AUTHOR'S MAIN SITE  »  Open Office Tutorials Main Index

Open Office Database Tutorials

Libre Office? Open Office?

And a few things you'll encounter, as you get started

(A sidebar off of main index page)

Filename: fdb1main-sb-openlibre.htm

LibreOffice Productivity Suite

Wordprocessor / Spreadsheet/ Database Manager/ Etc!

Free, Open Source, Multi-platform

Updated 28 Apr 2020: I reviewed the "Is Libre Office better than Open Office?" question again. Alas, now not only would I certainly use Libre Office if I were just starting out, I am now saying that I would migrate any Open Office work you may be doing to Libre Office. Sorry!

Open Office,April 2020, has a Big Problem: It seems that interest in doing the programming work to maintain it has all but dried up. The Monarch is dead! Long live the Monarch!

I have been talking what is the right choice between OpenOffice and LibreOffice since at least November 2016.

I have been building this site of LibreOffice / OpenOffice help since 2010. Most of it was created with reference to OpenOffice. I still (5/2020) use OpenOffice for my "everyday" stuff... but I am finally taking my baby steps in the world of LibreOffice.

(I wasn't ever interested in being one of Microsoft's vassals. For years I used Ami Pro and Borland's Quattro and Paradox.)

The choice today, it seems to me, is between Open Office and LibreOffice.

And I feel that the time has come to say to you, if you are just getting started: Start with LibreOffice. If you are already using OpenOffice: Start thinking about switching to LibreOffice.

However, the days when my OpenOfffice pages are useful are far from over. What I've written in them applies in the LibreOffice environment with little of no adaptation. Please bring any exceptions to my attention?... to spare the next person the frustration you had? Please cite the URL (www.thingie) of the page where the problem arose. Within reason, I am happy to "reward" you with a mention of your website, if you submit something helpful, so please tell me where the credit should go.

LibreOffice and OpenOffice share a common ancestor, and remain similar in many ways. (But they will probably diverge, as development continues.)

One little nuisance...

The "Memo" data type. Present in HSQL. And very useful.

It doesn't seem to be present in Firebird. And the "equivalents" seem
fraught with bugs and nuisances.

As I said... I am very new to Firebird. But I think that
a data type equivalent to the HSQL "Memo" is too
useful to do without... and if you skip to the bottom
of this sidebar, you will see that you don't have to
do without it... sort of.

"All" I want is to be able to share fragments of text in a field.
Mulit-line fragments of text.

What I've done here, in the different font, would go in the
sort of field I "need". (Want.)

I raised the above at, which seems to be the most active discussion forum for Libre Office.

I'm delighted to say I had an answer! And the answer worked! As I said in that discussion, there are some "gotchas" to navigate, but the equivalent of a memo does exist... whew!

One of the worst gotchas is that is seems you can't, or at least can't easily, add the right sort of field to an existing table. You have to put them in the table when it is first created. Maybe that's just another bit of newbie ignorance. I hope so! (And that I learn how to do it soon!)

One reason for being a fan of LibreOffice is that I am beginning my move away from Microsoft, finding Windows 10 brings too many things that I don't want to deal with. (On top of the issues I have had since the Win 7 system "improvements".) On my Linux machines... admittedly not in much use, yet, at 5/20... I am going with LibreOffice, and expect gradually to move there on my other machines, too.

So... whether you are using OpenOffice or LibreOffice, I think you are wise, and hope that my tutorials will be equally useful to you.

I really don't know the Linux world well enough to "advise" you there... but in at least one case, the default database in a Linux distribution is LibreOffice, and I don't feel that I need to fight that. On that system, I will use LibreOffice.

One place the Offices are different...

If you want to use the database module, which is what most of my tutorials are about, you have a choice to make. If you are just starting with LibreOffice / OpenOffice, I hope, for your sake, that you will choose to go with LibreOffice from the start, and within the database, you have a further choice to make: Do you ride the "last hurrah" of the "old" database engine, HSQLB, or do you get on board "Firebird"?

The people responsible for LibreOffice, have been making noises since at least Feb 2017 about leaving HSQLB behind, moving to Firebird. As of 5/2020, LibreOffice version 6.3.6, you have HSQLB and Firebird as alternatives... if you know how to "fix it" thus.

To "switch on" the Firebird option

When I did a fresh install of the LibreOffice suite in early May 2020, I was left with a LibreOffice Base that only offered the embedded "HSQLB" for starting new databases in the wizard that you go through as you enter the database.

Switching on the Firebird option is not a big deal! Just a small tweak. But you have to "know how" to "switch on" the appearance of the Firebird option. The Firebird engine is already installed, from LibreOffice version (x64) or earlier.

