In a world where corporate entities predominantly use Microsoft Office, the name LibreOffice may not be in the dictionary of many of these entities. 'Libre what?' might one ask. For others, LibreOffice might be linked with unprofessional, underdeveloped, and lower quality end-product compared to Microsoft Office. Microsoft Office is, after all, the gold standard of Office Suites, so why on earth would anyone want to use something entirely differently?
This article will answer the following questions. Firstly, what is LibreOffice? How is it like to use (it’s pros and cons)? How is compatibility like with other office suites? And Lastly, who, if anyone, is LibreOffice good for?
Microsoft Access Connection Specifies the settings for importing a database file in Microsoft Access or Access 2007 format. See also the English Wiki page https.
LibreOffice is compatible with most of the common file formats from Microsoft Office including XLSX, DOCX, and PPTX. It is also compatible with other non-Microsoft product formats. However, Microsoft Office documents won’t always look exactly the same in LibreOffice. One of the reasons is that Microsoft uses its own fonts. LibreOffice The fact that it is free of charge for desktop use sets LibreOffice at the top of my list. Given our low software budget, and its feature set which is for all intents and purposes equivalent to big name brands, it is more than appropriate for our needs.
Before we dive into this, a little background story is needed on why I personally, use LibreOffice with Google Suites online. Sometime back in 2017, I was absolutely frustrated with Microsoft Office and Windows 10 is “bugginess”, slow, and just simply frustrating end performance. This lead to the demise of Windows on my brand new HP Envy during my final year of university, where I installed Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (while backing up all my documents and files). Ubuntu 16.04 LTS is an open and free operating system supported, developed, and distributed by Canonical. Below is a snapshot of the latest Ubuntu 20.04 (For those who know what Linux OS’s and Desktop environments are, I no longer use GNOME given that it can be unstable from time to time and have migrated towards Kubuntu with KDE Plasma installed, although Ubuntu does have some elements of “bugginess and instability”, by far, it is more stable than Windows 10 in many ways)
With this, using Ubuntu as my daily driver for three years has been fruitful, and apps such as spotify, Firefox, Google Chrome and others that you find on Windows 10 are also readily available on Ubuntu. Of course, Ubuntu is not an “error-free” piece of OS, but, relative towards Windows 10, the OS is by far quicker, more stable, and in some ways, more intuitive to use. Throughout the three years, I primarily used Google Suites (Docs, Slides, and Spreadsheet) as my main Office Suite to get things done (with the occasional use of Microsoft Office on University computers, and thus, have not lost touch towards what it is actually like to use office).
Until recently, approximately four weeks ago, I’ve been trying to find an offline supplementary Office Suite to work on in collaboration with Google Suites when online cloud-based collaboration is needed,This was especially important to me since, at Bahrain Research Group, we use a whole list of Google apps (such as meets, calendar, Gmail and others), and would sometimes use the Office suites to collaborate with each other. Reasons for looking for an offline and non-web app based office suite follows as:
- Using online Office suites, while useful especially for backing up data, uses a lot of system resources, especially the CPU and to some extent RAM. As a result, opening many documents is not feasible.
- In general, longer and larger documents become more unstable when using online office suites like G Suites, given that there’s only so much web-based software can do compared to offline support, some files which I do work on are rather large compared to the average consumer or office worker’s files.
Although hesitant given the stigma which LibreOffice has, I decided to give it a go as my co-daily Office Suite driver for the past four weeks, given that LibreOffice by default is installed on Ubuntu and other Linux derivatives.
What is LibreOffice?
Now that I’ve cleared up how I’ve ended up here on LibreOffice, I will give a background of what is LibreOffice is needed. LibreOffice is an office suite founded by The Document Foundation as a charity foundation based in Germany, where it acts as a successor to the once popular OpenOffice software, a predecessor once supported by the OpenOffice community.
