Community Week: Documentation – who’s who, the tools used, and how to get involved

Earlier in the week we talked to Olivier Hallot who’s heading up the documentation team in LibreOffice. But other people are contributing as well, so if you want to help out, here are some names to look out for:

  • Jean Weber is the author and original producer of the LibreOffice guides
  • Stan Horacek, Gabor Kelemen, Adolfo Jaime Barrientos and others are contributors to the help contents
  • Dennis Roczek and Lera Goncharuk work mostly on the wiki
  • Andrea Mussap just joined and under Olivier’s advice produced a help page for LibreOffice

The team communicates via the documentation mailing list (see the archives here), where you can post suggestions for updates or ask for areas that need help. Another alternative is to use the IRC channel (#libreoffice-doc on Freenode), which is better for more immediate discussion – but can be quiet at times, if it’s night-time where many of the participants are based.

Tools of the trade

LibreOffice’s documentation content is split into two main categories: online help, and the guidebooks. They are both fundamentally important to the office suite, but differ in the style of content and who it’s aimed at.

The user guides are available on the LibreOffice website, in ODT (for Writer) and PDF formats, and printed copies can be bought as well. You can see that the Getting Started guide for LibreOffice 5.x is the most up-to-date – so a good way to help out is to edit the other guides (eg for Writer and Calc) to bring them in line with the LibreOffice 5.x series as well.

In addition, there’s the help that’s built in to LibreOffice (usually accessible by pressing F1). Unlike the user guides, which provide detailed explanations of how to do tasks in LibreOffice, the built-in help focuses on answering questions about specific features. This is usually the first resource that users of the software consult if they have a problem, before looking in the user guides or searching the internet.

A list of frequently asked questions (FAQ) is available on the wiki, but some of the answers are dated. A better resource is the Ask LibreOffice site which lets people post and answer questions.

Get involved!

So you’ve seen what the documentation project does, who’s in the team, and what they’re working on. Why not help out yourself? If you’re interested in a career in technical writing, this is a great way to build up some experience. Or if you’re already familiar with such work, you can really make a difference to a major free and open source software project!

Getting started is easy:

  • Send a blank email to and follow the instructions to sign up to the mailing list
  • Introduce yourself – you don’t need to include a CV, but just provide a few lines of who you are and how you want to help
  • Someone on the docs team will answer and help you out

For newcomers, there is a meta bug in bugzilla bringing together various “easy hacks” – small tasks that you can do easily without much experience or long-term committment. Even the smallest fixes and tweaks can make all the difference.

Then there is the ODFAuthors site which has information on producing LibreOffice user guides, and is where a lot of the writing work takes place.

So that’s a summary of how the documentation project works, and we hope you will join us on the team soon! Drop by our IRC channel at any time for a chat: