Calligra vs. LibreOffice: Which Is The More Productive Linux Office Suite?

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Is LibreOffice the only worthwhile office suite for Linux users? Possibly not, thanks to KDE’s Calligra.

LibreOffice, and its predecessor OpenOffice, have long been known as the leader in free office suites available for all Linux. While it’s certainly the most popular choice among Linux users, it certainly isn’t the only full-fledged office suite available for that operating system. Calligra is another choice for a complete office package.

With two very good choices at hand, which one do you go for? I compared these two office suites head-to-head on features, design, and compatibility to see which one is the best.


LibreOffice, for those how aren’t aware, was forked from OpenOffice’s code back in 2010. Sun Microsystems had the rights to OpenOffice at the time, but Sun Microsystems was bought out by Oracle – and people feared Oracle would shut down the OpenOffice community and turn the project into a closed-source one.

Today LibreOffice s commonly found as the default office suite for most Linux distributions (the only exception, generally, being distros that aim to be lightweight).

LibreOffice comes with six total applications: Writer, Calc, Impress, Base, Math, and Draw.

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Design and Features

LibreOffice looks and functions similarly to Office 97 through Office 2003. It is not like Office 2007+, as it doesn’t include a ribbon user interface – nor will it probably ever. Most of the functions you find in Office are available in LibreOffice, although LibreOffice does lack some support for highly advanced or complex functions. There are also some functions that LibreOffice partially supports, in that you can create them, but they’re not very compatible between different office suites. More on that later.


One of the major downsides (still) of LibreOffice isn’t necessary it’s amount of available functions which you can carry out with it, but rather the compatibility it has with the Microsoft Office suite. It offers a very good amount of compatibility with formats that have been around for a long time, such as .rtf and .doc, but it still has issues with newer formats such as .docx.Thankfully, it’s been able to read and write to that format for a while now, so some compatibility is better than nothing I suppose. Full compatibility will never happen without actually using Microsoft Office, but LibreOffice comes pretty close.


Calligra, an office suite usually recommended for KDE users, is a project completely independent from LibreOffice. It was forked from KOffice, another office suite where the development has stalled. It’s safe to say that Calligra is considered to be the successor to KOffice.

Calligra comes with nine total applications: Braindump, Flow, Karbon, Kexi, Krita, Plan, Stage, Sheets, and Words. Compared to LibreOffice, this also includes a mind-mapping tool and a project managing tool – LibreOffice doesn’t come with one at all, and Microsoft Office users have to spend another few hundred dollars to get Microsoft Project.

Design and Features

Caligra’s interface is very different from Microsoft Office and LibreOffice. While the welcoming screen may seem a little familiar when compared to Office 2013, that’s where all the similarities end. A lot of formatting functions for Calligra are available on the right hand side of the window rather than at the top, so the actual editing space for the document doesn’t span completely across the screen, horizontally speaking. It also includes most of the functions that people generally need, but the feature list isn’t quite as complete as LibreOffice’s.


Sadly, Calligra’s compatibility is quite a bit worse than LibreOffice’s. General compatibility among most formats is decent but it could certainly be better. Also, Calligra supports reading .doc and .docx formats, but it doesn’t support writing to either of them. Therefore, Calligra probably isn’t the best choice if you’re going to have to deal with a lot of Microsoft Office users.


While both office suites are decent and have their own pros and cons, I have to declare LibreOffice as the winner. While I’m quite impressed that Calligra can offer a few more applications (including one for project management), it’s absolutely vital to maintain the highest amount of compatibility possible. Only LibreOffice can offer you the level of compatibility that you need to be able to work with most Office documents with as little worry as possible.

Both office suites should be installable via your respective package manager by searching for “libreoffice” or “calligra”. Most applications will also be labeled with the suite in the name; one example is “libreoffice-writer”.

Which office suite do you use? Are there any points that I missed, especially some that you believe make Calligra a better choice than LibreOffice? Let us know in the comments!

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Comments (22)
  • Pawe? Cis?o

    As for opening the apps, you can use the QuickLaunch with LO with speeds things up. The interesting thing is that LibreOffice starts A LOT faster on Linux than Windows, I don’t know why.

