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Open Source Software

Italian Military To Save Up To 29 Million Euro By Migrating To LibreOffice (softpedia.com) 284

Reader prisoninmate writes: Following on last year's bold announcement that they will attempt to migrate from proprietary Microsoft Office products to an open-source alternative like LibreOffice, Italy's Ministry of Defense now expects to save up to 29 million Euro with this move. We said it before, and we'll say it again, this is the smartest choice a government institution can do. And to back up this statement, the Italian Ministry of Defense announced that they expect to save between 26 and 29 million Euro over the next few years by migrating to the LibreOffice open-source software for productivity and adopting the Open Document Format (ODF).
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Italian Military To Save Up To 29 Million Euro By Migrating To LibreOffice

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  • Awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NeoGeo64 ( 672698 ) on Wednesday May 11, 2016 @10:06AM (#52090963) Homepage Journal
    Italy is officially smarter than the US.
    • Re:Awesome (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Giant Electronic Bra ( 1229876 ) on Wednesday May 11, 2016 @10:38AM (#52091267)

      Until they experience the SHIT that is Libre Office's failed attempt at styles. If you want to write something longer than 5 pages, its utterly useless.

      • Re:Awesome (Score:4, Informative)

        by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Wednesday May 11, 2016 @10:40AM (#52091281)

        Word's styles are better, but it makes up for this by making tables and pictures infuriating. Scientific papers are painful in Word.

        • Re:Awesome (Score:4, Interesting)

          by thsths ( 31372 ) on Wednesday May 11, 2016 @11:14AM (#52091511)

          Yes, when it comes to writing serious documents, most office packages struggle.

          Word has been getting a lot better, especially the new equation editor is miles ahead of the competition, and although not quite as good as LaTeX, good enough for most purposes.

          Styles are a contentious issues. LibreOffice has a very logical implementation of styles, but it only works if you are 100% disciplined and approach your styles with great planning and foresight. Microsoft styles have been getting a lot better, and they have always been easier to use. Again, Microsoft is good enough in most applications.

          Tables are painful in any program I have used, but Excel and the LibreOffice spreadsheet can deal with them reasonably well.

           

          • Re:Awesome (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Giant Electronic Bra ( 1229876 ) on Wednesday May 11, 2016 @11:40AM (#52091715)

            Libre Office's styles IN THEORY are OK, but they DON'T FUCKING WORK, the implementation of that (and a billion other things) is so buggy its just plain unusable. I have 50 page manuals. The actual font, point size, etc for each logical style is UTTERLY RANDOM, if you go to a document, hit enter, select "H3" (for example) LO picks ANY arbitrary font, point size, etc with no rhyme or reason to it. This has been true for at least the last 5 or 10 versions of the software.
            Try to make a horizontal rule in LO (or OO, its no better). You simply cannot do it without using some truly bizarro-world hack.
            Frames, especially if they contain tables, are an UTTER DISASTER (and putting a table inside a frame is the ONLY way to make text flow around it, its not like you can avoid doing this in anything but the simplest document).
            I could go on for hours. The program is a bleeding disaster. Its been years since I used Word, so I can't even begin to comment on what the situation is there, but LO is frankly just shit. Again, its fine for writing a 5 page memo where you just don't really give a crap what the formatting is or if everything is buggered, beyond that you need something like LyX, Scribus, or just plain write your stuff in LaTeX and live with the pain of constantly re-exporting it as you tweak every little thing into shape. At least you CAN get what you want, and Scribus actually has pretty good style management, for what it does. Problem with any of these tools is they're just not that good for WRITING. My current solution for serious writing where layout quality is going to matter is to just write the bulk text in LO and simply cut and past it all back into text frames in Scribus. You can do pretty large dumps of text if you know how, so its not THAT bad. The lesson is, each tool for what it is good for, and word processors are NOT good for doing quality layout, you have to use a separate application (I'm sure the various commercial DTP tools will work well too, but Scribus really is pretty good).

