But it was also incomplete. Unlike the menu, which was consistent across all the functions you might want to apply, the ribbon exists for some things, and then you break into this totally different UI for other things.
Is this ok? My concern is that with Microsoft's monopoly (still) we could argue until we were blue in the face about whether or not the ribbon as implemented was worth it or not, and will never know because there were not really any other options other than "ribbon or not." We can't tell if people just habituated to the ribbon's flaws, or decided that the pros of upgrading outweighed the cons, or were forced to upgrade, directly or indirectly, by the legions of corporate decision makers who were afraid to be lagging behind, or what.
Office has improved a lot since LibreOffice's predecessor, OO, emerged. In some ways I think MS Office is superior. But I still have this nagging feeling that we never know what we could have had if there were more competition, in terms of pricing, options, formats, etc. I also resent being forced to use MS Office for things that absolutely do not require it at all (e.g., by certain publishers, etc.). Because then I have to choose an OS that MS Office is on, and then certain hardware, etc. It's not the cost of MS Cloud or whatever anymore, it's that cost, plus the hardware infrastructure that's required to run it.
At the moment LO, for me, is competitive with MS Office, and meets my needs, and to me that's important.
I don't think there's anything wrong with MS charging for a product. What I do think is wrong is everyone requiring it, explicitly or implicitly, and there being lack of choice. At the moment I'm not even sure that's MS's fault--most of the time I encounter it I attribute it to laziness or inconsiderateness.
If I ever need to do something like that I just pull out a text editor and start writing stuff up in TeX now, which while it doesn't really cause me any distress because I've learned TeX, is kind of ridiculous for the many people who've had no reason to learn TeX because they expected word processors to work as advertised.
Anecdotally I was trying to set up a simple keyboard shortcut to change color of a row of the selected cell in a spreadsheet.
Neither Excel nor Calc offer this functionality out-of-box except for user defined macros.
On LibreCalc 5.3 custom keyboard shortcuts are awkwardly defined but once I figured shortcuts out I got stuck on recording a macro.
There was a choice of Python,Java and I think VBA lookalike. Very nice, except it was not immediately obvious on how to proceed.
I'd love to use Python to script Calc but I did not have time to hunt for the API.
On Excel 2013, within 5 minutes I was able to record a macro then edit the VBA not having used VBA in 5 years. Plus I was able to add a few extra bonus macro commands within 15minutes.
I am sure you can do really nifty stuff when you become a power user in LibreOffice. The problem is that a large proportion of users are casual users like me.
By comparison, I can create and edit nice macros in Photoshop/Illustrator only being a very casual user(maybe once every few months).
That exacerbates the key issue with proprietary general purpose document formats — as users, citizens or companies we lose sovereignty over our data.
When Microsoft decides to cut out some feature in 2030, data produced with it can be forever lost. This is a big deal when Office is the universal language of modern government and business.
This is not an exclusively Microsoft problem either. Google Docs is far worse, but relatively speaking nobody uses it.
How do you mean "nobody"?
In any case, at least for now, it's relatively easy to make automatic backups of your entire Google Docs collection, and all these documents can be exported to different formats, including ODT.
Also, generally speaking, it is preferable to preserve original documents for archival purposes. Export to other formats is problematic in those cases, especially as time marches on and you end up making exported copies of copies.
The original Office file formats were entirely proprietary and MS explicitly used this to lock out competition. The OOXML formats in use since 2007 are technically an open spec, but one that is difficult to implement reliably. The only software product that is reliably compatible with MS Office is MS Office.
For much of the HN crowd, Office documents isn't a big part of our job, but we're in the minority here. Most people are far more likely to open Word than any code editor. In my experience outside of the tech industry, document collaboration is primarily done through SharePoint, if not emailing Word and Excel docs. Scheduling is managed via Outlook/Exchange with their proprietary protocols.
This isn't a problem as long as people are being productive on their own using MS Office. The problem is that files are widely distributed with the expectation that anyone can view and edit them. For example, my kids' school teachers regularly post homework assignments .doc or .docx format. I've also seen MS Office files from doctors' office and municipal governments.
So there's free stuff like LibreOffice and Google Docs, which are mostly compatible with MS Office, and mostly sufficient for home or personal use. Usually .doc or .docx files open fine. Sometimes they come out looking like garbage.
A typical business will want to be able to exchange documents with their customers and suppliers, to say nothing of years of legacy documents that they already have. Compatibility is important, and it is worth paying for. The notion that they're paying for software to make their employees more productive isn't a problem. The fact that they have no alternatives where to spend their money if they want to be compatible with their legacy docs and the rest of the world, that's a problem.
Well, it's not bad at all. The fees can be quite prohibitive for some companies, but that is just business.
