Tuesday, February 1, 2011

LibreOffice: the desktop version

Here are some quick notes about installing LibreOffice 3.3 on my PC's internal hard drive.

The LibreOffice Installer installed MS Visual C++ 2008 Redistributable on my PC. That's not necessarily a bad thing, especially if it's required for LO 3.3 to run on a PC. By including it in the installation, the creators saved me the step of hunting it down and downloading it for myself. Other programs that use run-time executables don't do that. It was a nice touch.

But it does make me wonder what kind of run-time executable the Linux version uses. (I assume the OS X version uses the same RTE as the Linux one.)

At some point in the installation process, the Installer also opened a browser window with a link to http://update.services.openoffice.org/ooo/index.html?cid=920899 , entitled "Thank you for using OpenOffice.org" and with an Oracle logo on the bottom. I don't know how. I didn't do anything to bring it up. Seriously. It was a moment both surreal and humorous.

Reports from early, pre-release versions of LO were that it didn't play nicely with OpenOffice.org. If I recall correctly (which doesn't happen very often anymore), LO hijacked key elements of the OOo installation for its own use, so OOo didn't start up properly anymore. Well, they fixed that. I now have MS Office 2010, OOo 3.2, and LO 3.3 all playing together nicely on my PC.

As would be expected, there is little discernible difference in either the appearance or the, um, "gameplay" of OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice. Users of OOo will feel instantly comfortable with LO.

And as for performance, the hard-drive version exhibits none of the hesitation I reported in the USB-drive version. Every keypress and mouse click/move gets an instant response.

Now here's an interesting feature: Help is a separate download. If you don't download it, Help works anyway: the online version can be found at http://help.libreoffice.org/. If you downloaded and installed Help on your hard drive, then clicking Help opens the local version; if not, then clicking Help opens the online version. They're identical.

I won't be able to comment on issues of stability or durability for a few months yet.

One of my favorite features of OpenOffice.org, carried over into LibreOffice, is the formula editor. MS Office and MathType have had a good working relationship for years, and the formula editor is OpenOffice's answer to MathType/EquationEditor. The cool thing about formula editor is that you don't have to take your fingers off the keyboard, if you know what you're doing. You can type this:

x = {-b +- sqrt{b^2 - 4 a c}} over {2 a}

and end up with this:

You gotta admit, that's pretty cool!

I'm sure that OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice will diverge in appearance and functionality as time goes on. Right now, it's pretty clear that they share the same origins.

One final note for this installment: I added a comment to my earlier post, regarding a "cloud version." Apparently, they did consider "the cloud" when creating LibreOffice.

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