Open Office or Libre Office? Best alternatives to Microsoft Office.

July 29th, 20130 Comments »

Open Office or Libre Office? What are the best alternatives to Microsoft Office?

Will the average user, like the woman depicted, decide to use Open Office or Libre Office?

(Photo: iStockphoto)

Being a huge proponent of open source anything, surprisingly,  I just never took the time to check out any of the Microsoft Office alternatives such as Open Office or Libre Office.

I decided it was time to find out if I was going to use Open Office or Libre Office and finally dump the somewhat expensive Microsoft Office altogether.

My prime motivator for checking all this was because I had recently utilized the Microsoft Office 2013 Pro trial and, truthfully, wasn’t thrilled with their new and somewhat expensive offerings.

Also,  I own an older version of Microsoft Office and, for the most part, it worked fine, even with Windows 7,  however, there are some issues when sending and receiving documents that I just did not want to deal with.

As far as Microsoft Office 2013 goes, the bottom line is that there is no single compelling reason to purchase Microsoft Office, especially if you can find an open source alternative that really works.

One big factor in deciding against Microsoft Office was that I found their initial decision to only allow licensing of one computer for Office 2013 unreasonable and a potential waste of my hard earned money should an issue arise.

If your computer crapped out and died, for example, you were out a few hundred bucks.  Even if you were upgrading to a new computer, Microsoft did not care.  One perpetual license for one computer only.

Not allowing a transfer of license, which was allowed in previous versions, is simply not a good thing for consumers.

People upgrade their computers frequently and this could certainly be a deal breaker.  Fortunately, Microsoft re-thought their strategy and reversed course, however, for many who were getting disgusted with them anyway, the damage had already been done.

It certainly prompted me to see if I would regularly be able to use Open Office or Libre Office.

Another factor to consider is that Microsoft is also heavily pushing their Office 365 subscription. This is really where they want to be and users of Office 365 will receive preferential service as far as updates go, over Office 2013 traditional users.

For those with large families, the subscription offered can be considered a good deal as compared to stand alone prices for Microsoft Office 2013.  For $100 annually, if you pay in one shot, or $120 annually, if you pay $10 monthly, you are entitled to use Office 2013 on up to 5 PC’s.

Microsoft also pushes their SkyDrive for cloud storage, as part of Office 365, which is something that I am not overly interested in.

While some may enjoy the availability of cloud computing, that functionality, if desired, can be had elsewhere for free.

Actually, Microsoft’s very own SkyDrive can be used for free if you have a hotmail account, so there is no reason to pay for it.  You get 7 gigs for free and, if you signed up when there was a promo, you received a substantial 25 gigs for free.  Of course, there are pay options for additional storage.

An alternative is to simply use Google Drive, which was formerly named Google Docs. I have a very decent 15 gigs to use between gmail, google+ photos and the Google Drive.  Between Google Drive and SkyDrive, the combined free 22 gigs should be enough for most people, unless you intend to use cloud computing as your primary storage.

Personally, and I know I may be in the minority, I am not a huge fan of subscription based services in general. I also do not like to store all of my documents, especially ones that are highly personal in nature, in the cloud.

As far as subscriptions go, your information is “out there” and accessible by others. You know it is.

Call me old-fashioned, but I am a privacy nut, and do not like my charge card being automatically deducted each month for a subscription service. Also, what if I become scatterbrained (yes, it has happened) and forget to perhaps update an expiration date or change cards. My luck would be that this would occur while I am in the midst of something extremely important and would cost me precious time.

No doubt subscriptions are popular. Even my chiropractor wanted to put me on a subscription plan!

For file accessibility, I have a trusty external back-up that is quite compact and portable and holds 500 gigs, plus a password protected 32 gig flash drive that is portable enough to take with me. At times, I utilize SkyDrive or Google Drive for those documents that I am collaborating on with others, or for very large files that I need to access elsewhere, however, it is not a daily occurrence.

With that said, for die-hard Microsoft users who update regularly or are simply heavily invested in the Microsoft ecosystem, staying with Microsoft might be the simplest, least time consuming choice.  Here’s a calculator to determine if a Microsoft subscription is right for you.

These items mentioned are some of the reasons that I wanted to explore other possibilities to see if I would regularly be able to use Open Office or Libre Office.

