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An Open Letter to the Libre Office Design Team
Date: 21 Feb 2011 / Author: SeanParsons / Views: 14185 / Comments: 11

Libre Office is one of the most exciting forks currently in the open source world. I believe that statement so strongly that I have even put my money where my mouth is and financially contributed to this project. That said, I'm concerned they are preparing to perpetuate the same errors that OOo was making with respect to bad UI design and poor marketing.

The first thing to point out is the name. Running all together to make one word was dumb and Lbre Office is trying to do the same (LibreOffice). Worse yet was how people would say "O-O-O" and now I see people calling this new office suite "LibO" on the mailing lists. If you want a shorter nick name you should call it "Libre" as saying freedom just sounds cool and certainly has a lot of excitement behind it. It makes me think of tech savy youth in the Middle East that are willing to risk their lives for libre/freedom.

The web site for Libre Office is horrible, which was initially ok as it was just getting started, but now that they've put a little effort into the site it actually looks worse. While paper does provide a good metaphor for office productivity, the clipped paper icon that appears everywhere is really no good. Below I have a suggestion for the logo that i made rather quickly.

Also, all the mime type icons also used that clipped paper concept. I also have some samples for that as well below.

I'm not quite sure what the color palette is being used by Libre Office for its marketing and icon development, but I would like to strongly recommend looking at using the same color palette as the Tango icon set as it seems rather well thought out.

Another item to address with respect to the application itself are the fonts. This is a good chance to introduce non-Linux users to some of the great fonts that are out there. I think that Libre Office should use the Liberation Fonts for its default values.

Below are images of what I've discussed so far.


Laslty, I would like to address the user interface of Libre Office itself. The current version looks like a really bad imitation of Microsoft 2000. I would like to see a more document centric interface that takes advantage of today's widescreen monitors. By the way, bold, italic, and underline should be represented with a "B,I, and U" instead of an, "A, A, and A. Below is also a quick mock-up of Libre Office.


Everything in this presentation was done in a day, therefore a dedicated team of volunteers should be able to achieve much more than me.


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Comments: 11

1. | 21 Feb 2011 - 15:30

I don't see LO website design as bad as you do. Sure could it better but maybe you're exaggerating a bit.

Anyway I'm sure every helping hand and every improvement suggestion will be hear.

2. | 21 Feb 2011 - 16:08

Hey, man!

Congratulations on your mockup! It really looks clean and simple.
It's somewhat like KOffice done right. Not that there's anything really wrong with KOffice, but it sure has a busy interface, whereas yours is very lean.

You might want to e-mail them directly or join IRC or something to show your ideas.

Please help make LO a better office suite than OOo ever was!


3. SeanParsons | 22 Feb 2011 - 01:43


Maybe my reaction to the website was a little harsh, but I am making comments out of a sincere desire to see Libre Office achieve its potential. It's like the old Proverb, "Wounds from a friend can be trusted."


Thanks, I also like the KOffice interface, except that it is too busy. I will probably do more to refine my UI design concept, but the idea was to keep all the various options available while organizing them to keep them from feeling so over whelming. Hopefully this would make them easier to find.


4. vt | 22 Feb 2011 - 03:31

I would suggest you to have a good look first on TDF wiki and work as a team, rather write unilateral posts. The main problem with such big projects is the co-ordination and to establish a concrete plan that satisfies everyone.

Join the Design team in the mailing list as there is a logical flow how the above items progress. They just started to develop the team and a plan and now focus on the most urgent items.

5. JoeK | 22 Feb 2011 - 06:47

Great article, and I recommend the changes you suggest.

6. | 22 Feb 2011 - 19:41

Hi :)

An increasing number of OpenSource projects are using the word Libre as part of their name. Even people in the MicroSoft world often join 2 or more words together to form a new one. Human languages often add new words in this way to grow and evolve.

I do like a lot of the UI ideas here and would like to see them on the Design Team's pages.

A good article though. I did like it :)
Regards from
Tom :)

7. | 23 Feb 2011 - 01:43

I really like the way you were making your mind up because you focused on the regular user who just wants to get things done. Everyone of us has to consider that - at present - I see a lot of students switching programs because they don't want to or just can't afford a new version of Microsoft Office. If you keep this in mind LibreOffice is still a failure (to the normal user). They just want to open and work on a document soooo put everything out of their sight and keep everything in it which is extremely useful or they expect to deal with. You definitely think the right way, though. It is not about the program, it is about the layout, GUI and the first impression itself (icons, website, etc.). So, I hope you can achieve something with your thoughts.

8. | 23 Feb 2011 - 06:58

Hi. Maybe you could be more usefull in LibreOffice designers or marketing team. Why don't you join the team and help them, instead of criticize? IMHO, if your advices don't be heard, so I could give you all the reason.
By the way, your claims are being discussed and heard:

9. | 23 Feb 2011 - 10:32

"By the way, bold, italic, and underline should be represented with a "B,I, and U" instead of an, "A, A, and A."

Who says so ? As an non-english user, B, I and U don't mean much, in French it should be G, I and S; in my language it's F, S and U. Not to mention UIs with asian scripts. Of course it's possible to code dynamic change of icons according to language settings (and each lang-team to design their icon), but most people on this planet recognise at least the first letter of the latin alphabet.

Also the globe-logo is hardly recognizable by anyone living east of the Atlantic ;-)

10. Pedro | 23 Feb 2011 - 16:04

Your interface mockup looks a lot like these
(created by Paulo Josй who is already on the Design Team)
I think you should join them.

I hope the UI evolves into something similar ASAP...

I agree with the previous poster. B, U and I only make sense for English speaking people. And a US centered Earth follows the same logic...

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