The Document Foundation Blog


Behind the scenes at TDF: L10N and NLP

Filed under: Community, Foundation, Interviews, LibreOffice — Florian Effenberger @ 10:55

Towards the end of the year, The Document Foundation would like to share achievements in 2014 with our community and our generous donours, to whom we’d like to express our sincerest gratitude and thanks for their incredible and wonderful support and their invaluable contributions!

Sophie Gautier is in charge of our L10N and NLP projects at The Document Foundation, and gives you insight into this key part of our project:

_SDS5526L10n – NLPs status quo

I would like to give a brief overview of the many things that happened or are in the pipe either on the Localization project (L10n) or on the Native Language projects (NLPs). For the latter, it is not always easy to know what is going on locally, but we tend to get more and more feedback from these groups which is really great.

So, on the Localization side, several new languages were added to Pootle these last months, more Indic languages, for example. Translating UI and Help is a very huge task, and when you think it is finished, there is still some work to do for the next version. For example, currently, the teams are in the starting blocks to translate the 4.4.x new features strings and the various enhancements that have been provided by the Design team. Also the change of file format to .ui means that the l10n teams had to translate again all the dialogs. Fortunately, this change is of great help because the dialogs adapt to the length of the strings (no need anymore to count the characters in the word to fit the space), but we are also able to display those dialogs in Glade, allowing to see the strings in context, which is something all localizers are dreaming of! All in all, that makes many new words for both UI and Help projects. And this is not the only translation projects we handle via Pootle, there is also the Website, Impress for Android and iOS, sometimes AskBot projects.

Dedicated to newcomers of the l10n project, two guides have been written; one concerning how to use Pootle, the second one on the structure of .po files (for example, it shows how to distinguish variables or which xml tags are used). There was absolutely no documentation on the structure contents by the past and one had to guess what he had to translate or not. And it is very easy to break a build when tags miss or mismatch, so this brings some relief to the developers too.

Thanks to our Brazilian friends several of the help articles concerning new functions have been completed. We are also working on porting the translation of the help files on the wiki. This is a difficult task because we do not want to complicate the translation task on one hand, but we want to simplify the help maintenance and open it to non-technical contributors on the other hand, which is currently impossible. Some technical issues have still to be resolved, but we are optimistic that we will be able to set it in a near future. As a work in progress also, we hope to push the migration to a new version of Pootle, with an integrated translation memory.

On the Native Language projects side, we are happy to see more and more contributors to the local projects and really good news coming from several of them, like the Italian community or the Japanese and Chinese ones. They not only contribute to their local projects, but you can find those members active in QA, development or documentation.

One of the major tasks handled this year by these teams was the translation and adaptation of the new website design. During the year, the website itself was translated on Pootle and the content by website owners. This gives a uniformed design to all the language sites bringing more quality and a professional look and feel to our project.

One way to measure the growth of activities in these projects is how we all together manage the press releases. Once the text is fixed by the marketing project, the native language projects translate them and send them back to the marketing team for distribution to the press in their countries. We are now able to release in almost 9 languages for each major release. It is also something really exciting to see how the developers, the quality assurance, native language, design and marketing projects interact during the last month before the release. Of course it happens also all time between two or three of them, but the communication has improved between all of them.

Another great thing that has happened recently while in heavy discussion since some times, is the Planet in all languages. It is really impressive to see all those languages mixed in one thread but that you can filter by the language you prefer. There is currently ten languages available covering several blog writers.

Always trying to be as transparent as possible and to bring as much information to the community as we can, the Annual Report due as a TDF official document to the Berlin authorities, has been translated into English and is available to the Native Language projects for their own use, to inform either on the product and the community.

On the local side, TDF has supported several hackfests and numerous events have been organized all over the world by the Native Language Projects. And we are really happy that the Danish team is organizing the next international LibreOffice conference in Aarhus.

To reflect all this effervescence, we have set a Big Thank You page on the wiki, where all L10n and NLPs contributors are invited to add their name. But that’s not all, we have also a world map, detailing the skills of the contributor in addition to his location. And stay tuned, more is coming!


Behind the scenes at TDF: Quality Assurance (QA)

Filed under: Community, Interviews, LibreOffice, QA — Florian Effenberger @ 18:30

Towards the end of the year, The Document Foundation would like to share achievements in 2014 with our community and our generous donours, to whom we’d like to express our sincerest gratitude and thanks for their incredible and wonderful support and their invaluable contributions!

As a start, Robinson Tryon, who is in charge of Quality Assurance (QA) since August, and summarizes the efforts in this important area:robinson-in-brussels

Hi all,

I’m Robinson Tryon and I’m a QA Engineer for The Document Foundation. I became quite interested in computers in high school and got my first taste of Free Software playing around with RedHat Linux on a spare machine.

In college I started to study computer science in earnest, and found myself very interested in the topics of human-computer interaction and computing freedom. I can’t remember who first introduced me to the Free Software Foundation, but I have fond memories from my undergraduate years of attending annual membership meetings at MIT and thinking of how I’d like to get a job where I could spend my time working on Free Software.

