Is LibreOffice Worthy of the Office Crown?

Gavin Phillips 01-03-2016

LibreOffice 5.1 is now an extremely well known contender Is the New LibreOffice a Better Microsoft Office Alternative? LibreOffice, a long-time contender of Microsoft Office, just received a makeover and important updates. After being held back by niggling bugs over the years, has LibreOffice finally found the winning formula? Read More  for the title of “Best Office Suite.” LibreOffice has seen its user-base experiencing consistent growth, and in the last couple of years we have seen a number of large organizations and government departments making the permanent switch to the free Microsoft Office alternative.


It makes sense. LibreOffice has moved from strength to strength and now offer so many premium features across the suite that the glowing comparisons, relative strengths, and benefits of the free suite are causing more people than ever to consider their Office subscription.

LibreOffice 5.1 Download Page

Microsoft released the latest iteration of their office suite behemoth, Office 2016 13+ Reasons You Should Upgrade to Microsoft Office 2016 Microsoft Office 2016 is here and it's time for you to make a decision. The productivity question is -- should you upgrade? We give you the new features and the fresher reasons to help you... Read More , last September to almost universally positive reviews. However, a central theme in many reviews was of an office suite update that was good but not amazing, leaving many wondering if the updates Microsoft has delivered will compel enough users to upgrade. Not to mention you can use Word, Excel, and PowerPoint Online for free Don't Pay for Microsoft Word! 4 Reasons to Use Office Online Instead Microsoft Office Online offers free web versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Here's why you should give it a try today. Read More .

So does this give LibreOffice a chance to wow potential new users Which Office Suite Is Best for You? You'll be pressed to find an occupation that doesn't require word or number processing of some sort. And you may wonder, is Microsoft Office really the best solution? Here are your options. Read More ? Let’s take a quick look and find out.

LibreOffice 5.1: What’s New?

Despite coming only six months after the previous 5.0 update, LibreOffice 5.1 has packed in a pretty comprehensive table of new features:

  • Reduced start up times, overall better optimization across all operating systems.
  • User experience improvements focused upon improving productivity.
  • New support for Apple Keynote 6 presentation slides, Gnumeric, VBA macro streams back into MS OOXML.
  • New support for cloud storage providers.
  • A number of new LibreOffice Calc features, including a statistics regression dialogue box with linear, logarithmic, and power support.
  • A host of new LibreOffice Impress functions, modes, and settings, as well as deeper integration of OpenGL for smoother transitions.

As with any major update there are also numerous small feature adjustments throughout the entire suite, as well as the standard bug fixes you would expect.

New Menu Structure

In one of the more visual changes to the LibreOffice environment, users now have access to a single menu containing application specific options. The three main applications – Writer, Calc, and Impress – all receive their own straightforward menu aimed at decreasing the search time to find core application features.

Italo Vignoli, spokesperson for developers, The Document Foundation, and one of their founding members said:

“One menu has been added to each of the three main applications to make it easier for users, so there is a Style menu in Writer, consolidating every style feature in a single menu; in Calc it’s the Sheet menu with every cell or sheet-related command; and Impress has every slide-related command for presentations in a single menu”

Writer then receives the Styles menu, Calc receives the Sheet menu, and Impress receives the Slide menu.


Libre Office 5.1 New Menu Options

The sidebars have also received some minor tweaks here and there, further streamlining operations, which is exactly what you need in your office suite.

New Cloud Storage Integration

LibreOffice 5.1 introduces integrated cloud storage solutions. Users can now connect to various remote servers, including Microsoft SharePoint, Google Drive, OneDrive, Alfresco, WebDAV, and custom FTP servers. You’ll now be able to open files from and save directly to these services without any additional software or a bodged workaround.

LibreOffice 5.1 Open-Save Remote File


To connect to a remote server head to File > Save to a Remote Server. In the new Remote Server panel, head to Add service and select your provider. You’ll then have to enter your credentials. Once you’ve saved your information, your remote server should appear in the same panel. Repeat the process for each remote server you’d like access to.

LibreOffice 5.1 Remote Server Support Options

Once set-up, you’ll only need a couple of clicks of the mouse to access your remote drives in future.

