The appropriately-named LibreOffice (opens in new tab) is the suite of office software for anyone who is looking for a fully-featured office suite for free. Everyone needs a suite of office software for everyday tasks, but not everyone can afford $69 or more a month. Luckily, there are also lots of free alternatives that replicate almost all the features of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and company.
So, while Microsoft Office is perhaps the best-known option, it’s best left for professionals, businesses, and users with more than enough money to spend on luxuries. That’s especially with LibreOffice providing a competing suite of office software that’s just as exceptional, versatile, and feature-rich at no cost to its users.
How does it manage to do this? LibreOffice is an offshoot of the OpenOffice project, and is developed by a huge team of enthusiastic coders who are lending their services without pay. This same team also delivers regular updates and new features to ensure it keeps pace with premium office software.
Just how exactly is LibreOffice keeping up with something as widely beloved and relied on as Microsoft Office. To start, it comes with 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)
LibreOffice is also compatible with all Microsoft Office file formats so even professionals hoping to cut costs can use it without having to worry about it affecting their business or the way they interact with clients. It’ll let you 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.
That makes it not so much a free alternative to Microsoft Office, but an actual rival. One that makes it very hard to justify paying a lot of money for the competitor.
LibreOffice offers a choice of interface styles: a traditional system of icons and toolbars, and an optional NotebookBar (similar to the ribbon used in Microsoft Office since 2007). Both have their advantages; the NotebookBar will make switching from Microsoft Office more natural, while the old-school layout means everything is visible at a glance, 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 (opens in new tab), 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 (opens in new tab). 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.
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- Check out our full guide to the best free office software