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LibreOffice Gets a Streamlined Makeover With 4.4 Release 148

TechCurmudgeon sends word that LibreOffice 4.4 has been released. "The Document foundation announced availability of the latest version of LibreOffice on Thursday, which it says is the most beautiful version of the open source productivity suite yet. LibreOffice 4.4 also fixes some compatibility issues with files that are saved in Microsoft's OOXML formats. LibreOffice 4.4 has got a lot of UX and design love," Jan "Kendy" Holesovsky, who leads the design team for Libreoffice, said in a statement. LibreOffice 4.4 is currently available for Windows."
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LibreOffice Gets a Streamlined Makeover With 4.4 Release

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  • by TechCurmudgeon ( 3904121 ) on Thursday January 29, 2015 @08:17PM (#48936125)
    Depending on your OS the Windows link above will now take you to either the Windows, Mac, or Linux LO download page. If you have an Ubuntu-based distro you can apt-get install from the developer PPA at https://launchpad.net/~libreof... [launchpad.net]
  • They added MS style ribbons, all in the name of UX

    • Nah, that will be available in the upcoming LibreOffice 365 for 100$ a year.
    • > They added MS style ribbons, all in the name of UX

      Thank God no. But they did add a somewhat strange "Sidebar" type thing a few versions ago and it has progressed enough that they turned it on by default. Unfortunately, it is riddled with lots of pretty major bugs (the sidebar; lots of unresolved bug reports but work is progressing).

      At least you can turn it off... for now. I hope we can continue to do so....

      Anyway, LO is a great program and there are lots of improvements with each release.

    • For those that want to look at the pretty pictures:

      https://wiki.documentfoundatio... [documentfoundation.org]

      I think the ability to theme with firefox color themes is intrigueing.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      No. There has been some minor shuffling of icons but most users surveyed have indicated different needs and strongly cautioned them against more drastic changes. Keep an eye out for surveys and make your opinions known.

      Besides if you actually like the ribbon there is a context aware sidebar that achieves similar purposes that until recently wasn't enabled by default (until a few releases ago).

      In time I think they will threaten ribbon behavior but for the time being we have old school menus and toolbars with

    • Jesus, it's been almost a decade and the old fogeys are still whining that Microsoft made a change (that most people who work in an office environment actually find useful). If you're such a power user, your keyboard shortcuts are still the same. After seven years, it's time to stop being afraid of change just because it looks different.
  • Unpopular comment, but something that would put any of the OpenOffice family branch head-and-shoulder above the rest would be ditching Java.

    NeoOffice did this on the Mac, and NeoOffice as a result is very responsive.

    I do not like having Java installed because

    A) It's slow.
    B) It is a security risk just like Flash.
    C) I have had malware attempts do pop-ups asking and recommending Java be installed, no kidding.
    I prefer a web browser with no non-HTML options even being available.

    This makes installing a Java-u
    • by ihtoit ( 3393327 ) on Thursday January 29, 2015 @08:39PM (#48936265)

      I hate Java, for much the same reasons as you. Unfortunately, not having it installed leaves me with no database in OOo and the rest of it is fairly crippled. Pisses me off, but I found a workaround solution that works just fine for me at least as far as a database is concerned: I installed a WAMP stack. Specifically, the Bitnami Docuwiki and Mediawiki stacks. Side by side. One runs on localhost 8000 the other on localhost 8001. I can even access them (hence all the documents) via my virtual machines on the thin clients. Bonus!

      • While I don't belittle or despise the WAMP stack benefits. that stack just won't cut it for me as I need to put business and common logic into the forms before committing data to a table.

        Example, clerk inputs sex as "Male" for a child bearing individual, I need to disable data fields asking about how many pregnancies this individual has had. I know this is possible by other means, but it gets complex if my needs are to be met.

        • by ihtoit ( 3393327 )

          I think it's entirely possible to do that on a WAMP stack.

          BL is done in the "M" bit. That's your database. The "P" bit is the bit where you build the UI. "A" is the webserver. "W" is the server platform of choice. The latter two aren't part of the discussion, because they don't need to be. PHP is very powerful, it can handle translating the BL through the UI in either direction, is more than capable of handling complex SQL statements and is proven in agnostic form data. Dealt with. The grunt work depends on

    • I agree, but as far as I know, on Debian it does not depend on Java. The Libre Office requirements page says it is only necessary for certain 'Base' features: http://www.libreoffice.org/get... [libreoffice.org]

      (I have never seen the popups, or had Java installed on my machine for a long time, so I was curious. Libre Office also runs pretty fast imho.)

