Still My Favourite Free Office Software Suite

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LibreOffice office suiteI've always been a keen fan of Microsoft Office. But recent versions, and especially 2016, have not impressed me. It's huge, complex, and the endless menus and ribbons and selection screens take up far too much of the display, leaving less room for my own work and thoughts.

This is one of the reasons why I'm currently looking at alternatives, and why I have been experimenting recently with Libre Office. The other reason is that I was working on a PowerPoint presentation the other day, and got to thinking how well Libre Office would cope with Microsoft's modern document formats.

Having tried various open-source free office software in the past, I have to admit that I wasn't confident. But it turned out to be a fascinating exercise. As soon as I copied my PowerPoint presentation to the machine on which I was testing Libre Office, everything worked just fine. Windows recognised the .PPTX format and changed the file's icon accordingly. My presentation opened without a problem. The slide show worked flawlessly, including the fading transition effects between slides.

The Libre word processor, too, worked just fine with some Word documents. And of course there's a spreadsheet too. All of which is compatible with Microsoft Office file formats.

If you haven't yet tried Libre Office, give it a go. It's a perfectly capable office suite, and totally free. It's open source, too. If you get a new PC in the near future and it comes with a month's free trial of Microsoft Office or Office 365, think twice before you pay to upgrade to the full version. Libre Office may well suffice, which will save you money.

The latest version of Libre Office is 5.2.3.3 which is a 213 MB download from https://www.libreoffice.org/. It's malware-free according to my tests.

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Comments

For over a decade, the Calvinist in me saw the use of free word processing software. They all drove me nuts, every single one falling over - frequently, across an array of top-end laptops. I moved excitedly from one different brand of word processing software to another to another.

In the finish I gave my money to Microsoft for their Office Suite. What heaven. Rock solid Word and XL. Worth every cent. And the amount of Google help for Word and XL is vast; plus a million macros. Heaven.

I have been a devoted supporter of Gizmo Richards since the days I excitedly looked forward to his monthly newsletter. He has kept me at the leading edge of software for at least a decade. The biggest of thanks and a Merry Xmas Gizmo.

And to Gizmo's helpers like Rob Schifreen, also the biggest thanks. Your guidance is invaluable.

Seahound, Melbourne, Australia

I would like to use an open source office suite, but I have been unable to find one that has macro compatibility with MS Office. That is usually not mentioned. Does LO or Softmaker Office support macros? I would be willing to recode my old macros.

Libre Office has macros for Calc and Writer but they are not fully compatible with Microsoft Office. Apparently, LO macros are more likely to translate to MSO than the other way around:

https://help.libreoffice.org/Common/Recording_a_Macro

SoftMaker Office and KingSoft WPS Office have macros but their free versions FreeOffice and WPS Office Free do not.

Thank you so much! It would take me a long time to find this information on my own.

I agree with Joe A.TT. If you collaborate with users of MSO or have thousands of legacy MSO formatted files, Softmaker is better than LO/OOo. I've been using Softmaker Office since their 2006 version. Even though I could settle for Softmaker's free office suite,I have bought licenses from them because I support their efforts and hope that they can add features in future versions (such as support for .ODS).

LO is a fine office suite but it just doesn't work for my use-case.

Rob,
Since years, I follow your proposals and sometimes download your recommendations.
I just want to congratulate you for your work and also for your patience answering all.
From France, let me wish you my "Best wishes" for the new year, hoping that I should continue to read you during years...
Best regards

Rob often doesn't get the time to respond to comments on his huge stack of articles so on his behalf, Psyphilo, I thank you and send reciprocal wishes for Christmas and the New Year. :) MC - Site Manager.

What would be useful is a careful comparison of LibreOffice, Open Office (which I use, when WordPerfect is not applicable) and now, it seems, FreeOffice.

Why do we need three free emulators of Microsoft Word?

