(Fix) OpenOffice.org Hangs When I Start Typing

I ran into a minor difficulty recently on a Linux desktop PC (CentOS 5.4) updated to the recently released OpenOffice.org 3.2, specifically the Go-Oo.org variant that includes some options and tweaks left out of the primary branch. OpenOffice.org 3.2 would start without difficulties, but as soon as I started to type the application would completely freeze up or hang. I only checked this in Calc and Writer, but I suspect that it applies to all of the other components as well and from what I’ve read it’s not specific to CentOS (or other RedHat-derived distributions).

After a bit of searching, I ended up at this thread: OpenOffice-3.0.1 hangs if SCIM is active. Boiled down to something for those not interested in the technical details, OpenOffice.org 3.x has problems with some configurations of SCIM, the “Smart Common Input Method platform.”

The Fix

In this case, the conflict crops up when SCIM on the PC is configured to use en_US.UTF-8 (Unicode) rather than the older en_US. If you want to get into the technical side of it there’s assorted discussion of this scattered across many locations and several years; if you don’t care about that then simply edit the file /etc/scim/global and change the first line from

/SupportedUnicodeLocales = en_US.UTF-8

to

/SupportedUnicodeLocales = en_US

You’ll need to do that as an administrator since that file is not generally editable by normal users. Details of how to do that will vary depending on what Linux distribution you’re using and what text editors you’re familiar with, so if you’re not sure how to change that file ask for assistance.

It’s possible that making this change will have other effects if you’re using languages other than English, but I have no good way to test this as the only other languages I can even pretend to a rudimentary knowledge of use the same basic alphabet so SCIM isn’t really a requirement for me.

Side Notes

The system in question has been running OpenOffice.org 2.3, the version available from the standard CentOS repositories, but that’s quite a bit behind current developments – kind of like running Microsoft Office 2000 these days. There have been a lot of good changes since 2.3 was released. I used the Go-Oo.org version in part for convenience (it’s simple to install on systems that use “yum” for package management), in part because the main OpenOffice.org servers were down for maintenance last night (making it hard to download from them) and in part because of reported speed and functionality improvements.

SCIM and tools like it are important because they allow applications to accept text input in many languages with the details of that input handled by SCIM rather than by the application (in this case OpenOffice.org). By letting SCIM handle the input of characters in languages such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian and others, the application is both kept simpler since it doesn’t have to deal with how those characters are input and made more useful because it can work with a much wider range of languages.

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