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Why are the old StarOffice binary formats no longer supported by LibreOffice [closed]

asked 2013-02-07 21:00:17 +0200

pvaljak gravatar image

updated 2021-06-03 20:16:18 +0200

Alex Kemp gravatar image

Obsolete data formats e.g. *.sdw seem to not longer be supported, but I need them.

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Closed for the following reason the question is answered, right answer was accepted by Alex Kemp
close date 2016-02-20 19:00:37.753009


manj_k gravatar imagemanj_k ( 2013-06-02 14:20:17 +0200 )edit

Deploy a VMWare virtual machine with Windows XP and Install StarOffice 5 in there, It performs much better, faster and with more reliable features that current OO/LO versions.

Simon2099 gravatar imageSimon2099 ( 2013-12-03 05:02:06 +0200 )edit

While I understand perfectly the reasons that may lead to the removal of the write function(s) for older formats, I am afraid the absence of backward compatibility to read legacy files will give the project a strong negative image, if the decision is not reverted or compensated by an appropriate plug-in or add-on.

DirkHoffmann gravatar imageDirkHoffmann ( 2015-04-02 18:10:39 +0200 )edit

Dear developers, you can by no means assume that people who are using LibreOffice since the first days of StarOffice for more than twenty years, are able to go today and just because some developers decide so, through hundreds or thousands of files on their computers, old computers, data supports, web storage and databases to convert them into a more modern format.

DirkHoffmann gravatar imageDirkHoffmann ( 2015-04-02 18:11:59 +0200 )edit

Removing backward compatibility, especially read ability, with previous formats is a stupid, lazy thing to do. It creates a very unprofessional image and does not inspire confidence in users, especially corporate users. Why would anyone choose to switch to a software package which in 5 or 10 years might no longer support documents created now? The world is not all about shiny shiny new shit. Now I have to go find an old version of OO/LO to install to get access to the single old doc I need.

walkjivefly gravatar imagewalkjivefly ( 2015-07-19 09:49:54 +0200 )edit

and what's with a 500 character comment length limit?

walkjivefly gravatar imagewalkjivefly ( 2015-07-19 09:50:24 +0200 )edit

6 Answers

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answered 2013-02-07 22:54:14 +0200

manj_k gravatar image

LibreOffice 4.0 ReleaseNotes · Feature removal / deprecation:

Dropped support for legacy binary StarOffice (version 1.x → 5.x) files.
Note: the old OpenOffice.org XML file format (.sxw, .sxi etc.) which was used as the default format by StarOffice versions 6 and 7 is still supported.

See also → binfilter removed in LO 4.0 : how to communicate on this change?

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It is worth noting that as @manj_k has pointed out the old binfilter used by these formats became unmaintainable. There is still interest (via the GSoC Ideas) in writing a new (more maintainable) filter for these old binary formats.

oweng gravatar imageoweng ( 2014-04-05 09:02:36 +0200 )edit

TDF's new Document Liberation Project has also expressed interest in providing read access for these formats.

qubit gravatar imagequbit ( 2014-04-05 18:50:01 +0200 )edit

answered 2013-06-02 15:30:14 +0200

ROSt52 gravatar image

updated 2013-06-03 03:25:03 +0200

I can understand that that people want to keep the support for older data format. However, I also can understand that from a certain time on support for older format create a too large workload for our devs.

Thereforem I recently placed an enhancement request for a portable version of 3.6.7, which will be the last version supporting older formats. Having such a portable version is sufficient for the few cases when old files need to be opened or a regression needs to looked at. Please feel free to add comments to fdo#65105.

Recently someone in this forum brought my attention to:


There is a multi-language portable version of 3.6.5 already. However I have not yet tested it.

EDIT: The information on winpenpack comes from @Pedro in http://ask.libreoffice.org/en/question/18402/can-libreoffice-read-staroffice-sdw-files/?answer=18439#post-id-18439.

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The emphasis (by LO) and onus (by the user) should be on using open non-binary formats. Dropping these old binary formats actually encourages users to think more carefully about data portability. As JBF points out in the mailing list (linked about by @man_jk) using an old version of LO simply for the purpose of conversion is a less-than-ideal solution.

oweng gravatar imageoweng ( 2013-06-03 02:03:25 +0200 )edit

@oweng - Thanks for mentioning again the excellent mail of JBF (linked by @manj_k). JBF's mail shows the situation very well. There is need to stop but he also is concerned about the usability of old files and searches for solution(s).

I also agree with you on considerations for open file format; this is also one of the reasons why I am using LibO.

ROSt52 gravatar imageROSt52 ( 2013-06-03 03:13:16 +0200 )edit

@oweng - Could the document "Feature removal / deprecation" (linked by manj_k) be expanded by possible considerations on what could/will be done by LibO to give owners of old files a chance to open and work on them?

ROSt52 gravatar imageROSt52 ( 2013-06-03 03:19:18 +0200 )edit

You do not understand what is a production tool. When a software is implement by an enterprise, all the used features must be reliable to control the cost of usage. Nobody has been fired to buy Microsoft, but what is going to say the IT manager about his "free alternative" when his boss asks to open forensic files? SW is focused in users needs, not in devs as you said "support for older format create a too large workload for our devs", unless you see it as a hobby,

Simon2099 gravatar imageSimon2099 ( 2013-12-03 04:41:15 +0200 )edit

So instead everybody else should suffer due to the lack of development and thus fewer bug fixes and new features? I don't think so.

