The LibreOffice documentation team produces the guidebooks, reference materials, wiki and online help to support users of the software. We’re working hard to add all the exciting new features and functions of recent LibreOffice versions, to show how your office productivity can be improved thanks to the free office suite – and your help would be very much appreciated! Even if you can only spare 30 minutes each week, your contribution would be very valuable, and you’ll also get experience with a big-name open source project. Read on for the full details…
20,000 Lines Under the C
I am borrowing Jules Verne’s famous classic book title to make the community aware of all the work that goes on, beyond and “under the C” source code, in LibreOffice development and adoption.
These “20,000 lines” are the documentation lines we need to write or review relating to all LibreOffice features, in order to support users and bring LibreOffice further into the workplace. And that includes all media available, from text to graphics, from videos to computer-based training, and from English to Mongolian, crossing landscapes of Hindi or Guarani-speaking people.
It’s not an easy task to undertake. And there is no way one individual can carry all this. LibreOffice needs its community of users and writers to build the edifice of creating solid documentation.
The good part of this is that people don’t need special skills to write about LibreOffice, beyond basic knowledge of an office suite. The game is open to a wide range of knowledgeable people.
Today we have three main lines for documenting LibreOffice, under The Document Foundation (TDF). Each of them deserves care and attention and is what the community can help with:
- The help content, that is installed alongside your main LibreOffice installation and is opened when you press F1 on a dialog box
- The Guide books, worked on by the ODF Authors team, which aim to be the reference books on LibreOffice
- Our Wiki, with information spread here and there with a continuous effort to collect pages in chapters or volumes, and dealing with multiple language and with new and obsolete content.
In the last 3 months we have reactivated the documentation community and we are meeting twice a month for updates on our progress. These meetings help us to align the needs of the documentation and the translation community with the available resource and initiatives of TDF. We’re always looking forward to interested new contributors to the writers community.
On the Help content side, we created a website to display the help pages in a modern browser. Even if it is work in progress, we connected it to the Pootle translation server so translators now can display the help page where the untranslated strings belongs, for better contextualization and translation quality.
Let’s not forget that the help content pages were designed 10 years ago, bearing the web environment and limitations of that era. We converted and published in our wiki the only book available on the help XML schema, so that now any change on the schema will be documented. For example, the tag <object> was designed to display multimedia and other MIME types but was never implemented. Also, we introduced in 2013 the tag <bascode> for Basic code paragraphs, that was not present in the 2006 documentation, and now is documented in the wiki.
Our classic literature on LibreOffice, carefully maintained by the ODF Authors team, is now being updated to release 5.1 of LibreOffice for immediate publishing, and we are seeking to shorten the delay time for the 5.2 edition. We think the LibreOffice major release can be synchronized with the Getting Started book, and who knows if these two projects can have the same release date, or even the book can be embedded in the local HelpContent package, called by an entry in LibreOffice Help menu.
Looking forward the next quarters in the year we would like to have a broader discussion with the documentation community and also better understand the relationship between users and the LibreOffice documentation.
If you are a LibreOffice documentation writer please tell us about your needs.
- Are you comfortable with the current book writing/updating process?
- Are you knowledgeable in modern authoring teamwork tools?
- Where do you think TDF should invest time and resources for documentation?
- Where should TDF improve incentives for writing LibreOffice documentation?
- Do you miss a specific resource for your documentation work TDF should provide?
- How can we make our publications more visible?
And if you are a LibreOffice user, let us know:
- Are you a LibreOffice Guide book reader?
- Have you ever bought a book on LibreOffice?
- How do you seek LibreOffice assistance at work?
- Are you a Help (F1) reader? Is it clear, precise, and easy to read? Where it should improve?
- How do you think a good help system will make your work easier?
- What is your preferred media to learn LibreOffice features?
Please help us to write together these 20,000 lines “under the C code” we need. Join our discussion in our mailing list and in our virtual meetings. We want to hear you.