Open Standards

Public money? Public code!

Digital services provided and used by public sector organisations are the critical infrastructure of the 21st century. Central and local government agencies must ensure they have full control over systems at the core of our digital infrastructure to establish trustworthy systems. However, this is rarely the case due to restrictive proprietary software licences.

Thirty-one organisations are today publishing an open letter in which they call for lawmakers to advance legislation requiring publicly financed software developed for the public sector be made available under a Free and Open Source Software licence, the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) reports. The initial signatories include CCC, EDRi, Free Software Foundation Europe, KDE, Open Knowledge Foundation Germany, openSUSE, Open Source Business Alliance, Open SourceInitiative, The Document Foundation and Wikimedia Deutschland.

All the signatories are asking individuals and other organisation to sign the open letter, which will be sent to candidates in the forthcoming German parliamentary election and, during the coming months, to other representatives of the EU and EU member states until the 2019 European Parliament elections.

image text reads why is software created with pubic money not released as Free Software? If it is public money it should be public code as well

Public institutions spend millions of euros each year on the development of new bespoke software. The public sector’s procurement choices play a significant role in determining which companies are allowed to compete and what software is supported with taxpayers’ money. Public sector organisations often have problems sharing code with each other, even if they fully funded its development. In addition, sensitive personal data on citizens is at risk if there is no option for independent third parties to run audits or other security checks on the code.

FSFE President Matthias Kirschner says:

We need software that fosters the sharing of good ideas and solutions. Only like this will we be able to improve digital services for people all over Europe. We need software that guarantees freedom of choice, access, and competition. We need software that helps public administrations regain full control of their critical digital infrastructure, allowing them to become and remain independent from a handful of companies. Public bodies are financed through taxes. They should spend funds responsibly and in the most efficient way possible. If it is public money, it should be public code as well!”

Two point releases for LibreOffice

On the last day of August, The Document Foundation (TDF) announced two point releases for the popular LibreOffice productivity suite: LibreOffice 5.4.1 “Fresh”, the first minor release of the new LibreOffice 5.4 family; and LibreOffice 5.3.6 “Still”, the sixth release of the mature LibreOffice 5.3 family.

LibreOffice 5.4.1 represents the bleeding edge in term of features, and as such is targeted at technology enthusiasts and early adopters, whereas LibreOffice 5.3.6 is targeted at more conservative users and enterprise deployments.

As regards enterprise use, TDF suggests deploying LibreOffice 5.3.6 with support from certified professionals. Furthermore, many companies sitting on TDF’s Advisory Board also provide either value-added Long Term Supported versions of LibreOffice or consultancy services for migration to LibreOffice and training.

LibreOffice 5.4.1 includes approximately 100 bug and regression fixes, along with document compatibility improvements. Technical details about the bug fixes can be found in the RC1 and RC2 change logs.

LibreOffice 5.4.1 screenshot

LibreOffice 5.4.1 (Writer) in action

LibreOffice 5.3.6 includes approximately 50 bug and regression fixes. As with 5.4.1, technical details about the release can be found in the change log.

Download LibreOffice

LibreOffice 5.4.1 and LibreOffice 5.3.6 are available for immediate download for GNU/Linux, Mac OSX and Windows. Select the version you desire for your preferred operating system.

Please note that if you’re still using Windows XP or Windows Vista, LibreOffice 5.4 will be the last release that will run on those legacy operating systems.

Support LibreOffice

LibreOffice users, free software advocates and community members are invited to support The Document Foundation with a donation. Donations help TDF to maintain its infrastructure, share knowledge and organise events, such as this year’s LibreOffice Conference, which will be taking place in Rome in October.

Day against DRM

Defective by Design buttonToday, Sunday 9th July, is the Day against DRM.

DRM is the software that comes bolted to your digital media and computerised devices and tries to police your behaviour. The major media companies are its masters, and they justify it as a necessary evil to prevent file sharing.

However, it does more than that and also does worse than that: DRM gives its owners power over our cars, medical devices, phones, computers and more; in addition, it opens a deep crack in our digital rights and freedoms – a crack will only get wider and more dangerous as our societies continue to interweave with technology.

I support the global campaign led by the Free Software Foundation (FSF) to raise the awareness of issues related to the so-called Digital Rights Management software. As any other proprietary technology, DRM is killing user freedom of choice and should therefore always be avoided.

For more details, see Defective by Design’s dedicated Day Against DRM page.

