LibreOffice – Not Showing Greek Letters/Symbols

I ran into an issue the other day that ended up taking me hours to solve, in part because I couldn’t find any other solutions online, which is pretty unusual these days.

Here was the issue: I was evaluating a paper (I’m an academic and read lots of papers) that had a bunch of Greek letters/symbols in it as part of a regression formula. On my computer running Kubuntu 19.10 with LibreOffice 6.3, the Greek letters showed up perfectly fine. On my laptop, which I had just reformatted and on which was a fresh install of Kubuntu 20.04 with Libreoffice, the Greek letters were all showing up as something other than Greek letters – odd symbols or dingbats or something. Here’s the version number from a fresh install of Kubuntu 20.04:

And here’s what was being displayed in LibreOffice with the document:

Those familiar with the Greek alphabet will clearly see that these odd dingbats or symbols are definitely not from the Greek alphabet.

I spent about three hours googling for a solution and trying various suggestions. Google is usually a Linux user’s best friend and it’s common that someone else has had the same issue or something similar. Alas, no luck this time. No one, as far as I could tell, had run into this exact issue before. The closest problems seemed to suggest that the problem wasn’t with LibreOffice but with my Linux installation and that I was missing some language packs. Specifically, these semi-related issues suggested I needed to install a language pack with Cyrillic characters. This suggestion seemed reasonable as this version of LibreOffice didn’t seem to ship with support for Cyrillic characters:

Screenshot from LibreOffice for inserting special characters; Greek is not included by default.

I installed a Cyrillic language package from the repositories and restarted my computer. Nothing. I was still getting dingbats instead of Greek letters. I tried about 10 more Cyrillic language packages thinking that maybe I hadn’t found just the right one, searching through the repositories for anything that mentioned Greek or Cyrillic. Haphazardly adding language packages doesn’t seem like a good approach, but I was getting desperate. Even so, it didn’t help. I still couldn’t display the Greek letters in the document.

Next, I tried uninstalling and reinstalling the same version of LibreOffice –, which is the version shipping with Kubuntu 20.04. That didn’t work.

After a couple of hours and no solution, I decided that I’d try a different version of LibreOffice. On their website, LibreOffice makes two additional release candidates or development versions available. I could have gone straight to 7.0.0, which was in Alpha, but I opted instead for version To uninstall LibreOffice, I used the following commands (see here):

sudo apt-get remove --purge libreoffice*
sudo apt-get clean
sudo apt-get autoremove

To install the new version, you have to untar the files you downloaded then navigate to the DEBS folder you just unpacked, then run the following:

sudo dpkg -i *.deb

After installing LibreOffice, I opened the file that was having issues and, lo and behold, it worked just fine:

There are my lovely alphas, betas, sigmas, epsilons, and omegas!

I’m assuming this is a bug in LibreOffice or, at a minimum, the folks who packaged that version left something out of it. Either way, I was frustrated enough at the end that I realized I needed to post a solution for others who may run into this. Since Ubuntu/Kubuntu 20.04 is an LTS (long-term support) release, having a serious bug shipping in the included version of LibreOffice is, no doubt, going to frustrate many users.

I spent a solid three hours on something that was working perfectly fine in LibreOffice 6.3 but broken in That’s annoying. I’m a huge fan of LibreOffice and prefer it far and above MS Office. It’s mature enough software now that little regressions like this really shouldn’t happen.

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Linux: LibreOffice Print Dialog Orientation “greyed out”

I really like LibreOffice, but occasionally have to deal with bugs that cause silly regressions, like this one.  For years, I have printed my LibreOffice Impress (i.e., powerpoint) slides for my students to a PDF file. The options have made this pretty simple.  Click on “Print.”

fixing greyed out print dialogue option in LibreOffice

When the Print Dialog window comes up, click on the “Options” tab.

printdialogue2On that tab, choose “Print to file.”

printdialogue3Then, back on the “General” tab, click on the drop down menu next to “Document” and choose “Handouts,” since I want the students to have room to take notes.  Then, on “Slides per page” on the “General” tab, select “3” so they have 3 slides per page.

printdialogue4Finally, how it used to work is that I would next, on the “General” tab, click “Properties” and in the drop-down menu next to “Orientation,” choose “Portrait.”  It takes a few clicks, but it gets me exactly what I want: a PDF with three slides per page and lines for notes next to it.  As of LibreOffice 5.0.3, there is a bug that adds another step to this.  The last item in the process above, clicking on the “Properties” tab and changing the orientation no longer worked.  The orientation drop down menu was greyed out, like this:

printdialogue5I tried upgrading to the latest version of LibreOffice, 5.0.4, but that didn’t fix it.  After a little googling, I finally found a solution.  In the Print Dialogue window, click on “Options.”  On that screen, choose, “Use only paper size from printer preferences.”

printdialogue6Now, go back to the “General” tab and click on “Properties.”  In the window that comes up, it’s now possible to change the orientation of the page.

printdialogue7printdialogue8As this screenshot shows, the orientation is now portrait instead of landscape:

printdialogue9This is clearly a regression in the software.  Not sure what happened, but it’s stupid and needs to be fixed.

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