LibreOffice for Lawyers

Hi All –

Just a quick post for now. I’m writing a Supreme Court sample brief and have decided to do this in LibreOffice to really put it to the test. I’m going to (hopefully) write about my experience and the experience of my partner (who is using Microsoft Office, so it’s a good interoperability test). Along with this I’ll also be reporting bugs that are likely to impact lawyers trying to use LibreOffice and I’ll add these to the blog as well πŸ™‚

Couple notes:

1. Unfortunately I cannot share my final product. That being said, it should look something like this at the end: http://www.scotusblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/09-1088_pet.pdf

The goal for any lawyer is to automate as much as possible – this means that things like the Table of Contents, Table of Authorities, etc . . . should be automated and thus will put these features to the test.

2. Because I’m working with a partner using Microsoft Office – my plan is to work locally in odf format but upon sharing the work I will save a copy as a .doc, send it to him, and he’ll edit, return the work, and then I’ll incorporate the changes in my odt file. A bit roundabout but it’s good for interoperability reasons, respecting ODF format locally, and it’ll remove the local issues which *might* happen with doc format (no clue if it will, but better to stick with odf where possible).

3. Using .doc instead of docx just because from my experience it’s had better support. We’re on a bit of a time crunch so I don’t have too much time to be fussing – I could be 100% mistaken here but just decided it’s best this time to stick with what I have experience working with). Additionally, my partner and I use different version of Microsoft Office (I have 2013, he’s on 2011 for Mac I believe), we all are aware that docx is actually 3 different versions – to avoid the headache, even had I been using Microsoft Office to create this, I would have stuck with the .doc format since Microsoft seems to hate itself when it comes to .docx format πŸ˜‰

The final document will be quite complex, encompassing multiple page styles, character styles, automatic features (TOC and other indexes), etc . . . I’m excited to see how LibreOffice can work for a lawyer doing “real work.”

First couple days have been quite successful. I’ve set up the basic document with multiple page styles, set up the title page, TOC, set up the Table of Authorities and done a few samples to make sure it works correctly. I also saved as a doc and sent to my friend – he said it looks good which is a big + πŸ˜€

That being said – I have reported an enhancement request (border line bug).

Summary: TOC does not track numbering styles of page numbering – a bit of a problem for lawyers doing these kinds of work.

Workaround: Allow manual edits to the TOC/Index (for Table of Authorities) and manually update. Not perfect as you have to do it every time (if you refresh the TOC you lose manual edits) so if you miss one, judge can legally refuse to accept the brief.

Bug report: https://bugs.freedesktop.org/show_bug.cgi?id=84700

Special thanks to this great tutorial for using LibreOffice (originally written for OpenOffice but steps carry through generally) for legal briefs. http://www.wikihow.com/Write-Legal-Briefs-With-Openoffice.Org

Why TDF Doesn’t Do Crowd-Funding

Notice: These are my opinions as an individual, not as a member of the Board of Directors

Note: Slight updates to “accounting” section due to clarification from my good friend πŸ™‚

From bug reporting on bugzilla, to user/QA mailing lists, all the way to the QA chat, users (and contributors) ask “why not just do a targeted crowd-funding for X,Y,Z.” X,Y,Z has been mostly large projects and/or ideas– including but not limited to Android development, revamping our UI, or even individual “pet bugs” that people have reported. So, in theory crowd-funding sounds fantastic…right? Well, here I’ll try to convince the doubters that TDF doing targeted crowd-funding is indeed, anything but a great idea πŸ™‚

Accounting

This is perhaps the easiest one to explain. TDF is incorporated in Germany (this is not implying that it would be any easier in another Country) and with that comes of course, German laws (which are likely the same in other countries). These just add a new layer of having to track different “pools” of funding.

The next accounting related issue is what happens if we are short or over (ie. we don’t hit our #’s or we overshoot the #). Well then we’re in a pickle. On one side, if we undershoot the target, do we refund people? Do we merge the money with general funds? Do we just indefinitely hold it in case we ever hit the #? All of these sound quite tiresome/time consuming/confusing. Now if we overshoot, again the same problems arise. Do we refund the extra money? Do we put it in the general funds? Either way accounting for these can be difficult and time consuming.

