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Libre Office. Not Quite the New Suite On the Block

Whichever way you look at it, Open Office is a success.  It's a highly capable office software suite.  It's got 100 million users around the world.  It's a worthy competitor to Microsoft's cash cow.  And it's available for free.

However, since the hugely commercial Oracle corporation bought Sun (the driving force behind Open Office), a few people have expressed discomfort at the potential conflict of, well, not exactly interest so much as motivation. 

And so, as often happens in the open sorce software world, OpenOffice got forked.  Which is a technical way of saying that a group of developers grabbed themselves a copy of the source code (this is open source software, remember, so that's not exactly difficult) and set about turning it into something slightly new and different.

The end result is a new product called Libre Office.  The first version, somewhat confusingly known as v3.3, is now out of beta.  You can get it from and it's available for Windows, Mac and Linux.  It's around a 215 MB download, though.  If you want, you can even download the source code and create a totally customized version (with installer) for yourself or your company.

What makes this fork of OpenOffice so interesting is that the developers, who go under the name of The Document Foundation, have support and sponsorship from the likes of Google, Red Hat, Novell and Canonical (the people behind Ubuntu Linux).

There's no doubting that Microsoft Office is the best Office product out there.  But it retails for around the same price as an entry-level PC.  If you can't, or won't, spend that sort of money, then an open source product such as this one is a welcome alternative.  And if it keeps Microsoft on its toes, we all benefit in the long run.




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by AJNorth on 7. February 2013 - 17:39  (105179)

LibreOffice 4.0.0 has been released.

Among many other changes, the main installer has been trimmed to 183 MB. An overview of the new version (published before it became final) by may be found at

by AJNorth on 30. May 2012 - 19:51  (94207)

LibreOffice 3.5.4 has been released; the main installer weighs-in at 202 MB, the built-in help file at 7.9 MB -- .

PC World calls it "a recommended upgrade" in their article entitled "LibreOffice Gets a Huge Speed Boost" (2012.05.30) -- .

by streeeeetch (not verified) on 17. February 2011 - 18:15  (66621)

When Libre-Office came out I benchmarked it and posted the results on another site. You might be interested in the results:

"In case anyone's interested I benchmarked start-up times for LO again against OO on the same machine. Version 3.2 and 3.3 made no difference in both suites:

LO cold start ~18s
OO cold start ~9s

LO warm start ~3s (no quick starter available)
OO warm start (quickstarter) <1s
OO warm start (no quickstarter) <2s

Interesting to see that the quickstarter makes little difference in OO, however with it start-up "feels" almost instant. Done on a dual core XP SP3 machine with plenty of memory using the Write module. Both suites had the same version of Java enabled. I couldn't find any obvious settings that made differences. Cold start tests were made once task manager showed that the system idle process held at 95% for 30s+. Multiple warm start tests were made alternating LO and OO with the same result.
Visually comparing OO and LO windows side by side the differences appear very subtle. Also noted that the single cell selection process is still different to the multiple cell selection in Calc. Still the easiest way to select a single cell is click, drag away, drag back then click and drag. Bit laborious, though it's the only gripe I have for home use."

Basically, Open Office is functionally the same but Libre-Office is slower. I'm hoping:
1) They speed LO up.
2) The make it lighter and faster.
3) It gets it's own distinct identity.
4) Perhaps drop the database and include a clever Evernote/ One Note type DB equivalent. Non compatibility with the ubiquitous MS Office in the DB makes it a bit pointless. I doubt home users often need the functionality of an advanced DB and commercially you'd need MS Office compatability. The Calc module probably does the job well enough for home users. The more serious DB guys here don't use MS, just use straight SQL in other packages.
5) Change the name from Libre-Office to something a little more catchy? I doesn't 'have' to have a form of "free" in the name. They could focus on another aspect like (if it was fast "Fast Office" or if they absolutely must have a form of "free", just call the damn thing "Free Office". I know I'm just repeating what's been said on many other sites but the name "Libre Office" is just naff.

My two penneth is I'll stay with MS Office at work and Open Office at home but keep an eye on what happens with LO.

by Drongo on 18. February 2011 - 8:28  (66659)

OpenOffice does not have all the functions of LibreOffice. Example, LibreOffice can save documents in MS Office 2007 formats (OO cannot) and has better Macro support in Excel spreadsheets.

by Drongo on 18. March 2011 - 11:01  (68141)

I tried it for a while. Unfortunately I receive a lot of MS Office 2007 documents and thus far, the MS Office 2007 file format compatibility isn't very reliable.

Docx files can generally be saved without a problem as long as they were originally saved in MS Office.