In the years since I graduated with a degree in computer science, I’ve been fortunate to be able to work with a number of different organizations and labs on Free Software projects. I’ve worked on a multimedia engine used to create training simulations for doctors and first-responders, tools for teaching non-technical people how to use programs such as git and ssh, and a series of web-based games designed to help libraries, museums, and other organizations crowd-source metadata for images and video in their collections. I was very excited to join the Document Foundation this year and bring my experience to the LibreOffice project.

My first contributions to LibreOffice came early-on in 2010 when the project was just starting out. The renewed energy and community-focus espoused by the leaders heartened me, and the reduced barriers to contribution sounded very promising. I tested out new builds and made a few small edits to the wiki, but didn’t get seriously involved until a couple of years later. Up until that point, I was just a user.

When I was still in college, I remember running Sun’s off of a Knoppix LiveCD. I desperately wanted to find an alternative to running MS-Office to type up all of my papers and reports, and just using a text editor wasn’t quite cutting it. Although I wasn’t always able to work on my own desktop computer in my dorm room, carrying around a Knoppix CD made it possible for me to boot-up and run a Free Software office suite on the public cluster machines.

By the time LibreOffice had its first release, I had upgraded from the CD and could carry around Free Software programs on a USB stick, ready to be run on any computer. I currently carry a USB stick with builds of LibreOffice for Windows, GNU/Linux, and Mac. My thinking is that if a friend ever needs a hand opening documents on a computer, it’d be great for me to have the right tool ready to go for them. In fact, using LibreOffice to help out a friend is what got me very involved with LibreOffice and the QA Team.

A friend of mine had a large number of documents in proprietary formats (word processing, spreadsheet, etc..) and reading through the LibreOffice documentation I found out that the suite has some excellent tools for conversion of documents from one format to another, including the ability to bulk-convert via the command line one hundred documents as easily as one document. While I was doing my research, I started to chat with contributors to the LibreOffice project, I attended a couple of QA Meetings, and before I knew it was an active member of the QA Team!

When I first started out contributing to LibreOffice, I focused on some basic bug triage tasks and filled-in missing pages on the TDF wiki. As my understanding of the project and its members grew, I was able to make contributions to Bugzilla, to the BSA, and MediaWiki, and was able to help set up tools such as ownCloud. I currently work on a large number of different QA tasks for LibreOffice, including generating binary-bisection or “bibisect” repositories, improving and updating QA documentation on the TDF wiki, and overseeing the implementation of improvements to Bugzilla. Right now I’m gaining experience as a Release Engineer for LibreOffice.

In addition to the technical tasks I undertake for LibreOffice, I work on LibreOffice outreach — both in the US and abroad. Although we have a large number of active users, only a small fraction of them are active contributors. We are always looking to expand the number of contributors in each of our teams, and are excited about getting more people involved in QA through our BugHunting sessions and LibreFests.

A LibreFest is usually a one or two-day event in which various LibreOffice teams may participate. LibreFests, just like hackfests, are typically held in person, as that’s the best way for us to collaborate with and teach new contributors. When the QA Team participates in a LibreFest, users are asked to perform basic or advanced bug triage, to bibisect regressions, and to file new bugs that they observe. With experienced LibreOffice team members present, users feel much more comfortable stepping outside their comfort zone and taking on QA tasks that they wouldn’t try to tackle by themselves.

In our BugHunting sessions, we spend a weekend (usually Fri-Sun) testing the latest builds of a new Release Branch. One of the tools we use to test the builds is MozTrap — a test case management system that help to ensure greater reliability and consistency. Through extensive use of LibreOffice, we hope to shake-out any obvious bugs and squash them before going further in with the release process.

Speaking of BugHunting sessions, this weekend (Dec 19-21), we’ll be having a BugHunting session for the upcoming 4.4 Release Branch. We’ve worked to make it easy for newcomers to participate. To join in, or just for more information, see:

LibreOffice 4.4.0 bug hunting sessionIf you’re looking for a way to participate in LibreOffice, or just curious about what we do in QA, please stop by our mailing list or our IRC channel. There’s so much more that we do that can’t be contained in a single blog post, and we’d love to tell you all about it!


Interview of Naruhiko Ogasawara, a localizer from Japan

Filed under: Community, Interviews — antareusjade @ 16:19

LibreOffice can only exist since people are working on it: so please, tell us a bit about yourself.402282_464389833584422_1344809811_n

I’m a member of LibreOffice Japanese Team; working in the backyard of Japanese community. Driving translation, reporting bugs instead of people who can’t use English and attending FLOSS events in Japan.

In the team, my main task is translation of LibreOffice UI, and sometimes Wiki pages, and I’m one of the administrator of Pootle Japanese group. And now I have lots of interest about outreaching (I’ll talk about it later). It might be a special, I’m a “printer” guy. I have strong interest about the future of printing; not only print something from desktop application (e.g. LibreOffice), but also using mobile device, from cloud service, etc. In the future I want to get involved about printing related enhancement of LibreOffice.

In what other software projects have you been involved?

Ubuntu and GNOME (mostly translation), and OpenPrinting; standardize group of unix-like printing environments.

Where do you live (and/or study)?

Very east side of Tokyo (Katsushika-ku).

What do you do when you’re not working on LibreOffice?

My work is technical investigation of current FLOSS technologies, e.g, NoSQLs, Private IaaS Platforms, something something… includes LibreOffice also.

