Sun Apr 18 10:24:01 BST 2021
On Sunday, April 18, 2021 10:48 AM, Max wrote:
Dear Document Foundation Directors
I am not used to providing scathing criticisms, but with LibreOffice those are in order, with a good cause in mind:
- The only reason why I am using LibreOffice Writer is because it is to me a lesser evil than MS Word in terms of costs - this comes at my expense of LibreOffice Writer being a greater evil than MS Word in terms of bugs and crashes. I believe I shouldn’t pay for avoiding a Microsoft licensing fee by damnation to a hell with a buggy-crashy LibreOffice.
- If it did not state “Donation” on the LibreOffice download page, in all seriousness I would have literally asked the Document Foundation for a refund a long time ago.
- Because of LibreOffice’s bugs and instability, I seriously do not recommend it to any employer I may work for or any colleague I may work with.
- I do not see myself making further donations to the Document Foundation, because I don’t want my donations spent on supporting Windows and macOS versions of your apps. Why would I donate an amount for LibreOffice on Windows when I can just buy a MS Office license on Windows?
- Free open source is not worth it for me if it doesn’t reliably work when I need it to work because I have to do my work on it.
Document Foundation, please fix this on a strategic level.
Here are my proposals to you, as explained further below:
I. Discontinue support for Windows and macOS operating systems.
II. Seek a merger of LibreOffice with KDE’s Calligra Office into ‘CALIBRE OFFICE’.
III. Harness community power by focusing UX on efficient bug reporting.
IV. Harness the world wide student power at institutional (university) level.
I. DISCONTINUE SUPPORT FOR WINDOWS AND MACOS OPERATING SYSTEMS!
While I am grateful for all the cross-platform apps out there, developing an entire cross-platform office suite may be too ambitious and off limits even for some profit-seeking corporations that may gather sufficient resources to do so - please review this intention.
But what is more important is that there has to be a mutually beneficial relationship between LibreOffice and all Linux distributions, and despite my lack of participation I clearly do not consider the current arrangement as such, because the Document Foundation is still committed to stretching LibreOffice thin on Windows and macOS. Offering LibreOffice on Windows and macOS can never be lean and comes at the expense of reliability.
This stretching LibreOffice thin on Linux, Windows, and macOS is hurting both LibreOffice and Linux distributions, because the Linux distributions are permanently stuck with a substandard office suite (LibreOffice) that does not meet enterprise-level expectations (I don’t care what you may say, it does not from my personal experience with it), while Windows and macOS enjoy the MS Office that in turn ensures that on Windows and macOS such substandard office suite as LibreOffice will never replace MS Office - these two trends combine to ensure that as many users will remain stuck with BOTH MS Windows AND MS Office. If I can’t have a reliable office suite on Linux, then I’m stuck with MS Windows, but since I’m stuck with MS Windows, then I use the reliable office suite on Windows that is MS Office. It’s a Catch-22 situation that is perpetuated to a large extent by your insistence on cross platform implementation of LibreOffice. It’s time that the Document Foundation finally realize that LibreOffice can only succeed on Linux alone, and stretching LibreOffice thin on Windows and macOS defeats both LibreOffice and Linux distributions.
So my recommendation, in order to break out of this Catch-22, for the Document Foundation to drop Windows and macOS and publish a manifesto (to which it will hold itself publicly accountable) to provide Linux distributions with an office suite that consists of free open source software and yet such that meets enterprise-grade reliability expectations similarly to how MS Office does. That means that the Document Foundation has to gain the courage to DISCONTINUE support for Windows and macOS. In other words, the Document Foundation should give up its unsustainable ambition of LibreOffice as a cross-platform office suite and instead become much more ambitious in the area of giving LibreOffice enterprise-grade reliability for all Linux users that in turn will boost user adoption for all Linux distributions. LibreOffice is a productivity suite, and there is no such thing as a merely-community-grade productivity suite - a productive suite shall always be judged by its workplace contribution to productivity, regardless of how much it costs and regardless who uses it in what context.
As supporting measures:
- The Document Foundation should accept the risks of NOT supporting Microsoft’s further file format versions (that Microsoft will release from now on) and let third parties, such as proprietary apps and community projects (e.g., Pandoc), to fill in the file format conversion.
- To enable computer users to open files in LibreOffice file formats (e.g., .odt) on Windows and macOS, the Document Foundation should design a very lightweight app for (1) generating/displaying a PRINT VIEW (e.g., named as “LibreOffice PrintView”) for LibreOffice files (e.g., .odt) on those operating systems and for (2) converting any such LibreOffice-format file into the .pdf file format on Windows and macOS.
