FOSS Under Mac OS X: LibreOffice

Updated 06/21/16

I just saw a notice today that the new LibreOffice 4.3.1 (http://www.libreoffice.org) was now available. What better topic for this series, as this is probably the Open Source program, short of Linux itself, that I have been using the longest.

Well sort of, LibreOffice was forked from OpenOffice.org in 2010 and OpenOffice is what I began using years ago. OpenOffice was created as an Open Source version of the 1985 era StarOffice.
OpenOffice had been acquired by Sun Microsystems in 2000 and was being developed by them. The Oracle Corporation bought Sun Microsystems early in 2010, and in September of that year LibreOffice was forked from OpenOffice under The Document Foundation. Oracle announced in April 2011 that it was ending OpenOffice development and it donated the OpenOffice code to the Apache Software Foundation later that year.

LibreOffice is an office program suite similar to Microsoft Office which includes a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, diagram/drawing, math and database components. The word processing, spreadsheet and database components all support LibreOffice Basic, which is similar to Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). LibreOffice uses the international ISO/IEC Standard OpenDocument file format as the native file format, and it supports many other office suite file formats through the use of Import/Export filters.

As the LibreOffice web page says “LibreOffice is a powerful office suite; its clean interface and powerful tools let you unleash your creativity and grow your productivity. LibreOffice embeds several applications that make it the most powerful Free & Open Source Office suite on the market: Writer, the word processor, Calc, the spreadsheet application, Impress, the presentation engine, Draw, our drawing and flowcharting application, Base, our database and database frontend, and Math for editing mathematics.

With it being able to import and export MS Office files, it is a very economical (free versus $399 for Office Professional 2013), yet
powerful way of creating and working with business files. It is the only spreadsheet and presentation tool I have had on my Mac for many years, and I have had no problems with reading or editing Excel or PowerPoint files I have been sent. A user generated comparison between LibreOffice and MS Office is available which gives an overview of how the features of the two compare.

LibreOffice is available for the Windows, Linux and Mac OS X platforms at http://www.libreoffice.org.

Updated 6/18/15 – LibreOffice is now available directly from the Mac App Store! This means you can download and install LibreOffice, then get updates automatically like with other OS X Apps. Two editions are available: LibreOffice from Collabora (a consultancy firm for open source software based in the UK) and  LibreOffice Vanilla. The Collabora edition costs $10 while the Vanilla version is free. The Collabora version is targeted at the enterprise user. Read more here.
Updated 12/9/15 – One thing to keep in mind with LibreOffice is that there are add-ons that can expand the scope of features available [2].

References:
[1] Template Management in LibreOffice 5 – added 10/27/15
[2] 6 useful LibreOffice extensions – added 12/9/15

Related Articles:

  1. 9 Effective LibreOffice Writer Tips to Boost Your Productivity – added 6/21/16

Previously-Vienna                                                                                  Next-Calibre

To see all of my Mac OS X related posts visit my MAC OS X page


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Book Review of “Dragons on the Sea of Night”

“Dragons on the Sea of Night” was published in 2014 and was written by Eric Van Lustbader (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Van_Lustbader). This is the fifth volume of the “Sunset Warrior Cycle”. Mr. Lustbader has written over 40 novels.

I obtained this novel for free in advance through https://www.netgalley.com for review. I would rate this novel as ‘R’ as there a few Mature Situations and there is Violence. The novel is written in the third person and the primary characters are Moichi Annai-Nin and Chiisai of Ama-no-moni.

Moichi and Aufeya Seguillas y Oriwata are on the way by ship to vista Moichi’s home. Moichi is looking forward reuniting with his younger sister, who he has not seen for many years. But what they find upon arriving in Ala’arat is far from what Moichi had expected. Soon after arriving, Moichi and Aufeya leave Ala’arat on a perilous journey.

Chiisai had come home to Ama-no-moni. There are deep feelings between she and the Dai-San, but he is unwilling to let those feelings grow into anything. Because the forces of Chaos seem to have found their way again into the world of humans, the Dai-San has to leave Ama-no-moni to confront them. Reluctantly, Chiisai stays behind. She follows Chief Minister Ojime who seems to be up to something, but soon finds herself controlled by Kaijikan, the Keeper of Souls.

