It was quite exciting! A new version of LibreOffice was being released: loads of new features, compatibility improvements, code clean-up. I was eagerly looking forward to trying out the built-in Logo coding, importing Microsoft Publisher documents, testing the integration with document management systems, and experimenting with the personalized themes.
When I got the tweet, I quickly went to the download site. I had to wait a few minutes (darn!) before the traffic slowed down enough. Then I got it downloaded. Quick: unpack the .zip file, uninstall the old version and one (well, two) little sudo dpkg -i *.deb later and I was up and running!
So instead of playing around with new features, I went searching through the web to find out what the story was.
It’s not just the floppy disk icon that is old-fashioned. The clipboard, bookmark, etc. are all icons out of the 18th century. The telephone icon for modem connectivity is one of the earliest models of corded handsets. And let’s not forget the very concept of cc’ing someone! (For you youngsters, “CC” stands for “carbon copy” – go look up carbon paper!)
Discussions on various LibreOffice forums showed a back-and-forth of what kind of icon should be used, and whether it should have been changed in the first place. Discussions included whether the decision-making process reflected FOSS development as a meritocracy or democracy. There was discussion about the licensing and consistency of the Tango icon sets. And studies were done showing that the floppy icon greatly improved the usability of the software. (I couldn’t find any definitive decision …I must admit I grew fatigued with the search and the back & forth.)
As I considered it, I realized that none of these icons worked for me anyway.
One of the main alternatives was a filing cabinet – that’s even more old fashioned. The icon I had been using was a stylized hard drive with an arrow pointing down to it. My laptop doesn’t have a hard drive – it uses solid state storage. (Should I use a microchip icon?) Various people and places suggest a cloud icon – representing storage up in the cloud. Not what I use (and not appropriate for a desktop application.)
I threw my hands up in frustration. The floppy icon isn’t going anywhere. It’s like the QWERTY keyboard: an artifact of an older era and older technology that lives on through sheer inertia.
Maybe I’ll just use my own icon: something simple, easy to identify and profoundly linked with the concept of saving…
I've been teaching and traveling the world for decades. I teach technology skills and programming in international schools, and love developing skills in my students. Teaching internationally gives me a broader perspective and I thoroughly enjoy the thrill of new sights and experiences.