      NeoOffice basically stripped it from Base, and their download page says: "Base users: if you use Base, we recommend that you use OpenOffice with the Oracle Report Builder extens

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29, 2015 @08:44PM (#48936293)

      LibreOffice does not "require" Java. Most things work perfectly fine without it. I believe wizards and such won't work. You can use the compilation flag "--without-java".

    • You do know the JVM and the browser plugin are two separate things?

      Oracle may choose to bundle them together in a fancy installer for Windows but the plugin itself is unnecessary unless you load Applets.

      e.g. on debian, 'Java' is packaged as openjdk-7-jre, while Applet functionality is provided by icedtea-7-plugin.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by canistel ( 1103079 )
      Ha! The clown complaining about "security risk" is more dangerous with his lack of knowledge than anything else. LibreOffice is slow because it's a crummy code base (written in C or C++ by the way, not java), you don't need java installed at all for libreoffice to work. The fact that LO is slow without java, should make you rethink you're opinion about java; massive, badly written software, performs slowly. Java has nothing to do with it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      ..."the people who maintain it are, well, Java programmers"... you seem to confuse LO with OO. There was and is a concerted effort in LO to remove Java. Things like rewriting some of the Java wizards in Python. So its happening and Java is optional anyway, you probably won't even realise what is missing.

    • by caseih ( 160668 ) on Thursday January 29, 2015 @10:27PM (#48936817)

      No idea what you're talking about. LibreOffice, OpenOffice, and StarOffice before it are all written in C++. Java is used as a glue between certain components, such as database part. It's also used in some import filters. But it's certainly not required for LO or OO, and hasn't been a requirement ever as far as I know. Guess you haven't ever used LO or OOo.

    • I do not like having Java installed because A) It's slow.

      Java was slow in the 1990s, but is now comparable with C++

      B) It is a security risk just like Flash.

      Applets are a security risk, but Java applications are no more (nor less) a security risk than other desktop applications

      C) I have had malware attempts do pop-ups asking and recommending Java be installed, no kidding.

      Does that mean you dislike oxygen because Hitler (a known bad guy) liked to breathe it, too?

      I prefer a web browser with no non-HTML options even being available.

      You know that Java isn't limited to your web browser, right? You can even *gasp* disable the Java plugin from within your browser and still run Java applications just fine.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Streamlined and Most Beautiful ever. I am too scared to look :O

    • Re:scary (Score:5, Insightful)

      by steveg ( 55825 ) on Thursday January 29, 2015 @09:08PM (#48936445)

      Yeah, when I see the phrases "UX love" and "Most beautiful", the first thing I think of is "Gods, they've hit it with the ugly stick." Flat, flat, flat.

    • Streamlined and Most Beautiful ever. I am too scared to look :O

      I was thinking the same. :D That description usually means that everything is now sized 150% and comes with an ugly, simplified, flat look. Which isn't too far from the truth here, actually.

  • I wonder... (Score:1, Interesting)

    ...if I can still make it crash within ten seconds, like all the previous versions. :-p
  • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Thursday January 29, 2015 @09:24PM (#48936527) Homepage

    One of my problems with LibreOffice (and OpenOffice, and some other FOSS apps) is that it doesn't fit with native UI conventions. It doesn't look like a native application, it doesn't feel like a native application, and it doesn't behave like a native application. Although it may seem like a very superficial thing, it makes it much harder to sell in a business setting. First, because a lot of business users (including "decision makers") are pretty superficial, and using a non-native UI makes it look cheap and unfinished. Second, because if it doesn't feel or behave like the applications that users are familiar with, then it's going to be jarring and confusing, requiring more training and resulting in more help desk trouble calls.

    So when I read that LibreOffice "has got a lot of UX and design love", I was hoping that some of the incongruences were fixed. Looking at the OSX version, it seems that it's gotten worse. It looks distinctly like an application written for Linux that was hastily ported to OSX.

    • by caseih ( 160668 )

      LibreOffice is the least of my concerns, UI-wise (I refuse to use the "experience" term; it's an interface, not an experience). I'm much more concerned about apps I use every day that suck UI-wise, like Firefox. Or Chrome. I'm stuck at Firefox 24 (and Palemoon) as that's the last version that the GTK native theme works with. Most of the UI is somewhat GTK-ish, but the tabs have always been out of place. GTK native theme fixes that and gives me an app that looks and feels right at home on my Mate desktop

      • Ironically, those apps (Firefox and Chrome) do a relatively good job of appearing native on both Windows and Mac OSX.
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by markdavis ( 642305 )

      Spoken like a MacOS user. I knew it reading just the first sentence.

