Story: LibreOffice vs. OpenOffice, Not Always SimpleTotal Replies: 13
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Oct 02, 2012
12:48 AM EDT

Seriously though, I think this is an excellent example of how misguided the whole argument is, that F/LOSS software must be measured against the proprietary equivalents -- and inevitably be found wanting.

It's just that the flaws and shortcomings that people are accustomed to are perceived as "normal" acceptable and reasonable or excusable, while the unfamiliar flaws are seen as insupportable -- when it's really more a question of what trade-offs make sense in a particular circumstance.

Oct 02, 2012
2:14 AM EDT
Not being much of a spreadsheet user the problem mentioned has never come up for me. However, in a business environment where you may be using document collaboration the lack of a menu item to "hide all comments" would be a deal killer.

It is inconceivable that a business user would put up with having to close each individual comment.

So, this is a very valid criticism which really should be addressed quickly by the developers.

Oct 02, 2012
4:02 AM EDT
This seems to be a somewhat contrived "problem" to which the obvious solutions are ignored, so we do not know whether they would be acceptable.

The requirement is to manipulate a spreadsheet using a feature of OO or LO that is not available in MS Excel 2010. The edited spreadsheet has to work with Excel 2010.

The cell "comment" functionality in LO works as described (in the help pages). Document functional integrity is maintained when saved as a .ods or .xml file. When saving in the undocumented .xlsx file format OO appears to succeed and LO fail w.r.t. displaying cell comments.

Microsoft says that it intends to implement the (sort of) documented OOXML file format in MS Office 2013.

Excel 2010 can work with both .ods and .xml file formats. What is wrong/difficult with using either of these?

If the blog author thinks it is really important, (s)he could always try merging the relevant OO code into LO (after all one of incentives for LO and its predecessor, GO-oo was the desire to accept non-Sun/Oracle code). I really do not think it is worth the effort, better to concentrate on compatibility with .xls and the upcoming formats.


Oct 02, 2012
4:26 AM EDT

I'm not sure if we are commenting on the same article. The original posting had nothing to do with file formats other than the understanding that said person was obviously in a business environment where (s)he had to work with Excel spreadsheet files.

Also since the file seems to have a lot of comments associated with it you can probably figure there are multiple people involved with this document.

The quoted problem was in OO the comments don't automatically show but in LibreOffice they do. The second problem is that in LibreOffice the only way to turn off the comments is one at a time.

Now if you can point this person to where (s)he can easily hide all the comments in one easy go, or set LibreOffice to not show them by default please let the author know.

Otherwise LibreOffice DOES have a huge problem with comments when working in a mixed environment in with Excel.

Oct 02, 2012
5:49 AM EDT

I support several offices that use Gnu/Linux and LibreOffice (no Microsoft or Adobe anywhere). Interoperability questions are a regular occurrence. Mostly the answer is "just do it" and ignore the MS Win-centric instructions. Exceptions are mostly due to mixed embedded platform-specific typefaces.

The article does mentions ".xlsx" files. This can only mean Excel 2010 or Office 365 spreadsheets without macros. Both these can work with ".ods" and ".xls" files.

If you create a LO spreadsheet with commented cells; it can be saved and re-opened as both test.ods and test.xml. The comment behavior corresponds to the documentation. As soon as you try to save the file as test.xlsx the comments are permanently visible. Do not take my word for it. Try it yourself.

Why not do as my users, and only use .ods or .xls file formats to maximize interoperability? Most Excel users I come across (accountants) set their default save to ".xls" so as to aid interoperability between Excel versions.


Oct 02, 2012
8:37 AM EDT

Well, if it's like my environment, you don't have the option to just use LO or OO. The decision was made long ago to go with Microsoft products and they are digging themselves in deeper all the time with Active Domain and Sharepoint and Exchange.

Most likely that's what the original author is also up against but was trying to get around a problem with Excel by using either OO or LO and found the comment issue in LO.

When you can't force everyone in the organization to change, you are stuck. And most organizations we deal with also use MS products. So, that also makes it difficult.

It really doesn't help if LO doesn't make it easy to turn off the comments in an xlsx file for people trying to use the free product.