In private, reading books, sitting in front of my laptop and many many tweeting, or sometimes reading blogs or news. And just now I’ve started Yoga. It’s pretty good.

I love running rivers with a kayak. Most of 60 rivers I’ve visited, includes US and New Zealand. Paddling is wonderful :)

When do you usually spend time on the project?

About translation or Facebook pages administration, mostly off time of weekdays. Our LibreOffice meetup (read below) also are in weekday night. I guess almost 10 hours per week.

How did you hear about LibreOffice?

Because a friend of mine is the key person of Japanese LibreOffice (and former community.

Why did you get involved? Is LibreOffice popular in your native-language?

Because my friend mentioned above need my help. At that time I had surprised how people in the community is active, full of love for LibreOffice itself, “wow it’s really nice community” I thought. That’s why I still spend a time for the community.

In Japan, LibreOffice is getting big I feel, but still “OpenOffice” as a brand is bigger than LibreOffice. If someone want to find fee-free office productive suite, he might google “openoffice.”

What was your initial experience of contributing to LibreOffice like?

Checking most of all printing-related UI translations and correcting because my special is printing.

What have you done since then?

About translation, I have expanded my area from printing-related to any other UI, and not only UI, but also some Wiki pages or else.

Now my most important work is to drive our own (LibreOffice-titled) event in Japan, and share them to global.

First, I’ve started monthly LibreOffice meeting “Kanto LibreOffice Study Group” (Kanto means around Tokyo area). This meeting might deal with widely theme from using how-to to introduction to development.

Then I administrate two Facebook pages: one is for all of Japanese LibreOffice related people to discuss about LibreOffice in Japanese, and another is for LibreOffice meeting owners in Japan to exchange knowledge how to host meetings or anything else.

And I feel it’s important that we, Japanese community should let global people know how we’re active and share success stories and problems.

What would be your best suggestion or advice for anyone interested in getting involved in the localization of LibreOffice?

Don’t worry about English. If you can’t understand some translated string, the translation might be wrong. Please teach us. It’s first step to join us. No English is needed. We always need proofreading.

And LibreOffice community is very active, full of love, lots of nice people and easy to join.

What is your vision for the future and/or what would you most like to see improved in LibreOffice?

My currently interest is how to reach non-FLOSS, non-geek people in Japan to tell how LibreOffice is good for them. Most of them only know MS Office, few of them know also OpenOffice but not know LibreOffice. We need to reach them and get feedback what they want, and tell them to the global.

Of course migration in large companies and local governments from MS Office to LibreOffice is big issue, so we need supporting companies in our ecosystems in Japan. But this issue is out of focus for me as a community guy…

Anyway, my another point is writing codes. Because it is easiest way to put Japanese local requirements, but in Japan very few people have done that. So I want to became a developer and I also grow some young developers of LibreOffice.

Thanks a lot for your answers and time!

Interview by Charles-H. Schulz.


Interview with LibreOffice localizers around the world: Helen & Sophie

Filed under: Community, Interviews — antareusjade @ 10:42

Today we interview two great women, Helen Ushakova and Sophie Gautier, from the Russophone and Francophone communities.helenrussian

LibreOffice can only exist since people are working on it: so please, tell us a bit about yourself.

Helen:  My name is Elena Ushakova, also known by nicknames as Helen Russian (helenrussian, helen_russian). I am 36 years old. I’m full-time employed as a corporate web applications programmer.

Sophie: My almost full name is Sophie Gautier, also known as sgauti or sophi or sofi. I’m usually a women, traveling in the open source world since 14 years now.

In what other software projects have you been involved?

H: In the past I used to work on some projects but it was a short time. Seriously I liked only I took care of OOo UI and Help translations. We have the user forum and the site with useful tips. Now we are making the same things for LibreOffice. Also, I’m participating a little in the Apache OpenOffice project (mainly in the wiki).

S:  I’ve been deeply involved in the project, working on different areas, trying to understand all the aspect of this strange organization. I’ve done localization in French for other very small projects. I also participate in several associations.

Where do you live (and/or study)?

H:  Yekaterinburg, Russia.

S: I live where my feet are ;) I guess it’s Paris for more than a year, yeah!

What do you do when you’re not working on LibreOffice?

H:  Well, I’ve got another pet project – DMOZ (Open Directory Project). I’m an ODP Editor since 2008. Also I like a lot of interesting things: whether it be cooking dinner for my family or playing musical instruments.

S: I own a consulting and training company dedicated to open source applications for the desktop. Creating objects and drawing is my favorite way to escape from the world.

When do you usually spend time on the project?

H: I don’t know… Every day. In the morning, in the evening. Each time when it is needed.

sgaS: Any time I’ve time, I think about it or work on it, I’m afraid it’s a kind of passion (no, I didn’t say poison!).

How did you hear about LibreOffice?

H: From news. And I remember the feeling of joy “Finally someone took this step” and then there was a long period of my doubts. The whole 10 long days. :)

S: I’ve been involved in The Document Foundation and LibreOffice since its creation, so the first time I heard about it was probably in my dreams.

Why did you get involved? Is LibreOffice popular in your native-language? 

H: First, people who are involved in the project are its precious thing. I love to be together with these people, to work in a team, to feel friendly support. Second, in the department of the company which I work, ODF is an internal corporate standard, so I dedicate a part of my work time to LibreOffice. As for the popularity of LibreOffice in Russia, we will definitely have to strive for it. However it still isn’t the main goal.

