Open Office Not Ready for ‘Just Plain Folks’

The Qwest tech came out and installed my sister’s broadband (and changed her standard user account to an administrator account, but more about that another time).  On my next visit I went over all of the Qwest-branded MSN and Windows Live software to get it to work for her (more about that and about Vista inanities another time too).

Her OpenOffice.org Sweet Spot

I did not include any Microsoft Office software when I ordered the computer.  It came with Microsoft Works by default.    My sister, a retired elementary-school teacher has an occasional need to interchange Word documents and, on rare occasion, documents of other Microsoft Office applications.   Even though Works no longer includes a version of Microsoft Word, she didn’t find it worth increasing the cost of her system from its under-$600 sale price just to have a version of Microsoft Office.  I suggested that we set her up with OpenOffice.org for her routine use and as a way to open and create the simple Microsoft Word and other documents that she encounters in her volunteer work.  Now that her system is up and running on broadband, it was time to install OpenOffice.org.

Uneasy Moments Installing OpenOffice.org 2.3

I took her through the download (the site is not novice-friendly and she was thrown by the donation appeal) of the recently-released OpenOffice.org 2.3 version ( a reminder to me that people come to sites for a particular purpose and distractions are unsettling, especially when they are not sure what is going on).  It was also distracting to me that the download page says the current stable release is 2.2.1 when I know the download is 2.3 

The download went well over her 7.5 Mbps DSL connection.  We created an Internet Downloads folder in her Documents, and added an Open Office sub-folder to store the download and anything else in.  It was my sister who asked for the folder organization and named the folders that would help her know what’s what.  I don’t use my documents folder for this, but I realized this would work for her: We already set up Windows Live OneCare to save her entire Documents folder on backups, so the downloads of installs would be backed up too.  That’s handy.

There were a number of odd things in the installation process.  But we worked our way through it.  I think she might have balked if I hadn’t been piloting.  She actually reads through EULAs (hey, she’s my sister), and the LGPL 2.1 is weird enough for a normal user that she might have been distracted by it.  The LGPL 2.1 is not really addressed to users that don’t develop software and have no particular understanding or concern for the manifesto that occupies most of the text.  (She also knows how to create strong passwords and is very careful visiting web sites and installing software.  I am very impressed with what my sister has taught herself about safe computing.) 

When the option to make Open Office applications be the defaults for .doc, .xls, and .ppt files, we checked those boxes because this is going to be her only means to operate with those documents. 

Then we stumbled on a bug where OpenOffice.org would not install for just the account we were doing the install under.  It kept saying that the "this account only" case was for the admin account and not the personal account we were logged into and performing the install under.  Not wanting to have it installed only under admin, we finally had to allow it to install for all users to be sure she could use it from her ordinary account.  That is not what either of us wanted.

The installation completed successfully. The first-run of OpenOffice.org Writer (with even the names of these applications, with the .org extension, being too geeky for plain folks) forced her through a second acceptance of the EULA (just the LGPL 2.1 license and disclaimer) that requires you to scroll to the end before the "accept" button is activated.  If you didn’t know that, you’d be stuck right here.  Anyhow we did that, and went to the OpenOffice.org site to "register."  At the invitation to complete a survey, she closed the browser instead.  All right, sis!

What’s This Crap Here?

We did some display-setting adjustments and admired our handiwork on the wide-format LCD display of the new system.  I suddenly noticed that there was a folder on the desktop left over from the install.  When the downloaded "OOo_2.3.0_Win32Intel_install_wJRE_en-US.exe" file announced that it was going to unpack the installation setup into a folder, I failed to notice that the default choice for the setup files was on the desktop.  So we had a stray "OpenOffice.org 2.3 Installation Files" folder cluttering up her desktop.   [If Dare Obasanjo reads this on return from his honeymoon, he’ll know exactly the trouble I’m about to get my sister into.]

Oh Professor, Don’t Touch That Button! … Oops

Having one geek gene (but not two), I saw no reason to keep 109 MB of installation files lying around, especially on the desktop.  We are already keeping the original 120 MB download file so that can be used to re-install OO.o 2.3 if necessary, right?

I deleted the folder from the desktop.  Nothing bad happened (yet).

Satisfied, we went shopping, had dinner, and I returned home.

Emergency, Emergency, Please Read My Letter!

Two days later, after my usual weekly tune-up process, I decided to update my OpenOffice.org 2.0 configuration to OpenOffice.org 2.3 also.  I wanted to see if the same glitches happened for me, and confirm that the default for Save and Save As … of documents opened from Microsoft Office formats was to store back in Microsoft Office format.  It is, so my sister won’t have to do anything special to round-trip Microsoft Office Documents that land on her computer.

But I also found out that those folders of Installation files are needed (well, about 6MB of them are needed) if you ever want to remove or update a version of Open Office.  I didn’t save mine and my OpenOffice.org 2.3 would not install.  Before I managed to get that to work, I had even crippled the existing OpenOffice.org 2.0 software and I could neither remove it, upgrade it, or use it.  Three hours later I stumbled back from my near-death experience with a correct upgrade.  It was a close call.  It is also a very stupid installation procedure.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.

So, here is how my sister gets out of having any future update or removal of OpenOffice.org 2.3 crippled:

From: Dennis E. Hamilton
To: Sis
Subject: OOPS!  Need to do something

I was a little uncomfortable with silly things that happened when installing Open Office 2.3 on your machine.

So I installed it on mine (I had an older version already installed) and discovered some difficulties.

Here is what you need to do.

1. While in your regular account, open your recycle bin.  Just double-click on the icon on your screen.

2. You are looking for a folder with name "OpenOffice.org 2.3 Installation Files"

3. When you find that folder in the recycle bin, don’t look inside.  Just right click on it.

4. On the little menu that comes down, click "Restore".

5. The folder should then appear on your desktop.  That is where I deleted it on Thursday.

6. You need to keep this folder. 

    –    –    –    –    –    –    –   

It is just stupid that they put it on your desktop and it is also stupid that you need to keep the whole thing around.  However, we will do the easy thing and hold onto it.  Otherwise, you may have trouble updating OpenOffice.org or even removing it in the future.  (I learned this the hard way on Saturday.)

Here is my recommendation for putting it away out of sight in a place where it can be found later.

7. Open your "Documents" folder.

8. In that folder, open the "Internet Downloads" folder that we created.

9. Open the "Open Office" folder that we created there (I don’t remember its exact name).

10. Shrink or adjust the window that you have open so you can also see the "OpenOffice.org 2.3 Installation Files" folder icon on your desktop.

11. Drag the folder icon into the opened-up "Open Office" folder.  (Dragging is by putting the mouse over the icon and holding down the left-mouse button.  While still holding down the button, move the mouse cursor over to the document area of the "Open Office" folder above an open space.  Release the mouse button.  In a moment, the folder should show up inside that folder and no longer be on your desktop.

Problem solved.  You will need to remember this the next time you install an update for Open Office.  We’ll worry about that then.

12. If your recycle bin has been cleaned up and the Installation Files folder is no longer there, something more elaborate has to be done.  I’ll want to come over to work through that with you.  For now, I’m hoping that you find it in your recycle bin and that the above procedure makes sense and works for you.

If you are uncomfortable doing this, I can talk you through it on the phone and confirm what you are seeing at each step before going onto the next. 

Love,

– Dennis

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