LibreOffice offers the following suites: Writer (a word processing suite which is used to write this document), Calc (a spreadsheet application), Impress (Presentation application), Draw (Vector graphics and flowcharts), Base (Databases), and Math (Formula creation and editing).
LibreOffice has its own file structure standard called Open Document Format (ODF). However, LibreOffice has worked on supporting a wide range of document formats over the years , including the most obvious being Microsoft Office formats.
LibreOffice attempts to replicate, or rather more accurately, support and provide features which are found in Microsoft Office suite, and to some extent, provide even more. Over the years, it appears that LibreOffice has grown in popularity and in usage. It is also important to note that LibreOffice is free and open-source software, which is maintained by developers who are either employed full-time, or contribute on a part-time basis.
What is LibreOffice like to use?
In all honesty, initially, LibreOffice is quite intimidating, and appears to be of lower quality in comparison to Microsoft Office and Google suites. In fact, opening the LibreOffice Writer for the first time will present you with a layout like this below
However, LibreOffice provides the option to change this view format to something more intuitive and familiar to the millions of users of office, where you can choose between “tabbed” or “compact tabbed” format. This in turn, will be saved as a setting for every time you open any new instances of LibreOffice. First, we’ll look at LibreOffice Writer.
When using LibreOffice writer, once switching to the tabbed or compact tabbed position, things instantly become a lot easier to use and more recognizable, like how you see things in Microsoft Word and Google Docs. With this, writer, at least on Ubuntu/Linux, is unbelievably fast at loading documents with an SSD. My 66 page dissertation for my masters degree took just 4 seconds to fully load, which compared to Google Docs, and past, but not recent experience of Microsoft Word, is miles faster, this served as a surprise.
Despite being faster, there are a few issues which do pop-up in terms of initial usage. First, formatting text, images, and other items is not as intuitive as other competitors, and therefore require that you take a little bit of time to learn how to use such features. However, once you get the hang of simply right clicking and looking for the feature, this becomes a trivial issue, and things can be easily found in an instance to modify text and other items which are not displayed as a default setting (which in itself can be modified to have such settings in the bar above).
Large documents load relatively well and fast. Scrolling is mostly smooth, and editing is also mostly smooth. However, as I will discuss in the compatibility issue section, there are small instances where you do notice a drop in performance with LibreOffice. Overall, LibreOffice Writer is quite stable, and probably has the most shallow learning curve when first being used out of the three main applications under LibreOffice suite.
LibreOffice Impress is the PowerPoint/Google Slides equivalent. Impress, in my opinion, is the application which has the steepest learning curve when using compared to the other two. First, with Impress, using guidelines is not straightforward, and the alignment of objects, text, images, graphs and other items are not straightforward with respect to Google Slides and PowerPoint. This initially prompted me to give up on LibreOffice Impress, but I decided to give it another go.
After giving it a second chance, I’ve noticed that using Impress is actually rather easy, although somewhat different compared to the competition. It’s maybe another word like procedure/strategy of using a snap movement basis for objects makes sense, especially if you turn on the view of the grid, and that in some ways makes more sense than actually having measurement guides between objects, as what feels like almost free movement of objects and other items feels quite natural, and in some ways, artistic to create a presentation.
LibreOffice Impress is, in fact, the smoothest out of all of the LibreOffice office suites. I’ve yet to have a major hiccup from LibreOffice Impress.
As a massive excel and spreadsheet user and creator, this was a particularly important piece of software. In some ways, it was a make-or-break decision regarding LibreOffice. Initially, like how all the other suites in LibreOffice suffers from the same issue, the non-tabbed bar above with the settings to change formats, text size, and other items was intimidating. Additional to this, when writing formulas, the formula text itself does not look well polished and seems rather low quality in terms of graphics design.
However, once getting past these issues, using LibreOffice Calc was really good, and better than Excel and Google Spreadsheets! Calc actually came handy for one particular issue that I had during my dissertation: a rather large excel sheet. The total amount of participants (from the BRFSS dataset) in my dissertation was approximately, 430,000 individuals. Initially, I used R studio to filter and select the variables that were most need for my dissertation.