I might trigger some flamewar here, but as a casual LibreOffice user, as an individual, I "bill" myself the price MS Office would cost me (70€ a year here in western Europe).
I find I'd rather pay for something that produces code which I consider to be "public interest", but I agree use cases can make one chose MS Office instead of LibreOffice.
As I said, I like LibreOffice, but the UI needs work.
The only way for an Open Source equivalent to dethrone MS Office is to beat MS Office at its own game WHILE retaining compatibility to it. Perhaps, retain a MS Office compatible core, and invest mindshare in making an absurdly fast, intuitive, and productive UI that is not necessarily the same as MS Office. Show people why one would want to use LibreOffice instead of the only factor being that it's free (as in beer and as in speech).
The day the suite of Libre Office impresses me enough to use it on my laptop inspite of having MS Office installed is when the tide changes..
Sort of like the Mozilla of Office programs.
(Which incidentally I use 90% of the time despite having an Office 365 subscription)
Instead of adding more fonts by default, they should start thinking how they can improve their UI, make it clean, discoverable and easy to use.
Microsoft has done it, and while initially it was hard for everyone familiar with the old concept, I know nobody who prefers that now, after familiarizing themselves with ribbons.
Seriously, who apart from utter novices would ever want to use a UI where the keyboard shortcuts are non-obvious, the buttons take up half the screen, and discoverability is non-existent (and not even Google can help half the time because things jump around from version to version).
And someone else here too. We moved about a year ago to the 'the ribbon' and I detest it. They have hidden much of the functionality and it's a more laborious process to get to any feature which isn't immediately available.
Another little annoyance I have is in Outlook. Pre Ribbon you could right click on your mailbox root and select Advanced Search. This control was set up to search everything in your mailbox. The Advanced Search option has gone from the right click, I've added an icon on the Quick Access toolbar and it's also available as Ctrl-Shift-F.
What's wrong with that you think! The problem is it's no longer configured to search your entire mailbox (presumably as it's not got the context of the right-click), just your Inbox. I now need to do Browse, tick the Root using the mouse, then tick "search subfolders" using the mouse, and then OK back to the Advanced Find control. A complete PITA and step backwards in functionality.
Best of both worlds.
How are keyboard shortcuts worse than in old Office? I still have the common shortcuts and everything is accessible vie accessible Alt+... access keys (easily discoverable if you press Alt once). True, you cannot add custom shortcuts. Is that it?
> the buttons take up half the screen
On a decent-sized screen that extra size doesn't matter much, and not just novices benefit from applying Fitt's law.
> discoverability is non-existent
Could you elaborate? I don't have data but I would guess that making common options larger and/or putting them on the home tab makes them more discoverable.
At the expense of non common options, which become undiscoverable.
When I open a software for the first time I'll often scan all the menus once, to get an idea of supported features and their categorization. I'll randomly rescan the menu from time to time when I feel like learning something new/want to further my expertise.
Trying to find a little used feature is a minefield of hovering for tooltips and clicking endless drop down button menus...
I didn't like the ribbon interface for a long time. Then I watched a video of Joel Spolsky doing some stuff in Excel and it was the first time I really saw somebody that knew what they were doing using the ribbon. That converted me.
No. Keyboard for the things i know by heart and use every few seconds, mouse for the things that happen from time to time, and explorability for everything else.
Also, link to that video?
Edit: I think you mean this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nbkaYsR94c
Very first thing i notice is he rides hard on the "Paste as Values" option being the one you want to use most of the time. However since he has the ribbon on top he has a gigantic paste button and needs to use the drop down every time to call it.
With normal toolbars you'd just add a "Paste as Values" button next to the normal paste button and skip the error-prone, slow dropdown process.
(I also note he has no keyboard shortcut for it.)
Paste as values: alt h v v
I don’t know where you’re getting the idea that doscoverability is nonexistent... everything is there, except now everything has icons, is in logical groups, and has a keyboard shortcut (exposed through alt key). If you hover over any option you get a tooltip that often includes an illustration along with text. Much of the UI is wired up with live hover preview so you can see the effects before you commit.
When office 2007 came out, there were a lot of people who thought they added a ton of new features. Aside from live previews, hover tooltip, smartart, contextual grammar, and the new formats, there was practically nothing new. The UI made things so discoverable that people just thought there were thousands of new features.
* what Microsoft did was a major change with many, many thousands of man-hours invested into it; and many of those hours were UI/UX research, usability studies, analysis for the data phoned home by Office; does any of this sound like your typical Open Source project work? :)
* the Ribbon concept is patented by Microsoft; so not Open Source friendly, which leads us to...
