Whether you’re a software developer, graphic designer, professional chef, or shop owner, just about every small business would benefit from some kind of office suite. Office suites come packed with lots of different features that usually include a word processor, a spreadsheet, and a presentation program at minimum, but often have other tools as well. LibreOffice is one of these suites.
What is LibreOffice?
A free, open-source software that’s received 20 different awards, including three of InfoWorld’s Bossie’s just in the last few years, LibreOffice is considered to be one of Microsoft Office’s best alternatives. It was created by The Document Foundation, a non-profit organization that believes that not only should everyone be able to access productivity tools, they should be able to access them in their native tongue. That’s why this program offers a lot of the same features as Microsoft Office does, and it’s available in 110 different languages. Forked from OpenOffice, it’s compatible with Microsoft, OS X and Linux. It has received over 175 million downloads as of date. Its latest release was in December 2015.
Writer: Similar to Microsoft Word, Writer is a word processing program that is sufficient for small projects like letters and lists, but also much larger projects like novels, textbooks or reports. Not only does it include an autocorrect feature, it has autocomplete, based off words you commonly use.
Calc: Calc is a spreadsheet editor that’s a lot like Excel. It has a scenario manager that lets you play with “what if” data, and multiple-user support so a whole team can work on a document at one time.
Impress: The equivalent to Microsoft’s PowerPoint, Impress allows you to create slideshow presentations that can support 2D images, 3D images, and animation, while also giving you complete control with a variety of presentation viewing options.
Draw: A vector graphics editor said to be comparable to Microsoft Visio, Draw is an extremely versatile program that can be used to create breathtaking art, 3-D sketches, diagrams or flow charts.
Math: A great tool for math teachers, scientists, and engineers, Math is a program specifically designed to create and edit mathematical formulas. You can use fractions, exponents, integrals, and more. These formulas can then be incorporated into programs like Writer and Calc.
Base: Similar to Microsoft Access, Base is a full-featured database management tool. An easy-to-use program for simple tasks, it works best for creating and managing tables, forms, and reports.
Charts: Charts are available to use with all LibreOffice programs. Charts allows you to create – you guessed it – a broad variety of charts and graphs that can then be represented in Writer documents, Calc spreadsheets, Impress presentations, even in your Draw sketches.
LibreOffice Vs Microsoft Office
One of the most obvious differences between these two programs is that LibreOffice is a free, open-source software and Microsoft Office is a paid, commercial product. If you’re making your decision between these two office suites based on price alone, LibreOffice would be the clear winner.
As for features, when placed against Microsoft Office, LibreOffice can really hold its own. While it can’t include every single tool, every single option and every single preference Microsoft Office has, Writer and Calc in particular have been noted to be extremely similar to Word and Excel, and Impress isn’t bad either.
However, while LibreOffice is able to supply their own versions of some of Microsoft’s best programs, they don’t have a solution for email. If you’re looking for something similar to Outlook, LibreOffice unfortunately doesn’t have the answer. At least not yet.
One of the last major differences between these two suites is that while Microsoft Office has cloud-based options, LibreOffice does not. There are rumors circulating that they one day will, but it probably won’t be any time soon. If you want to use LibreOffice, it has to be downloaded onto your computer.
What Customers Are Saying
Overall, the online conversations that revolve around LibreOffice tend to be pretty positive. It scored well on sites like pcmag.com, pcworld.com and infoworld.com. Users praise it for its similarity to Microsoft Office. Not only can people receive half a dozen productivity tools necessary in nearly every industry for free, it carries a sense of familiarity with Microsoft Office and has an overall user-friendliness that allows for an easy transition between the two software programs.
LibreOffice seems to be favored amongst high school students, college students, and young entrepreneurs who may not have the funds to keep a Microsoft Office subscription going. LibreOffice is also frequently used by organizations and government agencies that have concerns about the privacy issues that could come with Microsoft’s cloud options.
As good as LibreOffice may be, it’s not without criticisms. As previously mentioned, LibreOffice doesn’t have every single feature that Microsoft Office does, so some of the software’s complaints come from the seemingly strange placement or outright lack of a particular tool, option or preference.
Some users have pointed out compatibility issues between Microsoft Office and LibreOffice overall. For example, Writer will not automatically save documents as a doc file, and Impress does not always play well with PowerPoint.
Lastly, while many of LibreOffice’s features are nearly equivalent, and in some cases, potentially better than what Microsoft Office has to offer, Base is thought to be a little inadequate when placed against Microsoft Access. Users have said companies that rely heavily on Microsoft Access will probably not find LibreOffice capable of handling their needs. The Document Foundation does seem to be aware of this, describing Base on their website as only being able to handle light data management projects.
If you decide LibreOffice is a good choice for your personal or business needs, you can download LibreOffice Fresh (their latest version) or LibreOffice Still (the previous version) straight from their website. You’ll find that their site also includes a wide variety of support tools should you need them, including installation instructions, help applications, mailing lists, a wiki, and a forum.