LibreOffice gets a streamlined makeover, native alternatives for major Microsoft fonts


The Document foundation announced availability of the latest version of LibreOffice on Thursday, which it says is the most beautiful version of the open source productivity suite yet. LibreOffice 4.4 also fixes some compatibility issues with files that are saved in Microsoft's OOXML formats.

"LibreOffice 4.4 has got a lot of UX and design love," Jan "Kendy" Holesovsky, who leads the design team for Libreoffice, said in a statement. "We have completed the dialog conversion, redesigned menu bars, context menus, toolbars, status bars and rulers to make them much more useful."

The impact on you at home: If you don't want to pay for an Office 365 subscription and you're not interested in cloud solutions like Google Docs, LibreOffice is an excellent—and free—productivity option. The free desktop suite has all the functionality you need, such as word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, and databases. And as the default suite for many Linux distributions you can count on LibreOffice to continue to be developed and supported for the foreseeable future.

Fonts and tweaks

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Templates in the LibreOffice 4.4 Start Center.

Even open source suites must bow to the might of Microsoft Office and its file formats. To help improve LibreOffice compatibility with OOXML the suite recently added two new fonts: Carlito and Caladea. They are meant to replace fonts from Microsoft, including Calibri, the default in Office 2013, and Cambria.

Previous versions of LibreOffice were apparently having problems with Calibri and Cambria fonts, an issue that should now be fixed.

Beyond the font fix, the new LibreOffice includes some nice features such as a revamped Start Center (the first page you see when you open LibreOffice) that now houses templates. 


LibreOffice's line spacing drop down.

The new LibreOffice has also cleaned up its contextual menus, sidebars, and right-click context menus. Line spacing, for example, now appears as a dropdown menu option instead of only in the sidebar. The sidebar has also been retooled to do away with unneeded redundancy where a feature appears in multiple spots within an app.

Similar to Microsoft Office, LibreOffice 4.4 puts the basic options of cut, copy, and paste right at the top of the right-click menu for easier access. Also borrowing from Microsoft, LibreOffice is making it easier to understand when you're in read-only mode. Instead of a button in the main toolbar, LibreOffice includes an infobar at the top of the document that can be dismissed to enter edit mode.

The changes and tweaks are not massive, but they should make LibreOffice even more usable than it already was and an easy migration for Microsoft Office refugees. For a comprehensive list of all the changes check out the LibreOffice 4.4 release notes.

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