When push comes to shove, this would just eat up our employee’s (or a tremendously dedicated volunteer’s) time just tracking the #’s and I don’t think anyone would be happy with these results.

Expectations

Donor expectations are another area that becomes overly complicated with targeted funds. Person X donates $100 to “make UI better”, person Y donates $10 to “make UI better.” Now the two don’t agree on what making it better means (one suggests one mock up, the other suggests a radically different mock up). Who wins? If we decide on person Y’s mock up, does person X get a refund because they actually think it’s a horrible UI? What about the difference in contributions – one gave 10x the amount of the other, should that matter at all? Perhaps it shouldn’t…but try explaining that to person X with a straight face. Do we put it to a vote? And then the losers of such a vote get the option to demand a refund?

The reality is that targeted funds come with expectations, and no matter how clear the message of the targeted funds, someone is bound to be unhappy with the result. We’d hate to offend our donors by saying “deal with it” if they get a result that they aren’t happy with and contributed funds specifically for that thing.

Funding for “Less Sexy” Things

Person X has $20, they go to the donation page and they see “general fund” (with some description of what that mean) and then they see “awesome NEW FEATURE!” . . . where do they donate? Exactly, you get the point. While it’s fun to fund new exciting and sexy things, the “non sexy” things are quite (probably a lot more) important. These include paying for infra (quite expensive), employees (who do amazing work), and events. Worst case would be to have a bank account with $50k for “awesome sexy flying monkey feature” and $0 for “general operating expenses.” The response might be “set aside some amount in advance for day to day,” in theory possible, but time consuming and when that amount runs dry – what do we do? Pull “sexy awesome flying monkey feature” from the donation page to “encourage” donors to donate for the necessities?

 

As you can see all of this is quite complicated.

So…Now What?

Well there are indeed options and the Board takes this (and similar) issues seriously. For instance with Android port – we heard, and we acted. We now have a public tender which we are using to solicit bids to start the port to Android. Beyond that:

  1. There are of course grass roots crowd sourcing sites, we don’t vouch for any of them, but we don’t discourage trying to use them. That being said, please note that the risk is on you (the founder of the campaign) and not on TDF to deliver. If you raise $100k and promise to fly everyone to the moon, it’s on you to deliver. But in all honesty, if you raise money and “think” that it might be enough to fix some pet bug or something, ask around the dev channel to see if anyone is interested in doing it for that price – but please please please be aware that if you have no background in programming, you’re likely going to underestimate the cost of development by multiple factors. Before starting a campaign, best to ask for a rough guess at cost from someone who knows the code.
    1. Options: kickstarter of course, and freedomsponsors – again I am not endorsing either, I’ve just seen both used
  2. Volunteer time
    1. Do the leg work! Our group is a meritocracy, doing the leg work tremendously pays off. For instance instead of saying “fix the UI” – build a community, get support for a concrete proposal, get documentation together for functionality, etc… etc… Too often I see a mockup with nothing more (a single image done in an hour or two) and then demands that we implement – this simply won’t work.
  3. Join our public board call – trust me, we’re happy to have the public in (that’s why it’s a public call). If you have strong feelings about something (and are willing to put in work/time/money/etc…) we’re willing to listen. This does not mean jump into the call and demand the world and not give anything in return – again this won’t get us closer to anything other than a headache.
  4. Despite the cons listed above, TDF hasn’t 100% ruled out the possibility, we’re just not ready to make the leap right now. Perhaps at some point in the future it will happen, but until then, I highly encourage our users, donors and contributors, all to find creative ways to get their projects done.

 

 

Successful Bug Hunting Weekend

It was pretty obvious from the beginning that we were having a strong showing from the community to help hunt down bugs in our upcoming 4.3 release – and a big thank you to all of those who participated. A few highlights:

  • At least 15 new faces were present in the QA channel throughout the weekend and are confident many will be around in the future to help with ongoing QA tasks πŸ˜€
  • 106 total bugs were reported from Friday until right now
  • 57 of those were against 4.3 beta1
  • 14 confirmed regressions with an additional 4 possible regressions (note that some of these were duplicates (6), but none the less people took the time to report so fantastic news)
  • All but 6 of the 57 bugs have already been triaged
  • 5 bibisects were done on regressions for 4.3
  • 5 bugs have already been RESOLVED-FIXED (crazy!)