LibreOffice uses Google’s OSS-Fuzz for quality improvements

For the last five months, The Document Foundation, the non-profit organisation behind the popular free and open source LibreOffice productivity suite, has made use of OSS-Fuzz, Google’s effort to make open source software more secure and stable, to improve the quality and reliability of LibreOffice’s source code still further. Developers have used the continuous and automated fuzzing process, which often highlights problem just hours after they appear in the upstream code repository, to solve bugs – and potential security issues – before the next binary release.

LibreOffice 5.3.3 running on the author's Debian GNU/Linux laptop

LibreOffice 5.3.3 running on the author’s Debian GNU/Linux laptop

LibreOffice is the first free office suite in the marketplace to make use of Google’s OSS-Fuzz. The service, which is associated with other source code scanning tools such as Coverity, has been integrated into LibreOffice’s security processes – under the leadership of Red Hat – to improve the source code’s quality significantly.

According to Coverity Scan’s last report, LibreOffice has an industry leading defect density of 0.01 per 1,000 lines of code (based on 6,357,292 lines of code analysed on 15th May 2017). “We have been using OSS-Fuzz, like we use Coverity, to catch bugs – some of which may turn into security issues – before the release. So far, we have been able to solve all of the 33 bugs identified by OSS-Fuzz well in advance over the date of disclosure”, says Red Hat’s Caolán McNamara, a senior developer and LibreOffice’s security team leader.

Further information about Google OSS-Fuzz is available on the project’s GitHub homepage and on the Google Open Source Blog.

LibreOffice 5.3.3 released

Yesterday The Document Foundation (TDF) announced the release of LibreOffice 5.3.3, the latest release of the “fresh” series, which is aimed at early adopters, power users and technology enthusiasts.

For more conservative users and enterprise deployments, TDF suggests LibreOffice 5.2.7, the latest “still” series release, with the backing of professional support by certified professionals.

Compared with its predecessor, LibreOffice 5.3.3 incorporates more than 70 patches, including an update of the Sifr monochrome icon set and several fixes for interoperability with Microsoft Office file formats.

LibreOffice 5.3.3 running on the author's Debian GNU/Linux laptop

LibreOffice 5.3.3 running on the author’s Debian GNU/Linux laptop

As regards those 70 patches mentioned above, users can see which bugs they’ve help to fix in both release candidates, RC1 and RC2 respectively.

Download LibreOffice

LibreOffice 5.3.3 is immediately available for download for all major platforms – GNU/Linux, Mac OSX and Windows. If your GNU/Linux system can handle Flatpak format, there’s a special link for that.

Support LibreOffice with a donation

As with every release, LibreOffice users, free software advocates and community members are invited to support TDF’s work with a donation.

First LibreOffice 5.4 bug hunting session soon

The first bug hunting session for LibreOffice 5.4 – the next major release of this popular free and open source office suite – has been announced on The Document Foundation blog.

bug hunt banner giving details

LibreOffice 5.4 is due to be released at the end of July with many new features: those already implemented are summarised on the release notes wiki page; and there are still more new features to be disclosed.

The LibreOffice QA team is organizing the first Bug Hunting Session on Friday 28th April to find, report and triage bugs. Testing will be carried out on the first alpha release of LibreOffice 5.4, which will be made available (for Linux, Mac OS X and Windows) on the pre-releases server shortly before the session.

Full details of the event are available on the specific wiki page.

Mentors to help testers report and confirm bugs will be available on 28th April from 8.00 a.m. UTC to 10.00 p.m. UTC. Moreover, as this this particular Alpha release (LibreOffice 5.4.0 Alpha1) will be available until the middle of May, hunting bugs will also be possible on other days.

During the day there will be two dedicated sessions: the first to chase bugs on the main LibreOffice modules between 3.00 p.m. UTC and 5.00 p.m. UTC; and the second to test a set of the top 7 features between 5.00 p.m. UTC and 7.00 p.m. UTC.

Announcing LibreOffice 5.2.6

Readers may not be aware of it, but the free and open source LibreOffice productivity suite comes in two versions, codenamed “still” and “fresh“; and it’s the “still” branch that concerns us today, with the announcement by The Document Foundation (TDF) of the release of LibreOffice 5.2.6.

LibreOffice 5.2.6 is the sixth minor release of the LibreOffice 5.2 family and is targeted at businesses and individual users in production environments.

LibreOffice 5

As usual, TDF recommends professional support for large-scale deployments of LibreOffice in major companies and public sector organisations.

LibreOffice 5.2.6 is immediately available for download, whilst the change logs and technical details for both Release Candidate (RC) 1 and RC2 are likewise available.

Users who wish to assist in LibreOffice development can also download pre-release versions from the pre-release server or nightly builds from the dedicated nightly builds server.

