Annual Report: LibreOffice Documentation Project in 2021

The LibreOffice Conference is the annual gathering of the community, our end-users, developers, and everyone interested in free office software. This year, it took place online once again.

(This is part of The Document Foundation’s Annual Report for 2021 – we’ll post the full version here soon.)

New and translated guides

Throughout the year, the documentation project closed the gap between LibreOffice major releases, and the updates of the corresponding user guides. By the year end, all of the version 7 guides updated to match the release of LibreOffice 7.2, and ready to continue for the forthcoming release – 7.3 – which arrived in February 2022. The goal of tracking the software release closely was achieved, and the documentation team is now in a steady state of small updates between releases.

The updates and enhancements of the guides was an effort of all the team, coordinated by Jean Weber (Writer and Getting Started Guide), Steve Fanning (Calc and Base guides), Peter Schofield (Impress and Draw guides), Rafael Lima (Math guide). A number of volunteers also worked in each guide by writing and reviewing contents and suggesting improvements. Special thanks to Jean Weber for making the guides available for sale in printed format via Lulu Inc.

In the last quarter of 2021, thanks to The Document Foundation’s budget, some master documents bugs were fixed under contract by Michael Stahl of allotropia, and now the documentation team can safely assemble it guides with master documents, and produce PDFs with hidden sections and correct navigation indexes in PDF readers.

ScriptForge Library and Wiki Pages

The documentation community also had a nice contribution from Jean Pierre Ledure, Alain Romedenne and Rafael Lima, for the development of the ScriptForge macro library, in synchronization with the much-needed Help pages on the subject, a practice rarely followed by junior developers of LibreOffice. As we know, undocumented software is software that’s lacking; features that are unknown to the user can be a cause of costly calls to a help desk in corporate deployments. ScriptForge developments came together with its documentation, demonstrating the ScriptForge team’s professional maturity.

Special thanks to Steve Fanning for his leadership of the Calc Functions wiki pages maintenance. The wiki pages were initially developed by Ronnie Gandhi in 2020 under the Google Season of Docs programme, and are now run by Steve, providing richer content about the functions, with better descriptions, new examples, and other reference information. The in-depth review of the Calc Function wiki pages gave very good feedback for the Help pages, which also lead to help content improvements. The Calc functions wiki pages are available for translation, thanks to the dedication of Ilmari Lauhakangas at TDF.

Very important as well: the documentation community also had a team of Help page bug fixes, closing Help documentation bugs, bridging gaps, fixing typos and improving quality, a must-have update to keep LibreOffice in-shape for its user base. The Help pages, which are part of the LibreOffice code, were also refactored continuously for better maintenance and code readability. The L10N team of volunteers (localization and translators) were quick in flagging typos and English mistakes – while translating the help content and the user interface.

LibreOffice Bookshelf

In 2021, the documentation community also launched the LibreOffice Bookshelf, another download page for LibreOffice guides that is different from the current server page. The Bookshelf can be cloned and installed in organizations, libraries, colleges and schools, for immediate availability in controlled environments, as well as online reading of the guides. The OpenDocument Format chapters were transformed into static HTML pages, and are ready to display on computers, tablets and cell phones, bringing LibreOffice user guides closer to its public, anywhere, anytime. The conversion process is extensive and was described at the LibreOffice 2021 Conference. It was also extended to the Portuguese translation of the guides, and can easily extended for other languages. Many thanks to Tulio Macedo for his work on it.

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  1. By George Crawford