Some new features of LibO 6.2

The development of LibO is a “moving target,” so although in the book I mentioned a couple of novelties that will appear in LibO 6.2 at the beginning of 2019 (such as the “helper” to apply OpenType and Graphite features), others have been implemented since then, so today I want to talk about some new features that have caught my attention.

The most important, at least in my opinion, the ability to disable the headers / footers menus

Those menus that appear when we click on the area of the headers or footers can be very annoying, especially if we consider how simple it is to click there by accident. And come on, how many times per document do you edit the page headers? Is it worth having a menu always active there? Well, from 6.2 it is possible to deactivate it, yes!

Another interesting thing are more options to modify the height of the rows in a table

In other general news, the interface for gtk2 and KDE4 have been marked as “deprecated” and will be eliminated in a future version, while the interface for Qt5 is improving to give us a better integration with Plasma and LXQt desktops.

This new VCL plug-in seems to work quite well, but it lacks some features.

So yeah, nothing ground breaking, but all in all a really nice update.

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Two versions of Baskerville

Baskerville, in typography, refers to a particular typographical font style originally designed in 1757 by John Baskerville. It is a “transitional” font that is placed between the “old style” designs of William Caslon and those by Giambattista Bodoni and Firmin Didot.

There have been several attempts to revive this typographic style and today I want to present two of them, both from Michael Sharpe, both with free licenses

Baskervaldx

BaskervilleF

Baskervaldx is based on the BaskervalADF Std fonts developed by Hirwen Harendel, from Arkandis Digital Foundry (ADF), and it is released under the GPL.

BaskervilleF, on the other hand, is a fork from the Libre Baskerville fonts released under the OFL by Pablo Impallari and Rodrigo Fuenzalida, adding a bold-italic not present in the original design.

BaskervilleF has more contrast and is “thinner” than Baskervaldx, but have wider numerals. Both have an interesting set of OpenType features, and both are great!

It depends on you, dear reader, the difficult task of deciding which one to use.

Announcement: first release of “To Tame a Writer”

Tomorrow marks the first year of this blog, I’ve survived up to here!

And there is nothing better to celebrate such a milestone than to announce another!

Here it is!

The translation of the book on how to use LibreOffice Writer (and Draw, and Math, and Chart) to write books and other complex documents is now ready!

So click on the picture or on the link above to go to the project page: the PDF with the book is there!

Go! Click! Now!!!

But keep in mind that, as they say, “it may contain dragons.” And typos. And a lot of grammatical errors.

If you find something wrong (and you will), please let me know!

If there is interest and the book passes “the reader’s test,” it is possible to make a printed version through Lulu or something like that. Let me know what you think!


Meanwhile, if you want to support my crazy projects, please consider a small donation!

You can use PayPal.me  for an occasional tip or my account on Liberapay  for something more “formal/periodic.”

Thank you!

“Floating boxes” on a WordPress article

Suppose we want to achieve in our articles what we see next: a box with arbitrary content “floating” on the page.

This box accept any content, either notes, links to other articles (or an index), pictures, whatever it’s needed.

We just need to use the code presented in this article.

To get this effect, we need to use some HTML code with the div command and its style parameter.

It’s not really necessary to go to the HTML tab in the WordPress editor to use this, the code will work anyway, but in doing so you’ll get a visual idea of what’s going on without the need to publish de article or page, or even preview it.

The parameters to use are: float to indicate where the box have to go; width to indicate the box, well, width; background-color to set the, yes, you guessed, the background colour; padding to set a distance between the box border and its content; border… internet is full of HTML guides, so I’ll let you explore other options, such as the HTML colour names.

Here you can see the code that I used for this article:

<diXv style="float: right; 
  width: 50%; background-color: lightgray; 
  padding: 1em; border: 1px solid gray;">

This box accept any content, either notes, links 
to other articles (or an index), pictures, whatever 
it's needed. 

We just need to use the code presented in this article.

</div>

NOTE 1: To prevent WordPress from “compiling” the code sample, I had to add the red X and thus “break” the initial “div” tag, so, you know: do not copy and paste irrationally😉

NOTE 2: The box will be surrounded by the text that follows it. That is, since this box is on the right the text after the closing /div will start at the top left of the box, as seen in this article.

NOTE 3: For an example of this code being used to get an “index”, see this article. There, I also used the parameter font-size:80%; to reduce the text size.

Writer and me

What follows is a translation/adaptation of this Spanish article I wrote some time ago


Since the release of To Tame a Writer is approaching is here!, it may be appropriate to tell my story in relation to Writer & Co. Or not, but I’ll tell you anyway.

