LibreOffice (LO) is basically Microsoft Office (MS Office or MSO) for free (£500 cheaper looking at the programs LibreOffice gives) without the controversial ribbon menus. It is pretty much as simple as that. I will explain why.

Feature-wise, they are about the same. This is due to the fact that Microsoft have a few, full-time, skilled, paid developers whereas LibreOffice has unlimited volunteers of all ranges of skill and experience. They just about balance each other out. However, there is a notable difference in LibreOffice Writer (MS Office Word). In Word, the language selection can be rather messy, you only get a few free language packs in your £70 (individual) program and then you have to pay EVEN MORE money to get more packs. In Word, you can select a language, but it doesn’t really tell you whether it is setting that language as default, for the whole of the document, or just your current selection. In Writer, it is very clear. You go to ‘Tools > Language’ and then it very clearly states (as headings for another menu letting you choose your language after the ‘>’s):

For Selection >
For paragraph >
For all text >
Hyphenation…    Control+F7
More Dictionaries Online…

It then gives you a more select menu of languages with a classic ‘More…’ button and a handy ‘Reset to Default Language’ button rather than giving you a massive window of languages straightaway like Word does. And as you can see, in three ‘clicks’, you can get more dictionaries off the Internet (Just to give you an idea, Windows XP was great because you could get to everything in under 4 clicks).

There are more features in Calc and Base that give you a free advantage over Excel and Access. You can try them out for yourself. Just grab the download off the LibreOffice website. Draw is LO’s version of MS Office’s Publisher, without the, in some cases, ‘annoying’ templates (you can get more templates off the website int he same place as the extensions, as usual, they are completely free). And finally, Math is an extra program which helps you write out maths formulas. A sort of ‘program’ like the feature in MS Office that does equations except better.

The extensions in LibreOffice are also very versatile and add many more features. Language Tool adds a ‘blue sqwiggly line’ like MS Office’s ‘green sqwiggly line’. Funnily enough, the most highly rated extension as of 15/12/2012 is one which adds danger signs to clipart! Over 400 of them! There is another extension that adds a ‘copy only visible cells’ button in Calc to compete with the ‘Select Visible Cells’ button in Excel.

Another good thing about LO is that due to its open-source nature, you can’t get dragged into things like ModernUI (Windows 8 or Metro), after all Office 2013 will be ‘Modern-style’ so all those who hate Modern are going to have to stay on old Microsoft stuff or switch to open-source stuff.

There are a couple more features added in the recent version 4 which really deviate it from MSO and OOo ( which it was derived from only recently, OOo is still on version 4.0 (LO One of which is Personas which let you set a picture (or .gif) background for your menus. It uses the Personas that Firefox uses and is fully compatible with them. Another feature is the ability of the slideshows to be controlled from the LibreOffice Remote Android app. This means that you can make a speech with a slideshow that doesn’t necessarily require you to be at the computer.

MS Office has some features on LO, like the ‘Screen Clipping’ feature. But they’ll eventually (probably) be added to LO soon as an extension or a proper feature and LO is still MUCH cheaper than MS Office considering MS Office costs £500+ for the full thing and you have to pay a similar amount for each 3 year update. LO has much more frequent updates as well keeping it very much up-to-speed with MS Office advances.

Usability: 9/10 (LibreOffice could also do with some proper offline documentation. Otherwise, LO is very easy to use. With the addition of the fancy remote controller for the presentation (version 4), usability is even better than before.)

Aesthetics: 10/10 (Thanks to the Personas, this is one of the best looking applications out there. The loading screen is smooth)

Performance: 6/10 (Takes a little while to load. It doesn’t take MUCH longer than Microsoft Office 2013 to load, however version 4 is VERY slow to load on older machines. A performance improvement would be appreciated I think.)

Overall: 8/10 (Does almost the same things as Microsoft Office and then some. Grab it now.)

Written by Adam. Edit this review here (not live):


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