LibreOffice vs OpenOffice

A Comparison of Two Similar Free Office Suites

Picture of the LibreOffice and OpenOffice logos

In a battle between OpenOffice versus LibreOffice, which office software suite would win? They're both 100% free and are great alternatives to MS Office, but which one will bring home the productivity title for you or your organization?

Unfortunately, deciding on which to download can be complicated since they don't look very different from the start. On top of that, even their more detailed distinctions are subtle.

Really, the suite you choose will depend on personal preference, however there are a few defining features that each are better known for, which might help push you over the fence in one direction.

Available Programs

Both OpenOffice and LibreOffice have several components that allow them to be called "suites." Each program serves a separate purpose as part of the whole.

These suites have six programs, identically named and with similar functions: Writer (word processor), Calc (spreadsheets), Impress (presentations), Draw (diagrams and illustrations), Base (databases), and Math (math equations and formulas).

LibreOffice and OpenOffice can be installed on Linux, Windows, and macOS operating systems, and both supports a wide range of languages. With OpenOffice, you can install the full suite in your desired language or get the suite first and then install a language pack. LibreOffice has a huge set of language-specific installs, too, but you have to get LibreOffice in that language from the start; you can't install a language pack later.

Both are also entirely portable, meaning that you can install the portable LibreOffice on a flash drive, for example, or a single folder on your computer and then transport it anywhere you want while keeping all the same settings. OpenOffice portable works the same way.

One difference between these two office suites when it comes to program availability is that with OpenOffice, you can, if you want, install only Writer, or only Calc instead of the whole suite.

However, when installing LibreOffice, your only option is to install everything even if you don't plan to use every program.

If you have limited hard drive space, you might avoid LibreOffice since the whole suite will take up more space than just one or two OpenOffice programs. Then again, both suites can be installed on portable devices, so if you have an external hard drive or other USB drive, that's another option.

Supported Formats

A big motivator to choose OpenOffice over LibreOffice, or vice versa, is to pick the program that can open the files you use often. That is, which files can each program in the suite open and—as equally important in some situations—to which formats can documents be saved? This is an important question to ask if you're dealing with files that were created in, or will be opened with, other programs like Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.

For example, if you want to be able to open DOCX files from MS Word in one of these programs, you should know beforehand both whether or not the program can open the file as well as if it can save the file back to that same format or if you have to choose a different one.

OpenOffice Formats

OpenOffice can open all of the file types below.

That means if you have any file that ends with one of these file extensions, you can open it with an OpenOffice program.

123, 602, BMP, CGM, CSV, DBF, DIF, DOC, DOCM, DOCX, DOT, DOTM, DOTX, DXF, EMF, EPS, GIF, HTM, HTML, HWP, JPG, JTD, JTT, MET, MML, ODB, ODF, ODG, ODM, ODP, ODS, ODT, OTG, OTH, OTP, OTS, OTT, PBM, PCD, PCT, PCX, PDB, PDF, PGM, PLT, PNG, POT, POTM, POTX, PPM, PPS, PPT, PPTM, PPTX, PSD, PSW, PXL, RAS, RTF, SDA, SDC, SDD, SDP, SDW, SGF, SGL, SGV, SLK, SMF, STD, STI, STW, SVM, SXD, SXG, SXI, SXM, SXW, TGA, TIF, TXT, UOF, UOP, UOS, UOT, VOR, WB2, WK1, WKS, WMF, WPD, WPS, XBM, XLS, XLSB, XLSM, XLSX, XLT, XLTM, XLTX, XLW, XML, XPM

One major exception that matters when choosing between LibreOffice and OpenOffice are the formats that files can be saved to; the files that these programs can create. For example, OpenOffice Writer, while able to open DOCX files just fine, cannot save back to that same format. Since it doesn't support making DOCX files, you have to save the newest MS Word format to something else like DOC, ODT, or RTF.

OpenOffice Calc has the same limitation when it comes to XLSX files; it can open them but cannot save back to that same format. The same is true for Impress and PPTX files, and Base and ACCDB files.

LibreOffice Formats

Following are all the file formats that LibreOffice programs can open but not be saved back to that format. In other words, just like with OpenOffice, these files can be loaded into a LibreOffice program but when it's time to save the file, you have to pick a different format that's supported as a "save as" format.

123, 602, ABW, BMP, CFR, CGM, CMX, CWK, DOCM, DOTM, DOTX, DUMMY, DXF, EMF, EPS, FB2, GIF, HQX, HWP, JPEG, JPG, KEY, LRF, LWP, MCW, MET, MW, MWD, NX^D, ODM, OTH, PBM, PCD, PCT, PCX, PDB, PDF, PGM, PICT, POTX, PPM, PPTM, PSD, PUB, RAS, SGF, SGV, SVM, SYLK, TGA, UOF, VDX, VSD, VSDM, VSDX, WB2, WK1, WKS, WMF, WN, WPD, WPG, WPS, XLC, XLK, XLM, XLSB, XLSM, XLTM, XLTX, XLW, ZABW, ZIP

On the flip side, this is a list of all the file formats LibreOffice supports for both opening and saving, meaning that you can not only open and edit the file, but also save back to that same format.

CSV, DBF, DIF, DOC, DOCX, DOT, FODS, FODT, HTML, ODG, ODP, ODS, ODT, OTP, OTS, OTT, POT, POTM, PPSX, PPT, PPTX, RTF, SLK, STC, STW, SXC, SXI, SXW, TXT, UOP, UOS, XLS, XLSX, XLT, XML

As you can tell from that list of file extensions, LibreOffice fully supports Microsoft's newest file formats used for Excel, Word, and PowerPoint. If you're looking for a great Microsoft Office alternative that will let you create MS Office formats as well as edit them, your only option here is to go with LibreOffice.

Mobile Apps

If mobile access is important to you, consider which suite supports smartphones and tablets. While the features of OpenOffice and LibreOffice are only fully realized through the desktop software, there are mobile apps from both developers that can extend the functionality of the desktop program or offer a similar service for mobile devices.

The only option for using OpenOffice on a mobile device is with the AndrOpen Office app for Androids. The app is completely free, and with it you get access to Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, and Math. You can see which file formats are supported and what you can do with it, if you follow that download link.

Two free LibreOffice apps are available but they have two totally different uses. LibreOffice Viewer is an Android app that can open and edit common file formats like DOCX, XLSX, PPTS, and more. It uses the same software engine as the desktop version of the program and utilizes a Firefox-based interface to open documents for reading.

Another free LibreOffice app is called Impress Remote, for both iOS and Android.

It lets you control Impress presentations from your phone so that you can walk around the room while presenting.