A few months ago, there was some fanfare about an alternative to the OpenSource personal productivity suite OpenOffice.org. This split project is known as LibreOffice. ZeroPaid decided to take a look at this software and gather some first impressions.
Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes
Personal office suites are pretty much a staple of the personal computer. If you want to type out a letter, create memo’s, write essays, put together reports, you name it, an office suite like OpenOffice or Microsoft Office is often a go-to set of applications for anyone wanting to do these things in, say, a Windows environment.
For those who have lived through and remember the early to mid 90s well, most will probably remember that old retro Microsoft Works or maybe another early iteration of Microsoft Office. It had a nice row or two of buttons as well as that drop-down menu system along the top of the workspace of the document. If you’re like me, you’ll probably have had that shocking experience of opening and trying to use the ultra “user friendly” interface of Office 2007 that was so user friendly, it actually impeded your productivity – and I’m not just talking about that annoying paperclip in the corner soaking up screen real-estate with excessively “helpful” hints. Gone were the drop-down menu systems and now there’s that dramatically different button system with a tabbing system probably best left to Internet Explorer – but enough about the complaints I had with Microsoft Office 2007.
Several years ago, I personally made the switch to OpenOffice around roughly after when Microsoft Office 2007 was released. It wasn’t entirely like the old familiar layout I had before, but it was a substantial improvement over its Microsoft rival. Did you have to re-learn how to do basic things? In some cases, yes. So, making the switch from the Microsoft version to the well known open source version wasn’t without a learning curve. One of the biggest differences was having to download and install the dictionaries which wasn’t something you did in the Microsoft version. With a little learning, some patience and a few hints from help files and even asking Google once in a while, you can be very proficient in OpenOffice and do just about anything you could ask of it.
This was my reservation for using LibreOffice – do I really want to learn a third office suite just to do what I’ve been doing for years? I admit, I personally held off getting this software just for this reason alone. One fresh start on a computer later, I decided to try using LibreOffice while re-installing other programs. I figured, the worst thing that could happen is that I wind up de-installing LibreOffice and re-installing OpenOffice.
Once I took the plunge in to LibreOffice, it quickly became apparent that there’s next to nothing separating the interfaces. The menu-system, the placement of features, everything was just like OpenOffice. I still had to download and install the dictionary, but this procedure, which is about as easy as it could get for new users, was really old hat for me. The learning curve between OpenOffice and LibreOffice is pretty much non-existent.
So, overall, if you’re coming from a Microsoft Office suite and if you used older versions of Office such as, well, any number of versions older than 2007, then there will be a learning curve, but it’s really only a matter of learning a few of the quirks in LibreOffice before your really rolling with the software.
If you’re coming from a background of only having been exposed to Microsoft Office 2007, then there will likely be a somewhat more steep learning curve. You could probably think of it as a step up in user interface. You’d have to wrap your mind around a slightly different style of interface, but there should be enough similarities between the two interfaces to get you started. Once you get a general grasp of how to use the software, you can really figure out where your interface taste’s lie and choose which kind of interface you want to keep using.
If you have experience in OpenOffice, then the learning curve is almost completely non-existent. The interface has a lot of things that are identical to OpenOffice. The only thing that would be immediately different is actually the logo in the corner of the window and a button or two that looks different.
LibreOffice contains LibreOffice Writer (for documents), LibreOffice Impress (for slideshows – ala PowerPoint), and LibreOffice Calc (for spreadsheets) as well as a few other applications. Numerous formats are compatible with this suite.
While we only tested this in very basic ways, we feel that it’s what most users would use it for anyway. Well worth the install.
Download Libre Office