From I can gather - there is a company, called “Collabora”, that sells LibreOffice consultancy and LibreOffice “online” installations. This company now contributes majority of development to LibreOffice. And lead the development of “LibreOffice Online”, maybe?
And from what I can get, their business is not doing that well.
This e-mail is written by someone from that company.
LibreOffice has always been understaffed relative to the competition. But it wouldn't shock me if there were more HR people associated with GSuite than there are LibreOffice developers.
On first reading, I thought this bit was the author reporting that other people are frustrated with TDF, and that this indicates that there is a problem:
« Frustration with how TDF markets and positions its 'product' (LibreOffice) against the ecosystem that contributes the majority of the coding work is at an all-time high. »
But I think actually this should be read as « We (Collabora) are more frustrated with the TDF than ever. »
Why does the LibreOffice project then allegedly produce an unsupported, non-genuine, unauthentic and unsuitable piece of software? They seem to be doing a good job in most respects, so how and why are they supposedly failing to produce usable releases? Debian's version seems fine, so perhaps Debian is adding some of this mysterious authenticity?
Why would enterprises buy a support plan? That they don't is the issue of companies building Libre Office that do a lot of the development, according to the email.
There are two options: 1. Libre Office works for the job it is supposed to do. Then no one needs a support plan. It's an office product, not enterprise software where you need technical support to design your next hardware thingie. It just has to work. 2. Libre Office does not work well as an office product. Then the organization using it will search a different solution, get a web service, stay with Windows.
There is maybe a miniscule market where there is a well funded push to develop a government IT system complete with Office interop and everything, and then maybe that project will pay for development, and maybe that can be treated as a support contract. But that market is seemingly not big enough for the people behind this push.
I see a second dimension to this: Libre Office is just not good. Every time I tried to use it it let me down. Last time - last year, and that was indeed on the job - it crashed and ate the document I was working on. Add to that the Java issues and that it feels clunkly. It's sadly just a stopgap solution, not something reliable or fun to use.
Maybe this is not a free software crisis, but just the reality of the market not being there? And maybe it does not have to be?
I encourage you to try again to see if maybe LibreOffice has improved since you last tried it, and you won't be disappointed.
And yes, removing the free builds would severely stymie consumer adoption, but I don't even think there is much of that left to begin with. Your average kid uses Google Docs and has no reason to download anything.
I'm sure your suggestion would help solve his problems. However, it's considerably more drastic than some of the things he's proposing, which mostly amount to marketing changes. Taking away a free download for casual users would likely be opposed by TDF.
>> Another pathology is that there are companies who ship
LibreOffice, often claiming support, but then file all their tickets up-stream and hope they are fixed for free.
> Collabora - despite C'bra still putting a lot of work into LibreOffice Desktop, having an outstanding support capability, doing lots of marketing, being the largest code contributor to LibreOffice, and having lots of existing happy customers / references for desktop LibreOffice, ... etc. etc.
> We have not had -one- -single- -new- Collabora Office customer since 2018 - zero.
> => so it makes no economic sense at all to invest in -Desktop- Libreoffice you will never see a return.
> That is manageable - we are investing heavily in creating Online and that is going well, and it funds our work on LibreOffice.
Free software needs to learn to compete on features if it’s going to have the mainstream adoption necessary to survive.
This worked in engineering tools, Nginx and Apache are the most popular web servers in their category, Postgres and MySQL have enormous support, and so on.
I wonder why these are really so different? Most devs don’t care that much about the freedom I don’t think. Maybe there’s something the free software movement could learn from what engineering products are doing and apply it to consumer products?
On the other hand, it seems like Open Source has a lack of designers that are willing to contribute. For example, in Tantacrul's critique of MuseScore , there's issues highlighted that seem obvious in retrospect, but in Open Source projects, unless there's someone who drives the user experience, it's easy to miss all these small things that add up to signal (whether rightly or wrongly is besides the point) a lack of polish.
