LibreOffice is THE Office Suite for almost everybody unless you require Excel macros or pivots
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February 06, 2018

LibreOffice is THE Office Suite for almost everybody unless you require Excel macros or pivots

Score 8 out of 10
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Verified User
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Overall Satisfaction with LibreOffice

It is being used by whole organization and it is still being used as the main office suite. Recently we purchased Office 365 and are gradually moving to MS Office being part of the O365 subscription. But anyway in the last 4 years the whole organization was using almost exclusively the LibreOffice suite, most of the company's documents are saved in OpenDocument format (.ods, .odt etc.) and these files tend be difficult to be converted to MS Office formats. LibreOffice is being used as a text editor (Writer) and table processor (Calc) mostly, with only exceptional use of Impress for presentations and Base for connecting to a MySQL database and doing some edits there via forms.
  • Writer is very good at defining styles for paragraphs, characters, tables, pages etc., and this concept is more clear than in MS Office. Writing a document with well-defined styles makes it easier for future changes.
  • Good typographical features of Writer when using supported OpenType fonts such as kerning and ligatures make it easier to produce almost-DTP-quality documents. Embedded PDF export with a lot of features complements this really well.
  • Both Writer and Calc support doing elegant operations using regular expressions for example for a sophisticated find and replace, or in Calc in formulas.
  • The Office suite is perfectly cross-platform and has binaries available for all three major desktop operating systems: Windows, Mac OS X and GNU/Linux. Native support for Linux allows working in a mixed environment with zero compatibility issues. Lack of support of MS Office on Linux makes it complicated to collaborate between Win/Mac users and Linux users if one party repeatedly saves and opens the document in MS Office and the second one in LibreOffice, creating compatibility issues all the time.
  • Calc lacks Macro recording feature, or has it in an unusable state, compared to a very useful Macro recorder in MS Excel.
  • Incompatibility and a more difficult syntax of Basic especially useful in Calc. Writing the same macro in Excel is much easier than in Calc and converting macros from Excel to Calc or vise versa is complicated if not impossible. Most tutorials on how to achieve various tasks are written for Excel only and cannot be reused for Calc.
  • Calc should add the feature of dynamic previews of Pivot tables, instead of the need to generate one, delete it and try another time if the settings were not perfect. Excel shows the example how this could be done. More users can start using Pivot tables if the barrier to understand the concept is lowered.
  • There should be much more visually reasonable formatting templates for Calc tables. The current list is absolutely impractical and visually very suboptimal. Several colours, odd/even stripes should be added, as Google Sheets or MS Excel has.
  • During the development of a very small company of 4 employees 5 years ago until last year when it had over 20 employees using Libreoffice instead of a commercial office suite. That saved perhaps a few thousand EUR on license fees, without any significant disadvantages so far with some exceptions. (A rew licenses of MS Office and standalone MS Excel were used by a few people in parallel but most documents were created in LibreOffice anyway.)
  • The desire of the management to switch to MS Office only (due to the desire to use collaborative editing feature of Office365, SharePoint and OneDrive) recently generates an issue with what to do with the hundreds of OpenDocument files in the current document server (.ODT, .ODS). These cannot be seamlessly migrated to MS Office and thus all employees now need to have both MS Office and LibreOffice installed, and be aware of NOT editing an older .ODS/.ODT documents in Excel/Word even though these apps seem to open them somehow, as doing so would damage the file and lead to an irreversible loss of some formatting or functionality.
MS Office is a very good office suite but in the early days of the company spending hundreds of EUR on licenses was not the priority and the added value of MS Office at that time could not compensate the costs. Google documents are used in a limited way for a few collaboratively edited documents but the incompatibility of the native Google Docs format with both Libreoffice and MS Office, and the need to use only the limited feature set of web-based office suite makes it impractical for more complicated documents.
Individuals who need to make some nice text documents, easier tables without macros, or presentations, should use LibreOffice instead of buying or subscribing to commercial office suites, because it is mostly a waste of money in such scenarios. Libreoffice can do 90% of tasks perfectly for most home users. Even smaller companies that don't absolutely require the functionalities of Excel (mostly macros, dynamic pivot tables, PowerPivot etc.) could save a lot of money by using Libreoffice.

Power users that know very well recent versions of MS Office and rely on some of its advanced features may, however, find LibreOffice subpar and their productivity may go down when trying to use Libreoffice and re-learn how to achieve the results they already know how to achieve in their former office suite. Then it may not be a good idea to spend this time to re-learn to this new office suite.

Using LibreOffice

25 - All business functions from the regular office workers doing customer support, orders; people in the manufacturing part using it to write and print various documents, to the top management.
2 - A power user who knows how to do various tasks and resolve common issues/errors. Knowledge of just MS Office is not enough because a lot of questions from the users are regarding the different behaviour of Libreoffice and the skill to quickly be able to show how to do achieve the desired functionality is an important thing. This may be things such as how to do some complex formatting, using styles, locking cells in Calc etc.
  • Writing regular documents, letters, memos (Writer)
  • Maintaining table /primitive databases of product photos, barcodes, pricelists etc., using formulas to generate filenames etc. (Calc)
  • Manipulating tables in CSV and dBase format to import/export data from accounting software that accepts only these file formats with an exotic codepage not supported by MS Excel or any other office suite (with the exception of other Libreoffice forks and/or original software based on OpenOffice)
  • Using formulas in Calc to generate unified filenames for all product photos used on the e-shop and offered to resellers
  • Using LibreOffice Base as a front-end to access data in a relational database such as MySQL, replacing some more complex Calc tables by accessing the data via forms and similar UI
We use it consistently and have a lot of documents in the OpenDocument format so it will be necessary to use LibreOffice or a compatible product such as Openoffice in the future to be able to open these files. Because the license fee for Libreoffice is zero it is not very costly to keep using it - the costs are mostly for keeping it installed on the office PCs and regularly updated, and solving employee issues with the user support.

