Apache OpenOffice

Wednesday July 31, 2013

Developer in AOO, 1year celebration

1 year as developer with AOO [Apache OpenOffice]


Many of the big open source software packages are to a high degree driven by developers employed by companies who sponsor manpower. The sponsorship allows a faster development than otherwise possible which is a benefit for everybody. There is however a negative side to this, today we see some packages being in reality controlled by the sponsoring companies.

It has from time to time been alleged that AOO is controlled by a company, my 1year in the community shows that individuals who care have a much higher influence that any sponsoring company. In ASF [Apache Software Foundation] (and AOO in particular) there is a sound balance between sponsorships and active volunteers, that balance is part of what makes ASF and AOO really cool communities.

This month a year ago, I joined the Apache OpenOffice community, as with many things in life it happened by accident. I needed to upgrade my OpenOffice program and determined that it was not available in Danish. A short mail to dev@openoffice.apache.org started a chain of events. I got a mail back telling me that danish was nearly completed, and if I would be interested in translating the missing part.

While doing the translation (and compiling AOO, after all I am a full blooded developer), I saw how awkward the translation process was and started to document it, that caused many funny discussions on the mailing list, and I am sure that my stupid (seen in the rear mirror) questions must have driven one or two to the edge, but everybody was helpful and did their best to help me gain the needed knowledge. Having documented the current process I started on a bigger challenge, to define an automated failure proof work process.

My motivation and curiosity was rewarded by the community with committer status. I thought, they did it, to stop my flow of small patches (as committer I am allowed to change source/web etc. directly) but reality is that the community wanted to embrace my ideas. I learned that AOO does not have a steering committee that accept/reject patches, all committers have equal rights and responsibilities. AOO works The Apache Way, all members of the community are equal, there is a group (PMC [Project management committee] ) that handles project logistic. The biggest and most positive surprise came when we had to decide on a new release, ALL community member were asked to vote and give their opinion. That freedom and trust gave my motivation a big kick.

slowly over time, I got deeper involved. wiki.openoffice.org suffered from lack of maintenance, that brought me in contact with an internal ASF project called "infra". INFRA is a group of volunteers that keeps the ASF infrastructure floating. Infra gave me the possibility to install a new vm, reinstall the wiki and maintain it. Infra used the same method as the old AOO community members, they let me do things alone, helped when asked, but silently watched me and held a hand out when I was about to fall.

The AOO community can best be viewed as loads of specialists, each concentrating on their field of interest, but at the same time everybody are patient and open to help each other.  Some of the members spent a lot of time on the community itself, making sure its a nice place to be and that everybody is listened to.

About half a year ago, we had some strong discussions about the LO/AOO split, to me the split is really wasting human resources. The discussion was mixed with accusations that IBM controlled AOO. I found it interesting to note that the volunteers I knew was IBM employees did have quite different opinions (not following the company line, as others claimed) and was just individuals like the rest of us. I complained and argued that our PMC should do something, because I saw the PMC as a steering committee (hence the name), but I soon learned the hard fact, PMC is not controlling anything, but merely a group of volunteers that among others care for the community as a whole.

One day my inbox contained a new surprise, an invitation to be part of PMC.  Being PMC focused my interest on other corners of the community, and It interesting to see that developers are just a corner of the community, there are other parts equally important like QA, marketing, web site maintenance.

Today I maintain together with other volunteers our core services, participate in design discussions, and develop my own little part (a new translation workflow). I am also deeply involved in infra work, where I  integrate a new monitoring system, that covers services and vms for all Apache projects.

A big thank to ASF and AOO for showing me, how software can be developed in a true free spirit !

Give it a try, you don't need to use as many hours as I do, to feel how motivating the free spirit can be.


jan I

Danish, living in southern Spain. I have designed/developed network protocols, embedded OS and SCADA systems since '77.

Monday July 29, 2013

Interview with the developers of PrOOo-Box

Most of the posts on this blog are about the Apache OpenOffice product and the community of volunteers that develops it.  But occasionally we write about interesting things in the broader Apache OpenOffice project, the ecosystem of extension developers, consultants, trainers, etc., that help users get value from OpenOffice.  Today I'm pleased to feature another part of the ecosystem in this interview with the developers of PrOOo-Box.

What is PrOOo-Box?  How does it differ from what a user downloads fromthe Apache OpenOffice website?

With the PrOOo-Box, a user not only gets Apache OpenOffice, but also other interesting programs from the open source area, such as Lightning, Sunbird, Inkscape and FreeMind. Also included are a part of the documentation and useful OpenOffice-specific templates, extensions and macros. In addition, a user gets the programs for different operating systems.

What does the name "PrOOo-Box" mean?

The name PrOOo-Box is a pun, that "OOo" comes from OpenOffice.org.

Pro = It is good. OOo = OpenOffice.org.  In a Box = In the past, the CD was delivered in a Box. For the future, we will use the name PrOOo-Box although OpenOffice.org is now called Apache OpenOffice, but the name "PrOOo-Box" has a long history, we don't want to change it rashly.

What is the history of PrOOo-Box?

The PrOOo box is a creation of the OpenOffice.org German community that was started in the early 2000s. The box was active up until to the secession of the LibreOffice fork. The development of the box was not continued after 2010.   Then we, the new team of PrOOo-Box (currently Jörg Schmidt, Jan-Christian Wienandt and Detlef Nannen), have taken care of the PrOOo-box and its development since 2012.

Is PrOOo-Box free?

