The Document Foundation just released version 5.3.0 of its fully open source office suite called LibreOffice. This release brings many new features and UI improvements. But here's the one thing that I must admit: I'm also a user of Microsoft Office. Yes - from the beginning of Microsoft to present day, I've relegated myself - just like so many others - to paying countless fees and payments for the - deep breath here - privilege - of using their software. That deep breath made me pause and consider why I use LibreOffice when I am forking over so much money per year to Microsoft. I'm an unabashed open source and Linux fan - as well you all know - but I am also kind of stupidly robotic when it comes to the - weapons of personal destruction - that I use. I use what I have become accustom to using. So I decided to look at the most practical reasons for using LibreOffice. In short, in order to help myself to look at the practical reasons for making a total switch to LibreOffice - perhaps those reasons could be of value to you as well. So let's take an in depth look at LibreOffice.
Ok the most obvious advantage of LibreOffice is that it is open source and free to download. Eh, OK, that doesn't say a whole lot to me. I guess I have that interminable inner belief that anything free must not be of any value. Yeah, even me, sitting here writing an article on a site that I freely give away my Peach OSI distros day after day, year after year working countless hours trying to create a better operating system - and here I sit saying that something free must not have value. So I have to look at why I do what I do and maybe that will give me some insight into why the people at The Document Foundation do what they do for LibreOffice. It's pretty simple really, at least it is for me. As far as a reason for Peach OSI - I wanted a free, safe and easy to use operating system that I myself could use without being tied into a constant pay to play scheme. Hum - I couldn't have said that better.... But let us set the free part aside and look at what may very well be the best reasons to making the switch to LibreOffice, whether you're a normal PC user or an entire educational organization with hundreds - if not thousands - of daily document producing individuals.
On an average day we all produce some sort of a document that we intend for others to see and play a part in what the reason the document was created. Whether it is an email or a long form application for something as random as a questionnaire, that document is useless unless it can be read by those that we intend to send it to. Let's say for a moment that you were creating an email for 10 different people and you knew that out of those 10 people only 5 could actually read it because that 5 people were using Windows computers capable of reproducing your email on their computer. Of the other 5, one would be reading the document - in this case a simple email - on an iPhone, another one on an Android tablet, another one on a Mac, another one on a Linux OS and the last one you were not sure what device or operating system that user would be using. Now imagine yourself creating that email in at least 6 different formats so that each individual could read the email. How many email would you create if this were the case? Yet with Microsoft documents this is exactly what you are doing. According to Italo Vignoli of the Document Foundation, Microsoft uses non-standard version of its own OOXML format in Office products, which creates interoperability issues. On top of that - says Vignoli - Microsoft uses default proprietary fonts that break compatibility with other office suites. If you want to ensure interoperability, you should use LibreOffice and save your documents in the ISO approved Open Document Format (ODF) so that they can be read by anyone on any platform. This includes - but is not limited to - Windows going back all the way to XP, all Linux derivatives, any Mac OS, Androids and iPhones. Need I say more?
Document Preservation and Security
Chances are that Microsoft is not going away anytime soon but time is an everlasting thing, far more everlasting than most companies. Let's say that 10 or 20 years from now for some unknown reason, Microsoft goes belly-up as does their support. At that time many of us will have countless important documents created on a Microsoft product that may or not be read by some other word processing application. It's kind of like we are creating these Microsoft documents in some other language that can only be read by one person. Some Microsoft users have reported not being able to open their older .doc files with later versions of Microsoft Office already. Why is that? Could it be that in Microsoft's zeal to proprietize their own product that they care more about their bottom line than they do about their users? Is that the best business model for the success of the company? Are the documents that you create today using Microsoft products going to be unreadable in the future? With LibreOffice you can leave your OpenDocument Text (ODT) files in a time capsule and open them many, many decades later. I predict that this one issue will become a major issue in the not so distant future. No software is bullet-proof. But LibreOffice is fully open source so anyone can submit a patch for a particular LibreOffice vulnerability. When there is a bug in Microsoft Office, users have to wait for Microsoft to fix it at a time that is most convenient for them.
Open Source - what does Open Source really mean?
It is fairly simple really. Open Source simply means that the code for a particular piece of software is open to the public to download and view. I.E.. Open Source means that the source code used in the programming of the software is open to any and all who wish to view it. If you are like me, one who doesn't easily trust any software whose source code I can’t see, then LibreOffice is your obvious choice. Microsoft Office is a full proprietary technology and thus can be best described as closed source technology, LibreOffice is a fully open source project developed publicly.
Free Cloud Storage Connect Ability
Documents can easily be uploaded directly from LibreOffice to Google Drive. LibreOffice also supports ssh (among other services and protocols), so I can easily upload LibreOffice files directly to a remote server. The downside for Linux users is that Google Drive isn't easily available for Linux unless you are using Google Chrome on Linux with Google Drive capabilities or planning to use our - soon to be available - Peach distro code named - Cyborg - a spin on Linux with basic Android capabilities.
Microsoft Office isn't available for Linux and it has been a step child on any MacOS for a very long time. If you are someone like me who readily jumps from one OS to the other then LibreOffice is really your only choice.
Suggest or Create Your Own New Features
Because LibreOffice is an open source project, anyone can contribute to LibreOffice and add features that they want. That's especially useful for businesses that have developers they can dedicate to adding features they need to LibreOffice. A company called Collabora is a one example. They offer LibreOffice-based enterprise solutions and are among the top contributors to the LibreOffice code base. Companies like Canonical, SUSE and Red Hat are also among the leading contributors. By contrast, Microsoft Word is proprietary software developed by - guess who - Microsoft only. There are so many more advantages to a truly open source project. I cannot begin to tell you how many changes and improvements that I have made to Peach OSI because of interactions with people just like you.
Ok I already stated the LibreOffice was free but..
Many pay $99 per year for an Office 365 subscription, whereas you can get LibreOffice for free of cost and can use it on as many computers as you want. The cost issue is even more important for businesses or schools that pay per the number of users or computers No matter whether you are using Microsoft Office for home or for office there are plans that will charge from $69.99 per year all the way up to $150.00 per year per computer. There has to be a better way - after all - I still have my typewriter around here somewhere.