Xlsx files (Excel 2007 spreadsheets) seem to break if saved in LibreOffice.

by kelltic (not verified) on 12. February 2011 - 15:15  (66261)

I checked out the website and think it looks promising. Promising enough to download. No RIBBON!!!

I've tried OO - more than once - and always uninstalled it. Big, bulky, and too much like MS Office. About MS Office, I have this to say: Excel, very nice but replaceable with similar applications that can do everything I would ever need it to do. Word, ugghhhh! I hate, loathe and despise it. Power Point, I have no use for it. Access, Love it, always have, always will. But occasionally I could use something a little lighter.

by Drengin (not verified) on 12. February 2011 - 14:36  (66254)

I have tried Libre Office but removed it from my system and went back to Open Office as i found the program to lag horrendously on mouseover actions on the menus. None of the same problems with O.O.
For the time being i will not be moving back to it again.

by AntDude (not verified) on 12. February 2011 - 1:42  (66219)

Which one is better for compatibility with Excel, Word, and PowerPoint files?

by David Roper (not verified) on 10. February 2011 - 16:17  (66137)

Does it have the equivalent of MS Outlook for names and email addresses and phone numbers?

by DesElms on 10. February 2011 - 15:12  (66132)

I could not more agree with you, Richard, on the value of Open Office...

...and I, too, am impressed with Libre Office. Either of them are worthy competitors to Microsoft Office; and, of course, as you acknowledge, there are things which Microsoft Office does far better than either of those open source products. But the vast majority of computer users never need the kinds of advanced things which Microsoft Office does better than any of its competitors. For the bulk of what anyone needs an office productivity package to do, either Open Office or Libre Office is more than adequate...

...and you can't beat the price, eh?

But what I'm NOT impressed by is the part of the whole open source world which makes it so easy for the whole forking thing to happen. The folks who moved over to the Libre Office project were key players in the Open Office project; and so the latter has suffered a real and palpable loss.

Of course, Open Office's loss is Libre Office's gain...

...but at what cost to the users of Open Office...

...more specifically, the IT managers/directors who risked a lot to convince their CIOs to break free of the absolutely safe option of sticking with Microsoft Office as the company's productivity platform to take a chance on Open Office; and the CIOs who risked a lot to sign-off on it...

...who must now worry that the Open Office project will fall into decline as the Libre Office project strengthens...

...and who must then explain to their employers why another change if and when they move over to Libre Office...

...and who must endure it again the NEXT time there's a silly disagreement and egos pick-up their ball and go home and there's yet another fork.

The childishness and inability to see big pictures is open source's Achilles heel. I love open source... don't get me wrong. And I love Open Office, and I'm sure impressed by Libre Office...

...but c'mon! The IT manager/director who doesn't want to have to worry about the politics is going to take the safe road of just sticking with Microsoft Office...

...which is a pity on one hand, but completelly understandable on the other.

Open source. Oy.

Gregg L. DesElms
Napa, California USA

by robert.schifreen on 10. February 2011 - 15:41  (66133)

Oy indeed. As someone who spent a lot of time persuading a client to go down the Mambo route, only to be left behind as everyone else went Joomla, I know precisely what you're talking about. I guess it's the price we'll have to pay, unless someone comes up with a new open source licence that specifically forbids forking.

by DesElms on 13. February 2011 - 3:13  (66307)

Ugh. The Mambo-to-Joomla fork! What egg THAT left on many of our faces. Many, oh, man, do I know what you're talking about.

But wait... it gets weirder: I don't know if you paid much attention to it, but those guys who forked-off and created MiaCMS (miacms dot org) were actually pretty bright, and did a really fine job of it. I mean REALLY fine!

I was following it pretty closely, and was so hopeful...

...and then before it could really and truly get off the ground, poof!, it was gone...

...forked (yet again... er, at least, in a way) over to Aliro (aliro dot com) where it seems not a darned thing has happened since 2009.

Whew! So glad I hadn't started talking-up MiaCMS by the time THAT happend!

Open source is a moving target. It's the paradigm that at least old timers like (I'm guessing you'd agree) "us" just love to hate.

Sometimes I think, though, that the likes of Oracle LOVE it when it happens, because they know that it puts IT Managers/Directors (and their CIOs) in a tough spot when it comes to credibility...

...a spot which will likely result in many IT Manager/Directors simply taking the safe route of just keeping the likes of Microsoft (and Oracle), with all its concomitant licensing nightmares, high costs, and other ridiculousness.

Trail blazing is fun when you're a youngster, but eventually, I've found, you learn to go with the flow. In my early days as an IT consultant -- before Windows even existed, and even after it showe-up, but before it was ubiquitous -- the little ace I had up my sleeve was a networking product called "NTFS" by a Massachusetts company called "Alloy." I could put one of those things into an office instead of Novell for a FRACTION of the cost, and it still respected netbios and did everything a good little LAN was supposed to do.