Moichi, Chiisai, Aufeya and even the Dai-San are swept together to once again confront the forces of Chaos. I enjoyed the 7.5 hours I spent with this novel. It comes 34 years after the fourth book of the series, but picks up remarkably well where the prior book “Beneath an Opal Moon” ends. I do believe that this was written better than the predecessor. I thought that the plot was clearer and engaged the reader. Overall I give this a 4 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com).

Book Review of “Below Mercury”

“Below Mercury” was published in 2013 and was written by Mark Anson. This is Mr. Anson’s second novel. This eBook is available on Amazon.

I was made aware of this book through http://www.moreforlessonline.com and downloaded this book for free. This is a Science Fiction novel set on the planet Mercury in 2150. I would rate this book as ‘R’ as there is some Mature Language and Violence. The book is written in the third person, with the primary characters being Matt Crawford and Clare Foster.

Eight years before an accident at the Erebus Mine cause the deaths of 257 people. After years of legal wrangling, a mission is sent to make a final determination as to the cause of the accident. Clare takes the mission as pilot in an attempt to get her derailed career back.

Matt was a mining engineer at the Erebus Mine and was on his way back to Earth when the accident happened. Because he has sided in the legal proceedings with the families of those lost in the accident, he has not found another job with a mine operator. He is on the mission because of his familiarity with the mine and as a representative of the families.

A small team is assembled and they head to Mercury to investigate. The mining company has a lot to loose if anything found points to them as the cause of the accident. Once the team reaches Mercury, the hostile environment is not the only threat.

I thought that the plot was well developed and kept moving along. This was a good ‘Space’ novel, and did not stray too far outside the laws of physics. I enjoyed the eight hours I spent with the novel. I give this novel a 5 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com).

Book Review of “Saving Paradise”

“Saving Paradise” was published in 2013 and was written by Mike Bond (http://mikebondbooks.com). Mr. Bond has published five books. This book is available on Amazon.

I obtained this novel for free in advance through https://www.netgalley.com for review. I would rate this novel as ‘R’ as there is Mature Language, Mature Situations and Violence. The novel is written in the first person and is set around Hawaii. The primary character is Sam ‘Pono’ Hawkins, a former Special Forces soldier and now a surfer and occasional writer.

Pono is surfing when he finds the body of Sylvia Gordon. When her death is ruled an accident, he sets out to find out the truth as to how she died. Owing to his criminal record, his efforts are not well received by the police. Pono quickly finds that Sylvia was a journalist who was investigating a proposed wind farm and power cable project.

But she had also recently done a piece on drugs. Certainly there were many who might have been responsible for Sylvia’s ‘accident’. As Pono digs into Sylvia’s death, he runs into big business, powerful politicians and the Yakuza, and at least one of these wants him to have a fatal ‘accident’ as well.

A nice, colorful picture of Hawaii is painted as Pono travels across the islands. I spend a little over eight hours with the book, and it was enjoyable, though I did find some negative aspects. The Pono character is very much anti establishment, anti big pushiness and anti government – sentiments which he repeatedly voiced. I felt that much of the dialog was not very sophisticated. The plot was well developed and there were never any dull spots in the book. Pono was a complex character, and I had a hard time getting to ‘like’ him. I give this novel a 4 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com).

Book Review of “Beneath an Opal Moon”

“Beneath an Opal Moon” was published in 1980 and was written by Eric Van Lustbader (http://www.ericvanlustbader.com). Mr. Lustbader has published over 40 Fantasy and Thriller novels. The eBook is available on Amazon.

I picked up this paper back edition of book #4 of “The Sunset Warrior Cycle” a few years ago. This is a Fantasy with a strong martial arts flavor. I would rate the book as “R” due to the Violence and some Mature Situations. The story is set in the city of Sha’angh’sei and other locations within this world. The book is written in the third person with the major characters being Moichi Annai-Nim and Chiisai if Ama-no-moni.