S:  I got involved with localization during the time, I’ve been taught by professional linguists and it was natural for me to go on with the French localization of LibreOffice. LibreOffice is more and more used in the French speaking countries and supported by the French Government, hence my motivation to continue the work too.

What was your initial experience of contributing to LibreOffice like?

H: It is obvious: I sent a file with the Russian UI translation update on 2010-Oct-8. After that it became too late to retreat. :)

S: I was very happy to work with so many different people, with so many skills, having so many different ways of being and with so much understanding.

What have you done since then?

H: Russian LibreOffice community does a lot of work. My contribution is not very big. Usually I translate UI, resolve some administrative questions on the user forum or sites. Sometime I help Free Office users on our forum or in G+ LibreOffice Russia community.

S:  Speaking about FR l10n, not much. I’m still alone to localize the UI/Help with my old tools and my friend named grep. But now, the French QA team is helping a lot in proof reading and correcting my mistakes (and I’m sure they often have a good laugh at them :)

What would be your best suggestion or advice for anyone interested in getting involved in the localization of LibreOffice?

H: Don’t be afraid to start any work alone. Be ready for errors. Always begin any work in LibreOffice only in a good mood :) . And in this case LibreOffice will be source of inspiration for you and your personal growth.

S: My advice would be : do not be afraid by the amount of words all around you when you’ll begin, you’ll see that fast and soon, the green will eat the grey on Pootle. Also, we are a team, always here and happy to help each other, so never hesitate to ask either on a translation or the use of the tools.

What is your vision for the future and/or what would you most like to see improved in LibreOffice?

H: I would like each NLC to have more attention from the global community and be more involved into community life. Let’s communicate more.

S: What I would like to see the most improved is the representation of the native language projects and their communication with the international project. A native language project is like a small projection of the international project, but with its specificity due to the language. It should not be seen as a barrier or a fragmentation, it’s on the contrary what makes our diversity and our plurality, but we need to communicate more, always more because we are one and only one project.

Thanks a lot for your answers and your time!

H: You’re welcome!

S:  Thanks a lot for your interview!

Interview done and prepared by Charles-H. Schulz & Marc Paré.


Developer Interview: KOHEI YOSHIDA

Filed under: Community, Interviews — Florian Effenberger @ 12:15

(Submitted by Marc Paré, November 5, 2012)

Kohei YoshidaKohei Yoshida is a well-known individual on the LibreOffice project. To many, he is considered as one of the core group of developers who have contributed to the steady development and code improvement of the project, and one of the leaders of the calc component. Kohei takes a little time out from his busy schedule to let us know a little more about himself and why the LibreOffice project appeals to him.

LibreOffice can only exist since people are working on it: so please, tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Kohei Yoshida. I’m a Japanese national currently living in Raleigh, North Carolina. I used to work in the environmental science field but decided to change my profession to software engineering to make it more aligned with my passion and obsession. I’m very glad I made that switch. Now I can justify my obsession instead of apologizing for it since I’m now getting paid for it.

In what other software projects have you been involved?

Besides LibreOffice? Not much actually. Of course, I was involved in the project back in the old days, but that’s about it.

I once worked at SlickEdit as part of their development team for about one year, before I moved on to join Novell to work on full-time.

Where do you live (and/or study)?

I live in Raleigh, North Carolina.

What do you do when you’re not working on LibreOffice?

Bits and pieces of various things, such as taking my son to his Taekwondo practice, watching TV, mostly documentaries and news to learn about interesting developments around the globe, working out to stay in good shape…. that sort of stuff.

When do you usually spend time on the project?

That’s easy. Since this is my full-time job, I do it just like how other people go to work. But I also put a fair amount of personal time into it to mostly move forward some of my side projects that would not warrant using my employer’s time.

What is your preferred text editor? And why?

Unlike many other core developers who use mostly either emacs or vim, I do use SlickEdit which is a well-capable commercial code editor. It has built-in symbol database that scales very well with very large code base such as LibreOffice code base. It also has tons of other useful features that save me lots of time and effort. The fact that I used to work there developing the editor probably helped me initiate myself with the editor, and get stuck with it, so to speak.

How did you hear about LibreOffice?

Well, it’s hard not to have heard about LibreOffice as I’ve been there since day one.

Why did you get involved?

I got involved through my employer, SUSE.

What was your initial experience of contributing to LibreOffice like?

Again, this question may not apply to me personally since I was involved in LibreOffice from day one. But I think it’s worth saying that the new git-based repository made my job 100 times easier than our old system, which was basically nothing more than just a hand-crafted, custom patch management system wrapped around the upstream cvs/subversion/mercurial repos. If you are familiar with the Go-oo project, that’s what I’m talking about here.
Now that I look back, the system back then with the Go-oo project, it was terribly inefficient and not a great place to go wild with one’s creativity. I didn’t necessarily think that back in the days, but now I do.
There were rough edges even with the system we use in the LibreOffice project when we just started. But the good news is that we have since improved our system and most of the kinks are now gone. I’m very happy about that.

What have you done since then?

