Alternatives to Big-Name Tech Tools

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Productivity software

Microsoft Office Alternatives: Productivity Software Showdown

LibreOffice

Price: Free

Platform: Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux

License: LGPL public license

Created as a result of the recent split between Oracle and the OpenOffice.org community, LibreOffice is a brand-new spin on OpenOffice.org that was just released by the Document Foundation.

The software includes Writer, its word processor; Calc, a spreadsheet module; Impress, for presentations; Draw, for sketching and diagrams; Base, a database front end; and Math, a simple equation editor.

Available in more than 30 languages, LibreOffice 3.3 offers strong support for standards including Microsoft Office, Microsoft Office Open XML, Open Document Format, and PDF. A portable version of the software was recently launched for USB, removable, and cloud drives, enabling users to take it wherever they go.

As open-source software, LibreOffice enjoys the support of a large worldwide community, including a raft of developers who can be tapped for custom solutions.

Hands-on:

Given that it's the first stable version of the OpenOffice.org fork, it shouldn't be too surprising that LibreOffice 3.3 feels a great deal like the software it's based on. Much as with OpenOffice, the interface is familiar for those used to Microsoft Office, but also easy to personalize.

The strong similarity of LibreOffice 3.3 to OpenOffice.org is no great surprise given that it’s the first stable release of the Document Foundation’s new spin-off. (Click image for full view.)
Document, spreadsheet, and presentation files created in both Microsoft Office and OpenOffice.org posed no problem for LibreOffice, nor did a document created in LibreOffice encounter problems in Microsoft Word.

Although the Document Foundation apparently has big plans for future versions of LibreOffice, it's readily apparent that this version is focused primarily on consistency, compatibility, and the quality of the code, just as the foundation said it would be. LibreOffice feels like a good, all-purpose office suite--similar in nearly every respect to OpenOffice--and its portable version comes as a bonus for users on the go.

Standards Supported:

  • Open Document Format
  • Microsoft Office
  • Office Open XML
  • PDF (Import and Export)

Unique Features:

  • Available in more than 30 languages
  • Portable version designed for USB, removable, and cloud drives
  • Open source with LGPL license for flexibility and customization capabilities

Missing Pieces:

  • Cloud support
  • Mobile apps
  • Collaboration features

LibreOffice Is Best For:

Given the many disagreements between Oracle and the open-source community in recent months, LibreOffice is clearly a better bet than OpenOffice.org for any organization that values open-source software, whether for philosophical or practical reasons. It's also a fuller-fledged option for desktop use than Lotus Symphony is, and the addition of a portable version is a help for employees on the go. True road warriors, however, may prefer to go with a suite that offers more cloud, mobile, and collaboration capabilities.

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