It has been six years since The Dolman was defeated (Books 1-3 of the series). Unusual deaths in Sha’angh’sei cause the city’s regent, Aerent to ask Moichi to investigate. Moichi and friend Kossori rescue a young woman, Aufeya Seguillas y Oriwara, who seems to be tied to one of the murdered men.

Chiisai of Ama-no-moni arrives in Sha’angh’sei as a representative of the Dai-san. She is no diplomat, but a Bujun warrior. Soon she and Moichi are in route to lands far to the north in pursuit of a kidnapped Aufeya and Hellsturm, who they think kidnapped Aufeya and was responsible for the unusual deaths.

As the two search for Aufeya and Hellsturm, they encounter many obstacles they must overcome. I enjoyed the 10.5 hours I spent reading this novel. I had read the first three novels in the series several years ago. Fortunately, this is more of a tale set in the same world, rather than a continuation of the story. I liked the characters of Moichi and Chiisai, and the plot moved along well. Overall I rate this book a 4 (actually more of a 3.5, but I will round it up) out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com).

Tuneup Your OS X Mac – Part 2

In the first part of this series, I went over some of the very simple things that you can do to tune up your Mac. One of the objectives mentioned there was to always keep at least 20% of the boot disk free. In this installment, I will go over some of the easy things you can do to free up space on your boot drive.

The first thing to be done when making any changes is BACKUP YOUR BOOT DISK. Before you start making any substantial changes, it is always a good idea to update your backup.

I would also suggest checking to see how much free space you have before you clean up your boot drive (in the ‘Finder’ >> File >> click on ‘Get Info’).  Jot the amount of free space down so that you can compare it with what you have when you have finished to see just how much the effort has benefitted you.

Easy Disk Cleanup

While having a full boot drive may not be the biggest contribution to having a slow computer, it can cause other weird side effects on daily use [1]. OS X, as most modern Operating Systems, uses a lot of Virtual Memory.  If there is not sufficient free space on the boot disk for Virtual Memory, system performance will be degraded [2, 3]. In addition, most applications use various types of temporary files while they are running. If there is not enough disk space for these files, the application may crash or fail to start [2].

Therefore, periodically reviewing what is taking up space on the boot disk is of significant importance. If it has been some time since the boot disk has been examined, there may well be several gigabytes (GB) of unnecessary files taking up space. Regardless of how large the boot drive is, you should review it to see what can be eliminated, particularly if there is less than 20% of free space remaining. As you review the files and folders, you will need to sort them into one of three categories: keep, remove and move to a Storage Drive [4].

Empty the Trash – This seems like it should be obvious, but one of the routine tasks each of us must perform is to periodically empty the trash [5]. As we discard files, they generally are sent to the Trash. These files will remain there until you take steps to permanently delete them. To do this click on Finder >> Empty Trash. This will permanently remove what ever is in the Trash and free up the space. If you have not emptied the trash in a while, this can easily add up to significant disk space. If there are multiple users for your Mac, each user will need to empty their own trash.

NOTE: Once files have been emptied from the Trash, they are not recoverable! If you have any doubt about needing a file, move it to your Storage Drive instead of the Trash.

Storage Drive – You may find that there are files that you still want to keep, but because of their size or low frequency of use you do not what them to remain on your boot drive. In some cases, a second drive can be installed into your Mac and made into a data drive.  Generally though, you will want to get an external drive that attaches by Firewire (IEEE 1394)USB or Lightning cable to your Mac. Which of these connection technologies you can use will depend upon your specific Mac. A quick look at Mac vendor OWC shows that external drives start from $75 and go up depending on the type and size of the drive. I found an external 120GB USB drive on Amazon for just over $31. By shopping around you may well find lower price models available. I will talk more about adding drives in a later issue of this series.

