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How To Create A LibreOffice MSI

LibreOffice TM Image

The LibreOffice logo, from LibreOffice.org.

Andrew J. Nelson
Published: 9 May 2011

Introduction

LibreOffice is a powerful, open source office suite which is compatible with many other office suites, including Microsoft Office, and is free. (Free as in speech, but also free as in beer.) There are two issues with using LibreOffice in a Windows network environment: modifying the application so that it installs transparently to the user, and distributing it via Active Directory. This article will explain creating the MSI and modifying it so that it is suitable for deployment via GPO and AD.

Required Materials and Prior Knowledge

This instruction set was defined with LibreOffice 3.3.2 in a Windows Active Directory network environment, with SBS 2003 as the server and a mix of Windows XP Pro SP3 clients and Windows 7 Pro SP 1 clients. You will need:

Step 1: Extract The MSI File

Screenshot: Unpacking LibreOffice

A screenshot of unpacking LibreOffice. Click to enlarge.

In order for software to be deployed via Group Policy, it must be packaged as a Windows Installer (.msi) file. The LibreOffice installer comes as a .EXE. However, wrapped inside the .EXE is an .MSI which can be extracted. To do so:

  1. Download the file from libreoffice.org/download.
  2. Double click the downloaded executable.
  3. When the preparation wizard starts, click Next.
  4. Define the directory for the install files to unpack into. Make it convenient and recognizable. For the purposes of this article, I used C:\LibreOffice_3-3-2\.
  5. After the files are unpacked, the installation wizard starts. Click cancel.

We now have the extracted install files, including the libreoffice33.msi. Our next objective is to prepare an administrative install of the software on the network share.

Step 2: The Administrative Install

Screenshot: LibreOffice Administrative Install

A screenshot of an administrative installation of LibreOffice. Click to enlarge.

An administrative installation creates an image of the software on a network share, from which clients in the network can install the software. To create the install, start a command line prompt (Start > Run > CMD > Enter), navigate to the directory containing the unpacked LibreOffice installation files, and enter the following command:

msiexec /a libreoffice33.msi

When the installation wizard starts, click next. Define the path to the network share for the installation to reside in. For instance, M:\AppDeploy\LibreOffice\LO_3-3-2\. When the process is complete, click finish.

Step 3: Modifying the MSI File

As the LibreOffice install stands now, many IT managers would not want it distributed for the following reasons:

  • The software will automatically update. In a business environment, it is often critical that the IT team have control over when and if software updates.
  • File associations are not defined for Microsoft Office file types. Creating these associations is beyond the comfort zone of many users.
Screenshot: Using InstEd

A screenshot of using InstEd to modify the LibreOffice MSI. Click to enlarge.

These issues can be overcome by modifying the .MSI file, which will be explained next. However, creating transforms and how MSI files work is beyond the scope of this document. A good place to start is this MSDN article. Essentially, an MSI file is a database of all the possible choices and changes that can be made to a piece of software. We need to edit that database to reflect our desires.

Assuming that you have downloaded and installed InstEd It, start it up and navigate to the network share containing the administrative installation libreoffice.msi. Make sure you are working on the network copy, not your local copy! On the left hand side of the interface, under the tables tab, click on the Property table. Values will show up in the right hand panel of the interface.

To disable auto updating, find the line:

ISCHECKFORPRODUCTUPDATES 1

Change the 1 to a 0. Likewise, to set LibreOffice as the default application for all Microsoft Office file types, find the line:

REGISTER_ALL_MSO_TYPES 0

Change the 0 to a 1. Finally, there is an option to disable the EULA. I am unsure whether it is necessary to do so on the administrative install, but it doesn't hurt. Find the line:

AgreeToLicense No

Change the No to Yes. Save your changes. LibreOffice is now ready for transparent network deployment to your users.

Conclusion

The tux logo for WG.

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This article demonstrates how to extract a Windows Installer MSI file from a LibreOffice executable, and how to modify that file to make it palatable for deployment in a business/network environment. The viability of open source projects such as LibreOffice, Firefox, and Thunderbird in corporate networks is dependent upon their ability to be distributed and managed in such a network. I hope that this article helps others achieve this goal with LibreOffice.

Open source developers will only set standard MSI deployment and ADM control packages as goals for their software if the community asks for it- and helps with it. If you are a believer in open source, encourage the developers to pursue these goals. Better yet, help them either by contributing your own skills or making financial donations to the projects.

If you have any questions, concerns, suggestions, or constructive criticism, please email me.

Copyright © 2008 - 2013 Andrew Nelson under the GPL v3 License except where noted.
Please see the README file for full licensing disclosure and credits.