Long-time Microsoft Office challenger LibreOffice just received a makeover, amongst other interesting updates, in its 4.4 update package. LibreOffice is regarded as a serious contender to the Office crown of productivity suite king, but has been held back over the years. Niggling bugs, and a somewhat clunky UI have been long time complaints, as have import and export formatting issues.
Has LibreOffice finally found the winning formula? And will it be enough to convert this life-long Office user?
Let’s start with a quick rundown of LibreOffice 4.4 new features:
- Almost a complete UI overhaul. Menus, toolbars, buttons, rulers, tabs, and more receive an update making the LibreOffice UI much more aesthetically pleasing and easier to navigate.
- Introduction of OpenGL for presentations. 3D accelerated slide transitions and more come to Windows.
- Track changes and review now work, jumping from one comment to the next on completion.
- Increased compatibility with Office “C-Fonts” such as Calibri and Cambria. LibreOffice ships with open-source fonts with equivalent proportions.
- Improved “Start Centre”, with additional user templates added from the LibreOffice community.
- Improved source code via Coverity Scan analysis.
Let’s Take a Closer Look…
On first impressions, LibreOffice really has made ground on Microsoft Office. The UI is nice. It loads notably quicker than previous version, 4.3, which I was playing with last week for an upcoming Excel alternatives article. Developers, The Document Foundation, believe LibreOffice 4.4 is “is the most beautiful ever” having received “a lot of UX and design love.”
The properties, styles and tabs sidebar has received a little makeover, too. I’ve always liked having this selection of formatting tools to the right of my work, and LibreOffice offers this in their native setup, across Writer, Calc, Impress and Base. +1 for LibreOffice. Maybe another +.5 for the colour on my screen.
I’m not convinced it’s the most beautiful application ever, but it’s looking good.
Tracking Changes and Formatting Updates
Tracking your editorial changes and commenting now work properly, as each time you accept or reject the editorial note it moves directly the next in queue. Seeing the small bugs like this finally being erased from LibreOffice illustrate the desire to gain parity with Office. I can see this small update winning LibreOffice users. It has been a genuine frustration receiving documents from colleagues using .ODF files, only for Office, or any other software suite to break everything.
Importing into and out of LibreOffice has become relatively seamless. Compatibility with Office is a must, and the developers have recognised this. Documents saved with comments, editing and formatting in LibreOffice export to Office, and import just as well.
LibreOffice’s inclusion of open-source fonts Carlito and Caladea certainly aid the process, making the import of Microsoft Office Open XML (OOXML) that bit faster, with more, if not all of your formatting escaping modification. Most of the niggling .docx import import issues have also dissipated with this 4.4 update.
Start Centre and Templates
The Start Centre offers more drop-downs and functionality than previous iterations. Having all recently associated documents centred in the Start Centre is a nice touch. However, the lack of native templates is slightly disappointing, and for those users potentially making the switch from Office, this could be a turn-off.
I know that there are a massive amount of templates available for download, but Office really does excel with the convenience there: tap what you’re after into the search box, and you usually find a functional, well-designed template for instant download. Perhaps later versions will see this feature further implemented.
3D Accelerated presentations come to Windows, having already featured on OSX and Linux for some-time. Let’s face it. Slideshow transitions stopped being an amazingly fun tool when most of us were teenagers, but the move to include a feature that has been commonplace in OSX and Linux will undoubtedly please those PowerPoint and LibreOffice Impress users.
Coverity Scan Analysis
As we can see in the image, the Coverity Scan Analysis metrics returned some 12, 354 defects in the current code. Following the scan, nearly 12,000 of these defects have been fixed, delivering you a more compact, safer, reliable Office package. If the code isn’t working, your application wont work. It stands to reason. LibreOffice are making great progress by eliminating the small issues, before they become big problems.
LibreOffice vs Microsoft Office
Yes, The Document Foundation has upped its game with LibreOffice 4.4, and yes, it is quite pretty all round. Even better yet, its completely free, and if that is something you need from your software, then I would absolutely advise you to download and use it.
However, it still cannot compete with Microsoft Office across the board. I may be biased. I might. But Word does almost everything right for me. The top-menu, and right-hand properties and formatting tab is a bonus, but I can rearrange Word to this end. Excel still packs a powerful punch that most other spreadsheet applications struggle to get close too, but Calc is a strong second, and I can see why so many Linux distros use LibreOffice as their default Office package.
It is better. It’s not the winner.
Has the new beautiful LibreOffice inspired you to jump ships? What would make you leave Microsoft Office for an alternative? Let us know in the comments below!