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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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