Lodahl's blog

13 October 2014

Managing settings (on Windows)

I have written quite a few articles about installation and administration of LibreOffice on Windows. My latest post was an update on the installation parameters (read it here: http://lodahl.blogspot.dk/2014/09/silent-installation-on-windows-again.html ).

This time I will write about a new and very convenient way of managing the user settings on each desktop computer. In earlier versions settings could be manipulated by installing an extension with some XML-files. Nice but not perfect as you had to distribute files to each and every computer. This method is on the other hand independent of operating system so the same extension can be used for both Mac, Linux and Windows computers.

From LibreOffice 4.2 its possible to change settings through the Windows Registry and this can be managed through one or more Group Policies in the Active Directory or similar administration system.

Read more about that here: https://wiki.documentfoundation.org/ReleaseNotes/4.2#Windows_Registry_changes.
 You can find some more detailed examples here: http://ask.libreoffice.org/en/question/29537/42-registry-configuration-backend-not-applying-all-settings/.

In this example I needed to make two small changes:

  1. Set “Warn alien format” to “false” and lock the setting. 
  2. Set “Macro security level” to “High” and lock the settings.
All I needed to do was to create two new keys in the Windows Registry:



When you have implemented the new keys on one computer and tested it, you can easily export the new keys.

Select the branch of the registry tree (HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\LibreOffice\org.openoffice.Office.Common) and click Files - Export. In the dialogue you should select Selected branch and enter the name "Common" because that is the brach you want to export.

Click Save and you will get a Common.reg-file with the following content:

This file can easily be imported on other computers or you can push them to the computers through a new Group Policy to the machines:
You create a new Group Policy object and link it to the OU you have configured for all the relevant users in the domain.
  1. You open it up and edit “User Configuration | Windows Settings | Scripts (Logon/Logoff).
  2. Under the Logon node, you add you settings so that regedit.exe calls your Common.reg file silently (with the /s switch): REGEDIT.EXE Common.reg /s
  3. You click Show Files and drop your Common.reg into SYSVOL. 

Some information about Microsoft Windows Registry:
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc753092.aspx http://blog.thesysadmins.co.uk/group-policy-preferences-1-deploying-registry-settings.html


I must say this is a much easier approach than the extension method and it makes the whole setup much more flexible since we don't need to handle extensions on each computer any more. For enterprises I recommend using this method for future maintenance.

29 September 2014

Silent installation on Windows (again)

One of many advantages of open source projects is for sure the eternal transition and evolutionary progress. This keeps people like my self busy just following the changes.

Last week I was asked to help a large organization prepare their LibreOffice install package for Windows and I thought “Cool – that gonna take about half an hour”. -Wrong!

The Windows installation parameters has been changed and as always it takes quite some time to find the documentation. You can find some documentation here: https://wiki.documentfoundation.org/Deployment_and_Migration But have ind mind that parameters has changed over time so you can't trust all of it.

The idea of installing all modules ( ADDLOCAL=ALL) and the remove individual modules ( REMOVE=gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Fr, ….) is still valid. But choosing language for the GUI is a little easier than before (UI_LANGS=en_US,da). Earlier you had to add all the language codes to the string and then choose your choice for each (… IS1030=1 IS1031=0 …).

Below is an example that installs LibreOffice in Danish and US English with some but not all dictionaries:

msiexec /qn /i C:\[path_to_install]\LibreOffice_4.3.2.2_Win_x86.msi /l* C:\[path_to_logs]\libreoffice_install_log.txt UI_LANGS=en_US,da CREATEDESKTOPLINK=1 ALLUSERS=1 RebootYesNo=No ADDLOCAL=ALL ISCHECKFORPRODUCTUPDATES=0 QUICKSTART=0 REMOVE=gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Fr,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Es,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Sr,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Pt_Br,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_It,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Af,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_An,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Ar,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Be,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Bg,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Bn,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Br,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Bs,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Pt_Pt,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Ca,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Cs,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_De,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Nl,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Et,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Gd,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Gl,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Gu,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_He,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Hi,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Hu,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Ru,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Lt,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Lv,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Ne,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_No,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Is,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Oc,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Pl,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Ro,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Si,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Lo,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Sk,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Sl,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_El,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Hr,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Sv,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Te,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Th,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Uk,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Vi,gm_r_ex_Dictionary_Zu

Some other things that has been improved dramatically is the new way of handling settings. In earlier versions settings could be manipulated by installing an extension with some XML-files. Nice but not perfect as you had to distribute files to each and every computer. 

