Microsoft Office remains the dominant productivity software package in the market. However, over the years, several free alternatives have emerged, including the productivity suite from Apple Inc. and the cloud-based office suite included within the Google Drive services of Google LLC. Another popular alternative is LibreOffice—a free and open-source office productivity suite developed by The Document Foundation and maintained together with a huge and active community of volunteers
The Pros: Advantages and Benefits of LibreOffice
Of course, the biggest advantage of LibreOffice is that it is a completely free software package with no hidden or additional costs. Both individual and business users would obviously benefit from this because they do not need to pay expensive fees for office productivity apps. Note that MS Office costs from USD 149.00 to USD 399.99 depending on the edition.
But is it really as good as Microsoft Office? Saying yes would be a far stretch. However, take note that it is compatible with all MS document formats, and has almost every feature found in MS Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. The compatibility means that it is ideal for users who are collaborating with users of Microsoft Office or are switching between software.
It also has a great selection of free extensions and templates to expand its functionality and flexibility. There are plugins available to add features such as advanced grammar and proofreading tools, extra language packages, and accessibility options.
Note that the suite includes six software or apps: Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, Math, and Base. The Writer app is the alternative to MS Word, Calc to MS Excel, and Impress to MS PowerPoint. Draw is a vector graphics editor and Math is designed for creating and editing mathematical formulae. Moreover, Base is an alternative to Microsoft Access.
Another advantage of LibreOffice is that it runs on Microsoft Windows, macOS of Apple, and Linux-based operating systems or Linux distributions such as Ubuntu. Note that it is based on another free and open-source office productivity suite called OpenOffice, but it has a competitive advantage stemming from a more frequent update schedule and a more modern interface.
The Cons: Disadvantages and Limitations of LibreOffice
One notable disadvantage of LibreOffice, when compared to Microsoft Office, is the user interface that looks and feels outdated. It uses a more traditional UI with icons and toolbars compared to the ribbon-styled interface of MS Office. Others might find the entire user experience different and unfamiliar.
It also lacks a built-in option for cloud storage and thus, for directly saving files on the cloud so that they could be accessed easily using another device or by different users. Note that MS Office has cloud integration via OneDrive. Furthermore, cloud integration is one of the key strengths of the productivity suite from Google. However, users can still install and utilize third-party cloud services such as the Dropbox or Google Drive desktop software.
The lack of built-in cloud integration also means that another limitation of LibreOffice is that it is not sufficient for real-time and efficient collaboration. MS Office users can collaborate and chat in real-time via OneDrive. Files based on Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, can be accessed by selected users with viewing and editing permissions.
Another drawback is that there is no support from Chrome OS and Chromebooks. There are also no fully-featured apps for smartphone and tablet devices, particularly for Android and iOS devices. However, note that LibreOffice supports a variety of standard file formats.
Summary of the Pros and Cons
The following are the pros of LibreOffice:
• A completely free software package with no hidden or additional costs ideal for both individual and business users.
• Compatibility with different and standard file formats such as DOC, DOCX, PPT, PPTX, XLS, and XSLS, among others.
• Has a great selection of free extensions or plugins and templates to expand its functionality and flexibility.
• Includes software for word processing, presentation, spreadsheet, vector graphic editing, mathematical formula creation, and database management.
• Runs on Microsoft Windows, macOS of Apple, and Linux-based operating systems or Linux distributions.
Below are the cons of LibreOffice:
• Has a traditional and outdated user interface that might look and feel different and unfamiliar to more modern users.
• Lacks a built-in functionality for direct cloud storage or in other words, does not have direct cloud integration.
• The lack of built-in cloud integration also means that it is not sufficient for real-time and efficient collaboration.
• No support from Chrome OS and Chromebooks. There are also no fully-featured apps for Android and iOS smartphone and tablet devices.