Change default font in LibreOffice 4.x Spreadsheets

LibreOffice (henceforth referred to as LO, in this post) is a decent piece of software. I think what makes it better is the price: free.

But, LO is also a VERY FRUSTRATING piece of software. Or at least I find LO very frustrating. I mean, things that a user should be able to do quickly and easily have to be done in a round about way.

I love to do most of my work in plain, pure, simple text files. But, then, there are times when you have to create “documents” and presentations. My usual method of operation for a long time was:

  • I would write my documents in text form (i.e., as an ASCII text file in gedit or even “cat > fileName”) and then add HTML tags to the document “manually” (yeah! go ahead call me crazy)
  • I would write the outline for my presentations in text form (again, as an ASCII text file) and then use the some presentation creator (e.g., like the one in Google Drive) to create the final presentation

Till about 3 months ago, the only reason I would invoke a spreadsheet (typically Excel, which was the only reason I would need a Windows and an Office licence) would be to create a pretty-chart to insert into a document or a presentation. Other than that I was blissfully ignorant of all the cool things Excel and other spreadsheets could do although frankly the real reason was that I didn’t care that those spreadsheet apps could do so much.

If I had to do some “significant” (not really) calculations on a given piece of data, then, till about 3 months ago, I would do my calculations by starting either bc/dc or the python interpreter. For longer calculations, I would write simple python code. (My knowledge of Python is restricted to writing elementary programming constructs, but, my calculations were also pretty simple till 3 months ago, so that knowledge sufficed.)

So, that was that … till about 3 months ago.

Then, about 3 months ago, I “discovered” the power of spreadsheets. (Now you know I have been living under a rock for a LONG time, right?) And I instantly fell in love with them. My current understanding is that spreadsheets are great not only for creating pretty-charts from cooked-up data, but, they are also good for routine calculations.  With a spreadsheet you don’t have to worry about “how am I going to read that data into my program”. Why? Because you work with the data … directly. Your program is specified as a bunch of formulas that you insert into various cells where you want some calculations done. And most of these spreadsheets, but, especially Excel, come with an extensive library of functions you can use to manipulate your data. Pretty cool, isn’t it?

Now, all that sounds great and works well, but, there’s one big problem in Linux-land. No, the problem isn’t that there’s no good spreadsheet software. In fact, if you search online you would find a lot of open source spreadsheet software for Linux. The problem is that none of that spreadsheet software is as “nice” as Excel.

LibreOffice Calc comes pretty close to be being “nice” but it is like using Excel 1980 rather than using Excel 2013. Why do I say that? Because even a simple function like “set default font for ALL my spreadsheets … now and in the future” is absent. And the developers seem to have no intention to provide that function for whatever philosophical reasons. Mind you, we are talking about LibreOffice 4.x here, not LibreOffice 0.04.

(On a side note, the biggest problem with open source software is that there are TOO MANY philosophers who “initiate” the code and then never contribute a line to that code but continue to rule as the “Benevolent Dictators“. And in the world we live in, where we love to make Gods out of humans, we accept these “abusive” benevolent dictators as Gods for no apparent reasons.)

So, anyway, I googled around and did not find any workable solution for my little problem of “set default font for ALL my spreadsheets … now and in the future” in LibreOffice 4.x Calc. There were things like: create a default template (how?) or choose File->Template (not there in LO 4.x), etc. So, I figured I would try my own trick. And luckily it worked, so here it is for my future reference. If it helps you, all the better.

So, what’s the procedure to “set default font for ALL my spreadsheets … now and in the future” in LibreOffice 4.x Calc? Here’s what I did:

First, I created a new, empty spreadsheet file. Then, I chose “Format->Styles & Formatting …”. Then I right clicked the “Default” list-member and chose “modify”.


Modify The Default

In LibreOffice 4.x Calc, choose “Format->Styles & Formatting” and then, choose to “Modify” the “Default”

In the Font tab, I chose to set my font to “Ubuntu, size 16”. Yeah! I like B-I-G fonts.

Choose Your Font ... wisely.

Change the default font. I like B-I-G fonts, so I chose “ubuntu font, size 16” as shown here.