Thanks for sharing Tantacrul video. He's quite an entertaining bloke!
Does that mean that something like LibreOffice should have more focus on scripting?
AppleScript got a relatively high amount of use in its day from “non-developers”, and I think Excel has quite a lot of scripting done in it.
Maybe by being really great at scripting they could compete better. Office scripting is quite tricky to do, Google Apps Script isn’t wonderful, and iWork.
Why don't you see that happening (free software being popular for being free)?
It replaces Word well, but for Excel, there is just too much of a shift for me.
It is a great product, but given the market saturation of Office, I am not sure there is really a place for it in the market spectrum.
The issue is not whether software developers can replace their (barely existent) Excel usage but whether accountants & office workers can.
I have yet to meet a SINGLE accountant aware of openoffice/libreoffice's existence. OO/Libre is deader than dead in the one segment where it matters.
THERE IS NO REPLACEMENT FOR EXCEL in the financial sector. Part of the reason why is because Excel has customers -- big, rich, important customers, and lots of them -- and so it is supported and updated as if by an entity that wants to please its customers.
I use PowerPivot and PowerQuery a lot. A job does not have to be particularly interesting for you to derive value from those two, practically any Excel-using job will do. Either of the two is a game-changer by itself.
I think that the bulk of user-facing changes to Excel over the last ten years is in either PowerQuery or PowerPivot. Neither has an adequate alternative in LO, as far as I’m aware.
Irrelevant. We're dealing with industry wide network effects here.
Excel has complete dominance and will keep it unless they release a version where 1+1=3
So basically? Everyone.
It doesn’t have professional support for individual users, I’ll grant you that.
I used to do IT for a high-school with ~300 students, faculty and staff. Ubuntu dolled up to look kinda Windows-ish on half the lab machines. Windows on the other half. Faculty got a Toshiba Sattelite Pros that had windows licenses. Servers all ran linux. We used Libreoffice on everything and aside from a few complainers it was fine.
I haven't touched MS Office in more than a decade, and I don't miss it.
Perhaps it's improved, but a while ago I tried to program Base and found the documentation around it's functions/methods/properties to be scant and/or terribly out-of-date, and pretty much useless.
Yeah, it's the unloved step-child of the LibreOffice suite, we fix stuff sometimes, but there is no commercial user of it to fund development
In the Windows world, just about everything can interact with Access. Just about nothing can with Base.
Calc + Pandas + google sheets for us.
The editing paradigm perpetuated by the legacy of MS Office is a dead end.
The web has its shortcomings, so it's easy to see why people opt for MS
Office-based workflows, but the end goal should be to wean businesses off
contemporary word processors and raise a generation of kids who aren't taught to
write essays in Microsoft Word or any other office suite that resembles the
ones we see today. A standardized "Markdown for the Web" (or AsciiDoc) with
native browser support would be a good 80/20 start and would move things out
of weird proprietary office formats and towards plain text. Users themselves
need not know the underlying file format is based on plain text, just like
most don't know that HTML is plain text—because they usually aren't even aware
of HTML in the first place. (Besides word processing, spreadsheets are a
whole other larger problem that can be handled once there's traction on this
Right now LibreOffice is aligned against this goal as a result of perverse
incentives to continue perpetuating the MS Office model of document
creation, editing, and (let's face it: email-based) distribution.
The failure of standards bodies and browser developers to address the real
needs of MS Office customers should not be discounted. Heck, even EPUB which
is largely (X)HTML isn't even really Web-native, and that's a total failure on
the part of browser makers.
It might be prudent for the commercial companies associated with LibreOffice
to stop thinking of themselves as vendors of an MS Office alternative and
start thinking of themselves as a group who can see where the puck should be,
and then move both the Web and businesses+classrooms there, too—and capitalize on being the first mover.
NB: Re-inventing the office suite as a web app (à la Google Docs) is not the
kind of thing I'm talking about.