From LibreOffice 4.2 its possible to change settings through the Windows Registry and this can be managed through one or more Group Policies in the Active Directory or similar adminsitration system.

I needed to make two small changes:
  1. Set “Warn alien format” to “false” and lock the setting.
  2. Set “Macro security level” to “High” and lock the settings
All I needed to do was to create two new keys in the Windows Registry and push this through a new Group Policy to the machines:



I must say this is a much easier approach than the extension method and it makes the whole setup much more flexible since we don't need to handle extensions on each computer anymore.

12 September 2014

Apache Open Office and LibreOffice should join forces

This proposal has been said many times over the last couple of years and lately repeated by Daniel Brunner, head of the IT department of Switzerland's Federal Supreme Court.https://joinup.ec.europa.eu/community/osor/news/open-and-libre-office-projects-should-reunite.

And from the first point of view I can only agree. There is no reason what so ever that the two open source projects shouldn't. But it hasn’t happened yet and there are reasons. Its not a simple thing to do.

Before I continue I would like to emphasize that I'm part of the game and therefore you should consider this as one of many voices in the choir and not some kind of "I know the truth" statement. I'm member of The Document Foundation and not a neutral opinion. I would also emphasize that I'm speaking on behalf of my self and not as member of any organization. 

First lets take a tour down Memory Lane. Kind'a old school but it can help understand the complexity.

Sun was purchased by Oracle Corporation in early 2010. OpenOffice.org community members were concerned at Oracle's behavior towards open source software, and the lack of activity on OpenOffice.org.

On 28 September 2010, The Document Foundation was announced as the host of LibreOffice, a new derivative of OpenOffice.org. The announcement was well accepted in the free software environment because The Document Foundation shares many values with free software. This includes strong copyleft licensing, and a meritocratic organization. At the same time TDF decided NOT to ask contributors to hand over any other rights to the foundation than licensing the code which was clearly a result of requirements from SUN Microsystems and Oracle in the OpenOffice.org-days. The foundation focuses furthermore very much on the diversity among members and contributes which has attracted hundreds of volunteer contributors.

Shortly after Oracle announced their continuous strong commitment to OpenOffice.org.

Oracle announced in April 2011 that it was ending its development of OpenOffice.org and in June 2011 it was announced that it would donate the OpenOffice.org code and trademark to the Apache Software Foundation. Open Office was then re-licensed with the Apache License which is not copyleft. The Apache License is considered permissive in that it does not require a derivative work of the software, or modifications to the original, to be distributed using the same license (unlike copyleft licenses).

The two license philosophies means that code can go from Apache Open Office to LibreOfffice but NOT the other way. This is not a decision made explicitly but its a consequence of the choice of licenses in the two projects.

Please take notice of the order in which these actions took place! When TDF was announced, nobody knew about Oracle donating anything to Apache. But when it happened, it was clear to both Oracle and Apache that TDF was strongly in favor of strong copyleft licenses.
The consequence of the choice of a permissive license was at the time clear to all: It can never happen that code goes from LibreOffice to Open Office but visa versa is possible at any time. The decision was in other words taken by Oracle and Apache NOT by TDF.

I agree that it would be great if the two projects would join. Combining the effort would naturally benefit the community, but the decision can only be taken by one of the parts. Members of the projects has been invited to join TDF at many occasions from the very beginning.

It takes two to tango and the one who can make the decision is Apache Open Office - who unfortunately refuses to dance. TDF can't make any decision except from stick to its original honorable principles about openness and diversity.

19 December 2013

I have been fooling around

I have been fooling around for a couple of days. 

Yes I admit it. From time to time I enjoy working with something totally different from what I do in my daily life and something that is absolutely irrational. This time I suddenly found my self playing around with ownCloud (https://www.owncloud.org ).

I found that I could launch a pre-configured cloud server on Amazon ( http://aws.amazon.com ) from Bitnami ( http://bitnami.com/stack/owncloud/cloud ).

It took me about half an hour to order and fire up the basic server and after another hour of configuration I had a safe and sound cloud server running. And it all comes in my native language (Danish) out of the box.

I wanted to install a few extra apps for different tasks e.g., a music player that for some reason isn't included in the standard edition of ownCloud 6. The only problem with that was that the music app depends on another apps 'App Framework'. Unfortunately that wasn't very clear in the instructions, and it took me a couple of hours to find the solution and implement it. I made another mistake by activating the app 'FluXX Compensator (Y)'. A friend of mine recommended it to me, but it seems to mess up ownCloud completely. It took me quite some time what caused the problem but when I found the cause it was pretty easy to disable it. I couldn't use the web interface (as it was messed up) but I could remove the app folder through SSH.

