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Free Four

The memories of a man in his old age

are the deeds of a man in his prime

– Free Four, Obscured by Clouds, Pink Floyd

I just donated to:

  • the Wikimedia Foundation
  • the OpenBSD project

and became:

Being involved in a project that is heavily driven by donations, I keep remembering myself of the importance of putting my money were my mouth is.

Some of these donations were triggered by recent events and initiatives in these projects. GNOME’s outreach for women program for example. Or OpenBSDs bold initiative in starting LibreSSL, which is doing what needed to be done and vitalizing an overlooked area of open source development. Watching them explain the status quo and how they are attacking it remembers me of LibreOffice — beyond the name. Plus, I dont want to be compared with a My little Pony character again.

goals of LibreSSL -- they remind me of something

goals of LibreSSL — they remind me of something

Others are already working examples of the long tail, crowd funding and the meshed society (Wikipedia) or tailblazing to be one (Krautreporter) beyond the world of software. The latter might also have been influenced by one of the last wishes of a man that unexpectedly died way to early. May he rest in peace.

Train Stops

And the sons of pullman porters and the sons of engineers
Ride their father’s magic carpets made of steel
Mothers with their babes asleep are rockin’ to the gentle beat
And the rhythm of the rails is all they feel

– The City of New Orleans, Willie Nelson interpreting Steve Goodman

So, LibreOffice does its releases on a train release schedule and since we recently modified the schedule a bit (by putting out the alpha1 release earlier), I took the opportunity to take a closer look and explain a bit on what we are doing. With this every 6 months of LibreOffice development currently roughly look like this:
week after x.y.0 development release candidates finalized releases
fresh stable fresh stable
0 x.y.0
1 x.y.1~rc1 x.(y-1).4~rc1
2
3 x.y.1~rc2 x.(y-1).4~rc2
4 x.y.1 x.(y-1).4
5
6 x.y.2~rc1
7
8 x.y.2~rc2 x.(y-1).5~rc1
9 x.y.2
10 x.(y-1).5~rc2
11 x.y.3~rc1 x.(y-1).5
12
13 x.(y+1)~alpha1 x.y.3~rc2
14 x.y.3
15
16
17
18 x.(y+1)~beta1
19
20 x.(y+1)~beta2 x.(y-1).6~rc1
21
22 x.(y+1)~rc1 x.(y-1).6~rc2
23 x.(y-1).6
24 x.(y+1)~rc2
25 x.(y+1)~rc3

The last two columns are most visible to most visitors of the LibreOffice website. Those are the versions found on the LibreOffice Fresh and LibreOffice Stable download pages. We are in roughly at week 18 after 4.2.0 release now, and the versions available are 4.2.4 fresh and 4.1.6 stable. A careful reader will note that according to that schedule we should be at 4.2.3 and 4.1.5 — that is true, but the 4.2 series still had an extra 4.2.1 intermediate release to adjust the schedule of 4.2 in direction of the current plan. This is not expected for future releases (also note that there is always some flexibility in the plan to allow for holidays etc.)

If you count all the prereleases, release candidates and releases, you will find that we do 25 of those in 26 weeks. Beside the fact that this is a lot of work for release engineers, one might wonder if anyone can keep up with that, and if so — how? The answer to that depends on how you are using LibreOffice.

self deployment on LibreOffice fresh

If you are an user or a small business installing LibreOffice yourself, you will probably run LibreOffice fresh and the table above simplifies for you as follows:

week after x.y.0 development release candidates finalized releases
0 x.y.0
1 x.y.1~rc1
4 x.y.1
6 x.y.2~rc1
9 x.y.2
11 x.y.3~rc1
14 x.y.3
18 x.(y+1)~beta1
20 x.(y+1)~beta2
22 x.(y+1)~rc1
24 x.(y+1)~rc2
25 x.(y+1)~rc3

The last column shows the releases you are running. If you are a member of the LibreOffice community it would be very helpful if you also spend some time of this 6 months period for three actions:

  • running at least one of the release candidates in the table (available for download here) before the final is released.
  • running at least one beta releases in the table. Note that there will be a bug hunting session on the 4.3.0 beta release this week, that will help you get started.
  • running a nightly build once anywhere in the weeks 1-18. Note that if you are getting excited about seeing the latest and greatest builds while they are still steaming, there are tools that can help you with this on Linux and Windows.