Basically, all the workstations were dumb terminals, and the PC itself was entirely on a circuit board that fit into a PCI slot. The connection from the backplane of the card to the dumb terminal was a simple four-wire serial connection which could be run over cat 3 cable. So in a typical office, I had no cabling distance issues at all.

The computer into which the cards were installed simply booted to DOS, then booted the NTFS network software, and, voila!, all of a sudden each dumb terminal booted to a C: prompt.

As long only DOS-based applications were in play, with no Windows (or really, very sophisticated graphics at all), and color wasn't necessary (which, with DOS apps, was usually the case), that little network blew the doors off of everything else out there... for a fraction of the cost of the likes of Novell.

They even sold a box that looked like a full PC, but all it was was a motherboard-sized circuit board with a bunch of PCI slots on it so that... I think it was around 12 to maybe 16 (can't now remember) of these PCs-on-a-card could be operated from the main computer into which this box was plugged. And you could daisy-chain those things, too. So there was theoretically no limit to the number of workstations, but I found that there kinda' actually was. I tried not to run more than 32 off of any one computer... but I installed one LAN back then with more.

But, you know, in the end, the pressure to just do what everyone else is doing, so that everything complies with more or less the same standards, is huge. Eventually, once one's been at it for a while, and realizes he'd like to have a life, it starts to just become easier to install the same stuff everyone else is installing. We differentiate ourselves from the pack by doing it better, adding more value, and supporting it better...

...but, in the end, it's the same ol' thing.

So... what the heck. [sigh]

I've been at this for 33 years. I'm so sick and tired of it, frankly, that I could scream! I, like you, I think, have forgotten more than most people in this industry will ever know (or so I keep telling myself... so far no one's proved me wrong).

And so these days, running a bait shop in Minnesota starts to sound pretty good! Ain't much trail blazin' goin' on in a place like that... [grin]

Gregg DesElms
Napa, California USA

by MidnightCowboy on 10. February 2011 - 16:15  (66136)

I'm old enough to remember Betamax and VHS too :D

by DesElms on 13. February 2011 - 3:38  (66308)

Ha! Betamax. THAT brings back memories...

...but really isn't THAT old. (You see, I'm really old, in technology terms. I joke that I'm 109 in "technology years.")

And VHS is still current technology. By that I mean that you can still buy and rent tapes, and still purchase VCRs...

...though, obviously, DVDs and downloadable movies are fast making VHS/VCRs nearly completely irrelevant.

Maybe you're saying that you're old enough to remember the Betamax-versus-VHS wars. If so, I understand what you're saying.

I was thinking, just the other day, about the stuff that people treat, today, as "antiques" which it seems like I was using not all that long ago. Heck, I remember, in my career, standing on the floor of the West Coast Computer Faire in San Francisco, and having Dan Bricklin, himself, demonstrate a cool little piece of spreadsheet software that he and Bob Frankston had just developed called "Visicalc." In my career, I've sold 300-baud Anderson-Jacobson acoustic coupler modems... at a time when black Western Electric five-line rotary dial phones with red hold buttons were still standard in business offices.

I'll tell you what's frightening: We now have walking around among us soon-to-be adults who know nothing of a world without the Internet... the worldwide web component of which came about in only 1994...

...which, to me, feels like maybe five to seven years ago. Actually, come to think about it, assuming a kid back in the '90s probably wouldn't have been aware of the Internet until maybe age 5 or 6, that generation has actually already begun to become adult... of both voting and drinking age.

Oy. It sure is flying-by fast, now. I feel like I'm coming out of life's third turn, heading into the short stretch...

...only at about 950 miles per hour.

Ugh. [grin]

Gregg DesElms
Napa, California USA

by Matt.Ster (not verified) on 19. April 2012 - 4:05  (92276)

yeah, once you get over the hill.. you pick up quite a bit of speed *groan* you're making me feel old

by MidnightCowboy on 13. February 2011 - 6:24  (66317)

Yes, I really am old enough to remember the tape wars (and the size of the boxes which first came out to play 'em) :D

Just a friendly advisory Gregg, the comments are beginning to get over long and a bit rambling again. The mods may well see a need to delete some of these if they continue to appear in this format :)

by Cecilieaux Bois de Murier (not verified) on 10. February 2011 - 14:56  (66131)

It's good! Better than OO. Can save docx files.

by Blackbird (not verified) on 10. February 2011 - 3:54  (66116)

So it exists,..... is it good,....? bad.....? Does it need a lot of work?... Pros?.... Cons...?

by robert.schifreen on 10. February 2011 - 15:41  (66134)

It exists. It's good. Remember this is based on a pretty mature version of OO, so it's not brand new code.