Yes, the PrOOo-Box is free, in the sense of free software. The contents of the box are available under various free licenses. Downloading the ISO images is free and will remain free. In the future, as well as earlier, the physical box is also sold in order to cover our costs (e.g., servers) and to support the local community.

What feedback have you received from users of PrOOo-Box?

The PrOOo-box has a long history, and in course of time received a lot of positive feedback, e.g., from computer magazines or private persons. For example we received the following comment from a German user:

"I think it's great, that you continue the project. Believing in OOo was the right decision."

Have you thought of extending PrOOo-Box to support other languages?

In principle it would be possible, but we don't have enough capacity yet. At the moment we are a team of 3 persons, who created the PrOOo-Box only by volunteer work.

What next?  Do you have any other things you would like to bring to PrOOo-Box?

At the moment we have, in addition to the web-site, only a DVD version of the PrOOo box. In the future we want to provide CD versions, which will contain only the content for a specific OS such as Linux. We also plan to publish a version specifically for business users, and we are working on a "live" version which only will contain specific content for users in the church.

If someone wants to help further develop PrOOo-Box, what should they do?  Where can they go to learn more?

Interested parties can contact us either via our web site www.prooo-box.org or directly via email info-AT-prooo-box.org.

Interview mit den Entwicklern der PrOOo-Box

Die meisten Beiträge in diesem Blog handeln von Apache OpenOffice und der Community, die es entwickeln. Aber manchmal schreiben wir über interessante Dinge im weiteren Apache OpenOffice-Projekt, dem Ökosystem Entwickler von Erweiterungen, Berater, Trainer, etc., die Benutzern helfen, die Vorteile von OpenOffice nutzen zu können. Heute bin ich froh, in einem Interview einen anderen Teil des Ökosystems vorzustellen, die PrOOo-Box uns deren Entwickler.

Was ist PrOOo-Box? Wie sieht es aus, was unterscheidet die PrOOo-Box vom Download von der Apache OpenOffice Webseite?

Mit der PrOOo-Box, erhält ein Benutzer nicht nur Apache OpenOffice, sondern dazu weitere interessante Programme aus dem Open-Source-Bereich, wie Thunderbird, Sunbird, Inkscape und FreeMind. Ebenfalls enthalten sind ein Teil der Dokumentation und nützliche OpenOffice-Templates, Erweiterungen und Makros. Darüber hinaus werden den Benutzern diese Programme für verschiedene Betriebssysteme zur Verfügung gestellt.

Was bedeutet der Name "PrOOo-Box"?

Der Name PrOOo-Box ist ein Wortspiel, dass "OOo" kommt von OpenOffice.org.
Pro = Es ist gut. OOo = OpenOffice.org. In einer Box = In der Vergangenheit wurde die CD in einer Box geliefert.

Für die Zukunft werden wir den Namen PrOOo-Box vorerst weiterverwenden, obwohl OpenOffice.org jetzt Apache OpenOffice heißt. Der Name "PrOOo-Box" hat eine lange Geschichte, wir wollen den Namen nicht vorschnell ändern.

Was ist die Geschichte der PrOOo-Box?

Die PrOOo-Box ist eine Entwicklung der deutschen OpenOffice.org-Gemeinde, und begann in den frühen 2000er Jahren. Die Box war aktiv bis zur Abtrennung des LibreOffice-Fork. Die Entwicklung der Box wurde nach 2010 nicht fortgesetzt. Ab 2012 hat das neue Team von PrOOo-Box (derzeit Jörg Schmidt, Jan-Christian Wienandt und Detlef Nannen), die Pflege der PrOOo-Box und die Weiterentwicklung übernommen.

Ist PrOOo-Box frei?

Ja, die PrOOo-Box frei, im Sinne von freier Software. Die Inhalte der Box sind unter verschiedenen freien Lizenzen verfügbar. Der Download des ISO-Images ist kostenlos und wird frei bleiben. In der Zukünftig soll es auch wieder eine die physische Boxgeben, die verkauft wird, um unsere Kosten zu decken (z. B. Server) und die lokale Gemeinschaft zu unterstützen.

Welches Feedback haben Sie von den Nutzern PrOOo-Box empfangen?

Die PrOOo-Box hat eine lange Geschichte, und im Laufe der Zeit erhielten viel positives Feedback, z.B. von Computer-Zeitschriften oder Privatpersonen. Zum Beispiel erhielten wir den folgenden Kommentar von einem deutschen Benutzer:

"Ich finde es toll, dass Sie das Projekt fortsetzen. Mein Glauben in OOo war die richtige Entscheidung."

Haben Sie daran gedacht sich PrOOo-Box in andere Sprachen zu unterstützen?

Im Prinzip wäre es möglich, aber wir haben nicht genug Kapazität. Im Moment sind wir ein Team von 3 Personen, die die PrOOo-Box nur durch ehrenamtliche Arbeit pflegen.

Was kommt als nächstes? Haben Sie andere Dinge, die Sie gerne mit PrOOo-Box bringen würde?

Im Moment haben wir  neben der Website nur eine DVD-Version der PrOOo-Box.  In der Zukunft wollen wir eine CD-Versionen bereitstellen, die nur den Inhalt für ein bestimmtes OS wie z. B. Linux enthält. Wir planen auch eine Version speziell für Business-Anwender zu veröffentlichen, und planen eine "Live"-Version, die nur bestimmte Inhalte für Benutzer in der Kirche zur Verfügung stellt..