Well, I’ve done a lot of things since the project started. Due to the nature of my work, I tend to go to many corners of Calc, so it’s hard for me to list individual achievements. That said, overall, what I’ve done can be categorized as follows: 1) code cleanups, 2) new features and enhancements, and 3) core refactoring for better maintainability/performance/memory footprints. Recently, I’m mostly focusing on performance enhancements and core refactoring to make the code more readily extensible, easier to maintain and generally perform better. These changes are not very visible to the end users, but in my opinion just as important as more visible features.
I’ve also worked to extract some of the code into external projects, and have it maintained outside LibreOffice. Projects such as mdds and orcus are good examples of that effort.

What do you think was your most important contribution to LibreOffice so far?

The improvement in the pivot table engine, which is finally in a very good shape as of 3.6, and numerous unit test code I’ve written since inception of this project.

How will that improve things for users?

Hopefully users will have to wait less for things to get done when using pivot table. Also, having more code automatically tested by our unit test framework means less chance of having regressions. Unfortunately the coverage of our unit test framework is still not high enough, and we should still stay diligent in writing more and more test codes to accompany bug fixes. But things are improving, and hopefully as we make more releases and make more code changes (accompanied by more test code) we will increase the coverage of our unit test.

What is your vision for the future and/or what would you most like to see improved in LibreOffice?

My vision for this project is to make the code more modular; extracting more code into mdds, orcus etc to offload code maintenance, and more unit test coverage to improve the quality of the binary that we release. Of course, I can’t forget about making Calc run a lot speedier in all areas. But to achieve that goal we need to make lots of changes in lots of areas.
I would also like to someday spend some serious time tinkering with and understanding the drawing layer code. For now, I only know just a little, barely enough to get by. But some day that level of knowledge won’t be enough to carry out large scale refactoring or re-architecting of Calc’s drawing layer, which relies in large part on the common drawing layer code that all apps depend on. So, I’d like us to improve that situation one day.
The chart code is another beast that we don’t have an intimate knowledge of. Several of us have spent some time in that code, including myself, but the code still feels “foreign”. I’d like to see that changed.
Also, we really need to do something about the poor performance of ods and xlsx imports. But this is a difficult problem to solve, and while I have some ideas to improve the load performance, it’s for the long-term rather than short-term. I have some prototype ideas in orcus. The challenge is to figure out how to materialize those ideas to make them happen in LibreOffice proper. That won’t be easy, but we have to move in that direction some day.
Lastly, I’d really like to refactor Calc’s core cell storage to take advantage of newer CPU’s vectorization support, take advantage of GPU, or perhaps allow some super computer cluster to be plugged in to massively speed up formula calculations. Achieving that will be a major architectural challenge, but it’s a very interesting one.

What advise would you give new developers to make their first LibreOffice hacking steps easier?

Get a good idea of what you want to accomplish with this project, and if possible, try to establish a main area of interest, and keep forging ahead.

Anything else interesting you get up to when not hacking?

Not much, actually. I tend to spend a lot of time researching the latest on clean energy development. Too bad I can’t do much about it myself and I can only get to learn what awesome stuff other people have been doing in that area. But I do believe that we have a global-scale energy crisis, and I really appreciate those who are trying to solve this very hard problem. Meanwhile, I do my part by trying to make the application run faster which will consume less CPU power which will in turn draw less electricity and generate less excess heat.

Thanks a lot for your answers and time. We look forward to more of your great code in our favorite office suite.


Developer Interview: Lionel Elie Mamane, LibreOffice Base Maintainer and Volunteer

Filed under: Community, Interviews — Florian Effenberger @ 13:06

(Interview by Michael Meeks, edited by Marc Paré)

In our continuing series “Developer Interview”, Lionel Elie Mamane discusses his work with LibreOffice code and of his particular interest with Base. His lead role in maintaining the Base module is helping raise the use of Base among the LibreOffice community at large.

Lionel Elie Mamane

How did you hear about LibreOffice?

Debian switched to it from

LibreOffice can only exist if people are working on it; so please, tell us a bit about yourself. In what other software projects have you been involved?

Mainly Debian, but I’ve always sent patches left and right to scratch my itches; a more or less random selection:

  • IPv6 support for privoxy, an anonyimising HTTP proxy
  • bugfix for gfax, a graphical interface to send faxes: handle spaces in telefax numbers gracefully
  • Linux, the kernel: In SIT tunnels set to “tos inherit”, propagate IPv6 transport class byte from the inner packet to the ToS byte in the outer packet, like IPIP and GRE tunnels already did
  • Pan (newsreader): fix interaction with mutt (email user agent)
  • Pan: bug in thread filter
  • Fixes in some LaTeX packages
  • mutt (email user agent): fix parsing of mailto: URLs

What do you do when you’re not working on LibreOffice?

Finish up my PhD dissertation in theoretical computer science/computer mathematics.

What is your thesis?

The field is proof assistants, that is programs that help mathematicians make theorems (proofs), manage them, etc. But also that check that a proof is correct.

My thesis is that the way current / historic proof assistants are going at it, we will “never” have a nice proof that we can show to a human and that will be “nice” to read. We have to change a bit (but not that much) how they are organized, both as concrete systems (programs), but also the theoretical underpinnings.

I handle the IT needs of a small (15 people) company.

What company? Can you give us a link and tell us of it’s products?

The company is Gestman S.A.. It does administrative, accounting and juridic work.

