Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Open Office Stupidity

If you receive a document as an attachment, open that attachment, start editing, and then click save, guess what happens? You work is quietly saved in a file in /tmp. Guess what happens when you try to find that important file later? Sure, it shows up in the menu under File->Recent Documents, but when you select it, it has likely been deleted, as is the fate of most files left in /tmp for too long. Wonderful.

This happened to my brother-in-law (a non-geek who has successfully been using Linux for a couple years now, well, until now, I guess) a couple weeks ago resulting in the loss of some hard work of his, and I almost let it happen to me today. Couldn't we make our apps a little smarter? If it's running on a UNIX like system, would it hurt to make it aware that /tmp is not a safe place to save its user's files? Could it at least give people a little warning before doing so?

UPDATE: I don't know what happened, but I received an attachment today and Open Office 2.4.1 and Firefox 3.0.1 on my Ubuntu 8.04.1 system opened it read-only, with only a "save as" option available. It wouldn't even let me edit the document before doing the save as. This is excellent and exactly how I think it should work. For the record, a quick search leads me to believe that Firefox changed to save temporary files as read-only. One can only hope other mail clients do something similar.

8 comments:

Paul R said...

Although I agree with you, I guess it would be more productive to report this to OOo team as a usability problem than on your blog :)

kbm said...

This can happen with Word and with Windows too in my experience!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the fault of the MUA, not oo.

Knusper said...

Couldn't we expect a user to be experienced enough to know where he actually saves his files. I agree to the above post, its a failure of the user if he saves something in tmp and then wonders why it gets deleted.

Bryan said...

@kbm: I know, I've seen this in windoze too. I guess the difference is I gave up on windoze being smart and user-friendly a while ago.

@knusper: I think the whole point of my post was that you *can't* expect the user to be "experienced enough" to avoid this. Software is supposed to help us, not make us feel dumb.

The thing to remember here also is, the user *didn't choose* where to save this file. The user clicked a link and was presented with a file in OpenOffice. When he clicked the save button no choice of location was presented, OpenOffice happily saved away.

I guess Firefox (running gmail) is what chose to save the attachment in /tmp, and then open it with OpenOffice. Firefox is doing the right thing by saving attachments that are being opened for temporary viewing in tmp. Maybe the simple answer is that it needs to save files in /tmp as read-only. Then dumb open office and dumb users won't try and edit and save changes to this temporary location.

Anonymous said...

@bryan: If OO had built-in weirdisms like that it would be intolerable. Accusing OO of "stupidity" is nonsense and if anything you should, in your case, be targeting your browser for doing the wrong thing.

Bryan said...

OK people, let's all calm down. I just noticed today that the behavior seems to have changed. I was emailed a Word document to my gmail account. I clicked "download" and Open Office opened the attachment, read-only, with the save button and menu item grayed out. It wouldn't even let me edit the document until I did a save as. This is excellent and exactly how I think it should work.

Anonymous said...

This keeps ending up at the top of planet emacsen....