Everyone needs a suite of office software for everyday tasks. Microsoft Office is perhaps the best-known option, but there are also lots of free alternatives that replicate almost all the features of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and company. LibreOffice is one such package, and it's earned a reputation as one of the best free office suites around.
LibreOffice is an offshoot of the OpenOffice project, and is developed by huge team of enthusiastic coders who deliver regular updates and new features to ensure it keeps pace with premium office software.
LibreOffice contains six component programs that provide everything you need from an office suite:
- Writer (word processing)
- Calc (spreadsheets)
- Impress (presentations)
- Draw (vector graphics)
- Math (mathematical formulae)
- Base (databases)
You can save and open many different formats, including Microsoft file types (including DOC, DOCX, PPT, PPTX, and many more), which is ideal if you're collaborating with users of Microsoft Office, or if you've previously used Microsoft's suite but have decided to try LibreOffice.
LibreOffice's component programs don't have the ribbon-based interface that's been part of Microsoft Office since 2007. Instead, the open source office suite uses a more traditional system of icons and toolbars. That's no bad thing – the old-school interface means no tools are hidden behind tabs with unhelpful names, and you can navigate easily using a keyboard rather than a mouse if you prefer.
Beyond that, there's little difference between Microsoft's productivity toolkit and LibreOffice. The open source suite lacks Office's built-in cloud storage option, but that's easily remedied by installing the Dropbox desktop software, which gives you instant access to your account as though it was a folder on your PC.
LibreOffice's selection of templates might seem a little limited compared to Microsoft's, but this is easily remedied by the huge collection of downloadable options available in the project's online repository. There are also plugins to add features like advanced grammar tools, extra language packs, improved accessibility options (such as export for braille embossers), and plugins for other programs like mind-mapping tool Freemind.
LibreOffice is truly remarkable. Give it a try and you might never pay for office software again.
The latest version of LibreOffice includes lots of bug fixes and new features, including a new single toolbar mode for Writer. For a full list of all changes, take a look at the release notes.
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