Changes to Formula Engine

The LibreOffice 5.1 update has also brought changes to spreadsheet application, Calc. On top of seemingly basic (but useful!) additions such as new commands for adding rows below and columns right, and PNG export, the Calc formula engine has been adjusted to remove restrictions of table structure references in cells. While not a mind-blowing addition, this change will certainly allow for greater interoperability with other spreadsheet applications, including Microsoft Excel.


As The Document Foundation strive to create an office suite as compatible with other applications as possible, continued development in this area is vital, especially as Microsoft, the leaders in office suite software packages, largely dictate the evolution of file formatting standards.

Also new to Calc is a statistics dialogue box offering users opportunity to calculate statistics Learn Statistics for Free with These 6 Resources Statistics has a reputation of a subject that's difficult to understand. But learning from the right resource will help you understand survey results, election reports, and your stats class assignments in no time. Read More regression like power, logarithmic, and linear.

Express With Impress

Sticking with overall update theme of increased productivity 5 Microsoft Office Plugins & Apps to Boost Your Productivity Microsoft Office supports plugins and they can make your life better. We have compiled a selection of helpful productivity apps, mainly for Microsoft Word. They are easy to install in Office 2010 and up. Read More , Impress has new shortcuts to speed slide navigation and sorting, new menu links to easily save a background image across all slides, and slide design itself receives an equalize width/height option, aimed at reducing editing time between similar shapes.

The toolbar also has a new addition in the Edit Modes drop-down menu. This new menu allows navigation between master/non-master modes allowing for much easier, much faster switching between content and container.

Finally, all Impress OpenGL transitions have been ported to OpenGL 2.1+. This does remove support for some older GPUs, but makes much better usage of modern ones. Four new transitions have been added to Impress.

More New Features!

On top of those larger changes, The Document Foundation still found time to pack in a whole bunch more.

  • LibreOffice Math comes with new optional auto-closing brackets, as well as support for MathML files stored in the clipboard.
  • LibreOffice Base now supports importing of the Mozilla Thunderbird address book, utilizing a recently updated mork driver.
  • LibreOffice Chart ships with improvements in equation rendering, along with support for negative Y values for Exponential and Power trend lines.

And finally, users can now insert Unicode characters using Alt+”x” shortcut combinations. The list goes on!

Better Than Office 2016?

LibreOffice 5.1 is the undisputed king of the free office suites. Having seriously optimized the underlying LibreOffice code, The Document Foundation can now push the free office suite further afield, with work on the LibreOffice Viewer for Android app and LibreOffice web (coming to us relatively soon) ongoing.

LibreOffice in numbers

Is it competing with Microsoft Office 2016? In some quarters, yes. LibreOffice ships with many major Linux distributions and is certainly extremely popular among users of open source software.

However, and as we hear time and time again, Microsoft Office is the de facto tool for a staggering amount of businesses, academics, and governments. Because of the decades-long slant towards Microsoft, many organizations simply cannot envisage using an alternative office suite The 7 Best Free Microsoft Office Alternatives Microsoft Office is the king of office suites, but that doesn't mean it's the right one for you. Here are some other office suites you might like better! Read More , even if the offerings are just as good and free of charge.

The numbers separating Microsoft Office and LibreOffice are disparate, and actually represent a poor way to assess the undoubted achievements of thousands of individuals who have contributed to the ongoing project. If you want a great free office suite Yes, Get Microsoft Word for Free: Here's How Don't want to pay for the full Microsoft Word experience? Here are some ways on how you can use Microsoft Word for free. Read More , choose LibreOffice.

How have you found LibreOffice 5.1? Is it enough to make you switch from Microsoft Office? Let us know below!

Image Credit: LibreOffice in Numbers via Collabora Productivity

Related topics: LibreOffice, Microsoft Office 2016, OpenOffice.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Brian Gross
    December 3, 2019 at 9:14 pm

    My Microsoft word and probably office is presently locked. I’m being offered a month free for office 365 and then it will cost about $80-$90 a month. I never paid for the program again since I bought it. How would I transfer my office files into Libreoffice, especially under the circumstances I am in right now.