            • by tibit ( 1762298 )

              I find it easiest when professional documentation/manuals/books are done in DocBook and then processed into whatever presentation you desire. Of course you won't write DocBook by hand, use LyX for that.

          • Spreadsheets aren't tables. If only the people who insist on using a freakin' spreadsheet to write a document because they want to communicate some information that benefits from a tabular format would realize how much of a pain in the ass it is for their readers to read much less make contributions to it.
        • Re: Awesome (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Ken Hansen ( 3612047 )

          Scientific papers are painful in Word.

          Do Italian soldiers write a lot of scientific papers?

      • Re:Awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

        by chipschap ( 1444407 ) on Wednesday May 11, 2016 @12:06PM (#52091917)

        I published a 500+ page book using LO, and had no problem managing and using multiple styles. I had to put a little effort into learning how to do it but in the end it all worked well.

    • "Ministry of Defense now expects to save up to 29 million Euro "

      The proof will really how well the deployment is managed. The cost per seat of license with Microsoft office may be mitigated by 1 hours of lost productivity per month having to deal with a system that the users may not be familiar with. End users unlike normal IT folks sometimes will freak out the tiniest details.

  • Free is not (Score:5, Insightful)

    by s.petry ( 762400 ) on Wednesday May 11, 2016 @10:11AM (#52091013)

    One of the most overlooked items in these discussions is that Libre Office does not make it "free". "Free license cost" is the correct framing, but that is not what I read.

    Don't misunderstand my point, I'm anti-MS and want people to succeed in migrating away from their products. Many Governments have gone back to MS after people point out what I start with. "See, that Free software cost money so it failed to be free and we need MS again!" The expectations have to be correct or projects, especially Government projects, end up failing for the wrong reasons.

    • Re:Free is not (Score:5, Insightful)

      by loonycyborg ( 1262242 ) on Wednesday May 11, 2016 @10:27AM (#52091163)
      Both kinds of office are extremely inefficient and require a lot of training to use effectively. But even if they can't even afford the costs of training with libreoffice then ms office is even more likely to be a failure. Many people think that ms office is obvious and known to everyone, but going, say, from ms office xp to ms office 2003 will take as much training as going to libreoffice. And, naturally, MS will always expect them to use latest and greatest things with greatest retraining costs. So, you could as well go with libreoffice in any case. If you fail with it then you would fail with office 2016 either.
      • Actually, M$-office was their best product in MO - now suffering from bloat and trying too hard to make hard things to easy.

        A couple of years ago OpenOrfice sort of sucked - today libreoffice is quite usable and getting better. (The fork really helped things ).

        So - is it time to short M$ stock? Not sure - they get a huge amount of money from government contracts - seem to have bought the right congressmen etc..

        The business model for today's large companies has changed as we drifted into being a 'cartel So

      • by s.petry ( 762400 )

        Fair points. I was not in any way intending "end user training costs" because that is quite different. Most companies don't pay people to learn Word or Excel, it's expected that you know or can figure it out. Tell 99% of those people that Writer is Word and they will never know the difference. Power users developing macros and such will, and sure their training will remain the same.

        There is still a helpdesk needed, there is still provisioning needed, there is still patching needed, etc... From the SA s

    • Re:Free is not (Score:4, Insightful)

      by peragrin ( 659227 ) on Wednesday May 11, 2016 @11:32AM (#52091671)

      You are also forgetting the Microsoft is pushing office 2016 into the cloud. Governments can't store their work on microsofts servers.

      I expect to see more and more of this as Microsoft pushes more and more cloud based control of their software.

      Yes I do know that you can use office 2016 without a network connection, but Microsoft is combining everything under a single login. Email calendar office 365 Windows 10 all tied to a single user login. All tied to the cloud. Governments militaries, even most business can't have any of their data exposed to the cloud that way.