Excel had struggled to open the large file and remain running consistently, with multiple crashes along the way. However, with LibreOffice, although occasionally freezing, the program did not crash.
One thing which was a struggle (that is actually common across the LibreOffice suites) is the ability to make and change graphs. Making graphs was initially clunky and the default graphs looked horrendous. However, after a little bit of time learning how to create, modify, and polish up graphs in LibreOffice, graphs look nearly identical to ones that I make on Google Suites and previously, office. The example below is when I amateurishly measured G forces when driving a vehicle on the streets (which, once normalizing the data for potential measurement errors, actually falls in line with research and insurance company measurements)
This downside, of course, is the only one I can think of in terms of using LibreOffice across all the applications offered.
Overall, LibreOffice suites are actually quite stable, usable, and with some patience in the initial usage, are actually quite nice to use, it is potentially even more preferable than alternatives like Microsoft Office. Documents, PowerPoints, and Excel sheets can be made just like in other Office Suites with the same quality after maybe two or three weeks of usage to get used to some of the differences of the office suites.
How’s it compatibility with other office suites?
The question which some potential users may have is, how compatible is it with other office suites? In general, quite compatible. First we start with Google Suites. Google Suites has the ability to export into Open Document Format, which as a result, increases the likelihood of formatting being more or less the same. Microsoft Office can also save in Open Document Format. However, regardless of this, LibreOffice can comfortably open Microsoft office document formats quite well. Formatting issues do arise, but these formatting issues are usually minor, such as extra spacing between different paragraphs in word/writer, or a slight misalignment of text.
Impress, however, holds the largest issue in terms of compatibility, where on some occasions, graphs and tables are misaligned, and in some rare instances editing is not possible or alignment becomes difficult. This happens more with PowerPoints exported from office and Apple keynotes than from Google Slides, where at worst, tables stick as tables, but graphs only show as images from Google Slides. Given this, Impress has small compatibility issues with pptx files around 15% of the time, and 5% of the time being large and severe.
Calc has the best compatibility as per my experience with other office suites, and to some extent, even better than Google Spreadsheets in terms of opening sheets with formulas. Very rarely do I run into issues where formulas and tabs do not load or not work. Graphs from Google Spreadsheet appear to work quite well on LibreOffice Calc, and should work well from Microsoft Office Excel as well.
In order of preference, we can say that Calc has the best compatibility with it’s related Office suite competitors, followed by Writer, and impress last, where occasional compatibility issues appear, and in rare instances, major compatibility issues spring up.
A response to this is for everyone to use PDF as a standard way to send a final report or document towards end users. The reason for this is because, even on the rare occasion, documents and files made on Microsoft Office products may not even work on Microsoft Office products. PDFs essentially nearly guarantee that this issue does not happen. In nearly every instance, both professionally in the workforce, in university, and for private ventures such as Bahrain Research Group,I and others have always sent and exported files in PDF format, as this ensures that anyone can open, add comments, and send feedback with minimal issue.
Who is LibreOffice for? What can we take away from this?
In the end, who is LibreOffice for? I would go as far as saying that Medium end enterprises and organizations who do not use or require high-powered Microsoft Office features can possibly use LibreOffice. Students and individuals should highly consider using LibreOffice for personal use, as the need for expensive licensed office suites is not needed (where individuals would pay nearly 70 to 90 USD a year for Microsoft Office licenses). Alternatively, if users are not ready to embrace LibreOffice, then Google Suites is another alternative which is reliable and initially easier to use out of the box, but is not as powerful per se as LibreOffice.