    Thank you,


  2. zackr
    January 22, 2018 at 3:09 pm

    I still find LibreOffice unappealing because it's not clear how (or if cross-)references work, same for automated table of contents by headings. Also no plugin for Citavi or Zotero from what I looked up

    PS: I believe you did a word for word translation from German "wie fanden...": "How have you found LibreOffice 5.1?" which doesn't make a lot of sense in (the English) context.

  3. JimTheGeek
    November 10, 2017 at 8:20 pm

    I like LO on XP but I keep getting an error that the version of Java on my computer is not supported by LO. Have tried updating Java but apparently the latest versions of Java do not support XP. Are others having this issue?

  4. César
    April 13, 2017 at 6:25 am

    Well one thing i can say is that first time i used libreoffice the tough that occurred to me was "Why the hell didn't i know this before?". Same happened to me first time i used linux for the first time and i haven't touched windows since (unless for test porpoises), been sober for 8 years \o/

    • Gavin Phillips
      April 14, 2017 at 11:49 am

      The latest iteration is pretty good, and actually stands up to Microsoft Office 2016. LO has gone from strength to strength, and has quite rightly earned the right to be considered a direct competitor.

      Well done on your (Windows?!) sobriety!

      • César
        April 27, 2017 at 5:29 pm

        YES. Bet on windows sobriety, people have been so "brainwashed" about linux being difficult or unstable that they have to be detoxed

  5. cheese
    August 31, 2016 at 2:32 am

    My toaster is a better word processor than Microsoft Office.

    • Gavin Phillips
      April 14, 2017 at 11:45 am

      I would like to meet your toaster. Delicious, buttery Helvetica.

  6. Tony
    June 8, 2016 at 9:56 am

    FreeOffice 2016 is light-weight, feature-packed, and offers the best compatibility with (even password-protected) Microsoft Office formats ( I find it much better than LibreOffice.

  7. Anonymous
    April 13, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    I was happy to found this article which dates March 2016 because I was curios what people say about LO. I have on my laptop LO 5.1 latest (as today) and I beleive for most of the functionalities, it fullfill them.

    I want to stop a bit to Impress. Even thought LO Impress does offer custom animation, some of the don't work. Maybe it's a bug of this version.. I don't know.. I don't want to use a software which offers something and it's not working. Expect such things because it's free... no, I can't accept that. I can accept missing functionalities, but not non-functionalities.

    IMO, LO is a good alternative (opensorce+free). I would like to consider (propietary+free/paid) - such as WPS Kingsoft Office (Writer Presentation Shpreadsheet = WPS). Windows/Linux - you get better compatibility with MSO, but no ODF support. Free adnroid too :)

  8. Anonymous
    March 3, 2016 at 3:11 am

    If you try to use the latest MS Office versions to read legacy documents created by earlier versions of MS Office, chances of success are 50/50. Libre Office has no problems reading documents created by MS Office versions back to Office 97. I would say that alone makes it better than MSO 2016.

    • Rann Xeroxx
      March 5, 2016 at 2:17 am

      I support thousand of users with various versions of MS Office and backward compatibility has never been much of a problem. Opening newer formatted files using an older version can be an issue.

      • -rob-
        July 12, 2017 at 10:31 pm

        `that might be true for ms-word, but is surely not true for powerpoint. I had myself that presenting in a newer version made both background and text black. Since that day I always use ODF format to save, and I have always LibreOffice with me on an USB stick.

    • Gavin Phillips
      March 8, 2016 at 1:08 pm

      I'm with Rann on this one. Coming forwards has never been an issue for me, going back can sometimes be. Not that I'm discounting your experience, I just haven't personally experienced any issues.

  9. Kevin
    March 3, 2016 at 12:55 am

    For my personal PCs, I only use LO. Have been for years. I use Writer and Calc, weekly, and find them both extremely competent.

    • Gavin Phillips
      March 8, 2016 at 6:58 pm

      Are you bound to MS in your workplace then? How do you find moving files between the two, if you have to?

      • Kevin
        March 8, 2016 at 9:48 pm

        Yes, only MS at the day job. I've only once had to use LO to open a Word doc, and its been a few years ago. I recall that I only had to tweak the font-choice in LO after opening it, and maybe adjust a little formatting, but no real issues. I've never had to go from LO to MS.

