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Using DropBox with OpenOffice to never forget important work

Occasionally I get a phone call from my father. Usually it’s about some computer problem I need to fix.

He is running a Windows 10 Desktop and a Windows 8 Laptop. He started with Atari Signum, never took to the Mac, and then migrated to Microsoft Word 97. I kept him going on Word 97 until Windows 7, but with Windows 8 it just wasn’t possible to run it anymore.

Open Office (not Libre Office) is the closest match to Word 97 I could find, and the adjustment period was remarkably short.

Still a big problem, unsaved edits get lost

One of the main recurrent problems during the last decades was the following: he starts writing something in “Untitled-1”. He busily writes for a few hours, then apparently gets distracted by something else. Then he closes the window and forgets to save. End result, a phone call :)

Unfortunately until now, I could rarely - if ever - help.

Teaching my father to save to a file, before starting to write may sound like a solution, but it has no connection to reality.

I thought the setup was fool proof already. His document folder is on Dropbox. Everything he saves gets insta-backupped into the cloud. And I had Open Office autosaving every 5 minutes. But I was never able to recover those vaunted autosave files.

I figured out, that the nominal directory these files are written is configured as Backups in Settings/OpenOffice/Paths:


In this directory I observed a temporary file being written, when Save AutoRecovery information every is set in Settings/OpenOffice/"Load/Save":


Now the reason that I could never recover from that file is, that OpenOffice deletes it as soon as the document gets discarded.

A solution, happier times are ahead of us

The solution is to put the “Backups” directory also into Dropbox. Almost instantly Dropbox will versionize the edits, that get autosaved by OpenOffice every 5 minutes. So 5 minutes thats the most amount of work he can lose now.

… if he stays inside OpenOffice. :)

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