LibreOffice Review

Will this free Microsoft Office alternative meet your needs?

LibreOffice is a free Microsoft Office alternative, complete with spreadsheet program, database tool, presentation maker, and word processor. With support for the major file types used by corresponding MS Office programs Excel, Access, PowerPoint, and Word, this free office suite should fulfill the needs of most users.

LibreOffice has specific system requirements for Windows, Mac, Linux, and other operating systems. Familiarize yourself with the hardware and software prerequisites before installation.

Screenshot of a LibreOffice Writer document
LibreOffice Writer.
What We Like
  • Works with most desktop operating systems.

  • Automatic spell-check in all parts of the suite.

  • Opens most of the same files types as Microsoft's apps.

  • A portable version is available.

  • Supports templates and extensions to add more features.

What We Don't Like
  • ACCDB and MDB files can't be used.

  • Can't save to PowerPoint/Excel/Word macro-enabled files.

  • Unable to save files as MS Office templates.

  • Must install the whole suite at once (can't install just Writer, etc.).

LibreOffice Programs

LibreOffice includes the following applications in its suite: Base (Access), Calc (Excel), Impress (PowerPoint), and Writer (Word). It also installs graphics and diagram tool Draw and formula editor Math.

Following are some features you get with these programs:

  • Open files from your computer or an online resource, like over FTP or SSH or through your Google Drive or OneDrive account.
  • Walk through a simple wizard when building letters, faxes, and agendas.
  • A built-in document converter makes it easy to save legacy formats to a newer format.
  • Customize the way the programs are viewed, like which toolbars are visible at any given time.
  • Go into full-screen mode to maximize your working space.
  • An extensive auto-correct tool lets you set up which words should be replaced with other words. It includes exceptions and lots of options to customize.
  • It's easy to quickly enable or disable automatic spell check.
  • The built-in thesaurus works for lots of languages.
  • Install extensions to expand the program's features.

LibreOffice File Formats

LibreOffice fully supports some file types (they can be opened and saved back to the same format), but others are only supported when opening the file or is an option just when you save.

These are the file types you can open with one of the LibreOffice applications:

123, CSV, DIF, DOC, DOCM, DOCX, DOT, DOTM, DOTX, DPS, DPT, ET, ETT, FODP, FODS, FODT, HTM, HTML, HWP, LWP, MML, ODB, ODF, ODG, ODM, ODP, ODS, ODT, OTG, OTH, OTP, OTS, OTT, POT, POTM, POTX, PPS, PPSX, PPT, PPTX, PUB, RTF, STC, STD, STI, STW, SVG, SVGZ, SXC, SXD, SXG, SXM, SXW, TXT, VDX, VSD, VSDM, VSDX, WB2, WK1, WKS, WPD, WPS, WPT, XHTML, XLC, XLK, XLM, XLS, XLSB, XLSX, XLT, XLTM, XLTX, XLW, XML

Here's every file type that's supported when saving to a new file:

CSV, DBF, DIF, DOC, DOCM, DOCX, DOT, DOTX, EPUB, FODP, FODS, FODT, HTML, ODB, ODG, ODP, ODS, ODT, OTP, OTS, OTT, PDF, POT, POTX, PPS, PPSX, PPT, PPTM, PPTX, RTF, SLK, TXT, UOP, UOS, UOT, XHTML, XLS, XLSM, XLSX, XLT, XLTX, XML, and various image file formats

Note that popular formats found in Microsoft Office programs, such as DOCX, XLSX, and PPTX, are fully supported in LibreOffice.

LibreOffice vs. Microsoft Office

Both office suites offer a sound spreadsheet, word processor, database, and presentation program, but each has some unique features.

LibreOffice can edit math functions and equations such as fractions and exponents. It also includes software for building photo albums, flowcharts, and other graphical documents. Microsoft Office boasts an email client, communications platform, and note-taking software.

Both Microsoft Office and LibreOffice offer solid office applications and work with some of the same file formats, but they are very different products. Take a look at the individual features of each suite before deciding what's right for your needs.

More Pluses

LibreOffice has a program launcher that opens at startup so users can easily select an application to open. This screen also has a list of recently saved files; open any of the supported file formats without having to first open a specific office product, which is a nice timesaver.

The portable version of LibreOffice is handy for working while on the go. It's uncommon to find such a large program available in portable form, so this is a nice perk. The extracted files require around 300 MB of space.

The Bottom Line

LibreOffice offers an impressive array of office products at absolutely no cost. Each portion of this suite is responsive and easy to use. Explore the features LibreOffice offers and give it a try if it's right for your needs.

FAQ
  • Is LibreOffice just as good as Microsoft Office?

    No. Microsoft Office offers richer features, so files created in MS Office may look different when opened in LibreOffice. That said, LibreOffice can open more file formats, making it more compatible with other productivity software.

  • Is LibreOffice safe?

    Yes. As long as you download LibreOffice from the official website, you can rest assured that the software is safe to use.

  • How do I update LibreOffice?

    To update LibreOffice, go to Tools > Options > Online Update. Under Check for updates automatically, choose how often the program checks for updates, or select Check Now.

  • How do I save LibreOffice files in the Microsoft Office format?

    To save LibreOffice files in the MS Office format, select the Setting gear > Options > Load/Save > General. From here, you can choose the preferred format for text documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. After making your changes, select Apply and OK.

  • What are some other MS Office alternatives?

    Other free alternatives to Microsoft Office include OpenOffice, WPS Office, Zoho Docs, and Google Drive.

  • Which is better, LibreOffice or OpenOffice?

    It's a matter of personal preference. LibreOffice and OpenOffice are very similar. Since they are both free, you might as well try both to see which one you like best.

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