If you do these each of these three things once in the timeframe of six months and report any issues you find, you are helping LibreOffice already a lot — and you are making sure that the finalized releases of the fresh series are not only containing all the latest features, but also free of severe regressions.

bigger deployments on LibreOffice stable

If you are not installing LibreOffice yourself, but instead have a major deployment administrated centrally, things are a bit different. You might be more conservative and interested in the releases from LibreOffice stable. And you probably have professional support from a certified developer or a company employing certified developers.

week after x.y.0 development release candidates finalized releases
1 x.(y-1).4~rc1
4 x.(y-1).4
8 x.(y-1).5~rc1
11 x.(y-1).5
13 x.(y+1)~alpha1
18 x.(y+1)~beta1
20 x.(y-1).6~rc1
23 x.(y-1).6

If you intend to deploy one series of LibreOffice (e.g. 4.3), there are two things that are highly recommended to be done:

  • make the alpha or beta releases available quickly to interested volunteers in your deployment early. They might find bugs or regressions that are specific to your use of the software.
  • make the release candidates of versions that you intent to deploy available early to your users.

Of these two actions, the first is by far the most important: It identifies issues early on in the life cycle and gives both your support provider and the LibreOffice developer community at large time to resolve the issue. In fact, I would argue that if you have a major deployment, the only excuse for not making available prereleases, is that you made available nightly builds.

Ubuntu

So, Ubuntu qualifies as a “bigger deployment” and I have to take care of LibreOffice on it. Also people want to be able to run the latest and greatest LibreOffice releases from the LibreOffice fresh series. Do I follow my recommendations here? Yes, mostly I do:

  • both LibreOffice fresh and LibreOffice stable series are available from PPAs for Ubuntu and are updated regularly and quickly when an rc2 is available.
  • prereleases are made available as bibisect repositories rather quick (build on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS). In addition, fully packaged versions of LibreOffice are build in the prereleases PPA as early as starting with beta1.

So, you are invited to run or test builds from these PPAs — or download the bibisect repositories — to keep LibreOffice releases coming in the steady and stable fashion they do. Finally, there is a bug hunting session for LibreOffice this week and as said above, no matter if you are running a huge deployment or installing on your own, you are helping LibreOffice — and yourself, as a user of LibreOffice — a lot by testing the prereleases:

MessageBox API change

I hope that someone gets my message in a bottle

– Message in a Bottle, the Police

So, there was some minor confusion about the wording in the LibreOffice 4.2.4 release notes.

This needs some background first: LibreOffice 4.2 modified the UNO API to pop up a message box in a slight way against LibreOffice 4.1. This was properly announced in our LibreOffice 4.2 release notes many moons ago:

The following UNO interfaces and services were changed [...] com.sun.star.awt.XMessageBox, com.sun.star.awt.XMessageBoxFactory

Luckily, LibreOffice extensions can specify a minimal version, so extensions using the new MessageBox-API can explicitly request a version of LibreOffice 4.2 or newer. This change in our sdk-examples shows how an extension can be updated to use the new API and explicitly require a version of LibreOffice 4.2 and higher. All this happened already with LibreOffice 4.2.0 being released and has nothing yet to do with the change in LibreOffice 4.2.4.

So what was changed in LibreOffice 4.2.4? Well, in addition to the LibreOffice version, old extensions sometimes just ask for an “OpenOffice.org version”. Most LibreOffice versions answered its version was “3.4″, so this old backwards compatible check was not very helpful anyway. So in LibreOffice 4.2.4 this value was changed to  “4.1″, which might make some old extensions aware of the incompatible API change. That’s all.

Note that:

So, the short answer to the question to “what changed in LibreOffice 4.2.4?” is: Nothing, if your extension uses LibreOffice-minimal-version as recommended.

LibreOffice Las Palmas Hackfest 2014

Sie singt Tag und Nacht neue Lieder,
von den Palmen am blauen Meer

– Kein Bier auf Hawaii, originally by Paul Kuhn

So, the LibreOffice Las Palmas Hackfest 2014 is over and it was awesome. I have to thank Alberto Ruiz and University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria for their excellent hosting and support. We had the opportunity to present the LibreOffice project to the students of the university, and we did so with a set of short talks to cover a lot of ground without too much boring details. Here is the hand of my slides:

You can find a video of all the talks in the session on youtube. My talk starts around minute 35 and is followed by Kendys nice intro on improving the LibreOffice UI. In addition to the video, I also made a few pictures on the event, you can find them in this album.