I started using free software in the university, during the last decade of the last millennium. There was some Red Hat out there in some version that I do not remember now.

At the end of 1998 (almost 20 years!), the German company StarDivision began distributing its office suite StarOffice for free. It was there that I started, timidly, to use Writer and company. I think it was version 5.0 or something like that, but I did not used it that much at the moment.

The following year StarDivision was acquired by Sun Microsystems, which continued to distribute the software freely. The first version of Sun was 5.2, in the middle of the 2000. I remember obtaining it by buying a magazine: remember, dear reader, that there was a time in which Internet was a little used novelty. The CD came with StarOffice versions for all platforms, including Linux.

And it was precisely in my S.u.S.E. 7.0 that I started using it more seriously. My thesis, indeed, included designs made with Draw, although I used LATEX to write it.

It was a thesis in physics: you do not even think about using anything other than LATEX for a thesis in physics.

[Since we’re on the subject, it was during those years that I discovered LYX and started using it]

For those who have not experienced it, in addition to the components that we already know, StarOffice had its own virtual desktop and task manager, mail client… it was a huge package!

Back to the topic: at that point Sun decided to release the source code of StarOffice, creating the OpenOffice.org (OOo) project.

In 2002, OOo 1.0 was released. At that time I started participating in some mailing lists and related forums.

Back then, the reference forum was the now long defunct oooforum. But that site had several problems almost since the beginning, so a group of users came into contact with people from Sun, and the company offered server space. And so in 2007 (11 years!) the “OpenOffice.org community forums” opened. When a year later the Spanish forums were added, I was already there, and in fact a few months later I was acting as administrator.

It was around that time that I started writing articles about the topics that I keep visiting: Writer and LYX. These pioneering articles were published in a free Spanish digital magazine called “Begins,” which was active between 2006 and 2008.

In 2010 I compiled all those articles about Writer, added new material, a whole bunch of hours and that is how the first edition of “Domando el escritor” (Taming the Writer), a.k.a DAE, was born.

And then the “fun” began…

Also in 2010, Sun was acquired by Oracle: given the history of the latter with free software, people began to fear the worst.

At the end of September 2010, the people behind the go-oo project (an “undeclared fork” of OOo), plus some extra characters, moved a magic wand and made “The Document Foundation” (TDF) appear: a foundation that, among other things, supports the LibreOffice (LibO) project, a fully declared fork of OOo.

What happened next is somewhat chaotic. Let’s see if I can put it in order.

The TDF people invited Oracle to donate the OOo project to them, but, to no one’s surprise, the proposal was rejected.

What was a surprise, and a big one, was what followed: Oracle donated everything related to OOo to the Apache foundation, giving birth to the Apache OpenOffice project (AOO).

At that point, in the forums we were in a complicated situation: Oracle would not maintain the service for long, so we started looking for possibilities. I remember trying to talk to the people of LibO… and getting a very bad response. Apparently, the mere mention of OOo, even through the innocent name of a forum, caused (and still causes) an allergic reaction in certain people.

In short, the TDF people were not interested in our forums. Or in any forum. In fact, seeing how bad the “ask.libreoffice” service is, the number of times changes have been requested for that platform, changes that never arrive, and so on, it could be said that they are still not interested in forums. But I’m digressing.

So then? Well, the options were either to continue alone, looking for some kind of self hosting (my great friend Mauricio had offered space on his servers) or seek help from the AOO people.

In the end, by popular vote was the second option the one chosen, and although it was not easy, with the contribution of many people was achieved, in extremis, the migration of the forums to where they are now.

Small confession: I voted for the first option, to continue on our own.

Anyway, before, during and a bit after such chaos, I participated with pleasure in several LibO mailing lists, contributed several articles to their wiki… at least until July of 2011.

And it is that, to my surprise, at that time I was invited to be part of the AOO’s Project Management Committee (AOO-PMC).

Let it be clear that, despite the twisted rhetoric and manipulation of data that circulated at that time (from both sides, everything has to be said), there was nothing at the time to suggest that LibO would be better than AOO. Or vice versa. In fact, there was nothing to suggest that neither of them would work at all: such large projects require enormous economic resources and, at that first moment, it was not at all clear that those resources would be available to neither of the projects.

At least for the common mortals it was not clear, that maybe those with the magic wand had more information than us. Who knows!

