Apache OpenOffice Needs YOU!

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Documentation note.png The following text is an edited copy of a text by Dan Kegel.
You can find the original text with more information for developers at
Dan Kegels website.


Apache OpenOffice is the leading open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more. It is available in many languages and works on all common computers. It stores all your data in an international open standard format and can also read and write files from other common office software packages. It can be downloaded and used completely free of charge for any purpose.

Documents in Version 4.0 of OpenOffice and Microsoft Office 14.3.8 (for Mac) are compatible. Users will likely not notice any problems when exchanging documents with MS Office users.

OpenOffice is constantly evolving with the help of its users. If you notice a problem while using OpenOffice, you have an opportunity to help make the program better and easier to use. There are two ways you can help:

  1. file bug reports for the problems you see
  2. help the team sort through bug reports filed by others

The more you help, the more likely the problems you care about will be solved in the next release.

To file a bug report, register a Bugzilla account. You can also track your issue and view other issues from fellow users.

For more information, follow this link: https://www.openoffice.org/qa/ooQAReloaded/ooQA-ReportBugs.html

The Problem Report Backlog

OpenOffice, like all software, has imperfections. So many people are using OpenOffice that they're even running into hard-to-trigger problems. Many of these users are helpfully filing problem reports in Bugzilla, and OpenOffice developers are working on resolving the issues as they press on towards the next release.

However, problem reports are coming in faster than they can be dealt with because many of the problem reports are duplicates or system problems. The result is a backlog of over a thousand unchecked problem reports from users, and every day another four new reports are added to the backlog. This backlog is both a shame, and a treasure trove. Many of the problem reports in the backlog contain enough information for developers to quickly find and solve the problem - but it takes time to sort through the reports.

That's where you come in. You can help the developers do what they do best. All you have to do is help sort through the incoming bug reports. This is called triage.


Triage is what medics do when wounded soldiers arrive at a field hospital so fast they can't all be helped. They decide one of three things about each arriving patient, namely: he/she is either

  • well enough that they don't really need a doctor,
  • sick, and could get better if they get to see a doctor, or
  • need last rites more than they need the doctor.

Similarly, triage is also what QA people do when bug reports come in too fast for developers to handle by themselves. They look at each incoming bug report, and decide whether it:

  • is a duplicate of a known bug, in which case they can often email a workaround to the user,
  • is a bug in some other piece of software, in which case they try to direct the user to the right place for support for that software, or
  • is a reproducible and novel bug, in which case they send a recipe for reproducing the bug to the developers.

That lets the developers focus on fixing problems in the code.

How to help

Here's how to get started:

  1. Register as a member of Apache OpenOffice
  2. Request to be a member of the QA project by clicking the "Join This Project" link at the upper right hand of qa.openoffice.org
  3. Review qa.openoffice.org/helping.html and qa.openoffice.org/priorities.html
  4. Join the dev@qa.openoffice.org mailing list
  5. Request the ability to set issue status by emailing dev@openoffice.apache.org with subject line "Volunteer Privileges - <OOo.org userid>". Mention your OOo.org userid again in the message body, and while you're at it, introduce yourself to the group - it's nice to know who we're working with. After your request is granted, you should be able to add the oooqa keyword and modify all fields in an issue.

Then pick an unconfirmed bug report (or issue, as the OpenOffice team calls them), and help triage it as follows:

  • See if you can find a similar bug in the list of frequently-duplicated issues or by searching Bugzilla. If you think it's a duplicate of issue 12345, say something like "Looks like a duplicate of issue 12345" in the Comment box. The word 'issue', followed by a number, gets turned into a handy hyperlink, so people who look at the bug report can click on those words to see how issue 12345 was solved.
  • Try to reproduce the bug on your computer. In the Comment box, say whether you were able to or not, and how you did it (if you weren't following a recipe already in the bug report). If you can't reproduce the bug, also ask for more details if there wasn't enough info in the original report.
  • If it's a crash or freeze bug, send the automatic report that the Crash Reporter offers you to send.
  • If you *can* reproduce the bug, mark it 'NEW' to signal the developers to have a look.
  • If you can't reproduce the bug, and you're pretty sure you have all the info you need, mark the bug WORKSFORME.
  • If you want to get email when someone replies (and you probably do), put your @openoffice.org email address (the one given to you when you registered to use Bugzilla) in the CC: field in the upper right.
  • Add the keyword 'oooqa' to show someone's started triaging it.
  • Then press the Submit button.

That's all there is to it!

If you asked for more information from the original submitter, and you remembered to put your OpenOffice email address in the CC: field in the upper right, you'll get email when they reply to your question. When you get the reply, go to the bug's page in Bugzilla, and finish triaging the bug if you can.


A helpful diagram of the life cycle of a bug report is online at www.openoffice.org/qa/issue_handling/workflowcharts/taskhandling_workflow_issuetracker_confirm.html.

Priorities, Priorities

There are so many bug reports that it's vital to tackle the ones with the highest potential payoff first. This is a matter of taste. Some people might want to look just at fresh bugs, others might care more about crash bugs, others might care more about Microsoft Office compatibility.

No matter what area you care about, you can probably come up with an Bugzilla query that pulls up bug reports about it. Below are a few example queries, enough for you to get started with.

Documentation note.png These example queries aren't perfect - they miss a few bugs, and pull up a few issues that aren't really what they were meant to find, so take them with a grain of salt. You can edit the queries by clicking on the "Edit Query" link on the bottom right of the query result page.

Recently Reported Bugs

Recently reported bugs are important to check because a user is waiting for help, and is probably willing to provide additional information or testcases if you need them to reproduce the bug.

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