Been using LibreOffice since 2010. In 2010 the main developers of Open Office broke away after it was taken over by Oracle. They adopted the name LibreOffice so as to distance themselves from the Oracle controlled Open Office. There is more to this story but I will leave that to your own research. In any event, I like LibreOffice because of the ability to work with MS Office files as well as others. I can even open old Lotus 123 files with it. And you can also work with PDF documents...open, edit, save. Someone stated that support was a joke. I really don't know what you expect from a "FREE" office suite. For the average home user, LibreOffice is awesome!

Been using LO for years and couldn't be happier. Love the 'Save as pdf' option. Great for sending to people with unknown office suites.
Don't forget to also download the 'LibreOffice Built in help in English (US)' file as well. Otherwise you go online for help.

I concur.

Being a Linux user, I see nothing even close to Libre Office. I install it for people who don't want the hassle of MS nor the costs & BLOAT of MS Office.

I then go in & make the change of "save" format permanent to MS Office, so that the things they create in LO will open for their less, savvy friends still under the MSO yoke- lol.

You do this under tools>options>load/save>general. Choose text/spreadsheet/presentation & one after the other, choose "MS Office 2003" for the format (careful NOT to choose "template"). You don't have to say ok or close between choices- they'll stick.

Also, you can open Publisher documents & save as Publisher using LO Draw! All you have to do is place .pub at the end of the save name!

Cool beans!

Edit: meant to say that there are occasional glitches moving between suites. For instance, a Word doc created with "word-wrap" (text surrounding an image) will be borked when opened with LO. I'm sure there are other glitches, but overall I'm still a dedicated LO fan!

I struggled with messed up formatting for 5 months until I realized that LibreOffice was the culprit. Support is a joke. Their solution was to use LibreOffice format. Say what?? Why advertise that an office suite is compatible with MS formats when it is such a headache to use?

I went back to SoftMaker FreeOffice and all my problems disappeared. I wish I could get those 5 months back.

LibreOffice? Run! Run as far away as possible. You have been warned!

P.S. SoftMaker FreeOffice is available for Linux too. That is what I am using in Linux Mint.

I tried downloading and installing Softmaker Freeoffice just on a whim like you sugested. Downloading from the website required registering to get an activation number. When I tried to install the software, all it would do on my Windows 10 PC would display a language selection option and then, disappear. Checking the Task Manager, I saw no indication of any activity from the Softmaker software. Three times I tried to install Freeoffice without any success. I erased the useless software.

You want to use Softmaker Freeoffice, Joe A.TT? Go right ahead. I'm sticking with my legal copy of M$ Word 2003. I know it works.

I agree with MidnightCowboy. Something is wrong with your system. The language selection option is the first phase of the installer but it should continue from there. FreeOffice works fine for me.

Softmaker FreeOffice is fully compatible with Windows 10 and works fine on my wife's desktop. Either you have a corrupted download or a local issue with your machine possibly related but not restricted to security software interference or the previous use of tools such as so called registry cleaners. In any case it is unfair to label the software as "useless" when so many folks use it without issue. MC - Site Manager.

I guess it all depends on how much compatibility you require? You might do more back & forth with things -- where a lot of others, (me included) only handle basic docs, etc. I don't collaborate in other words. I've only had one time it was an issue & it turned out to be the fonts needed weren't installed in my distro.

So, you're saying that FreeOffice is exactly the same as MS Office? What's missing from that vs. standard, that someone of minimal-normal usage might miss?

Cheers

No, FreeOffice is not exactly the same as MS Office. And yes, I do occasionally have to collaborate with others who use MS Office, so compatibility is really important to me. I suppose in your case, since compatibility isn't important then it shouldn't matter. What I have a problem with is LibreOffice, or more precisely, The Document Foundation's half lie about compatibility with MS formats then telling me I should use their file formats to fix compatibility issues. Mind you, FreeOffice might not be 100% compatible either but I am definitely not experiencing the same issues.

Well, LO Draw can actually interact with Publisher-- that's pretty amazing. It's missing in FO, or I don't see it in my Linux install.

I'd like to know if FO word processor can open a MSO Word document with wrap-around text (around an image) better than LO.