OpenOffice 2.1 on Ubuntu

OpenOffice installed from RPMs

Note added 18th Feb :: See the new version of this how to – you must convert the RPMs on the machine you intend to install on.

Note added 7th Jan :: Thanks to Anibal and Geoff for pointing out the mistake in the alien command line. It should be

sudo alien --script --keep-version *.rpm

and I have corrected the command below.

Later on 7th Jan :: These instructions work on a Xubuntu installation where you have installed OpenOffice 2.03 from the repositories before hand and then un-installed it. I took the precaution of deleting the gnome-dekstop-integration.deb and the kde-desktop-integration.deb as well as I had visions of the desktop packages arriving! I have run into a problem installing software via aptitude after upgrading the OpenOffice to 2.1. See my post on

Ubuntu is a minor miracle. You can download a complete operating system with fully functional desktop environment and application software – the whole ISO fits on a standard 700 Mb cd-rom. Installation is relatively easy from the ‘live’ cd. I have the basic system running (well, ok, jogging nicely) on a Dell L400 700MHz Pentium 3 laptop with 256 Mb of RAM. The ACPI system works right off the CD, so the laptop does not overheat, my Kodak camera is recognised by the gallery.


Ubuntu insist on packaging OpenOffice 2.03 with Ubuntu 6.06. This OpenOffice version was unpolished and had stability problems, and had an annoying Zoom menu without a ‘fit width’ option. I must have a fully featured Office like package, it is no use at all to tell me to use AbiWord. I need to produce handouts with mathematical formulas and diagrams in them on a regular basis, and I need a basic presentation package that can save in MS PowerPoint format. Yes, I could use LaTeX for handouts and slideware, but for short handouts at level 2 (GCSE) Maths that would be like using a nuclear powered sledgehammer to peel a pistachio.

So, here is a way to install the latest OpenOffice on your Ubuntu box…

  1. Enable the universe and multiverse repositories on apt-get
  2. Install alien using sudo apt-get install alien. This perl script can convert the RPMs issued by OpenOffice to .deb packages as used by Ubuntu and other Debian based Linux distributions. Alien will bring binutils and some of the compiler packages with it. I saw a 16Mb addition to the hard drive.
  3. Uninstall the existing OpenOffice 2.03 using Synaptic. You search for, then you select core and mark it for removal. You will see a very scary window that suggests that you must remove the Ubuntu Desktop. This actually does not mean anything drastic. Untick all the installed OpenOffice components, I left myspell in place.
  4. Download the OpenOffice 2.1 archive (a 120Mb .gzip file) from OpenOffice
  5. Use the Gnome archive application to extract this file to a directory anywhere on your desktop or home drive
  6. You will find a new directory with a long name that contains the version and build number
  7. Rename this directory to something shorter as there will be command line work involved. I called mine oOo
  8. That directory contains three directories, one of which is called RPMS. This directory contains one sub-directory called ‘desktop-integration’ and a whole list of .rpm files
  9. Start a terminal session, and cd into the RPMS directory
  10. Run alien with the command line
sudo alien --script --keep-version *.rpm
  1. It will take a good 10 minutes to chug through all the RPM files and produce .deb files
  2. When it has completed, I deleted the RPMs using sudo rm *.rpm
  3. Then install the .deb files using sudo dpkg -i *.deb
  4. Finally cd into the ‘desktop-integration’ sub-folder and delete all the files except the one that ends in .deb (debian desktop integration)
  5. Run the sudo dpkg -i *.deb command in this directory to install that file
  6. You should now have an Applications | Office menu that contains all the components of OpenOffice 2.1

The instructions here are based on

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