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

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

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.

Design and Features

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

Compatibility

libreoffice save as formats   Calligra vs. LibreOffice: Which Is The More Productive Linux Office Suite?
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

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

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

Compatibility

calligra save as formats   Calligra vs. LibreOffice: Which Is The More Productive Linux Office Suite?
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.

Conclusion

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!

Photo Credit: ant.photos

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18 Comments -

1 votes

michel

LibreOffice’s “compatibility” is still terrible. Even simple formatting gets borked if you import from or export to MS file formats. The Commenting feature is especially terrible going back and forth. If anyone needs to work on MS file formats, LibreOffice will fail them. Why don’t you mention Kingsoft Office, which now has a linux version and is much better?

0 votes

Bruce E

The only real drawback I see with Kingsoft Office is that there isn’t a database application as I end up needing ‘em frequently and it is inconvenient as best trying to use a spreadsheet as a database. My primary Linux box with LibreOffice and my secondary machine running Windows and MS Office are the two exceptions. It is Kingsoft for the rest of them.

0 votes

Daniel E

“Better” IMHO depends a lot on the individual user. LibreOffice probably has more large-document features. I say “probably” because I haven’t used KOffice in a while — so long a while that I hadn’t even heard of Calligra :)

Anyway, I don’t remember KOffice Writer being able to

auto-generate a table of contents
support user-defined style sheets
support references and cross-references

Never used the other components of KOffice so I can’t comment on them.

Bottom line is, Calligra may be fine for smaller documents, but if you have to write long documents, with several contributors writing their own chapters, it has to be LibreOffice.

0 votes

Ed

So basically you’re saying they don’t come up to scratch with MS Office wrt formatting and look and feel.

There’s no mention of the scritpting languages these 2 use, one huge issue with all of these Open source Office Suites is lack of VBA compatibility (macro support) and I doubt we will ever see it addressed.

0 votes

TobiH8

For my school work LibreOffice meets all my needs. I can create presentations, databases and spreadsheets. I can even read all the Microsoft Office documents without any problems.
I won’t buy Microsoft Office because I don’t need it and – what’s more important – there’s no Linux version. Oh and it’s closed source. ;-)

I know LibreOffice is not as good as other Office suites but I think for most of the private and school work it is the best product. Pupils can’t spend hundreds of dollars for the newest Windows and Microsoft Office version. They need the newest because the older ones don’t have all the effects, fonts and functions so they’ll have problems editing files from other pupils.

0 votes

Jeer

Nothing will ever beat Microsoft Office.

0 votes
0 votes

Dean Chia

You make M$ compatibility sound like a bug. Of course it can’t fully read Micro$oft. Microsoft designed it that way.

See https://brutusfacticus.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/no-more-word-attachments-please/ –> there’s an excellent article by Google linked in there somewhere. Scathing and well-deserved review of Microsoft’s terrible tactics. Granted, just by sheer set of features, M$ office wins. But everyone else loses. M$ doesn’t share. But LibreOffice will get there eventually, and those features will be helpful to everyone from the poor student to the kid in a Third-World country. And Open Document file formats will ensure archival quality/compatibility and open access for all.

0 votes

SeanP

I was trying to find what additional features MS-Office has and really could not find. The LibreOffice wiki has a comprehensive list comparing the features and the ones that are not fully supported are things you really would not care about. e.g. Adding a watermark to a document. On the other hand there are features you wont find in MS-Office that are available in Libre/OpenOffice.

When we don’t use an LibreOffice as much as MS-Office we tend to beleive a specific feature missing but the fact is it might be there but you do it a different way. The menu system might be different on the nomenclature might be different. Its more how you do a task in one tool versus another.