Plaintext formats are certainly nice. Markdown can certainly do formatting for many simple documents (school reports, memos, etc). Sometimes, however, you want more fine-grained, print-style control over layout, even for documents that are often sent electronically (e.g., résumés). People still do print things out too, like fliers and signup sheets.
A lot of Word's other features seem superfluous, but I'd bet that almost everyone uses an idiosyncratic subset of them: I don't use mail merge, but depend on "Compare Documents", for example.
You do already know. It's in your next sentence.
> Sometimes, however, you want more fine-grained, print-style control
That's fine. PDFs aren't going away, nor would aiming for the kind of thing I mentioned preclude the plaintext formats from finally gaining the ability to control print-level details with a set of formatting directives if you flip the switch in the writing app to make it let you target a "print profile" for that document. In fact TeX—being a plaintext format that also happens to lead to many of the PDFs we see anyway—is already an example of how to get the ultimate "fine-grained, print-style control" without being a clunky document from an office suite, which aren't actually all that great at that level of control, anyway (but TeX itself is not well-suited for this use case, for its own reasons).
The point is that most people shuttling Office documents around are most of the time not using it for those reasons, so their 80% use cases shouldn't carry the baggage nor impose it on others. It would be one thing if it were just a matter of people not knowing, but the reality is that neither the tooling nor the cultural inertia for those non-existent tools are really where they should be.
> People still do print things out too, like fliers and signup sheets.
In typical office use, you'd want to enforce a firm-wide stylesheet, but Word makes that difficult by leaving too much control too easy to access: people continue to use font and paragraph ribbon groups outside creating new styles.
The things that make Word valuable, compared to plain text, are in the “Review” (track changes, comments, compare), and “Insert” tabs. “References” and “Mailings” are nice if you need them, but can ultimately be handled in easier ways.
100% agree with that. But your proposed substitute is nonsense on stilts. Markdown? Please. WYSIWYG exists for a reason.
LibreOffice’s problem is that it’s playing Microsoft Office’s game by Microsoft Office’s rules. That is a game it cannot win. Microsoft Office succeeds not by being good at what it does but by being a massive monolith that no-one else can match. Those who try to replicate it only work themselves to death trying to do so. That’s a fools’ game.
Instead of trying to build a better Office, look at what users try to/actually do with it and target that. For starters, a lot of people use Excel not as a programmable parallel calculator (spreadsheet) but as a tabular layout tool for ad-hoc/databaseable information. So build a grid layout tool that is entirely agnostic on programmability and back-end storage, and allow different components to plug in as needed.
I’m always leery of pointing to component architectures like OpenDoc as those are a whole ’nother honeytrap in themselves, but Unix Philosophy posited that lots of small, simple, highly focused, and freely pluggable tools would scale better to solving users’ problems than the vast impenetrable monolithic architectures of Office et al. Unix/Linux may have failed to pay its own philosophy more than lip service (I mean, how many features is `ls` up to now? 50? 100?), but whereas MS Office is also mired in its own market success it’s never too late for the also-rans to rethink their losers’ game and rewrite its rules to be one they can win. They just have to want to change, and try something that hasn’t been tried.
And yes, change means risk and potential for [greater] failure. But just look at Steve Jobs: he never beat Microsoft by building a better PC; he did it by radically redefining what “Personal Computing” means, inventing a completely new market of Personal Computing users, and being first to that market with the right product to sell them.
So, no, an Office suite that runs in a web browser is not the sort of thing I’m talking about either. Although the web should, as you say, provide the foundation for a modern data editing and sharing system. But look at what people actually do today with “Office” software, regardless of whether it’s what that software was designed to do or not, and from there pinch off one well-defined use-case at a time and reformulate it in terms of basic reusable components joined together with some task-specific glue, then push that to that market as a tool just for them that does what they need done so much quicker, easier, and safer than anything else.
