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Can LibreOffice 7.0 Be The Awaited Microsoft Office Alternative?

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LibreOffice is one of the most well-known open source office suites out there. It starts as a continuation of OpenOffice, which is no longer under active development after Oracle bought its parent company, Sun, in 2010.

Version 7.0 of LibreOffice was released yesterday, with tons of improvements everywhere both in performance and in the overall user interface. But can LibreOffice 7.0 be the long-awaited Microsoft Office alternative? And to what level can companies, organizations and governments depend on it to use it instead of Microsoft Office?

To answer that, we’ve put our hands on the new version to see what’s new in it and how well it can deal with Microsoft Office documents and presentation files.

And unlike most software reviews which we do on FOSS Post, this time we’ll be reviewing LibreOffice 7.0 on Windows 10 instead of reviewing it on a Linux distribution, as a motivation of users to use it even if they are not using Linux.

What’s New in LibreOffice 7.0?

Key features of LibreOffice 7.0

The most important features of the new release can be summarized in:

  • LibreOffice now exports files in the native Microsoft Office 2013/2016/2019 formats instead of depending on the compatibility layer of Microsoft Office 2007. This means that documents/spreadsheets/presentations written in LibreOffice will now be better displayed in Microsoft Office.
  • Opening Microsoft Office Powerpoint presentations became also better in 7.0.
  • Support for the ODF 1.3 format, which is an open source format for exporting documents.
  • New icon themes for both Windows and macOS, making LibreOffice look much better. Linux users can also use the icons themes on their Linux distributions if they wish to from the settings manager.
  • The underlying OpenGL graphics engine in LibreOffice (For Windows) was replaced with the Vulkan-accelerated Skia graphics library, making 2D drawings and the overall rendering of LibreOffice much better and faster.
  • PDF/UA export support, PDF generation larger than 500cm now supported, XLSX sheet names with more than 31 characters are also now supported.
  • Basic HiDPI fractional scaling for KDE/Qt5 is now implemented.
  • A number of bug fixes, performance improvements and language translations were added.

Interesting Features in LibreOffice 7.0

First of all, one can’t help but notice how navigation in menus of LibreOffice 7.0 became much faster than the previous versions. Previously, each menu you would hover could take 0.2-0.5s to display, but now, the process is almost instant and very smooth:

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The Ribbon-like user interface (Tabbed interface) is there for anyone who wishes to use a UI similar to Microsoft Office:

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You can also choose to use the new icon theme for macOS from Options -> View:

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And if you select it, here’s how your writer will look like:

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Interesting set of compatibility options exist when exporting PDF files. You can already encrypt your files in LibreOffice since many versions, too (From the security tab):

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Many other improvements landed in LibreOffice 7.0 for table editing, navigation, image galleries, different languages handling and much more. You can read more about them from the official release notes if you want.

Compatibility of Microsoft Office and LibreOffice 7.0

Now, up to the important part of this review, we wanted to see how well is LibreOffice capable of opening Microsoft Office files and manipulating them? This is the important aspect because a lot of people – if not all of them – will have to deal with a Microsoft Office file someday. And you don’t want your office suite to display it in a horrible way for you.

So we simply tested LibreOffice 7.0 with a number of complex/heavily-formatted files of Microsoft Office, so that we observe how well it can show the files and edit them.

Microsoft Office Documents

Using this large 30MB MS Office Word file (Although its name says 15MB, its size is actually 30MB), which contains embedded images, charts and a complete sound file inside, we found that LibreOffice had no issues in displaying the folder in just 3 seconds of loading time:

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Moreover, there were no issues in playing the embedded sound file inside the MS Word file:

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Of course, one can not claim that because of this testing, LibreOffice can open any type of files quickly. But it is a general idea about the performance of LibreOffice 7.0 in opening such large files, and browsing and playing their contents without any crashing or lags.

Microsoft Office Presentations

For Office Powerpoint presentations, we selected the following file from the USA CampusFrance website (2018). It is a heavily-formatted file with various drawing elements and texts attached to it in a very precise way. Any failure from LibreOffice’s side in displaying the file would’ve been easily spotted, which is why we selected this file.

However, LibreOffice Impress, which is the program responsible for editing presentations, impressed us with its ability to manipulate the MS Powerpoint file completely. Every single element in the file is modifiable and moveable just like in MS Office, and nothing is misplaced:

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Notice how LibreOffice 7.0 supports all the elements in the file; Charts, tables, diagonal texts… Everything, and it supports modifying these elements styles and formats from the right side panel:

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We had no performance or formatting issues in opening MS Powerpoint files in LibreOffice 7.0.

Microsoft Office Excel Sheets

LiberOffice doesn’t typically have issues in opening Excel sheets. However, we wanted to test it too with a real-life scenario, so we downloaded a data file from the Federal USA government data website in order to see how it looks like. Notice how spreadsheets titles coloring is supported:

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We also wanted to see how well does LibreOffice succeed in opening Macro files? To test this use case, we downloaded an Excel sheet containing a Macro from the following website, and ran it using LibreOffice. The macro worked successfully with no issues:

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If you click on the “message” button, the following small message window will appear too:

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Other than that, testing LibreOffice 7.0 with any normal Excel file doesn’t usually render any bugs or issues.

Conclusion

So to sum up, LibreOffice 7.0 is a great Microsoft Office alternative, as it became way more powerful in dealing with MS Office files and documents. Its performance went way up in this release thanks to the new graphics engine, and with the general enhancements of user interface and other editing areas, LibreOffice continues to become one of the best open source office suites out there.

We recommend companies, organizations and governments all over the world to give the open source office suite another chance in proving itself with this new release, rather than depending on old information coming from judging the older versions of LibreOffice.

You can go ahead and download LibreOffice 7.0 from its official website.

If you have any similar experience with LibreOffice 7.0 or if you have any further questions or comments about it, we would love to receive them at the comment form below.

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Moss Bliss

You tested how well it opened and read MS files. You did not test how well it WRITES them. I used to be Senior Editor of a small publishing company. We had editors we had to ban from using OpenOffice.org (predecessor to LibreOffice). When you open a MS Word file and make edits, then close it and send it on, and then the next person opens it in MS Word, the formatting is so skewed that the only way to fix it is to revert to a text file and completely reformat the document. This is not fun on any… Read more »

Mike F

I generally haven\’t seen many of these kinds of formatting issues in a long time. And when I have, it has always been due to using a font that doesn\’t exist on the computer opening the document. In either direction, Word or Writer are forced to use another font, which throws off text spacing, paragraph formatting, and ultimately the formatting of the entire document.

Leo Baduel

I am a freelance journalist, and I have been using LibreOffice for years interacting with editors of several magazines. I also contribute press release localizations for several PR agencies. I always exchange documents as DOCX, and I have never experienced issues with any magazine or PR agency.

lemc

The comment by reader Moss Bliss is extremely pertinent. To be fully functional as a productivity suite, in a world in which MSO file formats are the de facto standard, LibreOffice should also have high compatibility when SAVING such files. Thus I suggest the two tested documents should be opened in LibreOffice 7.0, lightly edited, saved, and then opened back in MSO. Was formatting preserved? I also suggest that you update this review with the results of this test.

Cor Nouws

@Moss Bliss: there are corner cases where formatting is not perfect. The situation that you describe is most exceptional.
On the other hand, when something exceptional happens, you want to be assured of professional support. Collabora Productivity is the largest contributor to LibreOffice and offers long term support versions with additional options.
Thanks to the support of customers and partners, Collabora is able to make important contributions for the growing LibreOffice technology.

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