So now my family and I can store and share files in a relatively safe way. I know that Amazon might not be the safest place (in the Snowden years), but I somehow feel safer now where I son't have to use Dropbox or Google Drive. I don't like storing my private documents on a server that doesn't belong to me. 

Never mind.

I'n now using my ownCloud as family calendar completely sync'ed with my locally installed Thunderbird/Lightning. The only missing feature is the lack of inviting and accepting invitations directly in my mail and calendar program.
What I find extremely interesting is the way ownCloud can work with documents. First of all ownCloud supports WebDAV and I can open and save files directly from LibreOffice.

Open documents in LibreOffice

But more interesting is a new interesting feature in ownCloud 6: WebODF ( http://webodf.org/ )!

WebODF is a separate open source project that is a JavaScript implementation of the OpenDocument format. So far WebODF only implemented som very basic parts of text documents but its a nice first step. And a step in the right direction. I know that WebODF is working on a spreadsheet thing too and that's exiting.
Another extremely cool feature is that WebODF supports collaborative editing of rich-text documents. We are talking about two or more editors working on the same document at the same time.

Editing on line

WebODF is not a web version of LibreOffice but you can create and edit documents with basic formatting and styles. I even discovered that uploading a rather complicated ODT document from LibreOffice with a table of content and cross references works fine. Some visual features are visible in the browser version of the document, but even if not the unsupported features survives being edited with WebODF.


My conclusion is clearly 'enthusiasm'. I will certainly be using ownCloud as my private cloud server from now on and I can see some very cool ideas coming in the future. I'm exited about WebODF working with ODF documents using JavaScript and I can see many useful things to use it for. I can clearly see ownCloud useful for small business and e.g., schools and NGOs.

I give it a thumb up.

03 December 2013

LibreOffice now has a built in XML-parser

LibreOffice is using a XML based document format so of cause there is a built in XML parser. But until now it has been quite cumbersome to deal with XML in macros. You need to manually traverse through the entire XML structure like this example (thanks to Andrew Pitonyak):

Function CreateDocumentHandler()
oDocHandler = CreateUnoListener( "DocHandler_", "com.sun.star.xml.sax.XDocumentHandler" )
glLocatorSet = False
CreateDocumentHandler() = oDocHandler
End Function

' Methods of our document handler call these
' global functions.
' These methods look strangely similar to
' a SAX event handler. ;-)
' These global routines are called by the Sax parser
' as it reads in an XML document.
' These subroutines must be named with a prefix that is
' followed by the event name of the com.sun.star.xml.sax.XDocumentHandler interface.

Sub DocHandler_characters( cChars As String )

if xNode = "lipsum" then
cChars= Left(cChars,len(cChars)-1)
if len(cChars)>1 then
cChars= cChars+ Chr$(13)
WriteLoremipsum (cChars, oWrite)
Else oWrite=0
End Sub

Sub DocHandler_ignorableWhitespace( cWhitespace As String )
End Sub

Sub DocHandler_processingInstruction( cTarget As String, cData As String )
End Sub

Sub DocHandler_startDocument()
End Sub

Sub DocHandler_endDocument()
End Sub

Sub DocHandler_startElement( cName As String, oAttributes As com.sun.star.xml.sax.XAttributeList )
xNode = cName
End Sub

Sub DocHandler_endElement( cName As String )
End Sub

Sub DocHandler_setDocumentLocator( oLocator As com.sun.star.xml.sax.XLocator )
' Save the locator object in a global variable.
' The locator object has valuable methods that we can
' call to determine
goLocator = oLocator
glLocatorSet = True
End Sub

This example above is from the extension Lorem Ipsum generator that you can download from here: http://extensions.libreoffice.org/extension-center/magenta-lorem-ipsum-generator

But now its much easier as LibreOffice 4.2 comes with two new spreadsheet functions called WEBSERVICE and FILTERXML. In a macro it is possible to call and use such built in spreadsheet functions even when you are working with text documents.

The example below does pretty much the same as the one above

Sub Main
svc = createUnoService( "com.sun.star.sheet.FunctionAccess" ) 'Create a service to use Calc functions
XML_String = svc.callFunction("WEBSERVICE",array("http://www.lipsum.com/feed/xml?amount=2&what=paras&start=Yes"))
Lipsum = svc.callFunction("FILTERXML", array(XML_String, "/feed/lipsum" ))
Print Lipsum
End Sub

I'm really looking forward play around with these nifty little features in Calc.