I’m also adviser to a charitable foundation called: Matanel. Its mission statement is summarized as “Matanel Spirit: The Matanel foundation, granted to give, encourages social entrepreneurship in all over the world.”  The full version of Matanel’s mission statement explains this in more detail.

Additionally to more “classic” charitable stuff (food, education, culture, …), I’m to blame for the logo being on Debconf11, Debconf12. You’ll notice my employer (Gestman s.a.) is also a sponsor of these conferences, and also pays my attendance to the same:

When do you usually spend time on the project?

If I was interrupted in mid-thought or mid-bugfix by my car*share*, I finish at home.

So European waking hours?


Why did you get involved?

Because I want to use it as a programming platform for database-driven custom business applications at work. As a Microsoft Access killer, if you want. I started fixing bugs and adding small features that were useful to me, and before I really realized it, I find myself being the LibreOffice database expert.

Lovely, that’s exciting! What do your business applications do? Can you flesh that out a bit?

The business applications do:

  • customer database
    • contact data
    • track who is authorized to order which action on behalf of customer
  • billing: manual, automated, semi-automated
    • when customer asks for out-of-package work, bill by hourly tariff
    • statistics on which employee works how many billable/in-package/non-billable hours
    • statistics (for each customer) on how many hours spent on in-package work vs price of package.
  • tracking of assets and investments we manage
  • track advancement of work that needs to be done, and its bouncing from employee to employee or external entity.
  • For example, filing a company’s tax return:
    • accountant prepare balance sheet: employee 1
    • account manager validates: employee 2
    • send to auditor: employee 3
    • waiting for auditor: external service
    • file tax return as certified by auditor: employee 4
    • did we get the filing acknowledgment from the tax authority?

What was your initial experience of contributing to LibreOffice like? And how did that make you feel?

Very welcoming community. Err… Very welcome? My skills are recognized, contributions valued …

What was your first contribution to LibreOffice?

My first “applied as I wrote it” patch seems to be (date:   Sat Jan 15 05:39:40 2011 +0100):

#116187: report left/right page margin setting ignored on Unix 64 bit

The bug was: when one changed the left or right margin of a report on a 64 bit arch, *all* changes done in that dialog were lost.

What have you done since then?

Fixed a lot of stuff in Base, and a bit in scripting.

Great! Can you expand on the importance of fixing base?

Nearly all “enterprise/business applications” are more or less “read this from that database; do this work on it; push that to the database, …”. LibreOffice will *never* be a rapid application development platform à la Microsoft Office + Visual Basic for Applications without a solid database access / management / … component.

How will that improve things for users?

Users will be able to use LibreOffice for database access without crippling bugs.

What is your vision for the future and/or what would you like to see improved?

  • Ideally I’d like to have a rich, vibrant Developer/Tester/QA/ … community around base.
  • Interested in database stuff or scripting in LibreOffice? Come join  us! You can be useful at many different levels, with many different skills and levels of specialization: programming, bug triage, QA, testing, documentation writing, …
  • The reporting system is a bit primitive and could use a real upgrade.
  • It would be nice if forms could show several records at once (not only in grid mode).
  • The many dependencies on Java are a liability, and I’d like to have them curtailed / removed.

What do you think of the new build system?

gbuildification is a nice step forward, but it is “recursive make”, which is bad; see  At least now it is not “much worse” than most other projects.

Errata: Actually, it was now explained to me that the “recursive” nature of our gbuild system is transitory, and that wen everything will be gbuildified, it won’t be recursive anymore (everything will be in the tail_build module). Great news!

I’m 100% convinced that our dependency information is incomplete and/or too low granularity. I still have build problems solved by a “make module.clean” or some such. And, when I try to do a more surgical “rm”, it often fails BECAUSE THAT FILE IS NOT REDONE, so, compilation of a different file fails with message “file you removed missing”.

Which is your preferred text editor and why?

Emacs. Habit (keybindings in muscle memory), features, programmability in a decent language (I’m a functional programming guy at heart), …

What would you encourage new contributors to work on with you?

I’ve made a few “easy hacks” with suggestions.

Anything else interesting you get up to when not hacking?

No, hacking is my life ;)

Thanks for your time and commitment to the project!


Interview with Björn Michaelsen about the Hackfest

Filed under: Interviews — Florian Effenberger @ 13:33

(by Jorge Rodriguez and Hans de Vries)

Please, tell us something about you and your activities? And how you became involved with Open Source Software and LibreOffice?

I started to get involved with Open Source when I was still a student. I got involved quite a bit with Gentoo (the Linux distribution) in its early days, somewhere around Gentoo 1.2. I even wrote some tools for it, only to scratch my personal itch, but it seems that for example ‘etc-proposals’ is still quite popular. I kept being involved in Open Source, although my first job after graduating from the university was not Open Source related. In 2008 I joined Sun’s OpenOffice Writer team, motivated by the opportunity to work on one of the biggest – and most important – Open Source projects in the world. I learned quite a lot about the codebase and the product there and in turn could bring in some experience from the sometimes chaotic, but always dynamic ways of Open Source projects. As of February 2011 I am employed by Canonical and take care of LibreOffice releases on Ubuntu. Since that date I am contributing code changes directly to LibreOffice. Later I also joined the Engineering Steering Committee of LibreOffice.

