Needs YOU!

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Documentation note.png The following text is an edited copy of a text by Dan Kegel.
You can find the original text with more information for developers at
Dan Kegels web site.

Introduction is a free, Microsoft Office-compatible office suite which is becoming increasingly popular. Individuals, schools, governments, and companies are evaluating as an effective and inexpensive alternative to Microsoft Office.

As you can see, the following comment is a bit old now, with OOo 3 being the current version.

I recently tested compatibility between and Microsoft Office by checking whether OpenOffice could correctly display Microsoft Office documents. My unscientific impression is that Version 1.0.3 of scores about a 70 out of 100 on MS Office compatibility, and Version 1.1.0 scores about a 90. The new version is so good that many people won't notice any problems when exchanging documents with MS Office users.

However -- if you *do* notice problems, you face a choice. You could:

  1. do nothing, and wait for someone else to notice and fix the problems,
  2. file bug reports for the problems you see, or
  3. file bug reports for problems you see, and help the team sort through bug reports filed by others

The more you help, the more likely the problems you care about will be solved in the next release. I personally have helped sort through a number of bug reports, and have been very happy to discover that my efforts made a big difference - the crash bugs I sent on to the developers are getting fixed rapidly.

This page assumes you're already familiar with filing bug reports, and tries to show you how to help sort through other people's bug reports effectively.

The Problem Report Backlog is good software, but like all software, it has imperfections. Lately, so many people are using the office suite that they're actually running into even fairly hard-to-trigger problems. Many of these users are helpfully filing problem reports in IssueZilla, and the developers are working on resolving the issues as they press on towards the next release.

Problem is, problem reports are coming in faster than they can be dealt with, because many of the problem reports are duplicates or system problems. The result is a backlog of over a thousand unexamined problem reports from users, and every day, another four new reports are added to the backlog. This backlog is both a shame, and a treasure trove. Many of the problem reports in the backlog contain enough information for developers to quickly find and solve the problem - but it takes time to sort through the reports.

That's where you come in. You can help the developers do what they do best. All you have to do is help sort through the incoming bug reports. This is called triage.


Triage is what medics do when wounded soldiers arrive at a field hospital so fast they can't all be helped. They decide one of three things about each arriving patient, namely: he/she is either

  • well enough that they don't really need a doctor,
  • sick, and could get better if they get to see a doctor, or
  • need last rites more than they need the doctor.

Similarly, triage is also what QA people do when bug reports come in too fast for developers to handle by themselves. They look at each incoming bug report, and decide whether it:

  • is a duplicate of a known bug, in which case they can often email a workaround to the user,
  • is a bug in some other piece of software, in which case they try to direct the user to the right place for support for that software, or
  • is a reproducible and novel bug, in which case they send a recipe for reproducing the bug to the developers.

That lets the developers focus on fixing problems in the code.

How to help

Here's how to get started:

  1. Register as a member of
  2. Request to be a member of the QA project by clicking the "Join This Project" link at the upper right hand of
  3. Review and
  4. Join the mailing list
  5. Request the ability to set issue status by emailing with subject line "Volunteer Privileges - < userid>". Mention your userid again in the message body, and while you're at it, introduce yourself to the group - it's nice to know who we're working with. After your request is granted, you should be able to add the oooqa keyword and modify all fields in an issue.

Then pick an unconfirmed bug report (or issue, as the OpenOffice team calls them), and help triage it as follows:

  • See if you can find a similar bug in the list of frequently-duplicated issues or by searching Issuezilla. If you think it's a duplicate of issue 12345, say something like "Looks like a duplicate of issue 12345" in the Comment box. The word 'issue' followed by a number gets turned into a handy hyperlink, so people who look at the bug report can click on those words to see how issue 12345 was solved.
  • Try to reproduce the bug on your computer. In the Comment box, say whether you were able to or not, and how you did it (if you weren't following a recipe already in the bug report). If you can't reproduce the bug, also ask for more details if there wasn't enough info in the original report.
  • If it's a crash or freeze bug, send the automatic report that the Crash Reporter offers you to send.
  • If you *can* reproduce the bug, mark it 'NEW' to signal the developers to have a look.
  • If you can't reproduce the bug, and you're pretty sure you have all the info you need, mark the bug WORKSFORME.
  • If you want to get email when someone replies (and you probably do), put your email address (the one given to you when you registered to use Issuezilla) in the CC: field in the upper right.
  • Add the keyword 'oooqa' to show someone's started triaging it.
  • Then press the Submit button.

That's all there is to it!

If you asked for more information from the original submitter, and you remembered to put your email address in the CC: field in the upper right, you'll get email when they reply to your question. When you get the reply, go to the bug's page in IssueZilla, and finish triaging the bug if you can.


A helpful diagram of the life cycle of a bug report is online at

Priorities, Priorities

There are so many bug reports that it's vital to tackle the ones with the highest potential payoff first. This is a matter of taste. Some people might want to look just at fresh bugs, others might care more about crash bugs, others might care more about Microsoft Office compatibility.

No matter what area you care about, you can probably come up with an IssueZilla query that pulls up bug reports about it. Below are a few example queries, enough for you to get started with.

Note: these example queries aren't perfect - they miss a few bugs, and pull up a few issues that aren't really what they were meant to find, so take them with a grain of salt. You can edit the queries by clicking on the "Edit Query" link on the bottom right of the query result page.

Recently Reported Bugs

Recently reported bugs are important to check because a user is waiting for help, and is probably willing to provide additional information or testcases if you need them to reproduce the bug.

You can find a daily list of recently reported bugs, plus excerpts from developer blogs, at Planet go-oo.

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