Really great work everyone – I’m confident that developers will take it over from here and will be thrilled to see the work that was done this weekend.

Fantastic Day #1 for Bug Hunting

Today we really had an incredible showing of support in testing LibreOffice 4.3 beta1. I saw a dozen or more new faces in the chat and some new contributors were responsible for finding some of the nastier regressions that have now been reported and bibisected.

A big thank you to those who participated and I strongly encourage others to jump into the chat in the next couple days to say hello and see what we’re up to.

34 bugs have been reported against 4.3 beta1 in the past 24 hours. Quite a few of those are marked as regressions and many are already bibisected.

Huge thank you!

Chat: http://webchat.freenode.net/?channels=libreoffice-qa

4.3 Bug Hunting Session

Hi All –

As many of you already know – 4.3 is quickly approaching πŸ˜€ In order to help our developers make the best release possible we’re asking everyone available to join our bug hunting session this weekend (May 23 – 25).

What is a bug hunting session? Well that’s simple – simply download the latest daily version of 4.3 and use it. Do as many different things as possible using the pre-release and if you hit a snag, report it on our bug tracker. That simple – anyone can do it!

Beta Packages:
Windows: http://dev-builds.libreoffice.org/pre-releases/win/x86/LibreOfficeDev_4.3.0.0.beta1_Win_x86.msi

Debian 32 bit: http://dev-builds.libreoffice.org/pre-releases/deb/x86/LibreOfficeDev_4.3.0.0.beta1_Linux_x86_deb.tar.gz

Debian 64 bit: http://dev-builds.libreoffice.org/pre-releases/deb/x86_64/LibreOfficeDev_4.3.0.0.beta1_Linux_x86-64_deb.tar.gz

RPM 32 bit: http://dev-builds.libreoffice.org/pre-releases/rpm/x86/LibreOfficeDev_4.3.0.0.beta1_Linux_x86_rpm.tar.gz

RPM 64 bit: http://dev-builds.libreoffice.org/pre-releases/rpm/x86_64/LibreOfficeDev_4.3.0.0.beta1_Linux_x86-64_rpm.tar.gz

OSX 32 bit: http://dev-builds.libreoffice.org/pre-releases/mac/x86/LibreOfficeDev_4.3.0.0.beta1_MacOS_x86.dmg

OSX 64 bit: http://dev-builds.libreoffice.org/pre-releases/mac/x86_64/LibreOfficeDev_4.3.0.0.beta1_MacOS_x86-64.dmg

Source: http://dev-builds.libreoffice.org/pre-releases/src/libreoffice-4.3.0.0.beta1.tar.xz

Also the chat room will have experts available to help walk you through downloading, installing, and reporting any bugs found. You can join us here:

Chat: http://webchat.freenode.net/?channels=libreoffice-qa

More information about but hunting session can be found here: https://wiki.documentfoundation.org/BugHunting_Session_4.3.0

LibreOffice can only become better if we continue to grow our list of people testing and contributing back – if you have any spare time this weekend please join us in the chat and say hello. I look forward to talking to many of you!

Florian is Comparing MSO to LibreOffice – Needs YOUR Input

Florian is doing some sweet comparison work between LibreOffice and Microsoft Office and would like YOUR input. What would you like him to test/compare?

Swing by his blog when you get a chance and give him some suggestions πŸ˜€ His first comparison is already up and looks awesome: http://flosmind.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/libo-vs-ms-commercial/

Contest Results :)

Here is the list of people who participated and the order which they came in πŸ™‚ If you don’t see your name and you should be on there – just let me know.

Thanks to everyone who participated and hopefully many of you will stick around to continue helping – there is always enough work to share πŸ™‚

Participant
Joel Madero
Thomas Hackert
Joren De Cuyper
Steve Bell
Thomas v.d Meulen
Cor Nouws
Ken Biondi
Jacques Guilleron
Florian Reisinger
Jean-Baptiste Faure
Michael MΓΌnch
Zoltan Laszlo
Robinson Tryon
Joan G.
Jan Koberstein
Tim Passingham
Brenda Granados
Ahitagni Mandal
Ralph Aichinger
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