LibreOffice, a viable open-source and free Microsoft Office alternative?

LibreOffice full suite logo

LibreOffice, a powerful and open-source office suite with apps such as Writer and Calc to rival Microsofts Word and Excel offerings, traces its roots back to the early 1980s when the concept of free and open-source software was gaining momentum. The story of LibreOffice begins with a project called StarOffice, developed by German company StarDivision. StarOffice was initially a proprietary office suite, and its development started in the mid-1980s.

In 1999, Sun Microsystems acquired StarDivision and subsequently released StarOffice as open-source under the name OpenOffice.org. This move was a significant step in promoting the principles of open-source software and fostering community collaboration.

The OpenOffice.org project gained traction over the years, with a global community contributing to its development. However, concerns arose about the project’s governance and Sun Microsystems’ commitment to community-driven development.

In 2010, due to uncertainties around the future of OpenOffice.org, a group of leading developers and community members formed The Document Foundation (TDF). Their goal was to create an independent and community-driven fork of OpenOffice.org. This fork was named LibreOffice, symbolizing the project’s commitment to freedom and openness.

LibreOffice quickly gained popularity, attracting a vibrant community of developers, contributors, and users. The Document Foundation focused on fostering collaboration and innovation, leading to regular updates and improvements to the suite’s features, compatibility, and performance.

LibreOffice has since become one of the most widely used office suites globally, offering a comprehensive set of applications for word processing (Writer), spreadsheets (Calc), presentations (Impress), drawings (Draw), formula editor (Math) and database (Base). Its success can be attributed to the principles of open-source development, collaboration, and the commitment to providing a free and accessible alternative to proprietary office suites.

LibreOffice is compatible with various versions of Microsoft Windows, including Windows 11, Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, and older versions. LibreOffice also runs on macOS, and popular Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, Fedora, Debian, and others. BSD has its own version of LibreOffice available for FreeBSD, NetBSD and OpenBSD. Android and iOS have limited support with a document viewer that has experimental editing functionality.

Today, LibreOffice continues to thrive as a flagship open-source office suite, embodying the ideals of free software and serving as a testament to the power of community-driven development.

LibreOffice is compatible with a wide range of document formats such as Microsoft® Word (.doc, .docx), Excel (.xls, .xlsx), PowerPoint (.ppt, .pptx) and Publisher. But LibreOffice goes much further with its native support for a modern and open standard, the Open Document Format (ODF).

A summary of the major modules making up the LibreOffice suite is outlined below.

LibreOffice Writer

Writer is a powerful word processing module that allows users to create, edit, and format documents. It supports a wide range of document formats and features tools for text formatting, styles, templates, and collaborative editing. Documents can be opened and saved in a variety of formats including Microsoft Word.

LibreOffice Calc is a versatile and open-source spreadsheet application for creating and managing dynamic spreadsheets with advanced data analysis tools.

LibreOffice Calc

Calc is a spreadsheet module designed for creating and managing spreadsheets and is able to open most Microsoft Excel documents as well as saving in the same format. It provides powerful data analysis tools, supports complex formulas, and features a variety of chart types. Calc is suitable for tasks ranging from simple budgeting to advanced financial modeling. Calc supports a large subset of the Microsoft VBA functionality as well as other languages like Python, JavaScript, and BeanShell.

LibreOffice Impress is a feature-rich and open-source presentation application for creating engaging slideshows with a range of design and multimedia tools.

LibreOffice Impress

Impress is a presentation module for creating dynamic and visually appealing slideshows similar in functionality to Microsofts PowerPoint offering and allows for sharing documents in PowerPoint format. It offers tools for slide design, animations, and multimedia integration. Impress supports a range of presentation formats and is suitable for creating professional presentations.

LibreOffice Draw is a versatile and open-source graphic design application, offering tools for creating diagrams, illustrations, and flowcharts.

LibreOffice Draw

Draw is a versatile drawing and diagramming module. It allows users to create illustrations, diagrams, flowcharts, and simple graphics. Draw supports layers, shape manipulation, and offers a set of tools for creative design and technical drawing. Microsoft have a product with similar functionality which is called Visio.

LibreOffice Math is an open-source application designed for creating and editing mathematical equations and formulas with a user-friendly graphical interface.

LibreOffice Math

Math is a specialized module for creating and editing mathematical equations and formulas. It features a graphical user interface for entering mathematical expressions, making it a valuable tool for academics, scientists, and anyone working with mathematical notations.

LibreOffice Base is an open-source database management application, providing tools for designing, creating, and managing databases for various purposes.

LibreOffice Base

Base is a database management module that provides tools for creating and managing databases. Users can design forms, build queries, and create reports for effective data management. Base supports a variety of database formats including MySQL, MS Access and PostgreSQL and is suitable for both personal and business use. Base is probably one of the closest products in functionality to Microsoft Access.

These modules collectively form the LibreOffice suite, offering a comprehensive set of applications for various office-related tasks. LibreOffice’s commitment to open-source principles and cross-platform compatibility makes it a popular choice for users seeking free and powerful office productivity software and it’s definitely a workable alternative.

Right now, LibreOffice does not have an email client and there are no plans to develop one, as there are excellent free and open source software email clients already available such as Thunderbird and Claws Mail.

To download LibreOffice go to the LibreOffice website downloads page which can be found at the following link: Official LibreOffice Download Page

8 thoughts on “LibreOffice, a viable open-source and free Microsoft Office alternative?

  1. As a long time LibreOffice user on various Windows and Linux platforms I would like to see LibreOffice ported to native Chromebook OS. Although Google docs is robust in its own right, I’m much more comfortable with LibreOffice. Actually LibreOffice is easier to use than Google Docs IMO.

    1. Agreed Mike. We find LibreOffice easier to install, maintain and use offline in the rare event these days that there is no wifi or cell signal.

    1. Thanks June, we love it too. It’s great alternative to MS which we find much simpler to deploy and maintain but it still retains pretty much all the features of it’s peers.

  2. I, too, have been using Libre Office for many years primarily for word processing. I plan to replace my Windows 10 PC with a Chromebook in 2025, and hope to be able to continue with Libre Office

    1. Donna, keep your existing computer and switch it to some flavor of Linux. I use Kubuntu but also have years of experience with Linux Mint. Their Cinnamon desktop is really nice. Both distros offer LibreOffice pre installed.

      1. Exactly. I took will be ( hopefully ) converting my Windows computers to Linux when Windows 10 reaches end of life in late 2025. I’ve been using Tuxedo OS which is very similar to Kububtu and also has KDEvPlasma desktop and Libre Office pre installed. My only issue is going to be backups as my current Backblaze unlimited backup service is only for Windows. I’ll probably keep a low end Windows PC with my big storage drive running as a file server and just run local backups each night from the Linux daily drivers. Time will tell

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