Wenn jemand helfen will, die PrOOo-Box weiter zu entwickeln, was sollte sie oder er tun? Wohin können sie sich wenden, um mehr zu erfahren?

Interessenten können uns entweder über unsere Website www.prooo-box.org erreichen oder direkt per E-Mail an  info-AT-prooo-box.org.

Tuesday July 23, 2013

A short celebration, and then back to work

Society of Artists' Selection Committee, Sydney, 1907 / photographer Henry King

Cheers to the community on the successful release of Apache OpenOffice 4.0.  Full details of release can be found in our Release Notes.  You can download Apache OpenOffice 4.0 here.

This was a major release and a major effort for the many volunteers who worked on coding, testing, translation, support, marketing, documentation and other aspects of the project.  And thanks are due to ongoing support from other parts of the Apache Software Foundation, especially the Apache Infrastructure Team for their outsized effort to support our outsized project. 

It is summertime, at least for volunteers in the northern hemisphere,  and August is vacation time.  Many of us will be taking a break and enjoying time with friends and family.  But then we'll be back and working at full force, with a focus on:

  • Bringing additional language translations to AOO 4.0.  There are quite a few languages that are "almost done", but did not make it into this release.  But rather than wait until 4.1 we'll release these languages, in batches, as they become available.   Tentatively we're aiming for mid-September for the first batch.  If you want to help with a particular translation, we'd love to hear from you.
  • Apache OpenOffice 4.1.  We've jotted down some proposed ideas on our wiki.  We now need to turn that into a plan, ideally for a 4.1 release at the end of 2013.

Finally, as we transition from one major release to another, this is a great time for new volunteers in all areas to join the project.   If you are interested helping us make the next great version of OpenOffice, then we want to hear from you.  We're not only programmers, but are a community of testers, UI designers, web designers, technical writers, accessibility experts, translators, social media experts, etc.    Volunteers in all areas are welcome.   More information can be found on our Get Involved page.

Tuesday July 16, 2013


rejected stamp

Apache OpenOffice 4.0 Release Candidate 1 (Build 9702) has been rejected.  It was not good enough. Detlef, in our German-language community, first noted the crash two days ago, which was passed on to the developers by Regina.  We immediately started further testing to narrow down the problem.

Samer, in Canada, independently reported the crash a few hours later.  We then determined that the crash only occurred on Windows 8 64-bit systems.  Rob, in the United States, then worked with Herbert, in Germany, to find out where in the code the problem was.  After a few more emails and chats, we had a proposed fix to test. 

As community members in Germany and North America slept, Yuzhen was testing the fix in Beijing. And now, this morning, the fix is confirmed and we've agreed to produce a new Release Candidate.  If the new Release Candidate is free of serious issues it will be released next week.

This is how a global community of volunteers produce quality open source software.  There are skills required -- technical and social -- to coordinate a fix like this.  But it also requires something much more important:  a dedication to quality.  We know that OpenOffice is more than just another software tool for our users.  It is how you do work, how you write and communicate.  If OpenOffice crashes then your productivity crashes. 

For Apache OpenOffice 4.0, over 20 QA volunteers executed 1,221 regression test cases on 5 operating systems.  495 reported issues are resolved in this release, including many bugs reported in earlier releases.

We hope that you join us in encouraging these priorities.  We look forward to presenting you a high-quality OpenOffice 4.0 really soon.  Apache OpenOffice 4.0 is quality worth waiting for.

If you also have a passion for quality and attention to detail, then you might be interested in volunteering on our QA team.  You can read more about volunteering with the Apache OpenOffice project on our Get Involved page. 

Friday July 05, 2013

Facebook fanpage and the growing fanbase

A bit more then a year ago, we discussed the topic social media on our list. We decided to create official channels on different social media. I jumped in to join the administrator team of the official Apache OpenOffice Fan page. Since then, the number of fans has increased a lot.

At the beginning, the Facebook fan page was not really promising. We were happy if we got eight to twelve new fans per day. This is not a lot for a project that has 50 million downloads per year. But our group started growing more and more. Now we have 40 new fans every single day, and we have about two users per day who post on our pinboard.

Statistic about the growing number of the Apache OpenOffice Facebook fanpage

But it's not the number of fans that makes the Apache OpenOffice Fanpage so special. It's the activity of our fans we like so much. You know, as community members we are often a bit separated from the users. I mean, we don't see them...it's not like a band who, playing a concert, see their fans from the stage. Of course, we have download numbers, and we can assume that our product is widely used out there. But for real feedback we have to go to our social media.

We are surprised by the enthusiasm of the fan page community. Some of them are more then just fans. Sometimes we get really valuable feedback. And others have already asked how become a part of the community. For those who want more than just being a fan, I propose to join our dev mailing list. And for the rest we like to say a "big thank you Apache OpenOffice Fans!"

Monday July 01, 2013

Not interested

After midnight selling extras. There were many young boys selling very late these nights. Washington, D.C, April 1912

We get many emails, several per week, of individuals and companies wanting to "do business" with us.    Some of it is obviously spam, but some of it is quite serious.   The proposals do not have bad intentions, though they are often incompatible with our status as a non-profit organization.  We try to respond to these notes and in a respectful manner.

In general, if you are offering us money in return for a favor, we're not interested. The Apache OpenOffice project operates as part of the non-profit Apache Software Foundation.  We're publishing open source code for the public benefit.  We must operate fairly, without giving special advantage (or disadvantage) to any 3rd party. 