Maybe they will get around to it. But running a macro isn't the answer.

Oct 02, 2012
9:49 AM EDT
I agree with cabreh...

It's not just people in the organization, it's also people outside the organization. In my industry, spreadsheet exchange between companies is normal, day-to-day business. Even the littlest of things can disrupt this and cause a loss of business. If you have ANY wrinkles in this, the results are not good. This has the potential to slow Open Source adoption. You cannot force people to change the way they do business, if you want to continue doing business with them. Open Source needs to be the flexible component, not the inflexible one. LibreOffice has to be the one to change.

Oct 02, 2012
11:31 AM EDT
@cabreh @JaseP

Have either of you actually tried using a spreadsheet with comments in LibreOffice?

I only mentioned "without macros" because ".xlsx" files do not support macros, so that could not have a complicating factor for the original complainer.

There is no need for a quick way to turn off the display of comments, because they are only displayed as a "mouse-over" tip. If either of the two preferred save formats are used (".ods" in a LibreOffice environmennt, or ".xls" in a Microsoft one), there is no problem.

The ".xlsx" file format was apparently designed, and its stucture undocumented, so bas to make life difficult.and promote MS Office upgrades. It succeeds in frustrating interoperability both within and without MS Office. MS claim this format is being derogated in the next versions of MS Office.

It is possible to turn off the display of comments and other tips, as documented in the LO integrated help ( Tools>Options>General>Tips); but this does not help with saving a "useful" ".xlsx" file.


Oct 02, 2012
11:54 AM EDT
The thread on LO Forum Comments in Calc always showing in xlsx file has been updated about an hour ago linking to a solution for "Show and Hide all cell nodes at once" here

It is an extension now. Edited: Sorry, it is a year old.


Oct 02, 2012
12:34 PM EDT
@ Fettoosh


I just had a quick try with the extension. I used a file saved as test.xlsx with LO-3.5. "Hide all cell notes" appears to restore normal "mouse-over" behavior controlled by Tools>Options>General>Tips. "Show all cell notes" produces the aberrant ".xlsx" behavior, which is not very useful if there are notes/comments in adjacent cells, as the overlap each other.


Oct 02, 2012
12:45 PM EDT
" I’d rather point to a LibreOffice victory, but the open source community has to acknowledge failures for them to be fixed."

To me, this is the most important thing in the whole article. Some of us REALLY have problems acknowledging these bugs or missing features. You don't win a war with babbling, but by delivering the goods.

If that isn't fixed this "FOSS everywhere" mantra is futile. You don't win over decision makers by this "free" thingy, but by offering a product that's just as good - or better. The moment there's fuzz in a company you're out of the door - a decision maker doesn't like fuzz - he's got more important things to handle. I think a few "rollbacks" to proprietary can be explained this way.

And yes, I agree spreadsheets and documents are evil. Yes, I agree the IT (as a matter of fact - most of the organization) of most companies is abysmal. But that doesn't change the picture. It's an empty argument. Yes, call me a lousy consultant - if that makes you happy. Stick you head waist-deep in the sand and deny everything. See how well that works.


Oct 02, 2012
3:43 PM EDT

Well the extension may be a year old, but you were right about the post pointing to it in that thread being brand new today.

So, somebody came up with an extension to do what could have been built in. And if you haven't heard of the extension it's of no use. Obviously the original author of the article also hadn't heard about it.


Oct 02, 2012
4:30 PM EDT
Quoting:And if you haven't heard of the extension it's of no use.

True and unfortunately that is all too common with FOSS software. Lots of documentation scattered all over and needs some serious organization. A quick Google search can be very helpful sometimes.


Oct 02, 2012
4:58 PM EDT
Quoting: Have either of you actually tried using a spreadsheet with comments in LibreOffice?

Yes. But the documents were authored in LO, not Excel. And, I put them (the comments) there. When (forced) to use Excel, I never use the .xlsx file format. I use the .xls file format.

And, of course MS used .xlsx to push MS vendor lock-in... They always did that with their document formats... It's just like the way that Excel will accept .xls files made in OO/LO, but will break things like conditional formatting when saving them...

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