      It is more important to business that the UI look the same across platforms (I know, I am business, and we use LO) so I am not sure why you would use that as a reason for looking more native.

      • You are business? Do you mean like, Lord Business? Or are you the embodiment of business?

        Look, you may be business, but I'm IT, and when you decide to install LibreOffice on everyone's computers, I'm the one who has to support those people in figuring out how to use it. I can tell you right now, looking non-native is going to kill it on a lot of businesses.

        And I happened to be working on an OSX machine last night, but I'm working on a Windows 8 computer this morning, because I'm not so much a "MacOS us

        • You may believe what you like. I have a computer degree (BS), am in charge of an I.T. department serving 500 employees, have been a computer professional for nearly 30 years, and have probably used more different types of machines and operating systems than you have even read about.

          We support LO every single day, and it if looked different and acted differently on different machines, this would not help with support- it would hinder it. I am not saying this might be perfect for every organization, but sa

    • by donaldm ( 919619 )

      One of my problems with LibreOffice (and OpenOffice, and some other FOSS apps) is that it doesn't fit with native UI conventions. It doesn't look like a native application, it doesn't feel like a native application, and it doesn't behave like a native application.

      What pray tell is a "native" application supposed to look like?

      Although it may seem like a very superficial thing, it makes it much harder to sell in a business setting. First, because a lot of business users (including "decision makers") are pretty superficial, and using a non-native UI makes it look cheap and unfinished. Second, because if it doesn't feel or behave like the applications that users are familiar with, then it's going to be jarring and confusing, requiring more training and resulting in more help desk trouble calls.

      You would have been better to say "If It does not look and feel like a Microsoft application then we don't want it". I can counter what you said but why bother since so called "decision makers" are pretty superficial.

      So when I read that LibreOffice "has got a lot of UX and design love", I was hoping that some of the incongruences were fixed. Looking at the OSX version, it seems that it's gotten worse. It looks distinctly like an application written for Linux that was hastily ported to OSX.

      While I cannot comment on the OSX port as far as I am concerned the Linux and the MS Windows versions of LibreOffice look pretty much the same in GUI and functionality.

      • What pray tell is a "native" application supposed to look like?

        ... like the other applications on that platform. It's really not a hard concept. Go look at other professional applications that were built specifically for each platform. Your product should look like *that* on each particular platform.

        Ideally, on Gnome, it should look like it was written to run on Gnome. On KDE, like it was designed for KDE. On OSX, like it was made by Apple to run on OSX, and yes, on Windows, it should ideally feel like it was made by Microsoft for that particular version of Windo

    • @nine-times: 'One of my problems with LibreOffice (and OpenOffice, and some other FOSS apps) is that it doesn't fit with native UI conventions'

      I've sat people down in front of LibreOffice Writer - and they can't tell the difference. LibreOffice-Writer (1) A First Look [youtube.com]

      Define 'native UI conventions' and give examples where the LibreOffice breaks them and if you're talking about the 'Office ribbon', then no one likes it, it makes simple tasks more complicated and is totally non-intuitive ...
  • No ribbon (Score:5, Funny)

    by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Thursday January 29, 2015 @09:28PM (#48936543) Journal

    All menus and no ribbons yuck. Sticking with Office

    • And the menu items stay in the same place on every click I suppose.
    • Re:No ribbon (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Ice Station Zebra ( 18124 ) on Thursday January 29, 2015 @10:57PM (#48936959) Homepage Journal

      All ribbons and no menus yuck. Sticking with Libre Office.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I was thinking the same thing. Nobody likes the ribbon. It's like one of the benefits I always highlight when selling a Linux computers.

    • Re:No ribbon (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29, 2015 @11:04PM (#48936981)

      This post was modded funny but I am not sure whether the poster was joking or not. The Slashdot groupthink mandates that everybody hate the ribbon interface, but you do realize that there are some people in the world who do not automagically subscribe to it, don't you?

      • by lippydude ( 3635849 ) on Friday January 30, 2015 @06:41AM (#48938279)
        @Anonymous Ribbon Supporter: "This post was modded funny but I am not sure whether the poster was joking or not. The Slashdot groupthink mandates that everybody hate the ribbon interface, but you do realize that there are some people in the world who do not automagically subscribe to it, don't you?"

        It's understandable why you would want to remain anonymous ..
        • It's understandable why you would want to remain anonymous ..

