An alternative to Microsoft Office must bring a number of tools to the table for me to give it a serious look. First and foremost it, has to be able to open, work with, and save to the most common Microsoft Office formats (.xlxs, .docx/.doc, .pptx/.ppt, etc.). It also has to be fairly similar to Microsoft’s product, since I’ve been using it for a very long time and am accustomed to it.
The problem with Office is Microsoft is moving it to the cloud. You’ll download and run the applications you need and save to and read your documents from the cloud. LibreOffice Suite 4.2 meets the above requirements and, even better, is free.
An Open Source Alternative to Microsoft Office
I like open-source software products. “Open source” means that whoever makes/made the “official version” has also made available the source code that the program is built upon. This means that those that have expertise in the software language used can make changes to address needs, test and save those changes, and then choose to maintain the rights to those changes, or publish them (preferred) to the user community.
Open-source is also typically free, with the producers of the software only asking for donations to support the improvement process. One other thing I like about open-source projects is that the people that put them together are usually much more open to suggestions about new features than large companies like Microsoft. Typically, all it takes to get them to give real serious consideration to your ideas is to make the suggestion tactfully and respectfully.
LibreOffice Suite 4.2 Supports All Major Microsoft Office Formats
LibreOffice Writer is the Word alternative in LibreOffice Suite. It looks and feels like the other Word alternatives that I’ve tried. The toolbars don’t change like they do in Word when you click a menu option (Edit, Insert, Format, etc.). However, you can add an extra toolbar below the ruler with the options from these other menus to fit your needs.
I use the image and link insertion tools, as well as the tables, and page spacing tools quite often, so I put these on my custom toolbar. If Microsoft’s product offers the ability to create your own toolbars, I’m not aware of it. I’ve also noticed that Writer has the ability insert borders around pieces of text.
You can choose to install any or all of them during the installation process, which runs just like any other install utility. There are a total of six applications within the overall LibreOffice Suite 4.2 package. The program is available with support for more than 30 languages. The names of these applications, along with the MS Office application they replace are as follows:
- LibreOffice Impress is the PowerPoint alternative.
- LibreOffice Base is a database product replacing Microsoft Access.
- LibreOffice Calc is the spreadsheet utility.
- LibreOffice Draw allows you to create drawings, logos, and flowcharts.
- LibreOffice Math allows you to perform complex math calculations.
The programs all operate perfectly with documents produced in the various MS Office applications. There are also filters built in that allow the programs to import and export a variety of document formats that aren’t natively supported. This includes Apple’s proprietary Keynote presentation format.
Excellent Help System Equal to and Better than Microsoft’s
Microsoft’s help system for its current products is pretty good. There are knowledge bases, FAQs, and help forums. LibreOffice offers a help system that is similar to Microsoft’s, but which excels in one simple way. You can go to the LibreOffice site and review features, FAQs, and help files, as well as send a message directly to the development team. In the forums, you’re going to find the developers, as well as a large and committed user community interacting socially, as well as providing technical assistance to each other.
Most users of the product, and definitely those that provide assistance in some way or another, all have a passion for making LibreOffice the best office suite available at any price, and make sure that it is constantly improved.