When Danielle and I sent out our year-end survey back in December, we asked you to tell us what you’d like to see this year. One of the things that was requested was reviews of word processing software with a special request to do software other than OpenOffice.
I like trying these kinds of things and I’m always interested in free stuff, so I thought I’d tackle this project.
The plan is to post a review the last Saturday of every month for which I have a review. It takes a couple of weeks at least to form a solid opinion of most software packages (though I did try one that took all of three days).
Today is the first of those posts.
I hope you’ll find it helpful.
Software Review – LibreOffice
LibreOffice is a free word processing suite that’s based on the same core coding as the original Open Office. How LibreOffice and other “fork” software came into being is a complicated story of its own, but it can be summed up very easily.
When the company that first developed Open Office was sold, many people weren’t happy with the new owner. So they made use of the same basic code and developed software packages to meet their own needs and fit their own purposes. LibreOffice is one of the results. There are others and I hope to review those sometime in the future.
Why I Chose LibreOffice
I’ve been a user of Open Office for several years. While it’s in no way as versatile or feature-laden as Microsoft Word, it was more than adequate to my uses. I installed it on an older PC that didn’t have Word on it because I didn’t have the funds to buy Word at the time and because I really needed a computer I could use for writing. Open Office was the best choice at the time.
Open Office is still at the top of most lists of free alternatives to Microsoft Word.
LibreOffice is second on many of those lists. I already knew about Open Office, so when I started researching this series of articles, LibreOffice was the logical first choice.
A Few Basics
LibreOffice is a totally free word processing suite. It was designed and is continually being upgraded by developers and others around the world. Once you download the installation package, it’s yours to do with whatever you please. Even copy it and distribute it to others. If you’re of a more technical bent, you can even tinker with the code.
Like Open Office, LibreOffice is available for a number of platforms including Windows (XP to 10), Apple/Mac OSX, and Linux, to name just three. I tried it with Windows XP and Windows 8.
It contains all the components of Open Office and Word (writing, spreadsheet, presentation, drawing, math, and a basic database.) The focus of this review is on writing, since that’s what most of us are interested in, but if you’d like to read more, you can read more technical reviews here and here.
Four Basic Questions
Can you create Microsoft Word compatible documents? Yes. All you need to do is select “Save As” when you save a document created in LibreOffice. Click on the box highlighted in blue at the bottom of the dialogue box (circled in red) and select the version of Word you want to use, then click save.
If you prefer not having to make that choice every time, you can change the default setting to .doc by changing the preferences.
Can you open documents created in Microsoft Word? Yes and quite easily.
Can you use Microsoft Word to open documents created in this software? I opened LibreOffice documents in Microsoft Word and in Open Office without difficulty as long as the documents were saved with the .doc extension (see the first question and answer).
How easy is this software to learn and use? If you’ve used OpenOffice in the past, you’ll take to LibreOffice like a duck to water. Drop down menus, toolbars, and other options are pretty much the same, which isn’t surprising since both processors use the same base code.
If you’ve used any version of Microsoft Word, you’ll also find LibreOffice pretty easy to learn and use.
And if you have no experience with either OpenOffice or Microsoft Word, it’s my opinion that you’ll still be able to learn LibreOffice quickly because of the very sensible way in which everything is arranged and labeled.
What I Like
I don’t usually pay much attention to how software looks. What matters to me is that it works.
But LibreOffice appeals to my artistic side. I just plain enjoy the way it looks!
The buttons are designed more like website icons than word processing icons and they’re not only arranged in a logical fashion, some of them are downright pretty.
Paragraph Styles Shown As Well as Told
LibreOffice has all of the same standard paragraph styles as Open Office and they are presented in the same location, at the left end of the second toolbar from the top. But when you click on the drop down Style menu, what you see is startlingly different. The styles are not only listed, but shown as examples. The last time I looked, Open Office presented the style options as a plain text list. This is much nicer and gives you a much better idea of what each style looks like.
Adding words to the LibreOffice dictionary is a single-click process instead of the usual double-click I’ve been doing with Open Office.
One thing I always wished for with Open Office was a word count in the footer tool bar. Guess what? There is one with LibreOffice!
What I Don’t Like
For no longer than I’ve been using LibreOffice (about two months), I haven’t found much to dislike.
I suppose I’ll eventually find something I don’t like, but LibreOffice is now my default word processor on both of the PCs I use and I’ve yet to encounter problems.
Learning my way around LibreOffice was fast, easy, and fun. It’s easy to use and the arrangement of icons, menus, and features made sense to me immediately. Part of that may have been due to the fact that I’ve been using Open Office for a few years, but I don’t think it would be difficult to use even if you’ve never used a word processing suite before.
If you’re looking for a full service option to Microsoft Word and don’t want to use Open Office, you may have to look no further than LibreOffice.
Even if you like Open Office but want to try something better, give LibreOffice a look. You may never go back to either MS Word or Open Office.