* the LibreOffice developers would have to come up with a novel concept for a GUI, which is superior to the existing menus; and one that doesn't fall into the traps that Microsoft Office already went through (see Harris Jensen's blog series called "The Why of the New UI"); I'm a big fan of Open Source, but unless it comes from academia (Office products are not known to be the main focus of academic research right now) or from startups (good luck taking down Microsoft Office! :) ), most of the user friendly GUI stuff in Open Source-landia is copy-cat stuff
Edit: I just saw bryanlarsen's comment. Glad to hear that they're trying. However quite a few of those attempts fit into stuff Microsoft already tried. But they might still prove superior to the current interface, so kudos to the LibreOffice devs for that ;)
No, and that's a problem!
Tell me LibreOffice isn't a MASSIVE project with thousands of man-hours invested in developing its under-the-hood features. How about finally recognizing UX design as a vital part of that effort? Or rather, its biggest flaw?
It's not as esoteric as copying "ribbons" or "reinventing the GUI". How about having buttons where the text isn't sticking 1 pixel to the left, some proper spacing to group elements belonging together and boxes that are aligned at all angles, so your eyes don't get tired after 5 seconds of reading the captions? How about sending 3 people into a real-life office environment where LibreOffice is used for a week and make detailed notes and interviews on which features are used most, are most annoying to use or most desperately missed and then rearranging the hierarchy accordingly?
I see such a massive amount of goodwill and idealism in the open source community but as soon as it's facing mainstream users it fails to recognize UX as an integral part of providing a viable alternative to commercial products. Microsoft absolutely needs competition in the Office space, I swear at them nearly every day for doing the simplest things they manage to make complicated. They can be beat. But it's not via features, it's via interface design.
Please don't misrepresent something you have not studied. UX is absolutely recognized as vital in LibreOffice. The point is, companies invest in development commissioned by their clients. So far there has been no client wanting to spearhead massive under-the-hood improvements to the UI system (yes, this would be very relevant to further work). The work done is incremental and admittedly not advancing quickly enough.
Volunteer UX/UI designers getting involved in open source is still a new thing, so the size of the UX team has mostly just stayed constant from the OpenOffice.org days.
you can really tell by the amount of effort they put into it.
View -> Toolbar Layout -> Default
Aside: Only thing I miss from Ribbon UI is being able to make it vertical, putting it on the side of the screen. Monitors are mostly landscape, while documents often portrait, so using space on the sides of the screen should be considered for it. (Putting Windows task bar on the right side was an instant boost to my productivity and ability to focus.)
It's possible to do both! Not everyone in a large open source project works on the same thing. In the FOSS world, people choose what's important for them, so it's hard to say "they should" and make everyone do one specific thing.
But anyway, LibreOffice does have a design community with weekly meetings, blueprints and other activities:
They are working on the "Notebookbar" alternative GUI design, so if you're not happy with the design, why not join them and help out? :-)
Change is not user friendly; it breaks tutorials, it weakens the support network, it risks good ideas getting lost.
Don't get me wrong, if they do change things I'll probably support it, but if they stick to what worked for 20 years then we should support that too.
I want to support free office alternatives so badly, used OpenOffice and Libre Office for years, but recently caved to buy a license of MS Office 2016 because even Microsoft's shitty interface is miles ahead.
The free software community needs interface designers badly. I swear it's the one thing holding them back. All the features are there, but using the damn thing is infuriating.
Everything takes me twice as long to a) find it on the ribbon according to the incoherent positioning of items, and b) to navigate the tiny needless dropdown menus.
I have to hunt around by picture and unevenly-spaced icons (every button is a different size to its neighbor) and cannot navigate it by keyboard. The ribbon is truly a giant step backwards in usability.
I utterly detest it and welcome any opportunity to use an old version of Office 2003.
I've been using the ribbon for ages now and about the only shortcuts I remember are bold and italic. That said, did you know you can tap Alt and get keyboard navigation of the ribbon?
If people see that LibreOffice Writer is as good as MS Word, then they would migrate to it.
Then funding would come and then they would have all the resources to build awesome UIs.
as good as won't be enough for migration, as it's work to migrate, learn a new interface, bear all thats different.
Without a better UI, even better functionality may not be enough to convince people. UI is the first thing one sees..
Want to know what happened, when I suggested folks could join in to drag it out of the nineties? https://www.reddit.com/r/linux/comments/3u2p7x/tired_of_the_...
Hundreds of people appeared saying "Leave it alone, it's fine!! Don't you dare mess with it!"
They tend to be the stereotypical hardcore old-school C developer who is not aesthetically oriented.
Everything from their website, their logo to the UI/UX has an aura of "designed by a C programmer who just wants to code and doesn't really give a shit about how fancy things look as long as it works".
