Insights from the InstallFest 2024 conference in Prague

InstallFest 2024

Our Czech community reports back from a recent event…

For the third time, the LibreOffice project had its own booth at InstallFest 2024, and here we present our experiences from the event.

On the weekend of 16th and 17th March 2024, the InstallFest 2024 conference took place at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering of the Czech Technical University in Prague. The conference was held after a two‑year break and under the direction of a new team led by Jan Langmaier. This year, according to the organisers’ estimates, about 300 visitors attended, making InstallFest a successful follow‑up to previous editions. Unfortunately, higher participation is limited by the space capacity of the chosen venue.

The lack of space also affected the LibreOffice booth, which had to be a bit aside from the main event. On the other hand, anyone heading to one of the main lecture halls could not miss us – our exclusive position made us unmissable. Even so, there were far fewer visitors at our booth than in previous years.

Feedback gained at InstallFest

Conferences of this type appeal mainly to the younger generation, who must not be absent. It is therefore not surprising that young people from primary or secondary school are well represented among the visitors at the LibreOffice stand. This year, however, this was significantly more disproportionate than at other times – it can even be said that young people dominated. We always interviewed them, asking what they use LibreOffice for, how long they have been using it, whether it is used at school, where they go, and whether their classmates know about the suite.

The answers were generally similar. LibreOffice tends to be used by young people for basic tasks such as writing texts, creating presentations for school and so on. Those who create presentations in Impress for school assignments have to convert their presentations to PPTX format. Surprisingly, we’ve had good feedback on compatibility with this format, although it is of course problematic.

InstallFest 2024

Very few visitors know about the cloud or mobile versions of LibreOffice, but there are some. We were surprised that one high school student reported using the cloud‑based, non‑paid version of OnlyOffice; after learning about the circumstances (ie that this software is in Russian hands and thus subject to EU sanctions), he understood why the institute he was working with (apparently a non‑profit of some sort) did not want to purchase the paid version of OnlyOffice. It simply cannot.

Many visitors would welcome some changes in LibreOffice’s user interface. While some prefer the traditional toolbar layout, others prefer a Microsoft Office‑like look and feel – either for personal taste or for ease of transition from Microsoft Office. LibreOffice allows you to use different interfaces, but this option is hidden in the menus. Visitors would appreciate if, when LibreOffice is first launched, a wizard were displayed to guide the newcomer through the various setup and customisation options, including user interface selection.

We received a request from one tutor to allow multiplication of a combinational number by a combinational number in LibreOffice Calc, and also to simplify the notation of simple arithmetic operations such as multiplication and division. Currently this has to be done using verbally defined functions, so he would welcome the ability to use simple symbols typed from the keyboard.

InstallFest 2024

Although it would seem that office software cannot attract the attention of youngsters, one ninth-grader stayed with us for perhaps an hour. Obviously he was the record holder.

Zdenek Crhonek has a huge part in translating the LibreOffice manuals into Czech. These manuals are translated by a whole bunch of volunteers, and we displayed their covers here.
Traditionally, Collabora Online, the cloud version of LibreOffice, which is now very stable and usable and with a really extensive arsenal of features, attracted a lot of interest.

There were many interesting meetings of people who often only know each other from the virtual world; that’s what these conferences are for. A regular visitor to our booth is Ladislav Sieger, PhD., from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering CTU. He always has a problem to solve, an observation, or a comment.

After party

A very interesting opportunity (and meeting) was a visit to the basement of Strahov’s dormitories, where the SH Bastlíři (translated “DYI makers”) created their own facilities, a workshop that is available to (almost) everyone. Here you can come across a server rack on the ceiling of the toilet, a circular machine, a 3D printer and other interesting things. The visit to these premises was followed by a dinner at a nearby restaurant, where the participants from among the organizers (including speakers, technical staff, exhibitors) were taken by a chartered bus (!).

InstallFest 2024


The new organising team has done its task well. If there were problems, we are not aware of them; that is, they were of a completely minor nature. For us, the biggest problem was with the location of the stand; perhaps this played a role in the rather low attendance of interested people. Although we probably had the most space of all in the end and did not have to make any space constraints, we may not have reached as many visitors as we could have.

However, the other perspective should also be taken into account. Although LibreOffice plays a primary role in the world of open‑source software, it is considered a utility that does not attract as much visitor interest. Therefore, we have tentatively agreed with the organisers to change that next time on our side, and they have promised to help us.

Anyway, those who visited our booth hopefully took something away with them (besides stickers and leaflets), especially thanks to Zdeněk, who maintains a lively communication with LibreOffice’s front‑line staff and has information literally first‑hand. He can thus provide far more insider insight than one Czech community member alone on the stand could in previous years.

All of the talks were filmed and the recordings are available on YouTube.