Some specific things we're not interested in:

  • We're not interested in bundling your application with our install in return for money.  But the Apache License permits you to make and distribute your own bundle.
  • We're not interested in endorsing your product.
  • We're not interested in adding a link to your website in return for you adding a link to ours.
  • We're not interested in taking your money in return for a special "advisory" role in the project.  We're a meritocracy.  Membership is not for sale.

But make no mistake -- we're not antagonistic to businesses or commercial use of OpenOffice.  In fact our license, the permissive Apache License, is one of the most business-friendly licenses around.  We want you to use our code.   But we cannot have "partners" in the same way that a for-profit corporation can.

Our lack of commercial entanglements with 3rd parties means that you can operate commercially without fear that your competitor has a "special relationship" with the project, giving them an unfair advantage.

On the other hand, we do encourage things like:

  • Contributions to the Apache Software Foundation, which benefit the ASF as a whole.  Dozens of companies that sponsor the ASF are acknowledged on the Thanks Page.
  • Contributions of code to the OpenOffice project, that helps us extend its capabilities.
  • Send us links to articles, news stories, tutorials, extensions, or other materials, related to OpenOffice.  If it is good, relevant and non-spammy, then we might link to it.  But we're never going to link to something purely for the sake of a link exchange.
  • If you offer services related to OpenOffice, then we welcome your profile submission for our consultants listings.
  • If you are doing something really interesting related to OpenOffice, maybe we'll interview you for an article on this blog.  Stories related to what the broader ecosystem is doing are interesting to our readers.

Monday June 17, 2013

With Apache OpenOffice you get what you don't pay for

Juichende jongens bij VSV-DFC / Boys cheering when their  favorite team scores

Apache OpenOffice is and always will be free to download from our website.  The license allows you to use it yourself and share copies with friends and families or even total strangers.  You may use it on home machines, in the office, with your small business, school, church, gardening club, etc.  And if you know how to program software, you can take the source code for OpenOffice and modify it and share it with others as well.  This is what open source means.

So it is sad when we receive emails from users, reporting that they have paid real money, as much as € 30 ($40 US), to websites in return for a link to our website.  These websites promise the user immediate access to "open source office software with support for the lowest price", claim that "supplies are limited" and that prices are "50% off, if you order within the next 2 minutes".  But after entering your credit card, or authorizing payment via SMS, you are merely redirected to the www.openoffice.org  website, where you can download the same Apache OpenOffice software that everyone else downloads for free!

Of course, the fact that you are reading this blog is evidence that you are familiar with OpenOffice and know that it is free.  The people who will be tricked into paying are those who do not read our blog, those who are not already familiar with OpenOffice. 

But with your help we can reach those in need of a free office suite, and make them aware of Apache OpenOffice and let them know that they can download it for free.   The more people who know about OpenOffice, the fewer people who will be fooled.   To help, go to our download page and the "Help Spread the Word" section.  Use any (or all) of those links to share the word about OpenOffice to your friends and family.   Let's try to make as many people as possible aware of OpenOffice!

Monday June 10, 2013

When will OpenOffice version X be released?

Grayson, Westley, Stanislaus County, Western San Joaquin Valley, California. Seventh and eighth grad . . ., 05/09/1940

I'm always impressed by the enthusiasm of OpenOffice users to try out the next great release.  A frequent question is, "When will it be released?"  I see this question on Facebook and Twitter, the Forums and mailing lists.    "When will version <insert next version> of OpenOffice be ready?"    I'd like to answer the question fully here, so we can refer users to this answer in the future.

It is tempting to give the response, "It will be released when it is ready".  But that sounds a bit snarky, although it is accurate.   But the truth is software engineering schedule estimation is notoriously difficult and predicting a specific date is a sure way of looking foolish later on.

There is a well-known diagram in the software industry of a triangle, with the sides labeled: "good", "cheap", "fast" and with the title, "Pick any Two".  This expresses the ever-present trade-off between quality, cost and schedule. 

In commercial software development arbitrary dates can (sometimes) be met, by dropping quality (or features) or by adding resources to tasks (increasing costs).  To some extent open source projects can also try to hit arbitrary dates by dropping quality.  But unlike commercial endeavors open source projects don't have the same ability to add resources to recover a schedule slip.  On the Apache OpenOffice project we are mainly volunteers, dedicating free time to the project, and that time varies according to school and holiday schedules and other personal needs.  So we cannot stick to a schedule in the same way that a commercial software publisher can.

OpenOffice is a mature product and users expect it to just work.  They are not looking for surprises.  Users want to spend time doing their task, their work, their business.  OpenOffice is a tool, a means to an end, and having a stable, familiar tool that gets the job done is golden. There is little pleasure in getting a new hammer and screwdriver every month, with new bugs, except for the small minority of technologists who relish the challenge and risk of frequent updates.  The rest of us have real work to do and don't want to worry about whether the feature that worked last week still works today.