Clean the Downloads Folder – We are all constantly downloading files [4, 5]. Generally, these files will be placed in the Downloads folder. Open Finder >> select your Home directory >> Downloads. Select to see the contents in list form, then click on the Size column heading to see the content sorted  by size.  This will easily point out which files you will free up the most space by deleting or moving to your Storage Drive.

iTunes Files – Video files are very large, so a few of these that you no longer need can take up substantial space. If you have bought TV or movies through iTunes, you may have both HD and non-HD versions. Space can be saved by deleting the one you do not intend to use [5]. Open a Finder window >> Your Home directory >> Music >> iTunes >> iTunes Music >> Movies. Now drag to the Trash those you do not want or move to the Storage Drive those you want to save.

If you have been backing up (ALWAYS advisable) your iOS devices to your computer, you may have old, unused iOS Apps taking up space [4]. In your iTunes folder, you’ll notice the folder “Mobile Applications”. This is where backups of your iOS Apps are stored. Even if you have deleted the App from your iOS device, the backup will still be present. It is a good idea to review the contents of the directory to see if any of these files can be removed. Open a Finder window >> Your Home directory >> Music >> iTunes >> Mobile Applications.

iMovie Files – If you have been using iMovie, you should review these files. Open a Finder window >> Your Home directory >> Movies. Check here and in all of the sub-directories for any files that can be deleted or moved to the Storage Drive.

iPhoto Files – If you take a lot of pictures, you may well have some in your iPhoto library that are simply not good enough to keep. It is a good idea to periodically review your photos and simply delete (select the photos, then hit the DELETE key) those you no longer want. I deleted 1061 pictures from my iPhoto library and that recovered 5.24GB of disk space.

The iPhoto app is a little odd in that when you trash a photo it does not go to the OS X Trash. Instead it goes into a separate local Trash within the app. As a result, if you do not empty the Trash within the App, pictures that you have discarded are not really deleted. I found that substantial space can be tied up in the iPhoto Trash.

To address this, open iPhoto >> then click on Trash in the left column >> click on Empty Trash in the upper right corner. This will finally erase and free up the space from the photos that you have deleted within iPhoto.

Search for Large Files – The Finder allows you to search for large files. Rather than to manually look for files you can delete, use the Finder to see what will give you the most return. Open a Finder window >> File > Find (or hit Command-F). On the Search line select “This Mac”, then click on the “Kind” drop down and choose “Other”. When the “Select a search attribute” window opens, check the box for File Size, uncheck any other boxes, and click OK. Change the “equals” pull-down menu option to “is greater than” and then change KB to MB. Enter a minimum file size such as, say, 100MB or even 10MB. After the search completes you can see the larger files on your system and delete any you no longer need — or move them to the Storage Drive. [6]

Remove Apple Supplied Files – OS X includes many files that you may not necessarily need. Loading hundreds or even thousands of Font files can impact system performance [7]. You can save some more space by removing fonts that you do not use [8]. You can do this by opening the Finder >> Go >>  Go to Folder >> entering “/Library/Fonts”. Fonts that you do not use can then be moved to the Trash to delete them, or to your Storage Drive. Most of these files are fairly small (less than 20MB) so little space is going to be saved. Unless you have a relatively small hard drive I am not sure that removing these files is very beneficial. The entire Fonts directory is less than 1GB, but if you have a small boot disk this might help.

Similarly, you can check the following folders for files you might be able to do without. I have noted the approximate space in each taken up on my Mac Mini. Unless you are in dire need of saving space these are probably something that you can overlook.

/Library/Desktop Pictures (< 450MB)
/Library/Modem Scripts   ( < 1.5 MB)
/Library/Printers  (< 300 MB)
/Library/Screen Savers/Default Collections  (< 150MB)
/Library/Widgets ( < 60MB)

Now that you have removed some files, it is time to Empty the Trash again. Check again how much free space you have on your boot disk (In the ‘Finder’ >> File >> click on ‘Get Info’). How much more free space do you have now?

There are more ways of reducing the space being used on your boot drive, but those will have to wait until Part 3 of this series.