How was Hackfest 2011?

It was delighting in its concentration on the essentials. There was: a room, food, a possibility to sleep, a build server (in case you didn’t bring your own hardware to build LibreOffice) and there were lots of cool people to meet.

Hackfest 2011 was an Unconference (see in its best form. It provided exactly what was needed without bureaucratic overhead. Comparing Hackfest 2011 to the then still related to Hackfest 2010 in Hamburg, there was a tremendous growth in participants and interest. If this growth continues, some more organization will be needed or the Hackfest might become a victim of its own success. On the other hand, that might be just German over-cautiousness on my part. ;)

There were eleven topics to hack. As I saw the hacks, you were the mentor for Christoph Lutz. Can you tell us something about how you and Christoph came to work together?

Christoph already had his mind clearly set on the topic, which he choose himself. I only became his mentor at the Hackfest. I just noticed what the problem was he was trying to solve at the Hackfest and that I had already meddled quite a bit with related code. So naturally, as these things go on Hackfests and Unconferences, I became his mentor.

In a few words that a newbie can understand, what was the problem that you were working on (‘Non-linear execution time in mail merge’)?

If you had a mail merge document with bookmarks in it, which is quite common in corporate environments or public authorities (like the City of Munich), creating the merged document would get needlessly and unbearably slow with a large number of repititions/recipients.

Did you and Christoph manage to solve that problem?

Yes, the goal to speed up mail merge in this scenario was archived. Actually any scenario with large numbers of bookmarks existing in one document has been made faster.

Did you encounter any difficulties working on that hack?

I didn’t expect any, but there always are some. For example the issue documented at Fortunately, these issues have been quickly dealt with, so we now can enjoy the fruits of the effort. Quite a bit of work was put into getting Christoph up-and-running with callgrind ( to safely confirm where exactly the problem was. Once that was done, fixing the issue was the easier part in the end. At least thats how I felt about it. I cant speak for Christoph’s experience here.

I read you are also working on the Gerrit project (aimed at code review). Can you tell us something about that?

We installed a test instance at at the time of the Hackfest which is offline again now. It basically worked (kudos also to Norbert Thiebaud, who — among a thousand other Good Things he does for the project also tested Gerrit with me), but in the end we found we needed much more resources for hosting Gerrit than that virtual machine for testing could provide. This is currently being addressed, so that does not invalidate our general assessment that Gerrit would be good for the project and is desperately needed (see for all the gory details). More on this topic will be presented in all its epic broadness at the LibreOffice conference in Paris. I invite everyone who is there (and not only developers!) to join that talk as it will also address the general question of “how we communicate” and changes to the source code are the most important means of communication between developers.

Is there a final document or presentation where the all results of all hack topics achieved during the Hackfest are saved? And could anyone interested in these results access it? is still the best with regard to this topic as far as I know. There are no restrictions on access once it is written. However, not every participant might be inclined to spend too much time on documenting progress when he/she rather likes to fix a few more things. So, of course such documentation is valuable, but it is also a trade-off against hacker productivity. More fundamentally: you can’t force volunteers to write documentation when they’d rather write code.

Also I like to note that there were open discussions I had (for example with Andre Schnabel, Christoph Noack, Florian Effenberger and Italo Vignoli) about the general direction of the project that I found extremely valuable. The outcome of those discussions often  can’t be nailed down to some direct result in the product, but they gave me a better perception of the project as a whole.

Finally we had a good chance to exchange quite a bit about the little tricks that everybody uses to make work on LibreOffice easier “on the fly”, just by watching each other work. Even better of course, if this gets documented, which is what Regina did here: for building LibreOffice on Windows.

Finally, in general what do you think of Hackfest 2011?

It was awesome and way more than I expected. In fact, I fear a bit that further growth of the Hackfest might destroy its cozy productivity. Maybe we need more Hackfests?

What made you decide to become a LibreOffice developer?

I was a full time developer on the codebase of LibreOffice at Sun/Oracle a year ago. I had a gut feeling that the Document Foundation had a much better idea of where to take LibreOffice long term and a better understanding on how to handle a open source project as a whole. When I got the opportunity to work on Ubuntu and LibreOffice for Canonical, I didnt miss it.

What did you do to familiarize yourself with the code and development model for LibreOffice?

I knew the code quite a bit from my previous job (and helps a lot for the areas that I am not fully acquainted with), however I needed to (re-)learn the (actually much simpler) development model. There are three important channels that helped me to learn about the development model in practice:

  • IRC
  • the developer mailing list
  • the wiki

Once you knew how things were done, what was your first contribution? And why did you choose to work on that?

Making LibreOffice 3.3.X the first LibreOffice release on Ubuntu with Natty was the first thing I did — along with a lots of odds and ends towards that. It was the primary task I selected with my new job.

If you look back at that time and what you learned then, what advise would you give new developer’s (not necessarily well-seasoned ones) to make those first steps easier?

a) Start off with an Easy Hack:

b) Find help on IRC or the developer mailing list

It might help if you name the Easy Hack you are intending to work on, as seasoned developers are esp. interested in helping new contributors with a clear goal — it also helps finding others who are knowledgable about that area of code.

What are you working on at the moment?