I can learn a UI, don't mind if it's klunky, but I need the thing to do what I need it to do.
The project feels like a preservation society for a type of software from the past.
But Audacities latest improvements in UI are very nice which leave hope for foobar and libreOffice etc.
MS isn’t perfect. It’s slow to open files, occasionally Outlook’s data file will corrupt or too large to be usable, then I have to delete the file and force Outlook download the emails again. I miss one license for life time model, instead of subscription.
The problem I have is that its junk filtering is absolutely messed up. It ends up marking several important emails as junk.
Also it’s not very clever in auto completing email addresses.
After deleting ~/Library/Application Support/LibreOffice it seems to be fine. So there must be an issue installing with old preferences in place.
I know my now-17-yo had to learn MSO basics as part of "informatics" in 6th-8th grade, which made me furious as I found it time not spent well, and inappropriate for a high school curriculum.
Don't get me wrong, I would love to swap over almost everything that we currently use Word for to just be some combination of Markdown and HTML, but beating my head against the inertia and trying to get people to invest an hour or two of time in learning something they don't already know is demoralizing.
I am happy to see Ribbon UI improvements just so that my son (middle school) could still manage at school while using LibreOffice at home.
MS is a convicted monopoly abuser. But that doesn’t mean every action of theirs is an abuse of their monopoly (further being publicly convicted and penalized for it, odds are they are less likely to do things that abuse their monopoly position).
This is a wholly fictional understanding of how people and companies work. People who have transgressed moral and legal boundaries are more likely to do so again.
By your understanding a former violent rapist would be a safer date than an average person.
As of now, he has to pass exams that use printed screenshots in quizzes! :-)
The idea is that children learn concepts, not individual implementations. And since Writer is arguable better than MS Word I see lots of institutions moving to LibreOffice.
Note, however, that Excel is better than Calc for anything non-trivial, and Powerpoint just blows the LibreOffice counterpart away completely. Praise to Writer is _not_ praise to the whole LibreOffice suite.
Hope LibreOffice Impress improves over the time to catch up with PowerPoint.
People don’t use Excel for everything because they are masochists. Excel very often really is the best solution available for a very wide variety of uses.
I would still like a mechanism in place to prevent use of spreadsheets wherever not suitable.
I fully agree, but why wouldn't you teach these concepts using an implementation that the vast vast majority of children will use in their adult life?
You could teach kids how to use a computer using OpenBSD, it's arguably better than Windows and I'm use a lot of institutions use it. It's just not very useful to the overall majority of kids who do not go into a comp-sci field.
Because it makes it too easy for the teachers to cheat and only teach mindless button clicking.
Sure, MS Office has a large user base in the professionnal world, but maybe students accustomed to LibreOffice can push the change.
Still, I do agree with the comments stating how important the overall UX/UI of LibreOffice needs to be improved.
But... why? For 99.9% of students Word is all they need. There are not many compelling reasons to not teach the software people will actually use in the real world.
I mean, why not eschew the English language in schools and teach kids Swahili? Maybe students accustomed to Swahili can push the change. Or maybe not.
MS Office is especially better than LibreOffice with Excel and PowerPoint. If all you use is Word, then the licence you have to pay to use it might not be worth the difference with Writer.
> There are not many compelling reasons to not teach the software people will actually use in the real world.
Well, I do use MS Office in "the real world", and LibreOffice at home. When I landed in my company, we got a mandatory session of "advanced" Excel and Powerpoint usage, because that's inexpensive for the company to spend a day or two to make sure we can use the tools adequately rather than betting high school taught us.
Not everyone uses MS Office in "the real world", nor in "the business world". Most of the document we receive and send is in PDF format.
> I mean, why not eschew the English language in schools and teach kids Swahili? Maybe students accustomed to Swahili can push the change. Or maybe not.
Come on, I'm quite positive we can both be smarter than that :)
Most people use extremely basic functionality. They can probably learn a slightly different UI in an hour of experimentation.
Ideally they would switch around every few months, so they can raise users who actually know the general principles behind their tools and don't get completely lost by minor interface changes.
I think you underestimate just how powerful good enough is in terms of inertia.
Last time I tried live-updating a cell in a Calc worksheet it was a huge mess and a total pita.
Boy, it's fast. I open a document, and it's there in less than a second. Very impressed. Like with Firefox, I'm starting to see the backend work.
2. It has the classic menu and tool-bars.
Bonus: The price.
Chances are, LibreOffice is more than sufficient for the layperson. Even if the feature disparity was that of GIMP and Photoshop, 99% of the professional features would be left unused by the average person.
Word 2003, as a self-contained package that could run off a flash drive, was the pinnacle of office productivity in my books.
Look at the "Major Feature Differences" and "Minor Feature Differences" sections.