  • fran

    i have had good luck with SOFTMaker office. This German company makes both a windows and linux version. Plus for Android tablets & phones plus windows CE.
    Their FREE version is a bit limited but they offered a recent upgrade to softmaker office Standard for $6.99 [windows] to Premium for $19.99 [windows] and $10.99 [linux].
    You can get more information at
    They do have a free trial available, to first see if the program works for someone’s needs.

    Previously we were able to get the MS Office from work, for like $9.95 via the microsoft Home-use-program. But it was only one license. If you have several computers like I do, you need something for the other computers in your home. I found that Softmaker office works quite well.

  • Nick

    MS Office is already pretty compatible to LibreOffice, but Bill’s guys still have some work to do !

  • Dr Dreyeth

    I’ve never used a office sweet in my life, having calligra installed lasted about 30 seconds after opening calligra words, because of the big obnoxious sidebar, infact it has single handledly made me
    realize more projects need a UI quality control manager with higher authority then the author of most programs.

  • BianL

    I recently came across Calligra and have been trying it out on OpenSUSE 12.3. Just started trying it out. I also have on systems Corel WordPerfect X5, MS Office 2003 Professional, Lotus Symphony, LibreOffice, Abiword and Gnumeric. In my business I primarily used X5 and reserved Office to those times when I received something from a client that either had poorly structured formulas in Excel (very common), or comments in Word that nothing else seems to be able to handle. LibreOffice I do not care for as much as X5 but it is cross platform as is Abiword and Gnumeric so these 3 have and use on all OSs depending on what I am doing. On Windows for many wordprocessing related projects I use Jarte, a really nice program that builds on MS Wordpad so it will not ever be cossplatform. It will not work with Notepad.

    As I am pretty agnostic as to how a program works, I do not need to compare any program to Office. Calligra is different in that it is really a collection of programs and does not pretend to be integrated. This can be good and bad but, I find it opens faster than the suites. For most of the files I have produced in other programs I am finding no issues so far. However, I use .rtf as my default wordprocessing file. Otherwise, I tend to use either .doc if needing a more complex structure. .odf does well but is not supported in all apps, nor WordPerfect format. When a document is final, I format it in .pdf so it is locked and can be opened independent of any of the programs. This allows me to view documents originally written in Wordstar going back to the beginning of time, so to speak.

    I am finding Calligra to be interesting and as I us it, so far the wordprocessing and spreadsheet, am finding it to be pretty for most use. To date, have not found anything it can not do, though without documentation or a good help system it takes more time than the programs I use. I do like the way it works better than LibreOffice. That is a personal preference.

    My son tried it after asking him about it and finds the Author program to be good for his use and better than Office or LibreOffice as he is writing treatises, thesis and authoring tax memos. I found it to be as good as any for my authoring of tax and legal opinions and currently writing several articles with it and am finding it to be the equal of X5 that is better than Office Word for this purpose.

    The spreadsheet program is more of a mixed bag. I have found as with all the other spreadsheets, converting Excel files a challenge as Excel is so loose with formula structure while the others are more demanding. I almost always have to go back and forth with spreadsheets that were done in Excel and laden with formulas by those who are not well taught in formula structuring. Drives me nuts. Not really an issue with the programs well, I can blame MS but at the same time understand the why. I am not into pivot tables, or complex structuring, lookups about as deep as I have to go. I have a lot of Lotus 1-2-3 formatted files as the format was a standard for years going back and even forward. Never needed to convert them but with Calligra, I will if it becomes a main program.

    All in all, I find it a good alternative to Office and LibreOffice for those not needing to deal with files generated by others which is most persons or, at least those who are structured. For instance I will not accept a MS Word file requiring the submitter to send an .rtf requesting a review and changes or .pdf if a final document. I find it opens, saves and closes faster than LibreOffice and like the blank document formatting and menu system.

    Only limitation is it is not available for WIndows so it is like Office and X5 in reverse for my use.

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This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
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