The famous triangle of the administrator: you can only pick two vertex

In short, it is a dangerously stupid myth to think that such complex projects can go ahead quickly only thanks to the contribution of volunteers. In fact, LibO has advanced so much thanks to the support of several companies (Red Hat, Collabora…) while AOO has come to nothing because it lost, with its inaction, the support of the only company that showed any interest (IBM). Perhaps it was from that uncertainty about the future that the twisted rhetoric (and data manipulation) of those times was born: each side was trying to “defend their own corner.” But I’m digressing again.

Uffff! How to tell what followed? Anyway, I started to put more and more time and effort into the AOO project, trying to start the documentation project of the program, to work on its Spanish translation, I became “substitute administrator” of all the community forums… and I tried to carry on several discussions. Many discussions. Too many discussions.

In short, more and more often an awkward situation began to happen in which I did not agree with what the rest of the AOO-PMC was doing… or, more precisely, with the fact that they were not doing certain things.

I want to make it clear that I’m not saying that “they were wrong and I was right,” what I’m saying is simply that we did not agree. No more no less.

In short, after several problems (in general), repeated episodes of raised blood pressure (mine), and some health issues (later fixed), in December 2013 I left the project.

The decision was difficult, I spend several months wondering “is it worth continuing with all this?,” answering “no” each time.

Since, in a certain way, I had reached the AOO-PMC through the forums, it seems reasonable to think that taking a single step back was enough: to leave the AOO-PMC, but staying in the forums. But it did not seemed right to me. Given the development of the “situation,” it was more than evident (at least, it was for me) that by leaving the board I had to leave everything else, and I did. After all, the forums were, and still are, in good hands.

Three years passed in which I neither did nor wrote practically anything about either of the two projects. But when LibO 5 was released I noticed some interesting changes. In fact, LibO was finally starting to really be different from AOO. The rhetoric had been diluted to give way to a more firm reality, so I decided to accept the request, and the challenge, that I received more times all over the years: a version of DAE dedicated to LibO.

And that’s how the 2016 edition of DAE was born.

Now, with the 2018 Spanish edition already published and the English version (To Tame a Writer) almost ready, I am in a comfortable situation in which I closely know both projects, but I am not affiliated to any of them. And that is very good, since it gives me total freedom to distribute, as necessary, both praises and rants.

The rest is history.


Some non exhaustive links related to the text, but without a particular order, that I got tired of writing all that.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/StarOffice

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenOffice.org

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apache_OpenOffice

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LibreOffice

https://forum.openoffice.org/en/forum/index.php

https://forum.openoffice.org/es/forum/index.php

https://wiki.openoffice.org/wiki/Documentation/UserGuide

https://wiki.openoffice.org/wiki/ES/Manuales

https://wiki.documentfoundation.org/Main_Page

https://ask.libreoffice.org/en/questions/

Convert EPS files into “modern” vector formats [Linux]

This article is for all of you, penguin users!

The EPS vector image format is one of the oldest still in use, but for many reasons it has been surpassed by other formats such as PDF or SVG.

For example, while LATEX can use EPS, for XƎTEX it’s better to use PDF. Or maybe we are creating an odt document: Writer has a great support of SVG images, a problematic support for PDF (it improves in each version, but still is problematic) and a nonexistent support for EPS. What to do then if we have to use images in EPS format?

There are many vector image converters (like UniConvertor, part of the sK1 project), but in most cases these applications offer us too many options so today we will go for something simpler.

We’ll need two command line tools: epstopdf and pdf2svg. Here it’s how all this works. First, we turn the EPS file into PDF with:

epstopdf input.eps --outfile=The-PDF.pdf

Done: we have converted the EPS file into a perfectly formatted PDF of one page. To then convert that PDF into an SVG:

pdf2svg The-PDF.pdf The-ultimate-SVG.svg

I have tried with old EPS files of my PhD thesis and the conversion is perfect.

The epstopdf and pdf2svg instructions offer many more options. Anyone who is curious can consult the help of the programs with

epstopdf --help
pdf2svg --help

or

man epstopdf
man pdf2svg

fbb, a Font Inspired by Bembo

Today I’m presenting a project that’s a fork of Cardo, an “old style” font inspired by Bembo

fbb – A free Bembo-like font by Michael Sharpe

Compared with Cardo, fbb adds bold-italic, Small Caps on all its forms, figure styles and lots of fixes and enhancements.

With a less rich OpenType features “menu” than other fonts commented on this site (no fractions, for example), it offers “the right ones” together with lots of ligatures, and generally speaking it’s a really good looking typeface, ready to be used on documents where elegance is a must.