Hacking

Hacking

The achievements section of this Hackfest is still being populated, but despite being a smaller Hackfest, there seems to have been quite some productive work done in total. It was also very encouraging to see curious students from the university drop by, we tried to give them a gentle introduction on ways to contribute and learn more.

Our next LibreOffice Hackfest will be on June, 27-28 in Paris as has just been announced.

Announcing BundesGit for LibreOffice

“I fought the law and the law won”

– Sonny Curtis and the Crickets — prominently covered by the Clash

So in a few minutes, I will be leaving for the meeting at Open Knowledge Lab in Hamburg for Code for Germany in Hamburg — but I dont want to show up empty-handed. Earlier I learned about BundesGit which is a project to put all federal german laws in a git repository in easily parsable markdown language. This project was featured prominently e.g. on Wired, Heise and got me wondering that having all those laws available at the tip of your hand would be quite useful for lawyers. So here I went and quickly wrote an extension to do just that. When you install the extension:

  • it downloads all the german federal laws from github and indexes them on the next restart of LibreOffice (completely in the background without annoying the user)
  • that takes about ~5 minutes (and it only checks for updates on the next start, so no redownload)
  • once indexed you can insert a part of a law easily in any text in Writer using the common abbreviations that lawyers use for these:
  • Type the abbreviation of the paragraph on an otherwise empty line, e.g. “gg 1″ for the first Artikel of the Grundgesetz
  • press Ctrl-Shift-G (G for Git, Gesetz or whatever you intend it to mean)
  • LibreOffice will replace the abbreviation with the part of that law
BundesGit for LibreOffice

BundesGit for LibreOffice

Now this is still a proof-of-concept:

  • It requires a recent version (1.9 or higher) of git in the path. While that is for example true in the upcoming version of Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, other distributions might still have older versions of git, or — on Windows — none at all: Packing a git binary into the extension is left as an exercise for the reader.
  • I have not checked it to parse all the different laws and find all the paragraphs. It also ignores some non-text content in the repository for now. Patches welcome!
  • While it stays in the background most of the time intentionally to not get into the way of the user, it could use some error reporting or logging, so users are not left in the dark if it fails to work.

On the other hand, the extension is a good example what you can do with less than 300 lines of Python3 (including tests) in LibreOffice extensions. Thus the code was hopefully verbosely enough commented and was uploaded to sdk-examples repository, where it lives alongside this LibreOffice does print on Tuesdays extension that also serves as an example. Of course, if there other useful repositories of texts online, it can be quickly adapted to provide those too.

So download BundesGit for LibreOffice and test it on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS (trusty).

 

addendum: This has been featured on golem.de and linux-magazin.de (both german).

 

Document Liberation announced

Document Liberation has been announced today, but a picture says more than a thousand words, so I created one based on the beautiful work of Paulo José. Enjoy!

Document Liberation

Document Liberation (CC-by-sa 3.0 Paulo Jose, Bjoern Michaelsen)

LibreOffice bugzilla status

Im kind of over gettin told to throw my hands up in the air

so there

Team, Pure Herione, Lorde

So, somewhere between the LibreOffice 4.2.0 and the 4.1.5 release, bugs.freedesktop.org broke through 25.000 reported bugs. A time to throw the hands up in despair? Not at all, as the following chart shows:

LibreOffice bug states on freedesktop

LibreOffice bug states on freedesktop

  • 7% of reports are still unconfirmed or need more information
  • 22% are confirmed and unresolved issues, that are not enhancements requests
  • 6.5% are unresolved enhancement requests.

On the other hand:

  • 33% of all reports have been fixed in some way
  • and 30% are invalid or duplicates.

Its interesting to see how now a quarter of the confirmed unresolved reports are asking for new features and enhancements. Its gets even more encouraging, if you take into account that the number of bugs reports is at a long term constant 20-25 reports per day, while over 40% of the bugs intentionally or collaterally fixed changed their state in the last 12 month. So we are picking up speed in triaging and fixing bugs, while the influx of new reports stays constant.

