I've been using LibreOffice for years at my job to make slides and handouts. A few months back I upgraded from Ubuntu 14.04 to Ubuntu 16.04 and suddenly started encountering a number of issues that have made LibreOffice very frustrating to work with:

  1. After the upgrade, many of my larger slide decks (200+ slides) were essentially impossible to work with - loading them took minutes and the UI hung incessantly. Copying and pasting slides would often cause the program to grind to a halt for minutes. I resolved this by removing the libreoffice-gnome and libreoffice-gtk packages, which has made the UI a lot harder to work with. The fallback UI then had numerous graphical glitches with the Gnome3 fallback that I was using, so I had to switch to Unity. (Nothing against Unity - I just didn't like having to switch in order to have functional document editing.)
  2. Many of my handouts contain embedded LibreOffice Draw images. Sporadically, exporting these documents as PDFs will cause the images to simply not show up at all. This has caused some issues in the past when, for example, I sent a TA a set of problem sets to print and none of them had any of the figures present.
  3. Embedded Draw images used to display with a transparent background. However, these images now all have a solid white background, which is problematic because in some cases I'm using paragraphs with a different background color.

I'm curious what's going on here and how to address it. Specifically:

  1. Is there a way to retain libreoffice-gnome and libreoffice-gtk without taking a massive performance hit?
  2. Is there a way to get the embedded images to consistently render as PDFs? Was that a consequence of removing libreoffice-gnome?
  3. Is there a way to get the embedded images to have a transparent background? Was that a consequence of removing libreoffice-gnome?
  • One of the most common causes of the sudden performance loss you indicate is a failing hard drive. I suggest that you check the SMART status of your drive and look for signs of impending doom. I hope you are backing up regularly. Personally, I had no performance issues with the upgrade from 14.04 to 16.04 with LibreOffice or otherwise.
    – Elder Geek
    Dec 15 '16 at 23:30
  • I'm fairly confident that this is not a hard drive issue - that wouldn't explain why the embedded images fail to render every now and then or why the backgrounds have the wrong colors. I'll look into this, though! Dec 16 '16 at 1:11
  • Better safe than sorry! ;-)
    – Elder Geek
    Dec 16 '16 at 18:09
  • Due to the laundry list of varied "sporadic" issues with your system, I firmly believe this is a hardware issue. Software problems are typically more consistent as code doesn't typically change itself . A hard drive will re-attempt several times before giving up on a failing sector. (Hence my previous comment)
    – Elder Geek
    Dec 16 '16 at 18:14
  • 1
    have you tried creating a new user account , making the files available to it and the opening them in that accounts openoffice ? some times user level config files can get corrupted or out of sync with packages, this is a good way to ensure the problem is not just your user config but at system level.
    – Amias
    Dec 16 '16 at 18:23

There's an excellent chance that your problem was caused by the upgrade from 14.04 to 16.04. An operating system is a complex beast, with thousands of components, and Ubuntu runs on a staggering variety of hardware configurations; it's impossible for the writers of the upgrade script to test the script against all the variations of hardware and software found in the field before releasing it. The upgrade script seems simple and convenient, but it causes lots of problems, and unfortunately many people don't seem to know how dangerous it can be. (Don't feel bad, I learned the hard way too.)

I'm sure that you'd prefer a targeted fix that neatly solves the problem, but if the root of the problem is a flawed OS installation, then you might be forced to use a blunter instrument: wiping the hard drive, and installing 16.04 from scratch (after backing up all your important files, of course).

Here's the outline of how to do it:

  1. In a terminal, do aptitude search '~i!~M' > ~/top-level-packages-before.txt. (You'll need the aptitude package, if it isn't installed.) This creates a file containing a list of all the installed packages, not including dependencies. (Kudos to this answer.)
  2. If you don't have /home in its own partition, back up the entire /home hierarchy. Also back up /etc/X11/xorg.conf, if it exists, and /var/www if you use your computer as a web server.
  3. If you dual-boot another OS, then boot to an Ubuntu install DVD or USB stick, choose "Try Ubuntu", run GParted, and use it to delete the Ubuntu partitions (except the partition that mounts /home, if /home has its own partition). If you're not dual-booting then skip this step, because the Ubuntu installer needs to see how the computer boots.
  4. Install Ubuntu. Use the installer to wipe out any partitions from the old Ubuntu installation that weren't wiped already, except the partition that mounts /home, if /home has its own partition.
  5. Copy your important files from the backup to the new installation. Unfortunately lots of programs pollute your home folder /home/<username> with junk (type Ctrl+H in Nautilus to see the hidden files and folders; that's where most of the junk is), and copying old config files blindly can cause problems, so you should probably just copy what you need, rather than restoring every last file.
  6. Install aptitude if it isn't installed, and do aptitude search '~i!~M' > ~/top-level-packages-after.txt. Restore ~/top-level-packages-before.txt that you created in the first step, if you haven't already. Do diff ~/top-level-packages-before.txt ~/top-level-packages-after.txt to compare the two files, or use diffuse (kudos to this answer) to discover which packages were installed previously that aren't now. Consider installing those packages.

The gist of this answer is borrowed from this Ubuntu forums thread, which has more information. Good luck.

  • While I have no doubt that wiping the existing installation and reinstalling will likely solve the problem (provided it's not hardware related) This approach IMHO is much like bringing a Lamborghini to a soap box race. (I.E. overkill)
    – Elder Geek
    Dec 16 '16 at 18:08
  • @ElderGeek Nobody else has come up with a software fix.
    – rclocher3
    Dec 16 '16 at 18:41

I recently did a complete, clean reinstall of Ubuntu 16.04 and kept encountering the same issues with a fresh install. To fix it, I simply upgraded the version of LibreOffice I was using to the one available at `ppa.

sudo apt-get install python-software-properties
sudo apt-add-repository ppa:libreoffice/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

The newer version of LibreOffice has none of the problems I was encountering with the packaged version, so I'm going to assume this was actually an issue with the version bundled with Ubuntu 16.04.


The first thing I would do is to ascertain whether this is indeed a software problem by running libreoffice from a verified good & bootable media and see if the problem persists. If it doesn't then the problem underlies your system setup. If it does the problem underlies your data files. Neither of these results rule out a hardware problem as failing sectors can appear anywhere and important information that cannot be read will cause issues regardless. The fact that you are experiencing both performance issues and "sporadic" failures exporting PDF's lead me to believe that the root cause of your problem is a failing sector (or sectors) on your hard disk. You can confirm or exclude this by checking.

As to your specific questions (which should be separated).

  1. I'm not sure why you need both, but it's easy to test on verified good hardware.

  2. Easily. Simply Print to PDF with or without the libreoffice-gnome gnome integration package.

  3. In Libreoffice Writer, Right-click the picture and look, whether "In Background" is active.

When your picture is already in background and you need to do something with the picture, then you have to move it temporarily to foreground. Double-click the image identifier in the Navigator and then choose "To foreground" in the context menu of the now active picture.

When the picture is active it should have green handles and the picture tool bar should be open. If not, open the tool bar via menu View > Toolbars. To set the transparency use the number field next to the wineglass icon. You can also try the item "Watermark" from the graphic mode drop-down list too. That generates a pale picture. Or you make such settings yourself using the color bar, located between the wineglass icon and the graphic mode list. I located this information (part 3) from this source.

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