So generally, we've been aiming for two high-quality release of Apache OpenOffice per year, with a cycle that looks approximately like this:

  • Brainstorm and discuss possible features.  Even before version N is released we're discussing what will be included in version N+1.  This includes specific new features, enhancements, new languages, bug fixes, etc.  Much of this is tracked in our Bugzilla issue tracker (for bugs and enhancements) and on our mailing lists and wikis (for major features).  The contents of the release are determined by the volunteers who do the work, based on their interests and motivations.  These are discussed, documented on the wiki and become the goal for the next release. 
  • Development of the new features occurs, the coding often occurring in "branches" which are segregated areas in our Subversion version control system which help the developers to not step on each other's toes when stabilizing their code.
  • As features are completed they are "merged into the trunk".  We regularly build install sets from the trunk, so project participants can try the new features as soon as they are ready and give feedback.
  • Once all the feature work is done for a release, we translate and test.
  • We iterate on testing and fixing bugs until we've eliminated all "release blocking" bugs and have something of sufficient quality to call a Release Candidate.  We then vote on the Release Candidate, and if approved it becomes the new release.
So rather than asking about dates, the smart question is to ask, "Where in the release cycle are you now?".  In the case of Apache OpenOffice 4.0, we're on that last step, finishing the translation and test work.  How long that step will last will depend on how many bugs are found, how many of them are release blockers, and how long it takes to fix them.  These are things that are not easy to predict.  Again, it comes down to the old saying: good, cheap, fast -- pick any two.

We welcome help from new volunteers in all parts of the Apache OpenOffice project.  If you want to learn more please have a look at our Get Involved page.

    Tuesday June 04, 2013

    The Sidebar: New And Improved

    Usually the phrase "new and improved" does not make much sense because something either is new or did already exist and was improved upon.  For the sidebar the situation is a little different.  The core implementation is new but the content, the panels, did already exist.  The concept, but not the name, of a sidebar has existed for many years both in Apache OpenOffice (and OpenOffice.org before that) and in IBM Lotus Symphony.  In OpenOffice.org it was named "task pane" and was used primarily in Impress to give access to backgrounds, layouts, and shape and slide animations.  Symphony renamed this to "property panel", extended it to all applications and covered even more frequently used tasks.

    Screenshot of Impress with sidebar.

    So, what did you improve?

    The sidebar panels come from three different sources and have been improved in the migration process:

    • The property panels that let you for example change the size of text or the color of shapes have all been migrated from Symphony.  In the process we have cleaned up the code, made some improvements and fixed many bugs.  While the property panels work really well, their implementation could profit from more cleanup.  Removing duplicated code could reduce their code size and their complexity considerably.  The one new property panel for inserting shapes into draw documents has roughly one tenth the number of code lines of the text property panel and still has about the same number of controls.
    • The Impress panels come from OpenOffice.  They allow you for example to control animations of slides and shapes.  The new framework of the sidebar made big cleanups of their implementations possible.  They are not view shells anymore; they are now regular controls.  If you don't know what a view shell is, good for you.
    • The third group consists of non-modal dialogs like the Navigator, the Gallery, or the Styles and Formatting dialog.  Only small changes were necessary to plug them into the sidebar.

    And what is new?

    The core implementation of the sidebar and the framework provided for panel developers is completely new.  The sidebar looks similar to the Symphony property panel but shares no code with it.  One important new feature is that the sidebar is easily configurable via the, well, configuration.  Another one is that extensions can now add new decks and panels that can freely mix with existing decks and panels.  More on that later.

    What exactly is "the sidebar"?

    The sidebar is a window at the right side of the edit view of Writer, Calc, Impress and Draw.  It provides access to frequently used tasks when editing documents. The content in the sidebar is organized into decks and panels.  Decks are containers of panels, one or more of them.  In very few cases there may not yet be a panel available for the current task. You can switch between decks by clicking on buttons in the tab bar at the right side of the sidebar. A menu allows you to hide decks that you don't need.

    The deck that is open by default is the "Properties" deck.  Its set of panels is context sensitive and varies depending on what you are currently doing.  For example, if you are editing text in Writer then the "Text" panel allows you to change the font, text attributes, text and background color.  The "Paragraph" panel has controls for changing bullet style, text alignment and various indents.  The "Page" panel lets you change page size and orientation.  It is collapsed by default.  That means that you can only see its title bar.  One click on it and you can see the panel.  This avoids cluttering the user interface with panels that are only used occasionally while at the same time making them easily accessible for when they are used.

    The different parts of the sidebar

    Why do you call it sidebar and not...?

    The Symphony name "property panel" did not work for us because the sidebar contains more than just information about document properties.

    The OpenOffice.org name "task pane" came from the never realized idea of making OpenOffice.org more task oriented.  For example for the creation of form letters this could have been an adapted version of the mail merge wizard that would have displayed the general workflow and given access to templates, address books and so on.  This idea proved to be too difficult to realize.

    The name "sidebar" is generic enough to host very different content such as document properties, clip art, navigator or third party extensions.  At the same time it is descriptive enough to be remembered easily.  Should you ever turn off the sidebar by accident then you will have no problem finding the menu entry for the "bar" at the "side" of the edit view and turn it back on.

    Why add the sidebar now, why at all?

    Up to now, we, the OpenOffice community (developers, UXers, testers), were busy getting the project going at our new home in the Apache community.  After that came two releases and then graduation.

    Only after that did we finally have the time to tackle the major task of combining the sidebars of OpenOffice and Symphony.

    Many users have asked us in the past to add a Symphony-like sidebar to OpenOffice.  The feedback in the Apache community regarding the sidebar in the coming release is very positive.  Even downstream has started to integrate our implementation.  Some of the benefits of the sidebar are:

    • As in toolbars you have the most important functions for the current task available on a single click.  Unlike the toolbars it does that in a single place while some toolbars are docked above the edit view, some are docked below, and still others are displayed floating in front of it.
    • The position on the right side takes advantage of the form factor of most modern screens that have much more space in the horizontal direction than in the vertical.
    • The sidebar provides more space to its panels than the tool bar areas provide to tool bars.  Therefore panels can display more information better.
    • The sidebar has a constant size (unless you decide to change that size).  Context changes lead to different panels being displayed but do not change the size of the sidebar or the edit view.  Dock a context sensitive tool bar and you will know how annoying such size changes can be.