References

1 – How to Give Your Mac a Performance Boost
2 – Mac Performance Tips – Keep Plenty of Free Disk Space
3 – 11 No Cost Tips for Optimizing Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger Performance
4 – What To Do When Your Mac’s Startup Disk is Almost Full
5 – Liberation: 10 OS X steps to free Mac disk space
6 – How to clean and speed up Mac OS X Mavericks
7 – Tuning Mac OS X Performance
8 – SPEED UP MAC OS X LEOPARD


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Book Review of “Global Predator”

“Global Predator” was published in 2014 and was written by Jack Maclean. This is Mr. Maclean’s first novel. The eBook is available on Amazon.

I obtained this novel for free in advance through https://www.netgalley.com for review. This is a Thriller and I would rate this novel as ‘PG’ as there is some Mature Language. The novel is written in the third person and is set in many places, though most of it is set in Pakistan. Though there are numerous other characters, the primary characters are Stoner and Wilkins, both bankers from London.

Wilkins is a Phd physicist who specialized in quantum physics. He was recruited by Stoner from the Grosvenor Bank to apply his understanding of quantum physics to game theory in order to find patterns for probabilities and apply them to the financial market. Wilkins applied his knowledge well, and he and Stoner were very successful.

Stoner was a banker and saw Wilkin’s special mathematical knowledge as a way to gain a leg up on the competition. He also saw how he and Wilkins could utilize a hole in the banks procedures to make themselves very wealthy. When Wilkins disappears, the bank sends him in search of Wilkins.

Having made millions Wilson begins to fear that Stoner is about to turn him in to the bank. He stashed the funds in off shore accounts and decides to disappear. By chance, he runs into Sally Hodges, an old girlfriend who has returned to London from Pakistan. She is in London struggling to get more funding for the charitable agency she works for which is setting up schools and encouraging the education of girls in Pakistan. Wilkins sees playing the role of a potential benefactor and going to visit her in Pakistan as a subtle way of totally disappearing. With a lot of cash, he quietly leaves London and heads for Pakistan’s Swat Valley.

Concurrent with this Al Queda and Taliban leaders are organizing a conference in the Swat Valley to plan their next set of moves. American intelligence finds hints of the meeting and begins to focus on finding where the meeting will be held. Much of the data they gather is from Global Predator drones in the air over Pakistan.

Before long Wilkins, Stoner, the Al Queda and Taliban leaders are all within a few miles of one another in the Swat Valley. Things get complicated as they try to use one another to achieve their separate goals. American intelligence is meanwhile trying to pinpoint where the Al Queda and Taliban leaders will be so that they can target them with Hellfire missiles from a Global Predator drone.

I spent about 6.5 hours reading this novel and I think that the characters were well developed. Certainly the character of Wilkins evolved over the course of the novel. The basic plot was not bad, but I thought it was rather slow for the first 85% of the story. I give this novel a 4 (actually closer to 3.5, but I will round it up) out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com).

Book Review of “The Time Roads”

“The Time Roads” was published in 2014 (October) and was written by Beth Bernobich (http://www.beth-bernobich.com). Ms. Bernobich had written 7 novels. The eBook is available on Amazon.

I obtained this novel for free in advance through https://www.netgalley.com for review. The book was written in the third person and is a combination of Time Travel, Steampunk, Mystery and Thriller. Most of the novel is set in Eire (Ireland), though in truth it is really four interrelated short stories rather than a novel. The primary characters are Aine Lasairiona Devereaux, Breandan O’Cuillnn, and Aidrean O’Deaghaidh.

Aine is eighteen when the stories begin and unexpectedly becomes Queen of Eire when her father dies. She has seen a demonstration by Aidrean of his experiments and, once Queen, expands the support her father had extended to him.

Breandan is a scientist and he experiments with time. He believes he will eventually be able to communicate, if not send a person, through time. After Breandan moves his laboratory to the castle at Aine’s request, they gradually become lovers.

Aidrean is a soldier who is appointed body guard to Aine. Aine trusts Aidrean and she often sends him on special missions on her behalf. Aine and Aidrean share a close bond, more than she simply being his Queen.

The setting is in a world much like our own at the beginning of the 20th century, though in this timeline Eire is the dominant political power over the Irish and British Isles. Airship travel is in vogue between major cities of Europe. I liked the characters for the most part, and the pace kept things moving and my interest up. Of the four stories, I least enjoyed the second. I give this novel a 4 out of 5.

