In the free software world, there are several powerful office suites that offer free alternatives to popular commercial applications. In this article, we will compare two of the most popular and widely used office suites, LibreOffice and OpenOffice.
LibreOffice and OpenOffice are developed by different communities and are based on the same code, making them very similar in functionality. However, they have their own characteristics, and in this article we will look at their differences in interface, functionality, and compatibility with file formats.
Both suites offer a complete suite of office applications such as word processing, spreadsheets, presentations and databases, allowing users to work on a variety of document types.
We will also look at differences in support for plugins and extensions that allow you to extend the capabilities of these office suites.
In the end, choosing between LibreOffice and OpenOffice depends on your specific needs and preferences, and this article will help you make an informed decision.
LibreOffice vs. OpenOffice: Истоки
OpenOffice.org was a project developed by Sun Microsystems. It was introduced as an open source version of StarOffice (purchased by them originally) to compete with Microsoft Office.
Oracle later acquired Sun Microsystems and eventually abandoned OpenOffice.org, turning the codebase over to Apache.
When Apache started supporting it, the name of the office suite was changed to “OpenOffice” or Apache OpenOffice.
During this transitional period, The Document Foundation forked OpenOffice.org to create LibreOffice, fearing that Oracle would terminate the project.
Thus, LibreOffice was created as a replacement for OpenOffice.org.
But now that OpenOffice still exists and is actively maintained, why should you choose LibreOffice? Isn’t OpenOffice good enough? What are the similarities between them?
What do LibreOffice and Apache OpenOffice have in common?
LibreOffice and OpenOffice have a few things in common.
You can use any of them if all you want is to create a basic document, spreadsheet, or presentation without requiring any complex operations or productivity shortcuts.
Simply put, you can count on both if you want an open source office suite for Linux, Windows, and macOS.
LibreOffice and OpenOffice are capable of opening various file formats, including DOCX, PPT, and other formats from Microsoft.
Unfortunately, the similarities fade as you explore the various features, user interface, file format compatibility, export capabilities, and other features.
Of course, if you start using them actively, you will notice the differences.
But, to save you the trouble, let me explain the differences.
Platform installation and availability
The first step towards user experience is the installation procedure and platform availability.
If the program is difficult to install and is not supported for multiple platforms, then this will be a big disappointment.
In this case, LibreOffice and Apache OpenOffice are officially available for Linux, Windows, and macOS.
In terms of mobile platforms, Collabora Office (based on LibreOffice) can be found on the Play Store (Android) and App Store (iOS). It is close to the official LibreOffice port as Collabora is its commercial partner.
While you can also use them or any other community/third party port as a replacement for OpenOffice on mobile devices, it has no official ports.
Now that you know the supported platforms, how easy is it to install them?
For Linux, LibreOffice is available in the official repositories and is listed in the software center and package managers. Thus, you only need a couple of clicks to install it on your Linux system.
Unfortunately, OpenOffice is difficult to install. It’s not available in the repositories and you can’t find it in the software center. Moreover, if you already have LibreOffice installed, you will have to remove all traces before attempting to install OpenOffice (to avoid installation conflicts).
You will have to download the official packages (for your Linux distribution) from the site, extract them and use a few commands to install OpenOffice on Linux.
How to Install Apache OpenOffice on Ubuntu
For Windows and macOS, installation is easy: you download the installer package and follow the on-screen instructions.
LibreOffice also offers an alternative way (through its partners) to get it using the Microsoft Store and Mac App Store. However, you will have to pay for them. Part of the funds goes to the Documents Fund, and part helps the development of LibreOffice.
Don’t forget that LibreOffice can also be used on Chromebooks thanks to Collabora Office.
In summary, LibreOffice provides better platform accessibility and an easier installation procedure, which can make OpenOffice a hard-to-recommend choice.
LibreOffice is a nice user interface that fits in with modern standards. LibreOffice will look great on most modern hardware, whether you have a 2K or 4K display.
You can quickly access all the tools from the main launcher, which is a good experience. Writer Document, Spreadsheet, and others offer an easy-to-use interface that looks well organized.
Apache OpenOffice provides a legacy user interface. So if you’re looking for a modern open source office suite, LibreOffice has the upper hand.
Of course, some users prefer the classic user interface, considering that it is familiar to them and its use is limited on older hardware.
In other words, OpenOffice can still be used, but it may not be intuitive for most modern users.
If you carefully compare the user interface elements, it will differ depending on the latest version available at the time of reading this article; therefore, we avoid specific visual comparisons.
The need for a wide range of features depends on the type of files you are working with.
By default in OpenOffice and LibreOffice you get the following programs:
- Math (Scientific formulas)
- Writer (Documents)
- Impress (Presentation)
- Draw (Drawings, block diagrams, etc.)
- Calc (Spreadsheets)
- Base (database)
Whether you use a word processor (Writer), spreadsheets (Calc) or presentations, you get all the same standard features.
However, LibreOffice benefits if you work with complex documents that require access to more templates, features, import/export options, and advanced formatting.
File Format Compatibility
OpenOffice supports almost all of the same file extensions as LibreOffice.
However, LibreOffice also supports exporting to some of the same file formats, which OpenOffice does not.
For example, you can open a .DOCX file in OpenOffice without problems, but you cannot save it/export the document while keeping the file extension.
You can only save it as .odt/.doc./.ott and a few similar formats.
Likewise, you won’t get support for .xslx and .pptx, modern file formats commonly used for spreadsheets and presentations.
Of course, if you don’t rely on these file formats, you can try using OpenOffice. However, when collaborating with a user using a newer file format, you will run into compatibility/formatting issues that may affect your work.
Given that OpenOffice lacks many features, don’t rely on it to work with new file formats; you may lose significant detail due to poor compatibility.
To improve the performance of the program and get improved performance, new features and security fixes, it is recommended to choose software that receives regular updates.
Technically, both programs receive regular updates. But OpenOffice is limited to bug fixes and minor updates.
LibreOffice features more developer activity, frequent bug fixes/minor updates, regular major updates with new features, and improved user experience.
It’s no wonder why LibreOffice wrote an open letter to Apache asking them to stop working on OpenOffice and divert resources to the development of LibreOffice.
Enterprise Support and Online Collaboration
With Collabora Office, you can get enterprise support and use LibreOffice in your workplace. You can also deploy LibreOffice on your servers for a collaborative workspace thanks to Collabora Online.
Unfortunately, Apache OpenOffice does not have enterprise support options. Therefore, it is best suited for home users, if at all.
There are no licensing issues to stop or discourage you from using any of these programs. However, this information may be useful for project participants.
LibreOffice uses the Mozilla Public License v2.0 while Apache OpenOffice is available under the Apache License 2.0.
LibreOffice vs. OpenOffice: What to choose?
LibreOffice is easy to recommend due to its modern design, great functionality and support for new file formats.
OpenOffice can be a solution for users who are familiar with the interface of older office suites and want it to run smoothly on their 32-bit systems. Otherwise, it should remain an alternative solution in cases where LibreOffice does not work for some reason.
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