Evaluating LibreOffice and Competitors

  • Price
  • Product Features
  • Prior Experience with the Product
Before adoption of Libreoffice the small company was using some free versions of pre-installed MS Office on the laptops, Google documents but without any conscious system, just using what was available "out of the box". My 10+ year experience with OpenOffice and LibreOffice when I joined the team as the IT specialist was lead me to deploying LibreOffice as a reasonable solution without the need to ask for any extra budget for licenses. I was able to offer the user support for any issues that emerged in the upcoming years so it worked very well for several years this way.
I still believe it was a good decision at that time and I would not change it.

LibreOffice Implementation

Generally easy to perform, issues are how to ensure regular automatic updates on Mac OS X. Fortunatly we have only a few machines with OS X run by management and we can do these updates manually occasionally. Windows updates are quite easy with the support of third party software such as Ninite or Chocolatey, and Linux updates are super-easy thanks to the package manager (apt-get).
Change management was minimal
  • people using MS Office had more issues with getting used to LIbreoffice than beginners or those already accustomed to Openoffice or Libreoffice
  • some people were used to recognize text documents as those having DOC or DOCX extentions and were not confident in seeing ODT for text, ODS for table etc.

LibreOffice Support

As a open source project it has well documented support channels and bugzilla and developers or other users reply to the tickets and are generally helpful.
Knowledgeable team
Problems get solved
Kept well informed
No escalation required
Immediate help available
Support understands my problem
Support cares about my success
Quick Initial Response
No - It was not needed yet, we were able to resolve most issues ourselves or with the support of freely available help or support.
Yes - Some case yes, some cases were not considered as a bug ot were considered as a low priority ones and were postponed to future releases so it took much longer to get improvement in the issue.
Compared to most commercial software from big brands where getting a bugreport resolved in a reasonable time I was succesful with LibreOffice to get my bugreport in bugzilla really resolved in the next release of the software.

Using LibreOffice

Most people can quickly start using Writer or Calc or Impress for basic tasks even if they see Libreoffice for the first time, because the interface is similar to older (97-2003) MS Office or other software. Some features are less intuitive than in recent MS Office and some power users of MS Office need to re-learn some things before being proficient in Libreoffice.
Relatively simple
Easy to use
Well integrated
Quick to learn
Feel confident using
  • defining styles for paragraphs, characters, tables, bullet lists etc. in Writer
  • exporting PDF files from any app with refined settings
  • sharing a document with users running Windows, Mac OS X or Linux, without compatibility issues, because all users can have LibreOffice installed on their OS and don't have to rely on opening the file in another app with some compatibility issues
  • developing macros in Calc
  • using pivot tables in Calc
  • understanding that there is some incompatibility with MS Office and it is better to use native .ODS / .ODT format when exchanging documents with other LibreOffice users, and using .DOCX / .XLSX format only when need to send documents for external users without forcing them installing Libreoffice as well

LibreOffice Reliability

With more users using it in the company there are more cases when a simultaneous editing of the same document is needed and this feature is lacking in Libreoffice even though the files concerned are shared and synced by some solution (we use ownCloud). Google Docs or MS Office365 via Sharepoint/Onedrive offer a better function for this.
Libreoffice is a desktop app not requiring any server part so it is always available when the PC is working normally. Installing it on another machine if one PC fails is very quick and easy. This is a non-issue.
For big/imported tables or text documents with images loaded from the internet it is sometimes getting very slow, RAM and CPU intensive, and sometimes even hangs due to some memory leaks or other bugs. This is a long-term problem and is still not resolved perfectly.

Integrating LibreOffice

There are some options for integration in other software but they did not fit our requirements / use cases yet.
We tried to use plugins for ownCloud to be able to edit Libreoffice documents via the web interface of ownCloud but the functionality offered by this at the time we attempted it was not convincing so we gave up and while we still use ownCloud to share Libreoffice files in the company only one person can edit it simultaneously, and only in the desktop app after the file is synchronized by the desktop sync app of ownCloud.

Regarding Zotero it is working very well to use a citation database and embed citations and bibliography to LibreOffice Writer document.
  • OneDrive/Sharepoint, ability to simultaneously edit a document shared via these Microsoft platforms.
Find already working examples on the internet and ask a professional for help with achieving such task if unsure.

Upgrading LibreOffice

Yes - We use mostly Ninite or Chocolatey for deploying new versions of LibreOffice and other software. Upgrading Libreoffice is usually smooth and without issues, except some not yet fully resolved bug when using the Chocolatey method of auto-update. Manual update was successfull in 100% of cases both on Mac OS X, Windows and Linux.
  • Better MS Office compatibility
  • New features of Calc
  • Fixing bugs present in older releases
  • Even better MS Office compatibility
  • UI improvements for a more intuitive use
  • Improving pivot table functionality in Calc