Last week I was mostly setting myself up for the LibreOffice 3.5 release to be shipped with the “Precise Pangolin” LTS release, and identifying what I need and can do for that. The parts relevant to LibreOffice can be mostly be found in these two blueprints:

If you had unlimited resources, what improvements or new features would you like to see added to LibreOffice?

With unlimited resources, that question isnt too tricky, is it? However, if I had a limited set of additional resources at my will, I would use it to be even faster with streamlining our existing features and functionality. And if I had — because of the additional resources — more free time at hand, I would try to implement nifty Calc chart visualizations with the OpenGL Shading Language that you can walk/fly around in. But dont tell anyone, as it would only be fun if I do it myself! ;)


Developer Interview : Markus Mohrhard

Filed under: Interviews — The Document Foundation @ 11:23

Coding LibreOffice to relax a bit from studying tough mathematical problems? Read why and how Markus Mohrhard works on LibreOffice!

LibreOffice can only exist since people are working on it: so please ! tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a third year math student and have always been interested in computer science(which is even a subsidiary subject for me). I’m always interested in anything new in math, physics and computer science and try to learn as much as possible in these areas.

In what other software projects have you been involved ?

I’ve been working on a university project for about one year now. This project is mainly about model to model transformations.

Where do you live (and study)?

I live at Karlsruhe and study at the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (formerly know as university Karlsruhe)

What do you do when you’re not working on LibreOffice ?

Mainly studying, but in my free time I do sports or just do something with my friends.

Ah sports means healthy people in the project :-) …so, what type of sports?

I’m jogging and playing football. But since university I have no more time for doing this in a club only with friends and in my free time.

When do you usually spend time on the project ?

Mainly in the evening and during nights. Mostly when I have some math problems which drive me crazy and I need to think about something else for some time.

Working on LibreOffice code to relax – could be worse ;-)
Do you have a preferred text editor for this relaxing work? And why?

Notepad++, Vim and Gedit. Depending on what I’m doing. Notepad++ is my prefered editor at Windows and sometimes I miss it in Linux. I think for developing in Linux there is only the choice between Emacs and Vim and I just prefer Vim(even if it sometimes drives me crazy). And I like Gedit for its simplicity.

How did you hear about LibreOffice ?

I’m following a tech news site and they report regularly about Libreoffice and the Documentfoundation. I liked the idea of an independant foundation behind LibreOffice that would not force developers to sign a CLA.

Why did you get involved ?

I’ve always wanted to contribute to an open-source project. After I discovered the Easy Hacks page my decision was made and the community made it really easy to get into the development. Especially Kohei helped me a lot to understand the code around calc.

What was your first contribution to LibreOffice ?

It was a one line change to fix a problem showing the right shortcut. Nothing special but I learned a lot about the structure of LibreOffice there. It was about the crasher bug (fdo#37429) and listed and the most annoying bugs. As soon as I found the problem (which took a lot of time) it was just a one line change.

What was your initial experience of contributing to LibreOffice like ?

It was amazing how positive the core developers react to someone new and how much they encourage someone to go on. Even when I started working on my autofilter patch and made some really bad design decisions, they helped me every time with some hints how I can improve my code.

What have you done since then ?

I’ve written some code to support one autofilter per sheet in calc and the corresponding import and export filters(thanks a lot there for Kohei’s help). Since then I’ve fixed several bugs and started working on supporting an unlimited number of sheets in calc together with improving the performance in some situations.

What do you think was your most important contribution to LibreOffice so far ?

For me it is the support for one autofilter per sheet, but for others it might be one of the bugs I fixed.

How will that improve things for users?

This was a long requested feature and improves the compatibility to Excel a bit. There was a workaround for this this but it was extremely uninitive, so I hope that a lot of people can benefit from this feature.

What is your vision for the future and/or what would you most like to see improved ?

It would be amazing if more people would help in the QA and help the developers to find bugs much earlier. I broke some minor things with my patches but they were not detected before RC1 and I think our quality could improve if there were more people testing the nightly builds or beta builds.

Anything else interesting you get up to when not hacking ?

I’m playing chess and doing sports regularly. But I’m always open to new things and try something different. I’d like to travel to other countries more but that will not possible as long as I study.

Thanks a lot for your answers and time!


Developer Interview : Rob Snelders

Filed under: Community, Interviews — The Document Foundation @ 14:53

LibreOffice can only exist because people are working on it: so please, tell us a bit about yourself.

I am Rob Snelders, a 28 years old Dutch guy. I am a programmer at a manufacturer of household equipment. I have studied Computer Sience at the Fontys University in Eindhoven.

In what other software projects have you been involved ?

I am also involved in T-Dose (, Ubuntu-NL.

What do you do when you’re not working on LibreOffice ?


Developer interview: Christina Rossmanith

Filed under: Interviews — Tags: — The Document Foundation @ 21:05

In this developer interview we talk someone who started with helping out other developers by translating comments in the code from German to English.

“Translating of comments brings me across different parts of the code, so I get a feeling for LibreOffice.”

LibreOffice can only exist since people are working on it: so please ! tell us a bit about yourself.

In what other software projects have you been involved ?

None, this is my first project.

What do you do when you’re not working on LibreOffice ?

I’m working in the field of medical image processing (part time), bring my four daughters up,
play volleyball / coach volleyball girls, play flute, read, cook …


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