- The Document Foundation should seek to target explicitly the users of LibreOffice on Windows and macOS for LibreOffice Online.
- The Document Foundation should leave it to third-party proprietary apps on Windows and macOS to fill the void to offer other functionalities related to LibreOffice file formats on those operating systems.
In my opinion, the Document Foundation is not helping users have an access to a free office suite on Windows and macOS; instead, the Document Foundation ends up helping those users remain trapped in those proprietary operating systems.
If you are interested in using outreach to help end users who cannot afford MS Office, then
- help users switch to free operating system - Linux (including the Linux for Raspberry Pi),
- promote (cheaply priced) Raspberry Pi hardware for LibreOffice,
- target the developers contributing to other Linux office suites as explained below.
II. SEEK A MERGER OF LIBREOFFICE WITH KDE’s CALLIGRA OFFICE INTO ‘CALIBRE OFFICE’!
Take the good of your users above the good of your organization, and seek a community merger with Calligra Suite on the following principles:
- Both LibreOffice and Calligra Office jointly drop support for both Windows and macOS, so that both can focus exclusively on Linux distributions.
- Ideally, there shouldn’t be multiple projects trying to develop directly competing, free open source products,
a) because that’s a waste of resources, efforts, and time;
b) because due to their limited resources they end up with multiple competing products of inferior quality and limited feature sets and thus cannot compete with fewer proprietary products of better quality (and that is on proprietary operating systems where the proprietary products normally reside);
c) because of the market presence of superior proprietary products, having a selection of inferior free open source products with various permutations of incomplete feature sets does not help adoption of any of them;
d) multiple competing projects that cannibilize each other for the same user base eliminate portability of open source user expertise - home users of Calligra Suite will not know how to use LibreOffice at work and vice versa, which hampers adoption of any and all free open source productivity suite and further entrenches MS Office.
- The Document Foundation must officially, narrowly, and diligently focus on the enterprise aspect of LibreOffice, because:
a) Individual users will be happy with using enterprise-quality software at home, but enterprise customers will never adopt buggy software that is good enough only for home use.
b) Any productivity software that is not adopted at enterprise level will never gain widespread adoption (using software at work also means using it at home too).
c) The focus on enterprise-grade productivity software profile will provide the Document Foundation with corporate sponsors from among LibreOffice corporate users/customers.
- Adoption of Calligra Suite’s UI styles (that are in fact more suitable for enterprise contexts) in LibreOffice applications for the purposes of collaborative inclusion of LibreOffice apps in KDE; since GNOME and MATE use LibreOffice, this move will standardize the productivity suite across most Linux desktop environments.
- LibreOffice Suite and Calligra Suite can only compete with MS Office by merging; otherwise, LibreOffice and Calligra will remain competing with each other for the small niche of users while MS Office remains dominant and undisputed.
- The Document Foundation and Calligra can organizationally join their respective contributors, that is their developer bases, to result in a more significant effort to develop common software. This will enable both the Document Foundation and KDE’s Calligra team to halt cannibalization of their mutual open source user base, combine their developers/contributors to more efficiently produce superior software with more features, adopt the best project management principles and toolchains from both projects, and benefit from combined brand exposure.
Such merger of LibreOffice and Calligra Office should not be viewed as simply calling a one-off meeting to determine whether it may work or not for both the Document Foundation and the Calligra Suite project, but instead this merger should become a mentality to be adopted as a long-term view, treated as a matter of strategic outreach to Calligra, and accepted as the only approach that makes sense to proceed into the future with.
Specifically, I recommend one common systematic framework to methodically take the following steps:
- Seek mutual consensus by conducting a joint review of LibreOffice Writer and Calligra Words to determine which is (a) technologically superior with more potential going forward, (b) offers features that the other lacks, (c) code, and (d) offers cleaner enterprise-grade UI & UX, then adopt one and integrate the other’s winning features.
- Seek mutual consensus by conducting a joint review of LibreOffice Calc and Calligra Sheets to determine which is (a) technologically superior with more potential going forward, (b) offers features that the other lacks, (c) code, and (d) offers cleaner enterprise-grade UI & UX, then adopt one and integrate the other’s winning features.
