Is developing word processing software hard?

Is developing word processing software hard?

Having worked previously on voting systems, I know that some problems are hard to solve. How about developing word processing software?

Hello LibreOffice Planet!

This is my first blog post on the topic of LibreOffice. Let me quickly explain my link to LibreOffice. I work for a data protection authority in the EU and help navigate the digital transformation of our office with about 100 staff members. While many of our partner organisations adopt Microsoft 365, our office decided to pilot Nextcloud with Collabora Office Online.

In the future, I want to blog (in my personal capacity) about my thoughts related to the use of alternative word processing software in the public sector in general and in our specific case.

As there are no dedicated resources for training, preparation of templates etc., during the pilot of LibreOffice, the experience so far covers a large spectrum of user satisfaction. Generally, our staff has been spent years of their life using Microsoft Office and has the expectation that any other software works the same way. If it does not, they send an email to me (best case) or switch back to Microsoft Office.

During the week, I discussed again some smaller LibreOffice bugs. Then, I showed this weekend some FOSS Blender animated short videos to family members. It seems that Blender is more successful in its domain than LibreOffice. Is that possible? Or are animated short videos just more capturing due to their special effects? 😅

You can watch the 1min Blender animated short movie “CREST” on Youtube or the making-off. The latter you find here below.

I find it very inspiring to see what talented artists can do with Blender. For my part, I have once installed Blender and deinstalled it. Back then it was not easy to use for people not familiar with video animation software. Blender competes with proprietary software such as Maya or Cinema 4D. The latter is about 60 USD per month in the annual subscription plan. Not exactly cheap.

Then, I read in the fediverse about people working with LibreOffice:

I just tried to use #LibreOffice #Draw to draw some arrows and boxes onto JPEG images for emphasizing stuff.

The UX is really bad for somebody not working with Draw all the time.

Whatever I do, instead of drawing onto the image, the image gets selected instead.

Could not find any layer-sidebar.

Could not scale text without starting the “Character …” menu, modifying font size blindly + confirming > just to see its effect and then start all over.

Dear #FOSS, we really should do better.

— Author Karl Voit (12 November 2023 at 14:51)

In my past, I have worked on online voting systems. They are not very good yet despite years of efforts. xkcd dedicated a comic to voting software

Elections seem simple—aren’t they just counting? But they have a unique, challenging combination of security and privacy requirements. The stakes are high; the context is adversarial; the electorate needs to be convinced that the results are correct; and the secrecy of the ballot must be ensured. And they have practical constraints: time is of the essence, and voting systems need to be affordable and maintainable, and usable by voters, election officials, and pollworkers.

— Author Matthew Bernhard et al. in their paper Public Evidence from Secret Ballots from 2017

What is the unique challenge of developing word processing software? Happy to hear back from you in the blog comments or on the companion fediverse post!