If you are interested, please help QA quite a bit in all this by writing good bug reports, identifying duplicates, confirming new reports, bibisecting regressions, run and test daily builds and prereleases or otherwise helping with the QA Easy Hacks!

Liberated Build System: Mission accomplished!

It’s so hard when it doesn’t come easy

It’s so hard when it doesn’t come fast

– So Hard, Taking The Long Way, Dixie Chicks

So, LibreOffice 4.2 is released, FOSDEM is over, was very nice and I am back home in Hamburg after a week in London. I missed the LibreOffice UX Hackfest for that, which I heard was also awesome. So without further ado, here are the slides from my quick talk at FOSDEM:

(direct link if you are watching this on a planet that does not support embedded speakerdecks: https://speakerdeck.com/sweetshark1/liberated-build-system-mission-accomplished)

and some errata for it: On slide 13 it says “the same file is also hardlinked from workdir/” — thats not true for quite a while already. LibreOffice keeps around exactly one copy of a library, unlike the confusing three copies that we had in LibreOffice 3.3. This should be a lot less confusing to the curious first time contributor.

Reviewing all these changes in toto, it became how much we simplified getting involved with LibreOffice through this. As the lyrics quoted above say: “Back when we started, we didn’t know how hard it was”.

If there is just one number to take away from all these slides, its that a noop rebuild for LibreOffice on a three year old developer notebook with the distro provided GNU make 3.81 takes just 17 seconds(*). And slide 7 shows still some possibilities to still speed things up beyond that — and while at current speeds it might not be worth it on Linux, it might be worthwhile for e.g. Windows, which is traditionally rather slow when it comes to file I/O.

On a related note, over time we improved the way new contributors can submit their changes on our instance of gerrit in many ways. Thanks a lot to David, Norbert and Robert for the work on this. One only has to look at one of daily digests generated from activity on gerrit and imagine we would still get one mail for each change, update and merge to the mailing list for manual patch tracking as we did in the early days. Thanks a lot also to Mathias Michel for his work on the script!

So if you haven’t done that yet, consider graping an EasyHack and get started!

A copy of the original .odp is also available at FOSDEM or on the LibreOffice wiki.

(*) This includes checking 1.3GB of generated c++ dependency files for some >8000 object files, which we simplify to <350MB.

Numbers

“Eins, zwei, drei, vier, fuenf, sechs, sieben, acht”

– Nummern, Computerwelt, Kraftwerk

So LibreOffice 4.2.0 release candidate 3 has been tagged yesterday evening. A good time to look back at the cycle and look at some numbers. The number of issues fixed in the 4.2 series are in line with our historic trends:

There is no page for the third release candidate yet, but I assume it to be no exception. Fixing issues is mainly done by development, although QA does the preparation for that by triaging a bug well. But QA also does quite a bit of work before a bug is triaged, and this is not directly locked to changes in code. So I had a look at the numbers simply in the timeframe between the tagging of 4.1.0 rc3 (2013-07-17) and 4.2.0 rc3 (yesterday). In this timeframe, QA did:

  • confirm 3114 bugs (change of ever_confirmed).
  • resolve 3393 bugs (change of resolution and not unresolved now, this includes the bugs fixed by development).

Naturally, these can not be simply be added up: for example, a bug can be confirmed and then be resolved by fixing it. If all of that happens in the timeframe (as it likely will for a relevant bug), it will appear in all the above counts. Meanwhile, in this timeframe 4092 bugs have been filed by endusers. Of those new bugs filed, 9.3% where enhancement requests. Since not all resolved bugs need to be confirmed (e.g. invalid bugs), these numbers add up nicely.