My recommendation is that it would make sense to use LibreOffice for individual projects in small to medium size businesses and among private users, while G Suites should also be added and used as collaborative efforts when making documents. Why this combination? LibreOffice is light and works nearly effortlessly, while G Suites is by far more mature than Office 365, as office 365 itself does not even work with Office products that are installed offline. Office 365 online still suffers from poor performance this year, as per my last attempted use. Furthermore, G Suite tools, both for private and commercial use,are by far more mature and easier to use than online and offline-based Microsoft Office products.
In this regard, we can say that for almost 90%+ of users of Microsoft Office, both using the online and offline version, LibreOffice (and G Suites) are perfect substitutes, where G Suites are perfect for collaborative efforts, and LibreOffice for offline efforts. The only issue stemming from LibreOffice is that some initial effort is needed to understand how some of the tools work. However, once done, LibreOffice is quite easy to use, with little amount of bugs appearing during use.
We should take a moment to appreciate that an open-source, free software from a Non-profit organization has managed to at least replicate and provide the tools which are found in Microsoft Office that “non-power” users need. This in itself is an amazing achievement, and Microsoft should take a look at how it develops its products, as competition from Google, Apple, and others are slowly replacing the aging and fractured services and products provided by Microsoft. This is evident by broken update system management found in Windows 10, online cloud-based office suites by Microsoft are half-backed solutions. In an age of free and open-source software such as LibreOffice or Google Suites, it makes little sense for users to pay 70 to 100 USD per year for software which is on-par to the competition at best, and at worst with the large host of issues which windows 10 and Microsoft Office presents, sub-par towards the competition.
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If you're looking for a Microsoft Office alternative, don’t want a monthly subscription, or prefer to download your software, LibreOffice is an excellent choice.
As open-source software, LibreOffice is continually updated with new improvements and doesn’t need an internet connection to run. In this LibreOffice review, you’ll learn how the software functions and how it differs from other office suites.
Who is LibreOffice for?
LibreOffice is for individual users and small businesses who want free, downloadable tools, without worrying that their software will become obsolete and unsupported in years to come. Although some large enterprises use LibreOffice, the lack of support is an issue.
Companies with developers may prefer LibreOffice because, by the nature of open-source software, you can configure the code to fit your needs. Moreover, several partners sell enterprise versions with customer service and service level agreements (SLA). You may prefer LibreOffice if:
- Your team uses various operating systems, such as Linux, macOS, or Windows
- Internet access is spotty or unavailable at remote business locations
- You want software installed on your computer without worrying about it going extinct
- Mobile apps and online accessibility aren’t important to you
- You need extensive language support in your documents
- You’re familiar with Microsoft Word and are looking for a free version
There is a cloud-based version of LibreOffice available through third parties under names such as Collabora Office and LibreOffice Online powered by CIB. However, the web-based version doesn’t include a file storage system and isn’t supported by The Document Foundation, so this LibreOffice review doesn’t include information about the cloud version.
LibreOffice also gets updated frequently. For example, LibreOffice 5.0 came out in 2015, version 6.0 appeared in 2017, and 7.0 was introduced in 2020.
Like other Zoho Office Suite, LibreOffice comes with the main tools you need to create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. It also provides a database comparable to Microsoft Access.
However, it doesn’t offer any communication or collaboration tools. Nor does it offer cloud storage, so you can use document management best practices using any existing file solution.
The main features of LibreOffice are:
- Writer: An easy-to-use word processing application
- Calc: A spreadsheet program similar to Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets.
- Impress: A presentation platform to create slideshows
- Draw: An integrated graphic editing program
- Base: A database program that integrates with all LibreOffice applications
- Math: A formula editor used to create intricate formulas for use in all LibreOffice apps
- Charts: A standalone tool to create and edit charts and graphs
- Extensions: Hundreds of add-on tools to suit nearly any business need
LibreOffice Writer is a word processing tool offering standard features found in other similar programs, including an autocorrect dictionary and autocomplete feature.
Writer is compatible with many document formats. However, there may be formatting errors or non-compatible fonts when opening a Word document in LibreOffice, which can pose a problem if you work with clients or team members who use Microsoft Office.