- Seek mutual consensus by conducting a joint review of LibreOffice Impress and Calligra Stage to determine which is (a) technologically superior with more potential going forward, (b) offers features that the other lacks, (c) code, and (d) offers cleaner enterprise-grade UI & UX, then adopt one and integrate the other’s winning features.
- Seek mutual consensus by conducting a joint review of LibreOffice Base and Calligra KEXI to determine which is (a) technologically superior with more potential going forward, (b) offers features that the other lacks, (c) code, and (d) offers cleaner enterprise-grade UI & UX, then adopt one and integrate the other’s winning features.
- Seek mutual consensus by conducting a joint review of LibreOffice Draw, Calligra Karbon, and pgAdmin (for PostgreSQL), to determine which is (a) technologically superior with more potential going forward, (b) offers features that the other lacks, (c) code, and (d) offers cleaner enterprise-grade UI & UX, then adopt one and integrate the other’s winning features. If pdAdmin is found to be a better option than LibreOffice Draw and Calligra Karbon, then both the Document Foundation and KDE’s Calligra team would drop their respective projects in favor of pdAdmin, offer their developers to join pdAdmin to bolster that project, and promote PostgreSQL to LibreOffice and Calligra users.
III. HARNESS COMMUNITY POWER BY FOCUSING UX ON EFFICIENT BUG REPORTING!
The most critical problem that I have with LibreOffice is the fact that the Document Foundation has not learned how to harness the power of the open source community for bug detection. This is a hard statement to make, but it’s true: As a longtime user of LibreOffice Writer, I don’t know how to report bugs: in fact, I don’t want to know how to create bug reports, because I’m an end user of the LibreOffice Suite, not a QA engineer for the Document Foundation! First of all, too many bugs and crashes to report - it’s not my job as a user to login to some webpage, research whom to contact for bug reporting, and write out a bug report with screenshots! BUT, I’m happy to press a button every single time there is a bug or a crush to send the relevant data to the Document Foundation. I bet you’re pained to explain that there is a way to submit bug reports - maybe you know that, but I don’t and I am the end user. So while the Document Foundation has figured out a way how to extract donations on the downloads page, you people still have no idea how to enable your end users to submit bug reports in an acceptable and viable UX setup.
So the most important aspect of UX that LibreOffice has to focus on, at least for the near future, is the UX of sending a bug report. The process has to be as extremely simple as possible. There HAS to be a button to do so within every single LibreOffice application (especially in LibreOffice Writer!). The process has to be as automated as possible; as such, it can take advantage of existing feature such as the command history in the Undo/Redo buttons. The automatically generated report must include generic parameters that describe the relevant document structure or properties in an anonymized way. The user has to be able to preview the complete report before clicking the ‘Send’ button. This report generation and submission (e.g. emailing or messenger-app-style submission from within the application) has to be supported for both individual consumers and LibreOffice installations by large corporations. All sent bug reports have to be saved in the application for the user to be able to open and review any of them any time later (unless manually deleted by the user).
IV. HARNESS THE WORLD WIDE STUDENT POWER AT INSTITUTIONAL (UNIVERSITY) LEVEL!
Develop an international program for blanket involvement of IT students at voluntarily participating universities, a program that integrates earning student marks, having learning access to real-world application development projects (i.e., the LibreOffice Suite), gaining work experience, and contributing effectively to LibreOffice application development.
LibreOffice should create a database of:
- Universities (in all countries possible) that teach IT degree programs with which the Document Foundation will collaborate: Universities represent an institutional equivalent of large corporations and as such can extend not only the next-generation adopter base of LibreOffice but more importantly also the “workforce” of LibreOffice to all interested students that can gain their IT skills by working and thus gaining work experience (while earning their marks) on LibreOffice projects. As such, universities can plug into an online/Linux-cloud system set up by the Document Foundation for creating, distributing, assigning and reassigning development and testing tasks using some existing open source toolchain and IDEs for application development in a multi-institutional, international context.
- Specific courses that are included in the syllabi of those IT degree programs (previous point): University courses have assignments and practice, so the Document Foundation should negotiate and arrange with each relevant university how to integrate development and testing of LibreOffice applications into as many as possible of each university’s relevant IT courses.
- IT students: The Document Foundation should arrange with all voluntarily participating universities a sign-in/identity provider system to automate creation of student contributor accounts for LibreOffice for all students enrolled in all relevant courses of those universities.
Please someone respond to confirm that this message has not fallen on deaf ears.
All views above are my own
Currently unemployed, starting a new job next month
Max Leonov, born 12 April 1979