The Document Foundation has proudly released version 7.0 of it’s LibreOffice suite. The office suite is used by millions of people around the world as an alternative to Microsoft’s Office and it runs on just about any platform on the planet. LibreOffice has come a long way since it was forked from OpenOffice which itself was developed from StarOffice.
A Brief History
Sun Microsystems had bought Star Division and were later in turn acquired by Oracle. Sun had open sourced the office suite as OpenOffice but there were concerns this decision would be reversed as had happened with OpenSolaris. This lead to the creation of a forked version that we all know as LibreOffice.
OpenOffice itself was donated to the Apache Foundation and at some point IBM’s efforts with Lotus Symphony were also discontinued and passed on to Apache as well. For a while it seemed we would have two open source office suites competing in the same space but OpenOffice was soon discontinued. The first release of LibreOffice was version 3.3 in 2011. The Document Foundation estimated in 2018 that there were around 200 million active users of it’s productivity software.
For the occasional user, the changes compared to previous versions probably won’t be very visible but there have been some notable enhancements and additions:
- LibreOffice’s native file format ODF has been upgraded to version 1.3 with better compatibility with Microsoft’s DOCX, XLSX and PPTX
- New shapes in the form of arrows, diagrams and icons have been added. These and all other objects now can have glow and soft edge effects. Semi transparent text is now also supported.
- General performance has improved thanks to the new Skia graphics engine.
- For Linux users on KDE, there is now a basic HiDPI scaling implementation
As an occasional user, I have mixed feelings about LibreOffice. It is a great suite, under constant development and will surely be the mainstay office alternative under Linux for many years to come. If you have read a few of my distro reviews you would know by now how I dislike having the complete LibreOffice suite installed by default on a system. It’s only a couple of times a year that I need to open a text document or a spread sheet. Yet the amount of time and data needed to keep the whole suite up to date is very annoying. I have recently de-installed the suite and now use Gnumeric for my basic spread sheet needs. I also have an online Outlook account that I never use except for reviewing the odd Word document I occasionally have to deal with.
For everyday heavy users this is no issue, of course, and they are probably thankful for the constant updates.
For Linux users who need to work a lot with office documents, LibreOffice is probably the best choice. Some notable alternatives have surfaced over the years and might be of interest to some:
- WPS: A very polished, fully featured Chinese developed office alternative. There is a basic version with ads and a “life time” version that is currently selling for $89.25
- Soft Maker FreeOffice: Also a very polished and feature rich alternative developed in Germany. The software is proprietary and although free, it does require registration.
- ONLYOFFICE: This full office suite is available as an online service but can also be installed locally. They offer DEB, RPM, SNAP and Flatpak packages. It is open source software, developed in Latvia and has good compatibility with Microsoft Office.
LibreOffice 7.0 is yet another great release and remains the office suite that best fits the Linux ecosystem from a philosophical point of view. It’s broad world wide adoption is a tribute to it’s developers hard work and dedication. The organisation is volunteer driven and non-profit. If you’re a regular user of LibreOffice consider donating a small amount to their efforts. They have many easy ways to do so on their website, from Paypal or direct credit cards to Flattr and Bitcoin.