In contrast, if you work with international clients and teams using open document formats, you’ll appreciate the native support for this file type.
LibreOffice Writer also offers pre-built templates for documents such as faxes, business cards, meeting minutes, or conference agendas.
Although the interface is similar to Microsoft Word, completing some tasks, like changing your header style, takes more clicks than with other word processing programs. However, there are some neat built-in features and extensions, such as:
- An option to export documents as an eBook, which isn’t available without a third-party integration on Microsoft Word
- A redaction tool to hide sensitive data either one word at a time or automatically by selecting words or phrases to sanitize
- An out-of-the-box grammar checker in four languages, including English, Brazilian, Hungarian, and Russian
- Additional extensions for grammar checkers in more than 30 languages, a quick response (QR) code generator, and an emoji toolbar
Microsoft Access Vs Libreoffice Base
LibreOffice Writer uses a familiar interface and toolbars. Source: LibreOffice software.
LibreOffice Calc is a user-friendly spreadsheet program with a wizard that helps you pull in content from databases or ask 'what if' questions from its Scenario Manager.
You can have up to 1,024 columns and 1,048,576 rows per worksheet. Both Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace spreadsheet programs allow over 15,000 columns but offer a similar number of rows per spreadsheet. Calc also offers 508 spreadsheet functions, which is comparable to Microsoft.
Open Microsoft Access In Libreoffice
Although the software lets you create charts, there is a lag time to update your spreadsheet with a new chart and fewer chart options than other spreadsheet programs. Furthermore, software bugs exist with things like patterned or gradient cell background colors.
To get functionality similar to Microsoft, you’ll need to download extensions. For example, LibreOffice Calc doesn’t come with the function to remove duplicate cells. You can add this feature by downloading the Remove Duplicates extension and restarting Calc. You also won’t find templates for Calc, but a few are available for download as an extension.
Easily get totals for your columns using the sum function. Source: LibreOffice software.
LibreOffice Impress is a slideshow-creation tool offering several views including, normal, outline, notes, handout, and slide sorter.
It provides 3D imaging tools, downloadable templates from extensions, animation functions, and a presenter console. Use your phone or tablet as a remote during presentations by downloading an app from Google or App.
Create, import, or edit presentations in LibreOffice Impress
Source: LibreOffice software.
LibreOffice Draw is a graphic-editing program perfect for designing flowcharts, network diagrams, and other technical drawings. It offers freehand tools, object grouping functions, and displays dimension lines. You can also use Draw to edit photos and PDF files.
Source: LibreOffice software.
LibreOffice Base is a database management system that lets you build a custom database for all LibreOffice suite programs.
Unlike Microsoft Access, which only works on the Windows operating system, LibreOffice Base is fully functional on all operating systems. However, it’s not nearly as visually appealing as Airtable.
Base comes with wizards and pre-defined table definitions, which help you design forms, tables, and reports used for tracking customers, invoices, or assets. Base supports:
- Java database connectivity (JDBC)
- Open database connectivity (ODBC)
- Mozilla Thunderbird address book
- KDE address book
- Evolution lightweight directory access protocol (LDAP) and storage
- Windows system address book
- Microsoft Outlook address book when using Microsoft Windows
Use the table wizard to quickly build a database in LibreOffice Base.
Source: LibreOffice software.
LibreOffice Math is an advanced formula editor used by researchers or data scientists. You can use Math on its own or within Writer, Impress, Calc, or Draw. You can create scientific and mathematical formulas with various elements, including:
- Systems of equations
- Terms with exponents
Create advanced formulas in LibreOffice Math. Source: LibreOffice software.
LibreOffice Charts can be used as a standalone application or within any other LibreOffice programs. It allows you to create embeddable pie charts, 2D and 3D charts, dot charts, and trend graphs.
