Making OpenOffice tolerable

One of the incidental irritations of using OpenOffice is that it uses its own, eccentric python installation. OOo is almost completely scriptable in Python, but the mechanism was put together many years ago by one programmer in his spare time, and still has some large rough edges. In particular, it doesn’t know anything about system Python libraries or search paths, which is a real pain since half "the joy of the language": for lazy people is that someone else has usually written whatever you want first.

In my case, this means that someone else had written a module which can be used to detect non-ascii characters and replace them with html character entities; another one to make native dialogue boxes for OOo; and several to interact with Movable Type and upload stuff there. So all I had to do to make it as easy to publish to my blog as to print was to wodge all these together and swear at them until they worked.

There was still at least one important snag: that OOo itself is so slow to load that it wasn’t worth using it for a blog editor unless I were in the middle of writing something else, and in that case, I shouldn’t have allowed myself to be distracted.

So whenever I last upgraded my copy of OOo, I didn’t bother copying all the bits for the script into the new directory, and for some time have been doing all this by hand. Then I finally got around to trying "the Novell-built version of the program,": and it loads in about a quarter of the time of the official Sun build (that’s a subjective timing). But there is a huge improvement. The new build has other changes as well as a generally increased feeling of speed. I believe it runs VBA macros direct from Microsoft Office. But the only one I have so far noticed is a set of ugly gnome-like icons, a small price to pay for the removal of the horribly sluggish startup that was one of the largest and oldest warts on the program.

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One Response to Making OpenOffice tolerable

  1. Nick says:

    The work that Michael Meeks and his team at Novell have done on OOo over the years is really, really truly amazing. The man’s a saint to put up with so much of it not being accepted into the main tree too. ooo-build (the Novell and everyone else who actually works on the thing other than Sun) version of OOo is about the only reason I still use it.

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