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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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?

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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ODF is open document format, see details on Wikipedia: OpenDocument - Wikipedia

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.

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:

Downloads :: winPenPack - The Portable Software Collection

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 @Pedro1 in Can LibreOffice read StarOffice sdw files? - #5 by Pedro1.

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 - 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.

@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?

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,

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.

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:


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.