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Why does the LibreOffice portable version act as a proprietary software?

asked 2017-01-29 08:26:12 +0200

epik gravatar image

updated 2017-01-30 11:48:56 +0200

LibreOffice portable version is created with a portabilizer system by PortableApps.com. With the last release I discover that the portabilizer system converts LibreOffice in a software that can't be executed from third parties launchers (SyMenu, Lupo PenSuite and who knows how many others).

LibreOffice is not directly responsible, but it is using a portabilizing system that intentionally bans free launchers others than the native one from PortableApps.com. And IMHO this is a protection system typical of the proprietary software. The result is that LibreOffice in its portable version is acting as a proprietary software.

To check my assertion read this bug I opened yesterday https://bugs.documentfoundation.org/s...

SyMenu, with its latest version, workarounded the ban so if you want to check the problem directly with the menu you have to use an earlier version (for example SyMenu 5.08).

To summarize the question is:

is LibreOffice behaving correctly adopting a portabilizing software that makes it acts as a proprietary software? Is this behavior consistent with the LibreOffice license?

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answered 2017-03-17 04:43:05 +0200

JohnTHaller gravatar image

LibreOffice Portable works with any third party menu you'd like without issue as well as being runnable on its own. All apps currently available from PortableApps.com do.

LibreOffice Portable's installer, like many PortableApps.com apps, has logic within it to handle upgrades (removing old files, preserving specific ones) and ensure user data is in the correct locations. LibreOffice Portable's installer has more code than most (a few hundred lines) to handle removing languages that a user doesn't need as well as moving font files around from previous versions and the like. SyMenu bypasses LibreOffice Portable's installer and extracts the files directly, which sometimes results in misplaced files, old DLLs from previous apps left behind, and other nasties. SyMenu then goes a step further and attempts to suppress the warning from the app about the possible issues by altering the app's internal tracking files to tell the app it was properly installed when it wasn't. That's the reason for the somewhat clumsy manual check on the specific file. It will only show once after a forced extraction install that could cause crashes if the wrong files are left behind or result in user data issues. The app then works without further notice as the user is now aware the app was installed incorrectly and may have issues. It won't show at all if the user downloads and runs the LibreOffice Portable installer even with this particular third party menu.

The specific check for Lupo was due to the same behavior. Lupo Pensuite distributes the files pulled out of the installer and does the same clumsy overwrite of zipped files on upgrades which can also cause issues.

PortableApps.com moved away from this simple style of upgrading over a decade ago due to issues with some versions of Firefox 1.0 crashing after upgrades since old DLL files were left behind. If you clumsily rip files out of an installer and overwrite an existing app installation, you're going to have a bad time.

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@JohnTHaller: A sidestep:
When advising in a forum I contribute to, I sometimes include a hint to the PortableApps packages of LibO.
Otoh I also often advise to install the offline help with LibO for obvious reasons. As there cannot be a PortableApps package of the help in everyone of about 100 languages, I wrote a wordy guide how to provide offline help for PortableLibO. Might PortableApps (you) be able to ease this?

Lupp gravatar imageLupp ( 2017-03-17 13:50:52 +0200 )edit
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answered 2017-01-29 10:29:21 +0200

Well, actually, this question is a complex one consisting of many separate questions. 0. Do you understand this behavior correctly? 1. Does PortableApps behave ethically? 2. Does it comply with the license? 3. Does it limit your freedom? 4. Is it OK for TDF to promote and adopt this solution?

I don't intend to answer these all, but just discuss some aspects. As you mention in your bug report, it doesn't block using those third-party menu systems, but only emits scary warning before launching normally. So, the intention may be to warn user about negative effects of upgrading their system using third-party means, because that could indeed break the PortableApps arrangement. And I can imagine that they just scan the root folder for any file other that is intended by packagers, as a sign of such possible upgrade.

So, it may be a fault of those third-party menu systems if they require to put something to the app's root folder; or it may require PortableApps to take extra effort to support them.

Disclaimer: I don't know if my thoughts have any truth, because I don't use any of PortableApps, SyMenu or PenSuite myself, and am not an expert in this area.

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Why don't we call it with its name instead? With this policy PortableApps.com isn't trying to preserve the published programs but is trying to cut out any competitors. Two reasons for this: 1) you can put whatever file you want in the root folder and the launcher doesn't alert you, unless you put the little empty files needed from SyMenu or Lupo. 2) the launcher is not checking the program installation integrity because you can use the native PAF installer and it alerts you the same.

epik gravatar imageepik ( 2017-01-30 09:44:53 +0200 )edit
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answered 2017-01-30 23:06:50 +0200

m.a.riosv gravatar image

There is no need of PortableApps to run LibreOffice portable., even for download, it can be downloaded from LibreOffice site http://www.libreoffice.org/download/l..., Portable versions & DVD Images.

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AFAIK that portable version that we advertise is the PortableApps-packaged one that OP talks about. Unlike, e.g., the portable option available e.g. using SI-GUI.

Mike Kaganski gravatar imageMike Kaganski ( 2017-01-30 23:10:59 +0200 )edit

I think usually we talk about SI-GUI installation as parallel installation, which I have not tested if it is truly portable with only copying the program's folder.

m.a.riosv gravatar imagem.a.riosv ( 2017-01-31 12:54:33 +0200 )edit

Good point

Mike Kaganski gravatar imageMike Kaganski ( 2017-01-31 13:13:01 +0200 )edit
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Asked: 2017-01-29 08:26:12 +0200

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Last updated: Mar 17 '17