Speaking of quality, another thing to look at is regressions. How many of those will be fixed in 4.2 as of now? Here is the rundown:

  • 1 regression introduced in 3.4 or before
  • 2 regressions introduced in 3.5 or before
  • 3 regressions introduced in 3.6 or before
  • 2 regressions introduced in 4.0 or before
  • 8 regressions introduced in 4.1 or before
  • 51 regressions introduced on master or found in betas and release candidates

As you can see, most of the regressions fixed with this have actually never been released. This should be encouraging news to those testing daily builds: If you do that, you will be rewarded with quick bug fixes. Still, only fixing 16 regressions that were visible in previous releases seems a rather low count for a release. Well, this is because this count does not count fixed regressions that are also backported to the updates on the 4.1 stable series. As regressions are usually worth that effort, this is usually done unless it is to risky a change for that. If you look for regressions that were fixed in 4.2 and also backported to 4.1, you as of now get a count of:

  • 230 regressions fixed in 4.2 that were also backported to the 4.1 series

in addition. See this earlier post for more details on how the backporting works and some numbers on it.

Speaking of regressions, we have a pretty unique tool to corner them: bibisect. How well does this work? I keep tracking these in bugzilla for the last months. Currently 176 bugs have been bibisected, with the number of unresolved bibisected bugs staying constant in the 60-70 range. That is encouraging, as it means that for each regression bibisected, a developer fixes a bibisected regression. This happens currently at a rate of ~2 bugs per week, which is not too bad, as such regressions might be quite hard cornercases that without bibisect would be tricky to pin down. However, only ~14% of our unresolved regressions are bibisected as of now. Clearly, we can improve that ratio with more bibisecting and get more regressions fixed even quicker.

Ok, admittedly, this was a boring and dry post on bug numbers. What can I do to lighten you up? Here is catcontent, presented in LibreOffice Draw 4.2 running on Ubuntu trusty with the awesome new libreoffice-style-sifr icon theme:

More info about the upcoming 4.2 release can be found in the still evolving release notes and in this nice sneak peak video on 4.2. by Leif Lodahl.

tl;dr: We are doing well, but could use even more people testing daily builds and do bibisects.

addendum: The LibreOffice 4.2.0 release candidate 3 page is populated — additional 29 bugfixes. And the final release candidate 4 has 12 more.

addendum: Michael wrote a nice wrap-up what happened elsewhere in the (now released) LibreOffice 4.2.0.

LibreOffice IDE integration

Sometimes I wonder if the world’s so small,
Can we ever get away from the sprawl?

Sprawl II — Arcade Fire

So these days, most people prefer to use an IDE to navigate their source code. This has often been greeted with some defensive elitism of the “real programmers” kind since the early days of the open sourcing of StarOffice. One does not simply load a code base the size of LibreOffice in your wimpy IDE: while it is possible somehow in the end, its a lot more trouble than its worth to manually set up e.g. all the include path manually to get the fancy stuff like autocompletion. Add to that, that e.g. UNO headers are generated during the build and header were at distributed over multiple IDE unfriendly locations, with many headers even available as copies from multiple locations, before we fixed that.

All these things are fixed now. And while LibreOffice still is a huge beast with our new build system we can get a holistic view of what needs to get build where, how and when. This makes it easy, almost trivial to generate an IDE project file from the build system. And to prove this point, I did just that for the kdevelop IDE. This isnt limited in principle to this one IDE — in fact the kdevelop specific part of this is some 150 lines of Python. So no matter what IDE you use: Eclipse, Netbeans, Anjuta, Visual Studio, Code::Blocks or XCode — you should be able to adapt this. In fact, while writing this, I find there is already work going on for XCode. Feel invited to join the party and make LibreOffice trivially buildable in your favourite IDE!

So as announced to the developer list, this allows you to make navigating, editing, building, testing and running LibreOffice much easier, giving you features like:

  • autocompletion
  • building a module from the IDE
  • building all of LibreOffice from the IDE
  • nondebug and debug build configs for the above
  • starting LibreOffice from the IDE
  • running unitchecks, slowchecks and subsequentchecks from the IDE

Dont believe it? Here is a video featuring a stuttering german guy (me) on the audio track showing this:

If you want to show this around on social media, there is also a shorter version featuring the essentials (make sure to link to the HD versions).

A closing note: A long time, common IDEs embrace and extended into the buildsystems so once you used an IDE, you could only use this one IDE and no other. In retrospect, this is obviously doing it wrong. With the current approach, we can make LibreOffice easily buildable in any IDE on any platform. A very important fact for a product available on so many platforms.

addendum: As Karl Fogel wrote LibreOffice is now ridiculously easy to build. before we even had this, it just shows that one can always do better. ;)

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