LibreOffice – A Free Office Suite For Windows, Linux & Mac

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free office softwareThere’s a couple of decent, free office suites available these days. As well as the usual applications, cloud-based services like Google Docs make accessing your work from anywhere a doddle – but you’ll need a reliable Internet connection to do any work.

It is for this reason that it’s always advisable to have a set of tools installed, especially if you suddenly need to knock out a spreadsheet or type up a letter and can’t get online.

Canonical (Ubuntu et al), Novell and Red Hat have all revealed that they plan to include LibreOffice in their future operating systems, so what makes it so good?

Libre, As In “Free”

The LibreOffice suite began as a separate fork of the highly respected OpenOffice project on September 28, 2010. Some members of the development team were concerned about the recent Sun Microsystems buyout by Oracle, who have already discontinued the free OpenSolaris OS.

The Document Foundation was formed, Oracle were invited to become a member and it was the hope of this foundation that the OpenOffice name would eventually make its way to the new project. This was never to be, and LibreOffice is now the “alternative” OpenOffice.

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LibreOffice uses the same version number as OpenOffice, as it is based on the same source code. At the time of writing there have been a number of releases including three betas and three release candidates – all within a 4 month timeframe.

This new fork of the OpenOffice project also incorporates Go-oo, a set of patches released to improve the original OpenOffice. This project has since been dissolved and incorporated directly into LibreOffice.

At the moment there’s very little to separate the two, although message board chatter suggests that the LibreOffice project is more stable than its OpenOffice counterpart.

Download & Installation

LibreOffice is available for all three major operating systems on the download page. If you’re running Windows there’s an executable installer to download and run, Mac users can download PPC and Intel .DMG files and there’s .TAR.GZ archives for Linux users.

Ubuntu users (and those using Ubuntu-based distributions) can download from the repositories for a super-fast install.

Note: Installing LibreOffice on my Ubuntu 10.10 install replaced my OpenOffice suite. Make sure you’ve not got any unsaved documents open whilst installing!

First you’ll need to add repositories:

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:libreoffice/ppa

Then update your package manager and install with:

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install libreoffice

Ubuntu users (and those using the GNOME desktop environment) will want to install:

sudo apt-get install libreoffice-gnome

If you’re running Kubuntu or the KDE desktop environment then you’ll want:

sudo apt-get install libreoffice-kde

Once it’s installed, you’re good to go!

What’s Included

If you’ve ever used OpenOffice, then you’ll find all the included modules familiar, right down to their names:

Writer

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A highly flexible word processor that can read, edit and save text documents in a variety of formats (including Microsoft’s proprietaries). There’s no Microsoft Office-style “ribbon” layout, so if you’re fond of the retro simple look then you’ll feel right at home. You can export directly to PDF, HTML and even in MediaWiki format.

Calc

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No Office suite is complete without a spreadsheet program, and Calc employs some pretty powerful features along the way. Natural language formulas allow you to use words as well as numeric formulas, there’s the Intelligent Sum Button which works out your numbers based on context and support for a variety of formats including Microsoft Office 2008 .XLSX files.

Impress

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A straight-forward PowerPoint clone for those all-important presentations. Impress comes with everything you’d expect from a presentation tool as well as support for multiple monitors, PowerPoint files and the ability to export Flash .SWF files.

Draw

A graphics package for creating diagrams, flow charts, technical and general posters. The suite boasts an impressive maximum page size of 3 metres and support for most major image formats.

Base

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Much like Microsoft Access, Base is a database tool with the power to organise simple inventories or take on much more complex tasks. Base supports MySQL, PostgreSQL, Access and Adabas D multi-user database types, as well as JDBC and ODBC for added compatibility.

Math

Designed to provide an “easy way to insert formulas into documents”, there’s a range of complex input methods to get your head round if you simply love numbers (or have homework to do).

Extensions

Included with LibreOffice are a number of pre-installed extensions. You can download many more from the LibrePlanet website, which is awesome. Some installed extensions include PDF Import (for importing and modifying PDF documents) and WikiPublisher (to preserve your layout for a MediaWiki format).

Conclusion

There’s not an awful lot of difference between OpenOffice and LibreOffice on the surface. The rapid development from beta to RC and soon a stable release means the team are putting a lot of effort in under the hood.

It’s just nice to know that if OpenOffice is discontinued then there’s a worthy replacement just waiting to take its place.

Have you swtiched to LibreOffice yet? Still using OpenOffice? Reckon Oracle will flip the switch? Let us know in the comments below!

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Comments (17)
  • Jane

    This is a perfect find for me… I love trying new applications etc and I am just happy that you have this free ware to share. I am very much interested to look differ on this. Maybe one day I will shift into this libre office. Nice article.

  • Edward D. Dowling IV

    Good article. I am currently using Open Office and running Ubunto 10.4. May switch to libre office in future

  • Samir

    I have tried quite a few office suites and currently have Lotus Symphony as my suite, its well designed and stable and with an ibm pedigree, well worth a look … like it :)

  • laboratory

    So I’ve uninstalled OpenOffice – reasons – It started to crash when I had more than one files opened. Also when I’ve tried to close on of the files it closed all of them, than tried to recover rest of the files. Overall strange behaviour.

    LibreOffice – first thoughts – it’s lighter (but we will se after few weeks), the system (winXP) seems to be working faster. It’s not crashing:) For now.

    Cheers.

  • laboratory

    So I’ve uninstalled OpenOffice – reasons – It started to crash when I had more than one files opened. Also when I’ve tried to close on of the files it closed all of them, than tried to recover rest of the files. Overall strange behaviour.

    LibreOffice – first thoughts – it’s lighter (but we will se after few weeks), the system (winXP) seems to be working faster. It’s not crashing:) For now.

    Cheers.

    • Emily Sandstrom

      Mine crashes all the time, fifteen times a day – more than once an hour. It just had an extended fainting spell, so I clicked to install Libre, and installed a g-d Ask toolbar, not finding Libre anywhere.
      I guess I’ll have to call my techs to kill Ask again, and maybe to install this Libre thing.

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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.