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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Thu, 15 Dec 2011

PDF import for LibreOffice in Debian Backports is broken -- here's how to fix it

I give much credit to the developers who, early on, brought LibreOffice to Debian Backports. Once you add Backports to your sources.list, you can install LibreOffice, which just happens to remove OpenOffice from your system at the same time.

I've been using LibreOffice extensively in both Windows XP and Debian GNU/Linux, and for my work, the killer of killer apps in LO (and OO for that matter) is LibreOffice Draw. And I don't use it for drawing.

Instead I use Draw to import PDFs, JPGs and other kinds of content into a single document, re-arrange them, edit them, add to them, and then either print out a completed report, or export it as a PDF.

Think if it as an MS PowerPoint/LO Impress-style presentation, except optimized for paper or PDF. It's extremely powerful. And did I mention I use it all the time?

Anyhow, the secret weapon, of sorts, in LibreOffice Draw (and OpenOffice Draw) before it is the ability to open PDFs in LibreOffice Draw, then either copy/paste them into your main Draw document and edit the text and images in the PDFs to help you "tell your story" better. I gave up all my PDF-arranging apps for LO Draw, it's so good.

But ... the PDF import function for LibreOffice Draw in Debian Squeeze, if you're using the libreoffice-pdfimport package from Debian Backports, is broken. Doesn't work. LO wants to open PDFs as text files in LO Writer, not as editable PDFs in LO Draw.

So how do you fix this? For me, I needed the PDF importer function to work immediately (today, in fact).

Here's how I did it in Debian Squeeze (with Backports):

  • Remove the libreoffice-pdfimport using your favorite package-management tool.

  • Download the PDF Import extension from the OpenOffice.org website: Find the version for your OS and architecture on this page.

  • Add the extension through LibreOffice itself (Tools -- Extension Manager -- Add)

  • Now you should be able to start LibreOffice, open a PDF and have an editable and copy/paste version of that document in LO Draw.

I hope the libreoffice-pdfimport package is eventually fixed, if not in Debian Backports then in Wheezy and Sid. But until then, the PDF Import feature in LibreOffice Draw is too useful to ignore, as is LibreOffice Draw itself.