    What about extensions?

    A little known feature of OpenOffice is that extensions can provide panels for the task panel (now called sidebar).  These extensions are still supported.  But now there is a better way to do this.

    You can add a panel that is implemented in any language supported by the UNO API and display this panel in a deck of your choice or even in the properties panel.  The panel can react to context changes such as different selections.  But it does not have to.  You want a panel that is only displayed when editing tables in Writer documents? No problem.  You want to analyze a Calc document and display the result in real-time and always visible?  That is possible. Or you can display the current time or weather.

    Here is an example:  an extension adds a deck (see the clock icon in the tab bar) and a panel that shows the current time.

    Clock added to sidebar by extension.

    We need your input

    The toolbars and dialogs such as gallery and navigator are not yet scheduled to be disabled by default or even to be removed.  Not because we don't think that the sidebar works.  It does.

    The reason for keeping these established user interface elements is to let you become familiar with the sidebar in your own time.  We hope that you will use the toolbars and dialogs less and less.

    Apache OpenOffice is an open source project.  You can help by telling us what you don't like and what you miss. Share your ideas about how to make the sidebar better. Write a comment in the comment section below or subscribe to our development mailing list if you are willing to invest a little more time.  And Apache also accepts donations (not project specific).

    Wednesday May 15, 2013

    Apache OpenOffice: One Year, 50 Million Downloads

    We are pleased to note that yesterday we reached the 50 million download mark for Apache OpenOffice 3.4.   This milestone occurred within a few days of the first anniversary of the release of Apache OpenOffice 3.4., on May 8th, 2012. 

    Apache OpenOffice (formerly called OpenOffice.org) is the leading free and open source office application suite for Windows, Mac and Linux.  Version 1.0 of OpenOffice was released 11 years ago, in May 2002.

    Although we're all very busy now with the testing of our next major release, Apache OpenOffice 4.0, it is worth taking a few minutes to explore some of the trends that can be discerned from our download data over the past year.  The information we have gathered, relative to desktop OS versions, 64-bit Linux use, screen aspect ratios, etc.,  may be of special interest to other open source projects to consider in their planning.

    First a scatter plot of daily download numbers, with a 7-day moving average overlay.  Noticeable on the chart is the peak in June 2012, when we enabled the upgrade notifications for OpenOffice.org 3.3.0 users, and the peak in September when Apache OpenOffice 3.4.1 was released.  There is also a noticeable summer lull and big drop around the end-of-year holidays.


    The following histogram shows the distribution of download counts.  The average daily download count is 134,900,  with a peak day of 197,500.  On average we see around a million downloads every 7.4 days.  Since a typical download size is 130MB, this amounts to an average of around 17 TB per day of downloads, ably handled by SourceForge and their distribution network.


     One final way to look at the daily counts (shown here in unit of 1000 downloads) is to decompose it into the sum of a smooth trend, a periodic weekly trend, and residual random noise:


    We are able to break down these trends along several other dimensions.  One is by country, looking at where the download request came from.  This information is gleaned from the IP address of the machine making the request.  Since each IP address is part of an assigned block of addresses, and blocks are assigned geographically, we can create a table of downloads by country, territory, etc.  We show the full table our the website, of all 237 countries, territories, etc., but here are the top 10:

    #1 United States 9,782,293
    #2 France 6,738,682
    #3 Germany 4,947,255
    #4 Italy 4,484,601
    #5 Japan 2,742,292
    #6 United Kingdom 2,214,791
    #7 Spain 1,925,193
    #8 Russia 1,830,316
    #9 Canada 1,527,682
    #10 Netherlands 833,691

    Another approach is to look at which localized versions of Apache OpenOffice were downloaded.  We can see these trends in the following dot chart:


    We can also look at the trend over time of downloads by operating system.   OpenOffice is a mainstream open source desktop application, so the OS distribution reflects overall desktop operating system market shares, and with a slight growth in Windows at the expense of Mac:


    Since we have Linux versions of OpenOffice packed as RPMs (e.g., for RedHat) as well as DEBs (e.g., for Ubuntu), we can look for trends in the ratio of requests for these two packaging formats over time:


    Also, we have 32-bit and 64-bit Linux downloads, and we see a gradual increase in demand over time for the 64-bit version, though the 32-bit version still dominates.  (The drop in July-September is not fully explained, but may have been an error in our download page that was not recommending 64-bit downloads appropriately.)


    Although we don't have detailed download data for different Windows versions (we have a single download for all Windows users) we do have information from website visitors (nearly 7 million visitors per month) that tells a similar story.  Windows 7 remains the most popular Windows version for our users, accounting for over half of Windows visitors.  Windows XP is in second place, though declining.  At the end of the year Windows 8 overtook Vista for 3rd place, and continues to rise.


    Looking at the similar data for web browsers, we see the rise in Chrome users among our website visitors:


    Information from website visitors also tells us their screen resolution.  There is a huge diversity of screen resolutions, but the general trend is a gradual increase in HD 16:9 resolutions and away from the older 1280x800 and 1024x768 modes.  If you average it all out and look at the average aspect ratio, you see a slow, but steady trend toward increased aspect ratios (wider screen monitors):


    The above charts were made in R, using data from SourceForge's REST API and from Google Analytics.   The processing of the SourceForge data was automated via a custom Python script.

