LibreOffice can free you from Windows


An office suite is most likely one of the most used applications in a corporation or organization. It is also one of the most universal.


Offices of every shape and flavor use one. They are in schools, government agencies, nonprofits, law offices, car dealerships, manufacturers, hospitals, etc.


For the most part, one office suite has dominated every industry and market: Microsoft Office. While it runs on both Macs and Windows, the Windows version has more features and applications than the former. The latest versions are given the same name, 2016, and released at about the same time, but the Windows version still has more applications and features.


Parallels, a company that makes an application that allows Windows to run in the Mac OSX environment, published an article on its Website comparing the two versions of Office 2016. The Mac version doesn’t have Access, Publisher and several other applications. It cannot edit documents saved in OpenDocument Formats, and it cannot be integrated with SharePoint as well as its Windows counterpart. The article’s charts point out numerous other differences between the two suites in general and each application.


This makes it difficult for any organization to completely do away with Windows or use it on less of its computers. Many have switched to an online office suite, like Google Drive, which allowed their employees to work on any computer with a Web browser.


For many, it’s an excellent solution. However, online suites don’t have the amount of features and tools that the Windows version of Office has and they don’t always work well offline, so they are not a good solution for everyone.


A cross-platform application is another solution. This type of software runs natively and well on Windows, Mac, various Linux distros, and several other operating systems. One of the most well-known and well-used cross-platform applications is LibreOffice. This offshoot of OpenOffice source code could replace Microsoft Office or be a companion to it.


The six application office suite can open close to 200 different file formats. The six applications – Writer (text editor), Calc (spreadsheet), Impress (presentation), Draw (vector graphics editor),  Base (database management), and Math (formula editor) –  also have many of the features that Microsoft Office applications have and many they don’t. A Web page, published by the Document Foundation, the organization that manages LibreOffice, compares the two office suites and their applications.

LibreOffice can access multiple server services through its Remote Files feature. This was added in version 5.1, and it is available on any instance of LibreOffice, regardless of the operating system.


Starting with version 5.1, LibreOffice added a Remote Files feature that allows users to connect to various cloud services that support CMIS (Content Management Interoperability Services), including SharePoint. This allows for LibreOffice to open and edit documents on a server and save documents to a server. However, it does not allow for multiple users to edit a document at the same time.


With version 5.3 came an online version that can be installed on a server, so multiple people can collaborate on a document. The Document Foundation states that it should render documents as well as the desktop version.


However, many offices and workers may not want to throw away their copies Microsoft Office. LibreOffice may work well in their organizations, but what happens when they send documents to those outside them? Sales agents send information to customers in Word documents because their customers use Word, and a complex DOCX document, created in LibreOffice, may not look right in Word, for example. The features and flexibility of LibreOffice make it an excellent companion to Microsoft Office.


LibreOffice can convert old documents, that Office 2013 and 2016 cannot open, to newer formats. This is important for digital preservation, making a document transcend the applications that were used to create them so they can be read long into the future regardless of the applications being used at the time.


It also can edit documents with the tools and features that Office doesn’t have. For example, a table in Writer can handle complex calculations while a Word table can only handle simple arithmetic. Calc has functions that Excel doesn’t. The full comparison can be found at the Document Foundation’s Web page that was mentioned earlier.


 LibreOffice is also useful for contract workers who come into an organization to create documents, such as manuals or other publications, but who are not given a computer with software that can help them accomplish the task.


There is a Windows version that does not need to be installed. The six applications can be run from a USB drive or an external hard drive. Portable Apps is the organization that makes them available through its Website. Documents can be stored, along with LibreOffice, on a portable drive and taken from computer to computer.


LibreOffice is a very capable office suite. It’s applications can do most of the intricate formatting and have many of the same features as Microsoft Office, and they have some features that the most popular office suite applications do not have. Newer versions of it can interact with and run on servers, making collaboration with others possible. Most importantly though, it could be a key factor in freeing individuals and organizations from Windows. Those that do not want to use Microsoft’s flagship product have more ability to choose something else and not hurt business functionality.