My book reviews are also posted on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com).

Book Review of “The Fixer”

“The Fixer” was published in 2014 and was written by Terri “T. E.” Woods (http://www.tewoodswrites.com). This is the first book in the “Justice” series. Ms. Woods has written three novels. The eBook is available on Amazon.

I obtained this novel for free in advance through https://www.netgalley.com for review. This is a mystery / thriller and I would rate this novel as ‘R’ as there is Mature Language and Violence. The novel is written in the third person and is set in and around Seattle, Washington and Olympia, Washington. The primary characters are Mort Grant, Lydia Corriger and The Fixer.

Lydia is a psychologist in private practice in Olympia. A beautiful but troubled woman, Savannah, unexpectedly walks into her office one day. Lydia tries to help Savannah, but Savannah is not very forthcoming. Savannah alludes to being responsible for bad things happening to people. Lydia begins to investigate Savannah to see if what she has been saying is true.

Mort Grant is a Seattle, Washington Police Detective. He is still dealing with the loss of his wife of many years as well as the unknown condition of his long missing daughter. Mort gets a call from his journalist son asking for information on a suspicious death. During their investigation, they hear of an assassin know as The Fixer.

The Fixer is an assassin with high standards – any target she takes must be guilty of some grievous wrong and have evaded justice. A recent assignment has gotten out of hand and now exposure of her identity is being threatened.

As the story evolves, Lydia, Mort and The Fixer are all drawn together. I have read all three of Ms. Woods novels in the “Justice” series and enjoyed each and every one. This novel took me just over 7 hours to read. The characters were each well developed and you felt like you knew them. The plot was fast paced, keeping up my interest through out. I give this novel a 5 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com).

FOSS Under OS X: Vienna

UPDATED 3/29/15

I have been a long time advocate of Free Open Source Software (FOSS). Certainly most if not all of the software I use with Linux computers fall into that category. In the case of my Mac Mini running OS X I have found several FOSS programs useful as well. In this, and future posts, I want to share these programs with you.

I try to keep up with several topics. Of course I follow many Twitter accounts for this purpose, but I also fall back on the venerable RSS feed to keep up with many Blogs. RSS for Web syndication has been around since 1999. This is useful as when you find a site that you like and want to follow, you can subscribe to the corresponding RSS feed and get each new post automatically in your RSS Reader instead of having to revisit the site manually to check for updates. Of course not all sites provide RSS feeds but many do. For instance, if I want to follow author Bob Levitus in The Mac Observer I can go to http://www.macobserver.com/tmo/rss/ and find the link to the RSS feed for his columns. As he published the new columns, I will see them in my RSS Reader.

The RSS Reader is the subject of this post. Vienna is a FOSS project for Mac OS X and is a RSS/ATOM Reader application. I have been using it now for a little over 6 months and I am quite satisfied with it. Vienna claims over 450,000 downloads so far so it is widely accepted. Once you install Vienna (Download the file from the website, double click on the resulting ‘.tar’ file in the Downloads folder, then drag the application from the Downloads folder over to your Applications folder) all you have to do is to click on the RSS feed link or icon ico-rss  on a web page and Vienna will be started and the feed added to it. From then on, every time you start Vienna, the latest posts for all of the sites you have subscribed to will be loaded.

Once Vienna has the latest articles they can be viewed and read much like in an email client. Unread article titles appear in bold until they are read. As you select articles, you see a summary of the content in the split screen. Double clicking on the article in Vienna will open the full article in your Web Browser. Folders can be created and subscriptions grouped together so that all of the RSS feed for OS X can be in one folder. Those for Linux can be in another etc.

Using this I can, in a few minutes, review new posts and select which I wish to read. If you are interested in trying this FOSS application, go to Vienna is a FOSS project.

One great source of RSS articles is Apple itself. Go to the Apple Support RSS Feeds page to find over 40 separate feeds (some articles appear in more than one feed) and three categories. Some other good RSS feeds for the Mac user are:


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