    Friday May 10, 2013

    Results of Apache OpenOffice 4.0 Logo Survey

    A quick update on our recent logo survey for Apache OpenOffice 4.0.   We called on community members to submit proposals for a new project logo.  The response was huge.  We received over 40 logo proposals.  To narrow down the choices we sought out feedback from users.   We created a survey asking users to rate each logo on a 5-point scale, from Strongly Dislike to Strongly Like, as well as give an optional comment on each logo.  The survey ran for one week and 5028 responses were received.  Full details of the results can be found in the Apache OpenOffice Logo Survey Report.  In this blog post we want to highlight some of the highest scoring logos, recognize the designers, and talk about next steps.

    Samer Mansour, a software developer and an engaged citizen in his community in Toronto, aimed for "simple and flat" with his designs, "I had an a-ha moment when I saw another volunteer's flat logo. I had learned from design experts at work that thin font is the trend and is appealing to users, so I narrowed it down to put together a wordmark from an Apache licensed font that fit the bill."

    Two of the top-scoring logo proposals came from Kevin Grignon, an OpenOffice contributor and a user experience designer with over 15 years experience designing user interfaces and application graphics.  In his submissions, Kevin aimed to leverage some aspects of the existing branding, while modifying and enhancing other elements.   As he explains, "Given the large number of graphic assets that would require updating in a refresh, my submissions retain familiar and recognizable elements including the orb element and logo type layout, which would allow a scaled rollout of the new logo. Other elements of the logo submissions were enhanced, including the curvature of the document/gulls or the use of a a stylized feather, a colour palette which harmonizes well with proposed individual product icons, the use of a globe element, and logo type colouring which emphasizes the word "open" - which is our differentiator."

    Michael Acevedo is a college student studying Aviation technology in Florida, how humans and technology interact while the aircraft is in operation and finding ways to improve that relationship.   He explains his design process as, "I aimed in the design of the new AOO 4 logo for something that was simple (hence why I went with a non capitalized design for the OpenOffice name) yet being something refreshing to reflect the rebirth of Apache OpenOffice. The challenge was how to create a logo that could reflect that philosophy yet being respectful and familiar to the outgoing Apache OpenOffice logo. Taking that into account, my proposed designs offer just that, something refreshing and simple, while at the same time staying true to the brand and image that has made OpenOffice their default office suite for the last 13 years or so."

    You can see the top scoring design above, by Chris Rottensteiner, a webworker and genetic genealogist from South Tyrol in the Alps. He supports the free digital data flow and open elaboration trough FOSS software. "I'm a clean flat style fan and tried to make something without glossy or other "modish" elements: the brand should speak for itself. For this second and much better proposal from me I got inspired by Kevin Grignon and the Source Sans Pro font. If the consensus is v4 should receive a logo built on the existing version, I would be happy to work on possible improvements. P.S.: the work was done in Inkscape (SVG), a piece of software I love."


    This design, and the next one, although they were not top scorers when measured by average score, were the logos that received the most number of "Strongly Like" selections.  So they had more enthusiastic support than the other logos.  The above design, from Robin Fowler, takes the traditional gulls element of the OpenOffice.org logo and makes them dynamic, while also suggesting the form of an open book.  In Robin's words, "My goal for the logo was to take the traditional elements of the OpenOffice logo and give it more of a connection to the software itself. I kept the sphere similar to the original, adding a border to make it look more like an app icon. My initial idea was to take the birds and use them to form a book. The first attempts were fairly crude but I got some valuable feedback from the mailing list and managed to improve it somewhat. The feather was added to resemble the new 'Apache era' of OpenOffice."

    Vasilis Xenofontos, a visionary art designer from the small island of Cyprus aimed for a modern and easy to remember logo design. "I did this design trying to show that OpenOffice will be here forever and that’s why the logo has the infinity circles in it forming the letters AOO. The two colors in it symbolize the sea and the sky showing that this software is free and all over the world."

    So what are the next steps in this logo exploration?   The designers of the above logos have been invited to review user comments from the survey and based on that feedback submit revised logos.  We'll then review the revisions, discuss and pick the new logo.   As usual at Apache we try to reach consensus by discussion wherever possible, and only vote if necessary.  The above logos already show a good deal of sharing of ideas.  The constructive feedback among the designers and the Apache OpenOffice community should lead us to a wonderful new logo for a wonderful new release, Apache OpenOffice 4.0.

    Congratulations, obviously, to the top logos, but thanks go out to all those who contributed logos for consideration, as well as to the 5000 users who took time to rate and comment on these designs.

    Thursday April 18, 2013

    With Special Guest Star... Apache OpenOffice

    Viewers of the hit ABC sitcom Suburgatory may have noticed something special in the season 2 finale last night, in an episode called "Apocalypse Meow".  Lead character Tessa (played by Jane Levy) used the free, open source office productivity software Apache OpenOffice on her Mac, to outline the pros and cons of getting revenge on her nemesis Dalia:

    Those with access (and this may have geo-based access restrictions) can see scene starting at the 8:50 mark on ABC's online version of the episode.

    This is an example of "stage dressing".  The designer in a play, movie or television show has a particular "look" in mind, to bring life to the script.  The designer then works with the properties  directory to provision the right props.   Most of it is physical stuff, like furniture, lamps or other similar items.  But contemporary shows, with characters interacting with technology, also use a digital form of stage dressing. 