      • Re: Free is not (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Ken Hansen ( 3612047 )

        You are also forgetting the Microsoft is pushing office 2016 into the cloud. Governments can't store their work on microsofts servers. I expect to see more and more of this as Microsoft pushes more and more cloud based control of their software.

        Of course, you know that MS is making the entire Azure Cloud stack part of the next iteration of Windows Server, thereby allowing gov't entities to build their own private cloud that takes the place of MS public cloud, right? The gov't can run their own cloud on t

      • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Wednesday May 11, 2016 @11:57AM (#52091845)

        You are also forgetting the Microsoft is pushing office 2016 into the cloud. Governments can't store their work on microsofts servers.

        Yes, they can. There is no technical reason they can't. They just need to adjust their laws and policies to match Microsoft's offerings and policies.

        Email calendar office 365 Windows 10 all tied to a single user login. All tied to the cloud. Governments militaries, even most business can't have any of their data exposed to the cloud that way.

        You keep making this mistake. Yes, they can. They absolutely can. If they want to use Microsoft software, then they better get used to working this way.

        I for one hope Microsoft takes a very hard stance here and makes it impossible for anyone (including enterprises and governments) to not have a network connection when using Microsoft software. That includes computers handling classified information. These computers need to have internet connections so that they can "phone home" to Microsoft. Who do these upstart customers think they are, trying to tell Microsoft how to architect their software?

      • I assure you that governments can and do store their work on Microsoft's servers, regularly.

        In the U.S., there are many government agencies already using Microsoft Azure Government and Office 365 in government cloud, including HHS, DoD, FAA, NIST, and the U.S. Army. Microsoft is on track to have their cloud FedRAMP "High" certified this summer, which will open the door to even greater usage, as security is one of the last arguments of the agencies who have not yet moved.

      • There is still a local version. Microsoft aren't about to kill the market that keeps them afloat.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      I have used LibreOffice for presentations and some text work for quite a while. My take is that you do not save much (but also do not pay more) on the template side. You do save on the license fees, and suddenly you are not OS-locked anymore. (I have had zero problems moving documents between Linux and Windows version of LibreOffice). In addition, you get rid of the brain-dead "ribbon" interface that wastes precious vertical screen area. And another angle is that ODF fulfills archiving requirements that MS

      • by SQLGuru ( 980662 )

        You do know that you can unpin the ribbon if that little bit of screen space is at such a premium, right? Most of the time, I'm not running Word full screen and I'm zooming out so that fonts don't look so huge......the space the ribbon takes up isn't really that big of a deal to me. Maybe you need a new laptop with something more than 1366x768 resolution.

        • by gweihir ( 88907 )

          If it is not an issue to you, why would you conclude it is not an issue to me? Maybe I am just able to keep more of a page in focus at a time than you?

      • In other words everyone's use case is identical to yours and moving to LO doesn't require any changes to business processes, templates, macros, complex formulas and graphs or anything else because it's 100% compatible with MSO.

  • How long? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jawtheshark ( 198669 ) *
    How long a Microsoft representative goes on a friendly business lunch followed by a good golf game (or the Italian equivalent) with the people who make decisions?

    These government switches rarely last long because it sets bad precedents. Luckily the decision makers in my government are so heavily convinced that proprietary software is "best of breed", what we'll never see any important use of open source software anywhere at the state.

  • Writer is fine... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by chispito ( 1870390 ) on Wednesday May 11, 2016 @10:15AM (#52091049)
    Writer is a passable substitute for MS Word, but Calc doesn't come close to Excel, and most cube critters already have years of experience abusing Excel. It's the old saying, "When all you have is a hammer..."
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Writer is a passable substitute for MS Word, but Calc doesn't come close to Excel, and most cube critters already have years of experience abusing Excel. It's the old saying, "When all you have is a hammer..."