          The only one likely to have anything useful to say about The Ribbon is the full time writer, analyst, clerical worker or office manager --- and he or she is isn't posting to Slashdot.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29, 2015 @10:04PM (#48936711)

    Having used both, I think LibreOffice Calc sucks compared to Excel. Every time I use it, I come across at least one limitation it has, that Excel does not. Sometimes it's usability-related, but frequently it's just because it doesn't implement a particular feature. It's a death by a thousand paper cuts. I don't think anybody who works on the project realises quite how bad it is, otherwise they would surely have rewritten the whole thing by now, rather than persevering with what's clearly a dead-end codebase.

    I used to use Excel very heavily for work. Not only is Excel (2007 or later) easier and quicker to use (and not just because of the ribbons), but there are also things in Excel that are either a pain or simply impossible to achieve in a sensible way in Calc. Using Calc is like if I was used to using Photoshop and then somebody came along and gave me Paint.NET and said it could do everything Photoshop does. It might technically be feasible to achieve all the same outcomes, but it sure as hell isn't going to be as easy, and you're going to be fighting against the software and doing things extra manually half the time. (Not that I have anything against Paint.NET; it's a great bit of software if you're not trying to do everything that Photoshop does. Maybe this was a bad metaphor.)

    So, for all Excel's flaws, if I was using spreadsheets for anything remotely serious on anything like a regular basis, I would buy a copy of Excel. But not the 2013 version; what the hell were they thinking with that UI?

    • I don't use Calc or Excel much, but I ran into two such limitations just recently. So, for anyone looking for concrete examples, here are two:

      - Column limitation. A student of mine wrote a Java program that exported data into a spreadsheet, using some library or other (don't remember which). Now, I was impressed that this automatically started up Calc, when my student had clearly used Excel. However, as an initial step, the program created a zillion columns. Crash - max columns exceeded. Why should there be

      • by ssam ( 2723487 )

        Looks like the column limit is still an issue. https://bugs.documentfoundatio... [documentfoundation.org]
        "The tl;dr is: "increasing the column limit will increase the the memory needed for every sheet extremelly" unless we "change the column container to a dynamic container," a change that "might take much more time" than a month."
        On the other hand 4.2 made big changes to how data is held in spreadsheets https://wiki.documentfoundatio... [documentfoundation.org] so maybe there is some improvement for large sheets if you don't actually hit the the hard limi

      • Re:For example (Score:4, Informative)

        by devent ( 1627873 ) on Friday January 30, 2015 @08:06AM (#48938589) Homepage

        Your student should have used a real database with Gnuplot to plot the data. Calc/Excel is only good if people enter the data and if you have a million data rows than the data is coming from some database or automatic data source anyway. What is the point in using Calc/Excel for a million data rows?

      • Why should there be any sort of limit, other than exhausting all memory in the computer?,/i>

        I don't know, maybe you should first find out which version of Excel you're having difficulty with and seeing their limitations page.

        16,384 columns max in Excel apparently.

        At least with LO, you can at least edit the code to fix this and make columns dynamically allocate!

    • by theCoder ( 23772 )

      That's funny - I ran into the opposite problem just this week when I tried to open a Calc spreadsheet in Excel. The spreadsheet used the Calc function DAYSINMONTH, which Excel apparently doesn't have an equivalent for.

      I also found out that Excel cannot open two different files that happen to have the same base filename at the same time. Apparently this is a long standing issue with Excel. You have to rename one of the files. So Excel isn't the bastion of perfect usability either. Excel has some nice fe

    • Things I use LibreOffice Calc for because Excel does them poorly or not at all.
      1) An independent window per spreadsheet without having to start a new excel program and then load the file for each one.
      2) Diff or compare documents. Libreoffice is awesome at this one, highlighting the cell and showing a list of all changes.
      3) importing some CSVs with carriage returns. I can't remember the details, but Excell won't import cells with carriage returns and Calc will.

      That said, Excel has its own advantages too.

    • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )

      Compatibility, on the other hand, is one reason I've used them. In my youth I created a bunch of files in WordPerfect on the Mac. Originally they were compatible with Microsoft Word so I didn't care. At some point decades later I realized that by drifting from Mac to PC and to MS Office as a default, I could no longer open those files. Even installing a newer version of WordPerfect for Windows wasn't working for me. Out of desperation I tried LibreOffice a couple of months ago and got the files open. I was

    • by jafac ( 1449 )

      Excel has a very stubborn and evil UI bug. It's been there forever, and it appears that MS has no intention of ever fixing it, or ever giving users an option to suppress the behavior. Ever try to scroll a large document, and you'll see what I mean. It is impossible to scroll by half-cells (or >1 cell). It's very annoying, especially when you have cells which contain a paragraph or two of text, and makes it almost impossible to navigate without losing your place as you're reading a spreadsheet. The othe

    • Data analysis toolpak!