Alexander Wilms gravatar imageAlexander Wilms ( 2014-01-05 22:25:35 +0200 )edit

answered 2013-02-07 23:31:58 +0200

RonJohn gravatar image

Because they are old, crufty, and have a very high complexity-use ratio (IOW, hardly ever used).

Thus, they simply the code base for very little use impact.

The few people like you might just be stuck on v3.6.

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It would be best opened with v3.6 and save files in ODF file format then use v4.0 (if v4.0 is really needed). It all depends why someone needs old formats. Is it because of: tons of documents to be converted. Documents are shared with users using old programs... Without a reason - its hard to advice

froz gravatar imagefroz ( 2013-02-08 09:11:47 +0200 )edit

Your solution is not possible in an enterprise environment and it gives a very bad image to LO because IT managers can not trust that the features used in their companies will become "old, crufty, and have a very high complexity-use ratio", specially when Microsoft has tell it is the risk to use OpenSource. You can not stop supporting a proprietary file format unless you are Microsoft. Maybe you are.

Simon2099 gravatar imageSimon2099 ( 2013-12-03 04:47:38 +0200 )edit

ODF is open document format, see details on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenDocument

The main reason ODF was "invented" was because each of office suites were using some kind of binary file format that are difficult to handle by other office suite. So ODF was created to remove barriers between office suites. And Microsoft Office 2007, 2010 and 2013 are supporting ODF. This is kind of logical. There are some government institutions that only allow to use standard format like ODF.

L-user gravatar imageL-user ( 2013-12-03 18:32:43 +0200 )edit

answered 2014-01-05 20:44:11 +0200

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This post is a wiki. Anyone with karma >75 is welcome to improve it.

We need readability and reliability!

Sorry, you are totaly wrong. Someone is a grufty, because he wants using files, produced and stored 10 years ago? I have a private libray, maybe 3000 books. Some are 100 years old or more. I can read them without problems. But if i want read a file, 10 years old, im a grufty.

Obsolete! Throw all away what is older then 2 or 3 years, ex and hopp. Sorry this is very stupid. You are living today, without history, without future. How old is LibreOffice or OpenOffice or even StarOffice? Nearly 15 years. How old is Computing, how old BookPrinting, how old is writing, how old the human culture? Throw it all away?

If libreoffice will continue this way, it will himself be thrown away, will exist not at all in 10 years. Such a philosophy is inhuman and stupid. A mankind without history has no future.

What we need is seriosity and reliability. Libreoffice dont want to be reliable? Ok, ciao LibreOffice. But i hope there are some more intelligent and wise people, even between nerds. Not sdw-filter is obsolete, the elimination of sdw-filter is obsolete.

Sorry for my bad english. Greetings and all the best to the new year. Konni Schmidt konni.schmidt@posteo.de

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Sometimes the mistakes of the past (i.e., old, poorly crafted file formats like SDW) need to be discontinued in order to discourage bad practice. This is actually good practice. Comparing a book to a computer file format is a terrible analogy.

oweng gravatar imageoweng ( 2014-01-05 22:13:45 +0200 )edit

answered 2013-02-07 22:02:52 +0200

qubit gravatar image

updated 2013-02-07 22:05:05 +0200

Hi @pvaljak,

Please take a look at the answer to this question:

Note that if you are on a system with a package manager it appears that you might be able to install a specific package. On Ubuntu GNU/Linux, that package is:

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answered 2013-12-03 04:12:27 +0200

this post is marked as community wiki

This post is a wiki. Anyone with karma >75 is welcome to improve it.

The reason is OpenOffice/LibreOffice do not have a long term vision and you were "old, crufty, and have a very high complexity-use ratio (IOW, hardly ever used)" for choosing it instead of Microsoft or another professional platform. You can not trust in a software that will be modified by a couple of programers unable to understand the concepts of confidence and reputation. You should stop using it since they gave the same answers when the email module were drooped and changed your files to MS Office formats which had never been unsupported. Do not use any file format suggested by the OO/LO community because there are not proofs that such will work in the future to comply with the forensic laws about digital storage, nor even for historic records Instead suggest the SO support in Google docs. It is indeed sad to see what Open Source is now, it is worst than the MS business model. Even Linux is bloatware. It would be nicer to explain the situation with a conspiracy theory than accept it was just the ignorance of a bunch of nerds without emotional intelligence.

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ODF is a standard document format used today in MANY office suites. Migrating from old binary format to text based (XML) open format is a good option. This was the biggest vision by many users. You are wrong LibreOffice is not changing by couple of programmers, but it is changing by several hundred of developers. And NOTHING is implemented if it is not already defined in ODF standard. So this is not bad concept at all.

L-user gravatar imageL-user ( 2013-12-03 18:37:02 +0200 )edit

I do understand that enterprise environment is touchy about stability/compatibility/etc, but the world of computer environment is changing very fast and predicting the future is harder then ever. To avoid as much of the problems it is vise to use open STANDARD formats supported by MANY products.

" It is indeed sad to see what Open Source is now, it is worst than the MS business model." You got to be kidding... You are way too generalizing...

L-user gravatar imageL-user ( 2013-12-03 18:40:45 +0200 )edit

I partially understand your frustration, but in my experience the Microsoft Office file formats are the best example of obsoletion. Microsoft changed the Word file format with every release of Office, but have never issued a warning. (One might think this has been a MS tactic to make people and business pay for upgrades.) File format migration, although it may hurt in the beginning because it takes some time, is part of digital preservation. You'll feel better afterwards :)

bencomp gravatar imagebencomp ( 2014-01-05 22:49:22 +0200 )edit

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Asked: 2013-02-07 21:00:17 +0200

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Last updated: Apr 05 '14