I've put the details of "revealing" the Firebird option in my "Allow Firebird as embedded database in LibreOffice" note. (LO_0FirebirdOn.htm)

If you took my advice and "fixed" your LibreOffice so that it admits to Firebird now, you can skip this sidebar! How's that for an incentive to do it?

I was always taught "start as I mean to go on". If you are new to LibreOffice Base, I would strongly recommend that you use Firebird from the start.

"Wait a minute!", you might say. "Didn't you say you are new to LibreOffice Base? How do you know WHAT is the right thing to do?"

Yes, I did, and I am. But I wrote my first program MANY years ago... we used punched tape and a teletype terminal... and have been using the OpenOffice database from long before LibreOffice Base was a gleam in anyone's eye. (LibreOffice Base is derived from a version of the OpenOffice database that was current a few years ago.) I am by training a scientist, and rarely listen to hunches. But in this case, I have a very strong, well-informed hunch that says: Go with Firebird.

As I write this, I only began using LibreOffice seriously a few days ago.

Just now, I made a tiny, trivial database, with the default Firebird embedded database engine.... my first.

In doing it, and in the brief tests I made, there were NO "issues". If I hadn't known better, I would have thought I was using "good old" HSQLB, which I've used (under OpenOffice) for years.

I believe that Open Office/ HSQLB databases can be converted to Firebird databases... though I haven't tested that belief yet. You certainly can open, and work with, HSQLB-under-OpenOffice-created database from inside LibreOffice... though there may be "stuff" to attend to, among the way.

So, if you thought to skip "turning on" the Firebird option, I hope I've persuaded you? The "how to" details are in my "Allow Firebird in LibreOffice" note.

It's a quick tweak, not a Big Deal. Do it?

A downside? The one thing I need to admit is as follows. (You will get the same warning from LibreOffice during the "switch it on" process": To switch on the Firebird option, you have to switch on all of the current experimental features in the whole LibreOffice suite. If you use an experimental feature, it may not work 100% as you expected, or even, perhaps, as it actually should.

But if you stick to basics, you shouldn't have any "adventures". And wouldn't you like the option of trying new things? The Nice People developing LibreOffice are not going to put barely tested stuff in a released version of the product, are they? Even the "advanced" / "experimental" things will have had extensive development and testing.

Mis-use of terms

Don't you hate it when people encourage and prolong ignorance by mis-using terms? I do. But I also hate teachers trying to tell me too much at once. So I postponed discussing the meaning of "database". It's at the bottom of this page.

But first...

Don't be a wuss.

If you've read this far...

... "You're probably just being thorough", but have long since decided it all sounds just to fraught and you aren't going to try either Office after all!

Please don't take that view! Yes! I've been "up front" with you about the presence of a few tedious annoyances in the course of setting things up.

But that's all they are! It takes many words to describe them, explain them, and explain what you need to do. But, in practice, if you follow the guidance carefully, setting up should be a great hassle. Thousands of people are actually entering text into WP documents, spreadsheets and databases right now as you read this. Some government departments are run using either OpenOffice or LibreOffice. How could that be, if it were an "impossible mess". Do you want to be a Microsoft serf forever? Or even "just" encourage their hegemony, if you get you use of their products out of your employer's expenses, or the taxpayer? (If the taxpayer, why are you using Microsoft, when there's a FREE alternative??)

You CAN install LibreOffice Base! (You can even install it alongside Open Office, and migrate to the Office with a future!)

Returning to "Mis-use of terms"

I've been way too casual in my use of the word "database" above.

Broadly speaking, I used it for two different things...

Strictly speaking, the word "database" should be reserved for the former

There several big classes of software for managing what we have stored. LibreOffice Base is an example of a RDMS... a Relational Database Management System.

Most of that is pretty self evident, but why the "Relational"? We'll come to that. Quite soon. Not today, but soon. For now, just remember that it is part of the name for the type of software we are using to manage the data we've collected.

-------- You'll see me speak of "front ends" and engines.

LibreOffice Base is a "front end". It is a user-friendly was to "talk to" an RDMS "engine". The "engine" is the software that manipulates the data you have stored.

There are "embedded engines", which is what you are likely to use for some time. (In theory, you can use an embedded HSQLB engine or an embedded Firebird engine. I would use the Firebird engine, if I were you, as discussed elsewhere.) And there are external engines. LibreOffice Base is also quite capable to "connecting" to those, being your front end, with which you "talk" to one of those external engines, and thus access the data it is managing.

(While we're being pedantic: There is a difference between "data" and "information". You might want to Google that... but it has never been terribly important to me. Don't worry about it too much. Save your energy for remembering "Relational".)

Bottom Line?

The bottom line is: Go for it! And go for LibreOffice. And within the Base module of the LibreOffice Suite, use the embedded Firebird engine.

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