      Great for doing simple exploratory stats before you pull out the big guns. An equivalent is completely missing in Libre.

  • Auto Update (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29, 2015 @10:11PM (#48936739)

    Fix it. No one likes to visit the site and download the same thing over and over. Updater, make it update!

    • by rjejr ( 921275 )
      Not only that, when I checked for updates it rbought me to the download page for 4.3.5, no even 4.4. They shouldn't even call it an "update", they should call it a "new version" b/c you always have to download an entire new version. But I do, b/c it's free.
  • we had a hooker and blow party at my store.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I want a consistent experience from one release to the next, so I can make use of what I've already learned.

    I have an image in mind of UX designers gearing up in Redmond WA at the beginning of each product cycle for Windows or MS Office. It's a brand new crew because the old group moved on or were pushed out. The new people proclaim, "Boy, what we have is just awful. I don't blame customers for being critical. We need to make a clean break from the past."

    Same thing at Mozilla, etc. We don't want your f

    • by Anonymous Coward

      What is it with this "expericence" thing?

      I thought that was a pure marketing BS term used by C-level people wasting expensively paid time on a stage.

      I want programs to be tools, designed to get something done (unless some sort of video playe or game or whatever. Experience might be an appropriate term in that context).

      Ideally, I want the interface to enable me to do what I want to do while essentially not being noticed.
      Interface/OS/middeleware should be like good typography: if they do their job well, you s

  • "Libre Office" is really clunky to say and just sounds bad. Open Office stays on my machine for the sole reason that I like the name better.

    • I'm fully with you. RSM doesn't sleep because the adjective 'free' in English does not say what he wants to say. Get over it, Richard, you can't change it. Instead, find new names. LO would profit immensely without an akward combination of Spanish and English. Slashdot should start a contest for a good alternative among its readers. My entry is Liberty.

    • :D
  • by Mandrel ( 765308 ) on Friday January 30, 2015 @03:00AM (#48937755)
    I really appreciate LibreOffice's existence in making Linux a complete desktop OS. However do I find it hard to use due to the lack of live updates or an "Apply" button when making changes in character, paragraph, and, page dialogs. I must estimate the change I want, press "OK", and bring the dialog up again if it's wrong. It's still this way in 4.4.
    • live updates or an "Apply" button when making changes in character, paragraph, and, page dialogs

      Very Much This. It's an interface feature that's not at all new, and easily taken for granted until you come across an app that doesn't have it. Particularly in Draw, the lack of this feature wastes a lot of time.

      I am also waiting in vain for Writer to include a "normal" or "draft" view like in Word, making better use of the space on the screen (I don't need to see faux paper stuff all the time) while still retaining margins and showing page breaks unlike the useless (to me) "Web View".

      There's bugs registe

  • My main requirement for programs today is that they don't make me wait too much.
  • Well done to the team. The usability experience for Libre / OpenOffice has been traditionally bad so I'm glad some effort is going into fixing it. It's going to require constant effort and scrutiny to ensure the experience is good as it can be. A simple example of work still to do is the options dialog which is filled with a lot of advanced settings and clutter.

    The payoff is an application which is more productive, forgiving, usable and attractive.

  • Has spreadsheet conditional formatting been fixed yet? The last time I tried to use it, it went berserk after a few copy/paste/deletes of ranges of cells.

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Friday January 30, 2015 @09:43AM (#48939101) Homepage

    WE get a pretty UI... Yay!

    Because those damn show stopper bugs in Calc are not important. nobody really wants to have an accurate spreadsheet over pretty icons and UI redesign!

  • I've been waiting since, well, forever, for staropenlibre office's word processor to have a Draft or Galley mode (called "Normal" in Microsoft Word, or at least it was). Why in the world people think they should see the header, footer, and margins while writing and editing a document is beyond me.

    That's one reason I would love to switch to LaTex all the way: the IDEs out there have one panel where you do your writing and editing, and a separate panel for viewing the fully rendered result when or if you want to.

    • I don't want to wait in vain for draft mode,
      No, I don't want to wait in vain for draft mode.
      I don't wanna I don't wanna I don't wanna I don't wanna I don't wanna wait in vain,
      I don't wanna I don't wanna I don't wanna I don't wanna I don't wanna wait in vain.

      Still waiting...

Is it possible that software is not like anything else, that it is meant to be discarded: that the whole point is to always see it as a soap bubble?

Working...