    Here's another example, from Roman Polanski's 2011 comedy Carnage:

    The Apache OpenOffice project has received several requests to use our product in this way, in movies and in US and UK television programs. Why use OpenOffice in such situations?  One guess is that securing rights to use open source software like Apache OpenOffice is easier than getting rights for commercial products.  Another guess is that using open source avoids potential conflicts with advertisers who are selling competing products.  And another guess is that they avoid showing commercial products unless they are paid for placement.   I don't really know.  But in any case we're pleased to see open source software, and especially Apache OpenOffice, featured in the media.

    Wednesday April 17, 2013

    Visualizing the AOO Dev List

    Dev list graph

     What am I looking at?

    The above image illustrates the social network of posts and responses to the Apache OpenOffice project's main development mailing list, from when it started in May 2011 until the end of March 2013 when this data was collected.  (Click on the image to view a larger version) 

    Each circle represents a person posting to the mailing list.  The arcs represent responses to posts, i.e., they are drawn from the person posting to the person to whose post they are replying.  The weight of each line is proportionate to the number of times person X responded to person Y.  So darker lines portray more frequent communication pathways.  The size of each circle is proportionate to the poster's eigenvector centrality, a theoretical measure of influence within the graph.  The colors represent modularity classes, based a calculation that determines the most tightly-connected portions of the overall graph.  These can represent real-world structures within the community. 

    Overall the graph has 1077 nodes (persons) and 8181 arcs (response emails).  On average each person responded to 7.6 other persons, and made 27.1 total responses.

    Now some interpretation.  This is not the the "hub and spokes" or tree pattern of a command/control or hierarchical organization, but a complex organism, with project participants contributing at various levels of engagement.  The larger circles in the center, connected with many and darker lines, are the core project participants (at least on the development list).  The very small circles at the periphery of the graph are those who posted a single question, received a response were never heard of again.  They typically received one or two response posts, but did not really engage further. And in the middle we see additional rich structure of conversation patterns.  The modularity classes, represented by colors here, appear to segment the list participants into what I'll call "programmers", "marketing" and "support", though these labels are imperfect.

    It is difficult to ascribe too much meaning to these email response patterns.  Some mailing lists have been the topic of research before.  In Q&A forums, where nearly 100% of the initial posts are questions, and responses are all answers, it is interesting to look at the response patterns as an indication of expertise.  See Adamic, et al., for a good example.  We might apply a similar analysis to the support forums.  But with the Dev list, an initial post might be a question, but it is often a report, or a proposal or just information sharing.  And responses are not always expert answers or answers at all.  Some responses are expressing approval or disapproval, or asking questions of their own.  All these factors make this quite complex.

    How I made the graph

    1. I started with the list archives, downloaded the mbox files extracted the response graph to a text file, with a custom python script, using the python "mailbox" package.
    2. Then I manually cleaned up the data, coalescing multiple mail accounts used by some members.
    3. I used the open source graph visualization package "Gephi" to process the data and draw the graph (layout via the Fruchterman-Reingold algorithm) and export it to a PNG file.

    Wednesday April 10, 2013

    Welcome to GSoC Students!

    Coeds with Hoes

    Once again the Apache Software Foundation is a "mentoring organization" in Google Summer of Code, and the Apache OpenOffice project looks forward to this year's program. 

    We invite students looking to get their hands dirty with real-world code to consider submitting an GSoC application related to OpenOffice. 

    Why OpenOffice?

    • We're one of the most famous open source projects around.  Our latest release has had over 45 million downloads.  The work you do with OpenOffice could be seen by millions of users.
    • We're a fun, international and diverse group of volunteers.  Working with OpenOffice this summer will be fun.
    • The core code for OpenOffice is C++, but extensions can be written in Java, Python and Basic as well.  We probably speak your language.
    • OpenOffice software is central to the daily work of its users, with text documents, spreadsheets and presentations.  There are good opportunities to explore applications that connect OpenOffice to cutting-edge disciplines such as text analytics, natural language processing, social network analysis, the semantic web, etc.

    We've posted some initial ideas, suggested by our mentors.  But don't feel limited to these ideas.  If you want to work on a variation of one of these ideas, or an entirely different idea, let us know.  If it is a good fit, and a mentor is able to work with you, then let us know.  If you're passionate about something we want to hear about it.

    For more information, please take a look at the Apache-wide GSoC page where many of your questions may be already answered.

    Finally, we highly encourage prospective applicants to engage early with the OpenOffice community on our development mailing list.

    Monday April 08, 2013

    One Year until the End of Life for Microsoft Office 2003

    Josephine Smith digging a grave at the Drouin Cemetery, Victoria, [2]

    The April 2014 deadline

    Microsoft has announced that they will end support of Office 2003 and Windows XP on April 8th, 2014. What does this mean? As they describe, "After April 8, 2014, there will be no new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options or online technical content updates." This, according to Microsoft, exposes Office 2003 users to greater "Security & Compliance Risks".

    Time to explore the alternatives

    Some companies and users will write a big check to Microsoft for an upgraded license for Office. But others will see this as an opportunity to explore the alternatives, including open source products like Apache OpenOffice, the leading free productivity suite, with over 44 million downloads.  Now is a good time to start planning for a migration off of Microsoft Office 2003 and Windows XP. Many companies have already started.

    Apache OpenOffice is available on Windows, MacOS and Linux.  It is open source software, which means there are no license or subscription fees required to use or redistribute OpenOffice.  

    You can learn more about Apache OpenOffice at www.openoffice.org.   Many companies offer migration services for Apache OpenOffice, some of which are listed on our consultants page.



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