(Ironically, the web originally conceived as a fully read-write platform where everyone could read and everyone could write, and it was only Berners-Lee’s corner-cutting impatience that recast it as a read-only platform with its editing keys jealously kept by a new high priesthood of “Web Developers”.)
TL;DR: Let’s build a better “Office Suite” is the wrong game to play. “Let’s identify solve individual specific real-world problems that users actually have today”, and just happen to build those solutions in a way that keeps everything small, agile, flexible, and humble; instead of bloating into the traditional Big Ball of Mud that is wonderful for developer egos and customer lock-in and absolutely awful for anything else.
Not accurate; this comes off as very Nelsonian. WorldWideWeb on NeXT had read-writability baked in from the beginning (same with all the the W3C's reference implementations, from Arena to Amaya). Andreessen is the one to blame for the Web being effectively read-only. His investment in RapGenius was his penitence. The mainstream browser makers are all carrying on the Netscape tradition.
> Markdown? Please. WYSIWYG exists for a reason.
They're not fundamentally opposed. Believing they are is a failure in your assumptions. ProseMirror.net.
Yep, TBL’s original WorldWideWeb browser was read-write. And yes, it was Andressen’s Mosaic that locked in the popular perception of the web as read-only medium.
However, it’s wrong to blame the Mosaic team as they were only following TBL’s lead here. The first read-only browser was TBL’s invention, being a quick-and-lazy way to port a lowest-common-denominator demonstrator to mainstream platforms:
“[TBL’s] team created so called "passive browsers" which do not have the ability to edit because it was hard to port this [authoring] feature from the NeXT system to other operating systems.”
That one bad decision is one of the greatest (i.e. worst) demonstrations of the Law of Unintended Consequences in action, and deserves to be taught in every undergrad computing/psychology/marketing course, alongside the Osborne Effect and every other major disaster carelessly created by very clever people who did not ask themselves one very simple question: “What could possibly go wrong?”
(Upvoted for knowing your history. I wish many more did.)
“They're not fundamentally opposed.”
I’m all for combining the strengths of different UI modes, and Markdown is something I commonly use myself for structured text input. I’d even go so far as to say it’s a great shame TBL chose SGML as the foundation for HTML, rather than annotated plain text a-la Markdown. But there’s a vast gulf between expert users who benefit from such high-efficiency “shortcuts”, with their attendant learning curve and unforgivingness, and everyone else.
Again, look at word processors and spreadsheets and how many people use those Correctly vs how many just use them. Look too at how MS Office makes it more difficult to use them well (e.g. style sheets) than use them badly (direct styles). Casual users require a no-height barrier to entry and extremely low-friction usage; they cannot be asked to learn or use a professional mode UI. The primary entry point has to be WYSIWYG, because the cost of learning anything more advanced exceeds the value to be obtained from its use.
An efficient, effective UI for occasional amateur users is not the same as the UI for high-volume professional users. Ironically, while MS Office does a good job of neither, LibreOffice—in slavishly replicating all of MS’s poor design choices rather than studying them and asking how it could do better—completely fails to exploit those opportunites itself.
Products like WWW and LO reveal a key failing of Really Smart People: those big brains of theirs just make it far too easy for them just to brute-force suboptimal solutions rapidly out the door. Just as those overpowered brains make it far too easy for them to manage the unnecessarily high costs of using those suboptimal solutions themselves. It’s everyone else who pays the full price for their failure of rigor or parsimony. But hey, I’m not complaining: makes it easier for a dumbass like me to beat them just by being a crafty bastard instead.:)
“When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.”
> An efficient, effective UI for occasional amateur users is not the same as the UI for high-volume professional users.
I disagree. Specifically, I disagree that the amateur UI can't be made to work just as well much of the time for expert users, and that where it doesn't, it can still form the basis for that which is eventually exposed to the experts and will never be seen by the amateurs. For that reason, I find your big brains comment about dealing with "the unnecessarily high costs of [...] suboptimal solutions" (like "expert mode" UIs that are difficult to grapple with not because they're intended for experts, but because they're just poorly conceived) more apropos than you intended.
