LibreOffice Base

Base, the database manager, will cope with quite complicated database structures and operations and an expert can use it in networked form and set up connections with MySQL, Adabas, Access etc. However the user interface (front-end) is still short of the functions available in Microsoft Access. This is not a criticism at all. I am aware that many people work on the software without pay.

The latest version 4.1 is much stronger. I am currently learning it and developing a course. The acid test will be whether I can build a database front-end that can do all or most of the things present in an existing Access database. One possible drawback is that data updates are stored in memory until shutdown which would mean data loss if the computer or software crashed. There are hints in the documentation that there might be a way to force commits to save to disk.

I have found that the main short-coming is the lack of manuals for new users. There are technical manuals but they are intended for experts. I have produced many manuals myself, so I know how long and painstaking the work is. I would be happy to work on this but I don't know enough myself yet.

The least developed part of Base is report generation. Screen forms are now the main way that users interact with a database so this was certain to be a lower priority. Forms are well-developed but producing printed reports is clumsy. For example you cannot have sub-reports. No doubt this will change.

My main problem is the use of the LibreOffice BASIC programming language. I have done a lot of coding in Microsoft VBA but LibreOffice BASIC is unfamiliar. The layout and names of the database objects are different. Nowhere is this well documented. I learned how to code a form button from a video by Shane Piper on Many thanks for that, Shane. Just looking at his code started me thinking the right way.

In Base all program code is called a 'Macro', whatever language it is in. Having avoided Microsoft Office macros like the plague it was a shock to adjust to using the word. To write the best code it looks as though I will need to use SQL as well as BASIC. You can't put code behind a form as you can in Access, so the code can't refer to form controls as simply. All event handlers must refer to the central library of macros.

You will soon find the need to code some macros, even if just to create buttons for navigation. Try Roberto Benitez's book 'Database Programming. OpenOffice Base and Basic' ISBN 978-0-557-00758-5. It is self-published through Lulu, which supplies it direct ( It covers a lot of ground. I have always found the answer to the problems that I have bumped up against. It is not for the beginner but for people who have got started and understood the basics by using the manuals from .


(C) Peter Scott 2014

Last edit 26 December 2015