0 votes

SeanP

Not sure which functions are missing when you say ” does lack some support for highly advanced or complex functions”. I am a log time MS-Office user and recently started using Libreoffice. I do stats work for my part time school work. Functions like linear regression are in LibreOffice same like MS-Office.As an example the regression function name is LINEST in MS-Office as well as LibreOffice. I am sure it is not MSFT code as they would have sued for using their code.
Regarding the other points I see in comments.
– Macro support: None of the MSFT languages run on other OSes, VB, C#, VBA , so that should not be an issue. LibreOffice has macro support for Python, Basic. etc.
- Formatting again its the MSFT that is violating. LibreOffice has support for LaTex etc. which is in academic circles as well as a standard for many reasons.

The last item MS-Office is slow like hell when compred to LibreOffice and its funny when anyone says nothing will beat MS-Office. MS-Office on Wine is faster than MS-Office natively running in Windows machine. On top of that on windows you can only run one version of MS-Office unlike Wine where you can run multiple MS-Office versions, nothing to beat that.

Sorry about a bit of bashing but it is what it is.

0 votes

Like Fun B

Honestly, for about 90% of cases, Google Docs, LibreOffice et al. are completely, 100% fine. The PROBLEM is that last 10%. I actually do complex layouts in Word that don’t translate well to anything else and my co-workers live and die with the Editing Markup and Collaboration features that the other tools don’t really support, and that’s not even getting in to the full feature set of Excel or – and there’s no helping this one – Access.

And there is also the small matter that an entire generation of new users is only familiar with MS Office Apps that use the Ribbon-style interface. I don’t have a problem with that, but if I set my GF down in front of Office 2003 or LibreOffice I know she’d be in for a bit of a shock since Office 2010 is the first version she’s actually worked with.

In any case, Google Docs works for 90% of what everyone needs and has the ridiculous added utility of being able to edit existing Office documents saved in Google Drive, so it’s my go-to suggestion for a replacement.

If that isn’t good enough, it’s relatively easy to find grey-market copies of various versions of MS Office. I’ve gotten theoretically legal (in that they come with a real COA and disc and perhaps don’t pay full attention to what the license actually says) copies of Office 2007 for as little as $25. And if THAT isn’t enough or doesn’t work on your platform of choice, Office 365 works on absolutely anything that can run a modern web browser.

0 votes

James

Other options that haven’t been compared are here (on the same site!):
http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/wps-office-for-linux-looks-as-good-as-ms-office-performs-even-better/

0 votes

dragonmouth

Of course much of the incompatibility would go away if M$ joined the 21st century and adopted Open Document standards.

I have been using one incarnation or another of Libre Office since its precursor, Star Office.

0 votes

Trinae

I wanted to just say a big THANK YOU for making a decision between the two. Many times I read articles like this that end with, “There is no winner, except whichever works for you…”

Thank you, sir, for having the courage to make a decision and declaring a winner.

0 votes

Michael F

People seem to be forgetting here that the majority of newer Microsoft file formats are open standards, including the most common ones, xlsx, docx, pptx, xps, etc. The older ones; xls, doc, and ppt; were not, but LibreOffice supports them better than the newer ones (macro enabled files aren’t open standards either, and LibreOffice has absolutely not support for them), it seems that LibreOffice, and Calligra Suite are just being difficult (I can’t really complain though, because I’ve made no effort to contribute). Sure Microsoft doesn’t do a great job with the Open Documents standards, but they do a hell of a lot better of a job with those than Libre does with Microsoft’s.

Also, someone said something about LibreOffice being faster than MS Office, that is completely false. Try doing your own speed test. On Windows 7 Pro and 8.1 Pro all MS Office applications open about 3 times faster than their LibreOffice counterparts, and large Excel functions and sorts are about twice as fast as the same ones in Calc. Everything else I do happens sufficiently quickly in both suites that speed isn’t important. Seeing as there is no Linux – be it Debian, Ubuntu, Red Hat, or SUSE (Even though they use the same packaging systems, Debian and Ubuntu are sufficiently different now that their packages are not always compatible. Same with Red Hat, SUSE, and PCLOS.) – version of MS Office as of right now that point is moot.

0 votes

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.

0 votes
0 votes

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.