With that done, I chose to save this file as a “template”. I called it “libreOfficeCalcTemple”, although LO added an ots extension to it. This file was saved in “~/.config/libreoffice/4/user/template/” directory which has been set as the default path where LibreOffice 4.x would save its template files.

Now, under ordinary circumstances, I expected that a new invocation of LibreOffice Calc would automatically pick up this spreadsheet template from the default path. But, NOPE! It didn’t even recognize that spreadsheet template’s existence. What gives? I don’t know! And frankly, I don’t care.

So, then, I started LibreOffice (the general program, not the calc/spreadsheet part of it). This brought up this screen:

Start LibreOffice general program

Start LibreOffice, the general program, without any specific functionality (spreadsheet, wordprocessing, etc) and choose “Templates …”

From there, I clicked the “SpreadSheets” tab, and chose to import my “saved” template. Once my template showed up, I chose “Set default” to make that my default template.

Set your template as default

Set your chosen template as the default template for all your spreadsheets henceforth.

Once all that was done, the next invocation of LibreOffice 4.0 Calc came up with “my” font specification.

The point here is that for something as trivial as “set default font for ALL my spreadsheets … now and in the future” I had to jump through infinite hoops (create template file, save it, pull it up again, set it as default, etc) which I feel is unnecessary trouble. So, my humble request to the LibreOffice devs: please set your “high” philosophies aside and create a piece of software that is easy and fun to use. We don’t want a Microsoft Office replacement. We just want a functional, fun and easy to use “office” software. Because if we really wanted to do something the hard way we would all just move to Emacs (JK. BTW, that’s coming from a guy who has used Emacs EVERYDAY for 5+ years … but just used … never really written any Emacs extensions).

Anyway, so if that tip helps you, all the better. If not, ignore my rant.

PortableApps on Xubuntu

This is not going to be news to anyone, but, I just got PortableApps running on Wine on Xubuntu 13.10.

Backstory: A few weeks back I got myself a tiny netbook that runs Windows 8.1 on some really low end AMD CPU/GPU combo. This netbook is so underpowered that it cannot even render those “curves” around window corners. There are no special effects and there are no graphical gizmos on this machine.

That being the case, I figured now or later some Linux distro was gonna find its way onto this netbook. So, I didn’t want to install all the usual apps on this notebook: firefox, chrome, libreoffice, etc. And the easiest option seemed to be to try out PortableApps. So, I pulled out an old hard drive, plugged it into an external case, formatted it and installed PortableApps onto it. Within moments a few usual suspects (firefox, chrome, libreoffice, Notepad++, etc) found their way onto the drive. A few moments later the PortableApps icon appeared on the task bar and in the system tray of the Windows 8.1 running on the netbook. I started a few apps and made sure things were working. So far so good.

Now! A few days back, for reasons that don’t concern us here, I installed Wine on my Xubuntu laptop. And today, during some idle time (an empty mind is a devil’s workshop) a thought suddenly occured to me: would PortableApps run on Wine on Xubuntu? There was only one way to find out: I plugged in the PortableApps hdd into my Xubuntu laptop, and chose to run the PortableApps “Start.exe” with Wine. I got some warning saying the autorun.inf or some such file was modified … blah, blah, blah! I decided to ignore that warning. (I know that’s not good. But, I catted the Autorun.inf file and it seems alright to me. We will only know when I plug this back into Windows 8.1.) A small window popped up that had the PortableApps icon in it. Clicking that icon brought up the PortableApps menu! Choosing to start some apps brings them up nicely. I am happy!

PortableApps Menu seen while running PortableApps running on Wine on Xubuntu.

PortableApps running on Wine on Xubuntu. 😀

The obvious question is: why? Why in the world would you want to do this? I mean most apps that you could install through PortableApps are freely available in all Linux distros. So, why? Why go crazy? The answer, my friend is … well! Hmm! There is no answer. I just wanted to try it out. And it works. But, now I am thinking my external drive could very well end up becoming the place where I plunk all my notes, docs, presentations and spreadsheets.

So, if you want to run PortableApps on your Linux distro, you very well can. Go ahead and try it out, you will love it.