        • -rob-
          July 12, 2017 at 10:35 pm

          I installed LibeOffice on my work PC since the ribbon showd up. I started to get the 'old' menu, but decided to go for LO in my workplace also. This regardless that ms-office was installed already.

  10. Ben Stegner
    March 2, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    We get MS Office included with our computers at college, so I haven't had a need for LibreOffice over the last few years. But I've been following it and once it's time to replace my school PC, I'm definitely going to go with LibreOffice. I'm excited to see that they're continually adding features!

    • Gavin Phillips
      March 2, 2016 at 9:31 pm

      Aye, it is a good alternative. I think people also get waylaid with "features" too. I tried explaining to my Dad why he didn't need O2016 Pro - but there was no convincing him. The sheer idea that there might be something missing from the package was causing him strife, but he only uses 5% of the entire package. He wouldn't even give LO a look!

    • Rann Xeroxx
      March 5, 2016 at 2:20 am

      If I was not an office worker and a heavy user of MS Office, I would not even bother with LO, I would just use google docs or something light like that. Frankly all of these office suites are mostly overkill for not business/education like usage.

      • Gavin Phillips
        March 19, 2016 at 2:35 pm

        I switch between all three across desktop, laptop, and phone. Sometimes one is just more convenient than the other.

  11. Doug
    March 2, 2016 at 3:07 pm

    As a casual user LO is great for most all of my purposes. However, I do agree that there has been "Feature Creep". Way too many features only confuse the casual user. Also, it means you have to dig deeper into the menues to find the one feature you want. I would prefer to see difering levels of features for 2 or maybe 3 levels of users. Having the ability to add or remove features from the active level would be handy. Kind of like how I organize my wood shop. Common tools easily accessable but limited in number. Less utilized tools stored deeper in the background. As a casual user I probably actively use no more than 2 dozen of the available tools. By "Casual User" I mean I access LO Calc maybe a dozen times a week. I have no reason to utilize MO again. I understand the urge to over do the features. LO just needs to determine what their "Optimum User" really requires in a spreadsheet.

    • Anonymous
      March 8, 2016 at 1:19 pm

      " I do agree that there has been “Feature Creep”. "
      LO is in a lose-lose situation. If they resist Feature Creep, then the pundits, bloggers and reviewers kill it for not keeping up with MS Office. If they add feature, people complain about Feature Creep.

      • Gavin Phillips
        March 8, 2016 at 6:54 pm

        Indeed, but surely they can manage their implementation of features in a more resourceful manner than Microsoft have at times. I think many users would be happy if LO could introduce key MS features while keeping the more obscure ones at bay. If those more obscure features are required by a small number of users, LO could perhaps explore an addon system.

        • Anonymous
          March 8, 2016 at 8:58 pm

          Define "obscure." :-)
          To those using those features, they are not obscure. I would wager that at least 75% of all Office suite users consider features other than the most basic ones as "obscure."

          AFAIK, LO has resisted the MS Ribbon feature.

          Feature Creep has been inherent to ALL software since the first program was written sometime in the past millennium. Actually it may go back to the Jacquard Loom and Charles Babbage's Difference Engine.

          "LO could perhaps explore an addon system."
          Add-ons, being external programs, may slow LO down.

        • Gavin Phillips
          March 19, 2016 at 2:39 pm

          That's what I mean. Surely there is a vast majority of people using an extremely large and feature-full Office suite to write and print their shopping list once a week. And yeah, I guess you're right about the add-ons. But if it was something a user switching from MS to LO really needed, but wasn't really imperative to the vast majority of shopping list writers, maybe they'd (the switcher) take a slight or potential performance hit for customizable functionality?

  12. Bben
    March 2, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    I prefer LO over MS. And use it on my Windows and Linux computers. HOWEVER, there is not yet an Android version for my tablet computer. And there is a free version of each of the MS office apps for Android. As all I use is a Word possessor and occasionally a very simple spreadsheet MS is overkill. I keep my documents on DropBox and need to be able to work with them from all 3 platforms. Nothing I work with is huge so they load fast enough from DropBox for what I do. I save everything in MS .doc and .xls format because that is what other people expect when you send a document and they have problems dealing with anything else.

