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In plotting the course for changes in LibreOffice Writer, developers would do well to listen to people who use the program for many hours a day instead of theorists who do more thinking and programming than typing.

Change for change sake is rarely a good thing. Change that brings modest improvement for a new user may be a nuisance to the experienced user. There is a fine balance between the value of the improvement and the inconvenience to the experienced user base.

One of the reasons I moved from Microsoft products to Linux and OpenOffice and now LibreOffice was the incessant change from version to version with no improvement in usability worthy of the learning curve required for the new version. It seemed that the process was designed to sell upgrades more than to improve the product. I did not mind the cost, but did hate the learning curve with no perceivable benefit.

William F. Buckley once said "/I'm told there are better programs, but I'm also told there are better alphabets./" referring to unwanted changes in WordStar and its replacements programs. I too used that program in the early 80s. Some of the features for selecting large blocks of text worked better than the alternatives available today. Many of the changes came from people who do much more thinking than typing.

As a lawyer I often type for hours per day. I often must copy and paste into gedit and then copy and paste into LibreOffice to get rid of multiple hyperlinks and other undesirable baggage present in the source. Some web content providers add hundreds of links in legal documents to make copying difficult. Some even include mechanisms to crash MS Word or OpenOffice. I learned to copy into a primitive editor and then into my word processor to strip out such baggage and avoid such crashes. I haven't tried to see if the crash mechanisms will crash LibreOffice, but I suspect they will.

Have you ever tried to copy and paste fifty pages out of a hundred page document? It was easy to do in WordStar but difficult with all of the scrolling in current era programs. WordStar had a simple command to mark a starting spot for selection and another command to mark the ending spot for a selection. Perhaps there is an easy way in LibreOffice. If so please let me know.

Many of the help mechanisms in LibreOffice and MS Word are useful in a long document and a nuisance in a short document. There should be a simple way to individually disable each help feature in a document. No Bullets and Numbering, no formatting of table entries, no AutoCorrect. Many casual users don't use tables because of the spread-sheet like features that are useful to the sophisticated user but can be a nuisance to a casual user. AutoCorrect must have thirty options, but "never" is not one of them.

There is logic for the major changes that Microsoft uses to sell new product. There is little reason to make changes to LibreOffice for change sake. Change should be optional unless the benefit is profound and the learning curve small. There should always be an easy way to disable any help feature that changes the document. Both the opt-out and opt-in should be easy to select for individual documents.

Jim Fuqua

615 822-4400

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