      This is why you won't see it in the US DoD, along with:

      -MS Access is the only database a regular user has access to, so Access style "SQL" and VB is required.
      -MS Project (and Project server) are in heavy use. I don't think LibreOffice has an equivalent for these (?)
      -SharePoint lock in (and no, we can't access the SQL Server backend to use as a real DB instead of MS Access in most cases)
      -Compatibility with whatever the Prime Defense contractor for that program is using, and we cannot compel them to use anyt

    • Writer is a passable substitute for MS Word, but Calc doesn't come close to Excel, and most cube critters already have years of experience abusing Excel.

      I think it's all in your perspective. People who use Word's more "advanced" features probably think that it is essential, too. But that's a very small segment of the general office population (probably less than 5%).

      And I think that's probably true of Excel as well. Most of the office folks I know can barely do anything with Excel other than entering data into a pre-existing spreadsheet. Of the remainder, most of them use it for relatively simple tasks that never make use of advanced functions (e.g.,

      • I'd guess if you looked at office worker usage of Excel, you'd probably find only a couple percent of office workers actually use those advanced functions which you couldn't find in Calc.

        Unfortunately, that relatively small percentage are creating all the reports and templates the rest of the lot are using.

        • Unfortunately, that relatively small percentage are creating all the reports and templates the rest of the lot are using.

          That's often true -- so that raises two more questions:

          (1) These are often the most tech-savvy people in an organization, so isn't it easier for them to retrain to use a new piece of software, or hire people who can use cheaper or more flexible software? (And would it be cheaper to retrain 2% of the office workforce to avoid licensing stuff to 100% of them that 98% of them don't use?)

          (2) In most cases, the "normal office workers" are just entering data. Why exactly do they need full-fledged Excel on th

    • Re:Writer is fine... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by StormReaver ( 59959 ) on Wednesday May 11, 2016 @11:39AM (#52091703)

      ...Calc doesn't come close to Excel....

      Let's assume for a moment that you are correct. I'm not saying that you're right, but I'll accept it for the sake of argument. Neither I nor any of my customers that use Calc have experienced any major problems with it. Quite the opposite, in fact. Excel's amortization function, for example, rounds incorrectly in many cases; whereas Calc's corresponding amortization function rounds correctly.

      I have learned over time to not trust Excel's math.

      ...most cube critters already have years of experience abusing Excel.

      This is a non-sequitur that Microsoft likes to throw into arguments it is losing, and is the last refuge of the desperate. This is a particularly shallow argument, as new versions of Office have required extensive retraining due to major user interface changes.

    • by Idou ( 572394 )

      Calc doesn't come close to Excel

      This is a feature, not a bug. After spending nearly two decades with Excel, I found the optimal way to use it to be as follows:

      - Your data should be separate "data sheets" (hopefully pulling from an actual DB table,view, or query)
      - Your pretty report should be a separate sheet that uses the same "smart copied" formula (usually with the index function like sum(if(...(if...(if... etc. . .
      - If you are capturing data, that should go into a table (I ended up using a custom VBA for this for the MS world)

    • It's the old saying, "When all you have is a hammer..."

      You think Excel abuse is bad? Most of the time when I ask my customers for a screenshot they send me a Word document with a picture in it. A picture which has been resized to a lower resolution than the original, thanks to Word. The ridiculousness is that saving an actual image file is the exact same number of steps:

      Press PrtSc to take a screenshot
      Click the Start button
      Click on the program (Word or Paint)
      Press Ctrl-V
      Press Ctrl-S

      But no, I never just get a damn image of what they're looking at, it's always

    • by KGIII ( 973947 )

      By your comment, I'm thinking you must know. But, for everyone else, have you *seen* the things people (somehow?) manage to accomplish in Excel? WTF?

      Over the years, I worked with numerous municipal and private enterprises. I got some of the strangest shit in spreadsheet format. "You wrote me an email in Excel, including adding images and attachments, and I'm supposed to do what with this?"

  • Italian Military To Save Up To 29 Million Euro

    Ukrainian military could, probably, equip several infantry brigades with that money... For the Italian that may cover the amount spent per year on office-supplies and coffee-makers.

