Why is it so difficult to ask a question?

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to get to the point of asking LibreOffice a question. Why is it so difficult for new users of LibreOffice to get to the point of where we can actually ask you questions about your products? And what is this Tags stuff that is apparently required to ask a question? Do you want new users, or is this just a club for the enlightened users who already know all the answers?

Hello and Welcome -

When I first signed up for an account it took months for my first question to be posted. Don’t think that your effort will require that much time. Tags are to help label questions to be able to search more easily for answers. And no this is not a club of any kind - just LibreOffice users trying to help other LO users.

If you can afford another minute or two, please read How to use the Ask site. It’s not all encompassing but will provide basic information about the site.

There are also a few other links at the bottom of the page - FAQ & Help which are often overlooked and contain other information.

Do you want new users

I want new users. I don’t want new lusers.

Thanks Ratslinger for your quick response to my post. My point was that new LibreOffice users experience incredible frustration in signing up to ask.libreoffice.org. In my recent experience, just Googling my LibreOffice issue has been more productive than trying to ask LibreOffice for solutions.

Perhaps that is intentional, to encourage people with questions to search for existing answers rather than asking the same question a thousand slightly-different ways in a thousand new threads that would require moderators to manually merge together.

No, not intentional. In fact there is no one here merging anything. And there are many questions here asking the same or nearly the same question. Have answered Java install questions over 100 x’s myself. Just one of the many examples. Seems many do not search but rather simply ask anew.

For starters, do not answer your own question unless it is a real answer.

just Googling my LibreOffice issue has been more productive than trying to ask LibreOffice for solutions

This works in 99% of cases with any question about any software: most likely, that you are not the first to encounter a problem. Thus, STFW before you ask, which is a pre-requisite of a good question.

The flaw in this site is the “tag stuff” precisely. It is supposed to help both contributors to choose which questions are related to their skills and “askers” to target a smaller domain those the suite addresses.

Unfortunately it is not regulated. Any newcomer can create new never-to-be-used again tags. This happens for example when a newcomer repeats the question in the tag, thinking it will help index the question. It does not and clutters the tags with noise words (= bearing no information) such as ‘a’, ‘the’, ‘of’, ‘and’, etc. You also have nouns in plural and singular forms. There are also typos against conflicting words (e.g. writer, one of the components, and write, I/O operation).

Add to that the site has a poor ergonomy and newcomers (old-timers sometimes too) are in a hurry to ask their questions and do not read the how-tos and advices.

###The first challenge is: this site is not a forum.

A new question does not open a discussion where contributions are time-ordered and you can follow the development of the discussion and how progressively it converges to the solution.

No, it is a question & answer site. There is a question. Then every user is entitled a single answer which should be his/her view of a solution. The site engine feels free to reorder the answers according to its rule(s) of relevance. Thus, the time relation between the answers is lost. This explains why any answer should be self-contained because it must be read and understood independently from the others.

The site is intended to be a collection of working alternative solutions for a problem.

It requires a change of mind compared to more usual (forum) sites.

###The second difficulty is a good choice of tags

As mentioned earlier, tags are not regulated. This is a strength and a weakness.

Strength because unanticipated domains can be easily addressed. Weakness because every user has a personal view of a tag. The only regulation (duly mentioned in the pages mentioned by @Ratslinger) is writer/calc/draw/impress/math, the component inside which the problem occurs (or common if occurring in all components), and meta for questions related to the site.

The present question is an example of an erroneously tagged one. It won’t ring bells for those in charge of maintenance and evolution of the site.

Also the search-on-tag service is not highlighted enough. You need to scroll down to discover the search form. This “discretion” leads to neglecting the importance or relevance of tags.

###I’d like to add a common misunderstanding

Many newcomers think this site has an official connection with LibreOffice headquarters or The Document Foundation.

It has not been emphasised enough that contributors are mostly enthusiast users of the suite. They are not paid by LO (which is anyway a FOSS with benevolent voluntary developers, fact which explains why some bugs are so long to fix) nor have contacts with any organisation controlling the suite, if any.

It is very frustrating for contributors to be verbally molested for suite bugs and idiosyncracies. We are also users confronted to these same bugs. All we share is our tricks to work around the failures. So, there is no point complaining about the inability of the suite to handle seemingly obvious misregarded cases. We understand user dismay but can’t exceed our own skills.


It is only after a long acquaintance with the site that you end up understanding the how’s and why’s and you can appreciate what it brings to you. Yes, it is frustrating for one-timers who will never come back. Be patient for contributors. Try to understand how frustrating it is to answer again and again to the same question, the solution of which is readily mentioned is the documentation or the built-in help (yes, contrary to a majority opinion, the built-in help is highly useful).

Overcome your first impression. Try to participate and discover how you would improve your knowledge offering your own solutions to the community.