Libreoffice Free Download
All LibreOffice programs allow you to add an unlimited number of extensions or templates to improve your software’s functionality. You can find extensions via LibreOffice or OpenOffice, with more than 1,100 available options.
Popular extensions include:
- OpenOffice.org2GoogleDocs: Lets you import, export, and update documents from Zoho, Google Docs, and WebDAV.
- Language support: You’ll find an extensive list of dictionaries, grammar checkers, and thesauruses for tons of languages.
- Clipart: None of the LibreOffice tools come with clipart, but there are more than 30 different clipart extensions.
Choose from hundreds of extensions in the LibreOffice extension center. Source: extensions.libreoffice.org.
LibreOffice’s ease of use
If you grew up using Microsoft Office products, then you may find LibreOffice easy to use. The interface resembles older versions of Microsoft, although the latest update offers a Notebook bar design view, closely resembling Google or Microsoft interfaces.
Regardless, there is definitely a learning curve with the LibreOffice suite. Some functions are hidden under submenus, meaning you’ll click more times to get the results you want.
As an open-source software, LibreOffice is free to download and use on as many supported devices as you want. New updates come out frequently; you simply download the latest update without uninstalling the current version or losing any saved files.
However, there isn’t any type of technical or customer service options. The Document Foundation recommends using an ecosystem partner for assistance and new features.
Ecosystem partners include:
- Collabora: Offers a free version for up to 20 users, a paid plan for up to 99 users that costs $18 per user per year, and an Enterprise version available for a custom quote.
- CIB: Provides LibreOffice software and support for $14.99 for installation on up to 10 Windows devices. It’s unclear if this is a subscription or a one-time fee.
LibreOffice also has a certification program and can direct you to various professionals for support services. Professionals include developers, migration experts, and certified trainers.
Unlike other platforms, LibreOffice doesn’t provide any direct support. There aren’t phone, live chat, or email customer services. To get help with LibreOffice, you can:
- Join a group mailing list and pose your question to the group
- Use the LibreOffice support site by posting a query to the message board
- Purchase LibreOffice through an ecosystem partner offering support services
- Search online to find answers through various blogs and help forums
Benefits of LibreOffice
LibreOffice can be a great alternative to Microsoft or Google products if you want free software that won’t ever require you to upgrade and pay.
Your company can use LibreOffice with the peace of mind that it’ll still be around and be able to open your old documents, even a decade from now. Other advantages of using LibreOffice include:
- Zero cost to download and use the software on an unlimited number of devices
- Frequent updates and extensions added to improve functionality
- Works well on older operating systems, laptops, and desktop computers
- Language support for 191 languages and counting
- Cross-platform use, as it works equally well on Linux, macOS, or Windows devices
- No internet connection required
- Most file types are compatible with LibreOffice
- Unlike legacy programs, you won’t lose functionality or access during upgrades
- No privacy or data collection concerns as it only exists on your computer
Best open-source office software
If you’re tired of per-user or per-device subscription fees or are worried about losing access to documents when using outdated software, then LibreOffice is a good alternative. It provides basic office tools that work without an internet connection. Although there’s a learning curve for simple word processing documents and spreadsheets, this tool is relatively easy to use.
Frequently Asked Questions for LibreOffice
For basic word processing and spreadsheets, LibreOffice works as well as Microsoft Office does. However, the Microsoft 365 office suite provides cloud storage, real-time collaboration, and a friendlier user interface.
Yes, using LibreOffice is as safe as using any other type of software. Since it’s developed using the open-source method, any type of malicious code would be caught quickly. Furthermore, LibreOffice doesn’t store your files online or collect your personal data, so using it is as safe as using your office computer’s hard drive.
If you download LibreOffice through The Document Foundation, there is no online version. However, ecosystem partners offer online LibreOffice versions, which usually have less functionality than downloaded programs.
Decide if switching to open-source software is right for you by downloading the free LibreOffice platform today.
Decide if switching to open-source software is right for you by downloading the free LibreOffice platform today.
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