    • by fph il quozientatore ( 971015 ) on Wednesday May 11, 2016 @11:33AM (#52091675)
      To be fair, coffee-making is a serious business in Italy.
      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        To be fair, coffee-making is a serious business in Italy.

        They designed and built an espresso maker for the ISS. That was complex enough. But they also had to design cups that work in space because you don't drink espresso out of a bag. Without gravity, a traditional cup doesn't work too well - the current solution uses a specially shaped cup that uses surface tension to hold the liquid inside it, with a special spout that lets you suck it in like you drink coffee normally.

        There's a photo of it near the bott

        • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Wednesday May 11, 2016 @03:50PM (#52093865)

          I once commissioned a project in a petro-chemical plant in China. In the control room of the plant in the corner was a very dusty but incredibly nice commercial espresso machine, monster of a thing which looked like it hadn't been used in years.

          I asked one of the Chinese operators about it. Apparently the original engineering / construction contractor for the plant was an Italian firm. They brought that with them to keep their workers happy. Once the plant was up and running they left it behind and no one had the heart to throw it out. Next to the machine was a well maintained green tea station.

  • I wonder if this is just a ploy to get MS to negotiate a better deal. That seems to be what happens after an announcement that some major government organization is dumping MS Office.
  • Ugh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kamapuaa ( 555446 )

    LibreOffice kind-of works in a pinch, but it fucking sucks for easy little one-person projects, and is basically broken for an organization. How much is Office on a big license? $75 a year? How much are the salaries they pay? $37.50 an hour? Using a much higher quality product will save an employee more than two hours per week.

    LibreOffice (with OpenOffice before it) is one of those projects which has had great potential and is about to be usable for like ten years now.

    • Re:Ugh (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Calabacin ( 1358875 ) on Wednesday May 11, 2016 @10:42AM (#52091289)

      LibreOffice (with OpenOffice before it) is one of those projects which has had great potential and is about to be usable for like ten years now.

      I see these kind of comments all the time and barely ever anyone actually says what is wrong with it. I've been using LibreOffice (and OpenOffice before that) for a long time and I agree it had its issues at first, but it's been years since I ever had any problem with it. As a matter of fact, when a file is slightly corrupted MS Office will never open it, but LibreOffice will, and after saving it again the file becomes usable again.

      I am honestly interested in this, I'm not trolling, so could you please give a few examples of "great potential but little usability"?

      • I've never been able to open an excel spreadsheet with macros in LibreOffice and have it work. Have an excel spreadsheet where someone has set up filters for ease of use? Doesn't work.
      • Re:Ugh (Score:4, Informative)

        by HelpTheNewOverlord ( 4436409 ) on Wednesday May 11, 2016 @11:59AM (#52091869)

        For the people I know, the main problem are macros. It is almost impossible to develop macros in Libre/OpenOffice. The language seems to be a mix of vb/java or python/java that makes it necessary to understand at least two languages to be usable, the API is HUGE and complex, and so on, and on.

        On the other hand, it seems to be going in the right direction: Upcoming PyUNO improvements in LibreOffice 5.1 Matthew Francis [libreoffice.org]

        If it continues like that, it may soon be *easier* to write macros for LibreOffice than for MS office as python is much better/easier/powerful than VB

        • If I use MSOffice, I'm tied to a specific version of Visual Basic for Applications that breaks between the different versions. LibreOffice has a compatibility engine for VBA (works pretty well in my experience but I haven't used it too much), PLUS they offer Java and Python as alternatives. That's a great reason to avoid MS right there.
          • I really agree with you, but I already know Java/Python/VB/VBA so it is not that hard to jump from one to another.