Open Office or Libre Office

Apache Open Office

openoffice 1.1 - 2

openoffice 1.1 – 2 (Photo credit: sternenstaub)

Now it was time to test one of the Microsoft Office alternatives. Since I had previously decided that the best alternatives to Microsoft Office are either Open Office or Libre Office, my quest began.

Open Office probably has received the most name recognition so I tried that first.

Here’s a very brief, watered-down version of the history of Open Office.

Development of OpenOffice was sponsored primarily by Sun Microsystems.

Oracle acquired Sun and then changed the name to Oracle Open Office.

There have been quite a few changes regarding Open Office. So much so that many of the developers, disgusted at the new direction of Open Office, left, banded together and ultimately released Libre Office.

After the mass exodus, Oracle then stopped development of the Open Office project and fired the remaining developers.

In June 2011, Oracle contributed the code and trademarks to the Apache Software Foundation, re licensing all contributions under the Apache License, and is now known as Apache Open Office.

I can sum up Apache Open Office in one word. Frustrating!

Two words would be, “extremely frustrating” and three words would be, “it doesn’t work”.

As an advanced computer user, I simply want and, yes, expect things to work, out of the box so to speak, without much tinkering.  Mind you, once it is up and running, tinkering and adding functionality is great and very much sought after, however if the software is too “buggy” right out of the box, that is usually a bad sign.

I downloaded Open Office 4.0 from their official site and also downloaded a few extensions; a PDF converter, a template pack and an English Dictionary.

The initial installation seemed smooth enough, although the download speed was very slow. Turtle-like.

Two out of three extensions and templates would not install correctly and continually kept throwing out errors that had to do with the update function. The PDF converter did not work and spit out gibberish and one of the templates that I finally managed to install seemed amateurish.

I tried to locate an answer to correct what appeared to be a mapping problem for the updates and could not find a solution that worked.

After a very frustrating 45 minutes, I completely removed Apache Open Office.

At that point in time, I was not thinking that Libre Office would work, since they are touted as being similar.

I am so glad I did decide to try Libre Office.

Libre Office, a full office suite that works!

Open Office or Libre Office., Libre Office is the winner and an alternative to Microsoft Office..

Libre Office 4.1.0 is comparable to, if not better than, Microsoft Office.

First and foremost, it works out of the box.  Sure there are a few bugs, however, the product works very well and you can add-on an unbelievable amount of functionality and customizations quickly.

For experienced computer users, I can almost guarantee that you do not want to pour over a manual and you will not need to.  It just flows naturally with an easy-as-pie learning curve.  Less technically-minded users, and for those who do need to look something up, will be pleased to find that Libre Office has an easy-to-understand, comprehensive manual.

Within 15 minutes, starting from the time I downloaded Libre Office, I was able to open a number of formula heavy spreadsheets and run the accompanying Macros.  I was also able to easily open Microsoft Word documents, from version 2000 through current, and a PDF file for editing with the built in PDF conversion functionality. In fact, Libre office opened the same PDF document that Open Office could not.

Saving documents in past and present Microsoft formats was a breeze, which is a very handy feature.

I even had time to open up a few other applications in the suite.

All in 15 minutes.

Although it was mostly smooth sailing, I did come across a minor bug in Libre Office.

After inserting a header and footer in one of my documents, and then deciding I did not want it. I could not figure out how to remove it.

A quick glance at the manual, though, provided the easy answer to help me format the page. Although it is not exactly the way I want, it did work.

Small potatoes.

The Libre office development team has a great forum with continued support.

Extensions and templates were easy to locate, organized by operating system and a snap to install. The ones I added in worked flawlessly.

Open Office or Libre Office?

There is really no comparison, Libre Office is the way to go.

It is a full fledged Office Suite that works and works well.

I am so impressed with the functionality of Libre Office that I removed Microsoft Office for good.

Libre Office download

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About Chellie Cervone

A Las Vegas "native" by way of New York, I'm a professional blogger who favors all things Las Vegas and offers a unique, witty and sometimes controversial perspective. You can count on me to tell it like it is. Please visit my other sites Las Vegas World News and Celebrity Feast Connect with me on Google+ Chellies World on Google+

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