There is no stable edition of LibreOffice Online but you can find a daily build of the master branch for Docker at https://hub.docker.com/r/libreoffice/online.
Both LibreOffice Online from Docker Hub and Collabora Online Development Edition have a configured limiation of 20 connections for 10 different doucments so personally, I'd recommend building from source. You can find the source code for LibreOffice Online here: https://git.libreoffice.org/online.
I suspect the lack of a stable version of LibreOffice Online is intentional as a way to try to drive more business towards companies such as Collabora.
The other office suite in my life is Apple’s iWork. And let me tell you, it has a ton of issues, but it is not a copy of Office at all. It has its own goals and identity. I self-published a book using Pages, it’s not completely lacking in features. But it does things in its own way. So I don’t compare it to Office. I evaluate it against the job that needs to be done.
It may be that all commercially supported development on LibreOffice stops-
I'm not sure this would be a terrible thing at this point.
Abiword (is a MUCH smaller editor) and gets a release every few years or so - There's not much it needs anymore.
Evolution is no longer commercially supported, nor is Thunderbird - Developent may have slowed down after they lost their patrons, but they already did most things that they set out to anyway.
Many OSS software doesn't have or need commercial benefactors.
My personal use-cases are certainly relatively restricted, but maybe it's OK to just let it go into maintenance mode?
LibreOffice already does pretty much everything I'd want it to.
I (again, personally) don't see a whole lot of demand for new features.
But this was too much of a long, badly structured rant. Without prior knowledge of the inner working, it looks like rambling. It would be a much better post if it were written like an article or wiki page with headers and subsections:
- top 3 reasons there is serious risk in bullet points
- each bullet point with a single paragraph or sentence summarizing what could be done to mitigate that point; maybe even a personal appeal to the reader
- a header per reason going into depth of the why and a more in depth mitigation strategy than what was in the first bullet points
- one header with subreasons that are important
The whole thing should maybe even be prefaced with a sentence mentioning the target audience. I donate yearly projects like this and have no idea what else can be done.
Looks as polished as MS Office, works perfectly with HiDPI, and is much faster than both MS Office and LibreOffice.
Apart from that issue, their goal is MS Office compatibility, and they deliver quite well. Even more obscure features like review mode and highlighting of changes worked without issues, and I was able to exchange documents with MS Office users.
Someone is up for the challenge? I might give it a try, who knows.
Since and from my obviously biased point of view, the only users left are the Linux users who do not want proprietary software, and the people who want a powerful office software but can't afford or don't want to pay for Microsoft office.
The user interface is a relic of the past in my opinion. I heard that they were working on improving the user experience, but I don't know what's the state of these projects.
I used to recommend OpenOffice and LibreOffice. Today I recommend Microsoft Office.
There's a reason why this product has been bouncing around for 20+ years from StarOffice to OpenOffice to Libreoffice, owned by Sun and Novell and SCO or whatever, who can even remember? It's not going to be a money maker, because there's never, ever going to be any reason to buy it.
Even if they port it to the browser and market a cloud/onprem-capable competitor to Office 365, people still won't buy it.
The ideal candidates for using it are institutions like schools that are cash strapped, but then how will they train their students to use MS Office, how will they deal with all their macro-infested Excel sheets and Access DBs? No good answer.
In that decade, my expectations for text editing software has changed dramatically. I expect online, cloud-based, collaborative, document editing. Anything less is a no go, and I expect modern interfaces for software I use often.
Unfortunately the LibreOffice pitch is just un-compelling to me. I won't really be losing any sleep over this.
It would help if you expand on your anecdote why no office software of any kind has had an impact on your life in the past decade and what expectations you have for office software that could possibly help you.
Secondly, where's my pint?