            On the other hand, performance was a bottleneck while running scripts outside LibreOffice process and it seems to be solved in 5.1(also in the PDF that I linked)

        • by jbengt ( 874751 )
          LibreOffice API is Huge and complex, like you said. (MSOffice API is also big and complex, but a little easier to follow & understand.) On the other hand, most of of the macros I've written in spreadsheets are math/engineering functions that are called from a cell the same way the built-in functions are, so I don't really need much in the way of understanding the spreadsheet object model. Based on that, I've found it to be about the same effort writing macros in Calc and Excel, with Calc occasionally
  • by LichtSpektren ( 4201985 ) on Wednesday May 11, 2016 @10:51AM (#52091367)
    Anybody that's used LibreOffice recently knows that it's equal or better to MSOffice in just about every respect; the compatibility with OOXML has been particularly good since version 5. But you wouldn't know it from the flood of slashdotters that came in here a minute after the story was posted to talk about how bad LO is, in vague and undescribed ways.
    • Have they fixed Excel macro support now? Admittedly I am not on a current version.
      • Car analogy: if you're buying a Nissan, why would installing Ford extras be your primary concern?

        • Because in order for the Nissan to be considered entirely compatible with Ford, it also needs to be compatible with all the Ford extras? Seems perfectly reasonable to me. In my workplace we have hundreds of spreadsheet documents floating around with macros embedded and we need to be able to run those macros just the same, whether we use LibreOffice or not.
    • by Potor ( 658520 )
      I would use LO, and at one point had actually switched, but I need to use WordFast for my translation work, and there are really no comparable plugins for LO. (Don't bother listing them - the ones I have tried don't do what I need as efficiently as WF).
  • the Italian Ministry of Defense announced that they expect to save between 26 and 29 million Euro over the next few years

    How many years is "a few" ? 3 or 20?

  • Show of hands: Who knew the Italians had a military?

    https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-4Pk... [blogspot.com]

  • The decision was made final when they noticed that the built-in translation tool allowed them to say "We surrender" in over 200 languages.

  • by Britz ( 170620 ) on Wednesday May 11, 2016 @11:37AM (#52091693)

    I am very much in favour of governments using free software. Governments are the heads of communities, after all. Public funds should benefit public software (e.g. free software or community software) wherever possible. And when communicating with the public via documents exchange or otherwise, it should be possible for the public to engage in that communication using free software, if possible.

    Mind you, those are all political reasons. I have researched this topic a lot. And I have to agree with Microsoft that licensing costs are a very, very small part of overall costs of software projects. Thus any cost savings could be offset by any number of slightly more cost effectiveness in another area that is costlier. Such as training, for example, where Microsoft argues that their monopoly in the Office software market lowers the cost of training. After all, a license of MS Office should not be more than a day or two of what a government worker earns, if you count correctly. And then there are all kinds of other nasty gotchas when converting from one office to another. Especially of not all government bodies convert. Because they no use partly incompatible office suites.

    So I am not buying any cost argument. At least not for 5 years. After that, and if most of the government has converted, you get the benefit of not having to pay for the upgrade, and the next upgrade. But if you discount those future cost savings to the present, they become rather small.

    Then again, politics is not about honesty and voters and the public don't understand community software or free software. So just keep using whatever questionable argument you want. For example the "Linux is more secure" one. Or this cost savings one. The other side is doing that too. Microsoft has spread so much FUD about Linux over the years. Ballmer himself compared free software to cancer. Just remember that it is all bullshit.

    Do I sound jaded?

  • MS will offer a discounted or free license and maybe some free support for some period just to reduce the apparent benefit of migrating. Eventually they will ramp the license fee back up.
  • But.. but.. saving money is bad for the economy! Those Windows aren't going to break themselv-- oh wait, that's exactly what happens.

  • Hereâ(TM)s a nice trick for you:

    1. Open a new Excel spreadsheet.

    2. Put a 1 in cell A1.

    3. Copy that âoe1â down the screen by dragging on the dot in the lower right corner.

    4. In cell B1 put the following formula: =SUM(A$1:A1) (Recall that the $ means absolute reference so the SUM will always start at row 1.)

    5. Copy that cell down the screen in the same manner.

    6. Notice how column B now shows a running total of what is in column A.

    7. Drag select a bunch of cells in column A and move them o

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