    • GZ
      February 4, 2017 at 4:00 pm

      If you are sending documents to others, would PDF format work rather than MS format? Otherwise if collaboration is needed then G Suite?

  13. Paul Joseph
    March 2, 2016 at 4:08 am

    10000's of features ÷ Zero cost = ? Value

    • Paul Joseph
      March 2, 2016 at 4:13 am

      10000’s of features ÷ Zero cost = INFINITE Value

      • Gavin Phillips
        March 8, 2016 at 6:55 pm

        To infinity - and beyond!

        I'll get my coat.

  14. woodrackets
    March 2, 2016 at 12:41 am

    Buggy anomalies; cannot cleanly translate docs with tables & picts into MS Word; Hide White Space is greyed out, it's unusable.

    • Yousuf Philips
      March 2, 2016 at 6:11 pm

      Can you be more specific about the buggy anomalies. got any examples of files that didnt translate well to MS Word? what format did you save the file in? Hide White Space is only greyed out only in Web Layout view, where it is not applicable.

    • Anonymous
      March 8, 2016 at 1:16 pm

      "cannot cleanly translate docs with tables & picts into MS Word
      Looks like a problem is with MS Word, not LO Writer.

    • Gavin Phillips
      March 8, 2016 at 6:57 pm

      If the issue is going into Word, the problem could lie at the Microsoft door. What file format were you using?

  15. Anonymous
    March 2, 2016 at 12:24 am

    Sounds a bad case of feature creep to me. Microsoft already did the research, and they found that most features are ignored by users, who stick to most of the basic functionality of word processors and spreadsheets. That is why they developed the Ribbon UI, to bring forward the most used features while keeping the advanced stuff in the menu.

    I have learned to appreciate simple apps. Abiword and Gnumeric would serve people well, as long as they don't have many legacy doc and xls files. For myself, I use Softmaker Office. It has a paid and free version, and has better MSOffice file support and filters. Plus it is smaller, making it easier and snappier to use.

  16. Anonymous
    March 1, 2016 at 5:46 pm

    I would seriously consider switching from MS to LO if they had an equivalent of OneNote with the ability to smoothly import from OneNote. Unfortunately, I can't see that coming soon, and having moved from Evernote to 1N within the last 12 months I am now firmly rooted in 1N.

  17. Joseph Ashe
    March 1, 2016 at 5:17 pm

    i still wish they would come up with an offering worthy of VISIO. The "Drawing Module" simply doesn't cut it when it comes to creating business diagrams and the like.

  18. Anonymous
    March 1, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    I like free software -- but couldn't care less whether it's open source or not. I also never use the database component (i.e. Access equivalent). If you feel the same, then I highly, highly recommend WPS (aka Kingsoft) office suite. It's a lot lighter/smaller, a lot faster and a lot more faithful to MS Office. And yet, it gives users the choice of Office 2003 / Libreoffice style toolbars -- or MS 2007 style ribbons.

    Sure, Libreoffice comes with more components, but it's a slow, rumbling behemoth.

    • Gavin Phillips
      March 1, 2016 at 5:19 pm

      Do you think, perhaps, growing in size much like Office has done with every iteration?

      • Anonymous
        March 1, 2016 at 5:38 pm

        Perhaps -- but even older LO versions (I started using LO with versiion 3) was slow and lumbering -- slower and more lumbering than even MS Office itself! I liked LO for its price and versatility -- but never viewed it as an elegant piece of software.

        • Gavin Phillips
          March 2, 2016 at 9:25 pm

          Indeed. I think "price" is key here. For those without MS Office, LO offers a pretty damn good piece of software even if it can be a bit cumbersome.

        • Anonymous
          April 28, 2016 at 7:00 pm

          @Read and Share:
          "but never viewed it as an elegant piece of software."
          As a co-worker programmer used to say "Elegance is for tailors". :-)

    • Yousuf Philips
      March 2, 2016 at 6:30 pm

      The startup time and speed in libreoffice have heavily improved since 5.0 was released. give it a try.