A worthy GNU alternative to proprietary office software
Javier Schwersensky profile photo
January 14, 2019

A worthy GNU alternative to proprietary office software

Score 9 out of 10
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Overall Satisfaction with LibreOffice

LibreOffice is being used selectively in the organization based on licenses we have for proprietary software (Microsoft Office 365) and some computers which are not part of our secure network, used mostly in presentations.

LibreOffice is a good alternative for us because, as a charity, we like to support community-based projects such as LibreOffice and also because it helps keep our IT licensing costs contained.
  • The text word processing (Writer) has come a long way and, if you are able to install your corporate fonts, there is basically nothing LibreOffice cannot handle. It works very well with document reviews and comments, and it can save in a variety of formats, making it compatible with the likes of Microsoft Word or Google Docs.
  • The spreadsheet software (Calc) can also handle most of the common tasks you may need, link various sheets, and perform some automated functions quite well. It is, I must say, somewhat less complete than the word processing side (Writer).
  • The Draw program allows you to do organizational charts and basic publications very well. It was a deficit in the past, but not anymore.
  • One of the areas which are not yet as good as some proprietary software is charts within the Calc spreadsheet program. The graphs are basic, and manipulation is not as intuitive as it could be.
  • LibreOffice Impress Presentation software does not import PowerPoint successfully, especially when converting fonts you may not have.
  • The Draw and Base programs have fewer features than proprietary competitors. But you are relying on a team of mostly volunteers and it gets the job done if you are not a power user.
  • Being a free GNU-based software, it is ideal for computers used outside the company's network or for users which do not require online collaboration tools.
  • Importing and exporting word processing documents is easy. PDF functionality is adequate and works very well.
  • You will probably need to invest in fonts if, for example, most of your company is using Microsoft Word fonts, which may be proprietary. In our case, we paid for a few key fonts; installation in the system was simple but done through IT, not the user.
  • For complex graphs and presentations, LibreOffice may not be the best alternative.
I think it is fair to say this:
  • If you are looking for a well-rounded, GNU-licensed product that will encompass word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, and database then LibreOffice is probably all you need.
  • For online collaboration, links with cloud storage, and more robust support, Microsoft Office 365 and Google Docs are probably what you or your organization needs.
  • LibreOffice is at its best for regular document creation and spreadsheet management. It is more cumbersome when it comes to fonts but also when it comes to linkages with cloud-based services. It is there, but you need some more computer knowledge to make it work.
  • There are other free alternatives, most notably Apache Open Office, which is also a very good alternative if you do not like LibreOffice.
Having said that, I honestly think off-line computers or laptops used off-site can certainly benefit from having LibreOffice installed.
If you have basic or intermediate use of word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software, LibreOffice is a free alternative to other more expensive programs. The features and documentation are more than adequate and you will be supporting open software, which, depending on your line of work, may also align with corporate and institutional values.

If your organization is more cloud-based or is using online collaboration, then LibreOffice offers fewer features and it is by far a lot less user-friendly than its proprietary competitors such as Office 365 or Google Docs.