Interview with developers :: debugging OOo
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Joined: 04 Oct 2003
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Read a MadPenguin interview with Florian Reuter, the debugging guru for importing MS Word doc types.

This is a worthwhile interview to read because Florian reminds us that we can all help, in our little ways, develop OOo, by sending in sample word documents that OOo does not render quite correctly:

:: Quote ::
MP: Let's break that down a bit. How does an end user help you out. What are the mechanical steps for submitting a bug document?

FR: Go to the website. Register as a user. You just have to pick up a user name. Enter your email address. Click on issue. Click on submit a new issue. Select the WW8 filter. Attach the file, and submit the bug. If possible, please also provide a description with what is wrong with the document.

MP: How is an end user going to know that there is something wrong with the document so that they need to do a bug report?

FR: That's easy. If you document doesn't look right, just go ahead and submit it as a bug. Let us worry if it is a bug or not. Don't assume that you have made a mistake. It could be a bug.

....view the document in Word, compare it to what looks like, and if it doesn't look right, then submit it as a bug.

MP: Give us a little more detail about the value of bug reports. You mentioned something earlier about having lots of tables, and how that was helpful. Could you elaborate on that a little more?

FR: You need to have a critical mass of documents to either prove or disprove your current hypothesis as to how the Microsoft layout formatting works. As a developer, you see the differences at the edges of performance. can import >90% of the documents correctly in 2.0. It is in the remaining 10% or 1% that some kind of magic happens, and you're not sure what it is. You can only figure out what magic is making that work by looking at lots of samples. It's only by seeing patterns in that small margin that you can get an idea of what makes the magic happen. You need to have users making unexpected use of the application to figure out what is going on. As a developer, it's hard to imagine all the different ways that something might be used. In computer science, having lots of samples helps us refine our hypotheses as to how to best import files from Microsoft Word. Real world samples make a big difference for us. It's that way in most fields of science. You need to have a critical mass of data to test your theory. So simple end users are really critical in the process of making the code better. It's important for end users to understand how important they are in the process. That's one reason why I enjoy working with the community. They help me do my job better. So thanks!

I really like this quote, because it gets to the heart of the whole debugging process in general. You can only think of so many things to do with an app, and other users will always find strange new things to do with it, that you would never have considered.

I found something like that in a script I do, there was an option that I simply had not considered, and it would lead to script failure in one and only one circumstance, which I found by pure chance, testing something else, and making a mistake, which then triggered this bug.

So send the OOo your bad documents, you're not wasting their time, and it can only improve OOo long term.
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