Several companies sitting in TDF Advisory Board provide either value-added versions of LibreOffice with Long Term Support or training and migration consultancy services.

Finally, LibreOffice users, free software advocates and community members are invited to support The Document Foundation with a donation.

Newcomer’s guide to LibreOffice released

LibreOffice guide coverThe Document Foundation’s Documentation Team has announced the release of the new Getting Started with LibreOffice guide version 5.2.

The guide has been updated to include developments in LibreOffice 5.2 and previous releases.

The guide is an introductory text for end users using the LibreOffice office suite. It is written for both individuals and organisations using LibreOffice as their preferred office suite. The text allows users to become conversant with the features and resources of LibreOffice.

The guide was produced in LibreOffice Writer in Open Document Format (ODF). The team worked to not only update the contents, but also to tidy up the formatting. This had two objectives: firstly to make the text suitable for computer-aided translation (CAT) tools and secondly to generate an online version (XHTML) of the guide.

The Getting Started with LibreOffice guide, its PDF and ODT versions, can be downloaded or read online by visiting this page, where plenty more documentation on LibreOffice is available.

LibreOffice 5.3 released

Yesterday The Document Foundation announced the release of LibreOffice 5.3 for Windows, macOS and Linux, as well as for the private cloud for the first time.

LibreOffice 5.3 represents a significant step forward in the evolution of this free and open source office suite: it introduces new features such as online collaborative editing and at the same time provides incremental improvements to make the program more reliable, interoperable and user-friendly.

New features

LibreOffice 5.3 offers a number of interesting new features in every area including:

  • a new cross-platform text layout engine that uses HarfBuzz for consistent text layout on all platforms, with significant advantages across languages and alphabets;
  • a revised Help menu, with new quick links to user guides and community support forums; and
  • better import/export filters for new and legacy MS Office documents.

New features in Writer include:

  • Table Styles, for applying formatting to a table which is preserved when edited; and
  • new Go to Page Box (activated by keystrokes Ctrl+G) makes it possible to jump to another page in the document with fewer keystrokes.
LibreOffice 5.3 Writer in action

LibreOffice 5.3 Writer in action

Turning to spreadsheets, Calc provides a new set of default cell styles, with greater variety and better names than in previous releases, whilst in fresh installations, “Enable wildcards in formulas” is now the default option, rather than regular expressions, to improve compatibility with other spreadsheet software.

Impress, LibreOffice’s presentation package, now opens with a template selector to get the user off to a quick start. In addition, a new Slide Properties Deck is now available in the sidebar while in slide master mode.

A list of the most significant new features is available in a separate document, in addition to which a series of short presentation videos has been produced.

Experimental UI features

As of this release, the LibreOffice UI has been extended with the addition of an experimental Notebookbar, which offers another UI option in addition to the Default UI (with two toolbars), the Single Toolbar UI and the Sidebar with a Single Toolbar. Each UI layout has been thought to serve a different cluster of LibreOffice users.

LibreOffice Online

LibreOffice 5.3 features the first source release of LibreOffice Online, a cloud office suite enabling basic collaborative editing of documents in a browser by re-using the LibreOffice “core engine”.

LibreOffice Online is fundamentally a server service and should be installed and configured by adding a cloud storage and a SSL certificate, which are not included in the package.

Builds of the latest LibreOffice Online source code are available as Docker images.

Availability

LibreOffice 5.3 is available for immediate download (your correspondent has already moved onto an as yet unreleased development version. Ed.).

However, for large scale and commercial deployments, The Document Foundation recommends the more mature 5.2.5 version (posts passim), preferably with professional support.

LibreOffice 5.2.5 released. 5.3 coming soon

The Document Foundation (TDF) blog has today announced the release of LibreOffice 5.2.5 “still”, the fifth minor release of the LibreOffice 5.2 family and is inviting all users to update to this latest release from LibreOffice 5.1.6 or previous versions.

LibreOffice 5 splash screen

This latest release comes with over 70 bug fixes and improvements compared with the previous version.

As usual, TDF recommends professional support for large-scale deployments of LibreOffice in major companies and public sector organisations.

Besides this latest release, LibreOffice 5.3, the next version of the more cutting edge LibreOffice “fresh” line, is due out on 1st February.

Download LibreOffice

LibreOffice 5.2.5 is available for immediate download, whilst the latest release candidate (RC) for LibreOffice 5.3 is available for download from the pre-release server.

Donate to LibreOffice

As is customary with every new release, free software advocates and community members are invited to support the work of The Document Foundation with a donation.

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