What is LibreOffice used for?

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Published date: 3 December 2022
7 December 2022 on 10:18 am

One of the most well-known open-source office suites is LibreOffice, which is now at version 7.4. Because they may check the source code for flaws themselves, government agencies, financial institutions, and other privacy-conscious users are drawn to open-source software. One of the few desktop-style office suites with a feature set that can compete with Microsoft 365 is LibreOffice, which is also notable for being free to use. LibreOffice is hindered by its cumbersome user interface and occasionally glitchy performance. Additionally, it does not provide any tools for collaboration or web-based versions of its programs.

What LibreOffice Offers for Free
The word processor Writer, the spreadsheet editor Calc, the presentation app Impress, the vector drawing program Draw, the database program Base, and the math formula editor Math are all included with LibreOffice. An excellent set of tools for no cost.

Email, contacts, and calendar management are not included, but you presumably already use something else. Anything you use will probably be more streamlined and sophisticated than what LibreOffice offers.

Remember that Google Workspace provides free online collaboration and mobile apps, while most for-profit modern office suites also offer these features. LibreOffice does not. Other things you don’t get include integrated research and translation tools, a dictation option, and a note-taking application. For some of these functions, you can browse LibreOffice’s vast library of third-party add-ons, but they always feel unnatural. However, having them available right away with Google Workspace, Microsoft Office, or Apple iWork is far more practical.

Adobe Photoshop templates
The main menu of LibreOffice allows you to create or open any type of document that the program can produce and shows recent file previews. Additionally, you may launch each individual word processor, spreadsheet, and other app straight from the Start Menu.

Open-Source Methodology
LibreOffice’s lengthy history, including that of its predecessors OpenOffice and StarOffice, helps to explain how it appears and functions now. The Office menu system and shortcut keys are only two examples of how closely the suite has always sought to resemble Microsoft 365’s apps. This strategy has the benefit of making LibreOffice more approachable to former Microsoft Office users. There’s a good possibility that the keystroke you need to use in LibreOffice is the same as in Microsoft’s programs if you’re unsure. For instance, Alt-equals functions the same way as the Autosum key in Excel and Calc.

Additionally, a lot of LibreOffice’s features resemble comparable ones from Microsoft. Similar to how Microsoft Word does it, LibreOffice displays supplementary information in the small box that appears when you click inside a page header, such as the current formatting style.

One drawback of this strategy is that LibreOffice still has nearly every UI element that was ever present in Microsoft’s programs, even after Microsoft drastically streamlined its design to decrease clutter and overlap. What’s worse is that many of the most helpful features of Microsoft’s programs were never introduced to LibreOffice, in part because it seems that new features are only added to the suite when someone volunteers to do so. Millions of users of earlier versions of Microsoft Office are used to the familiar toolbar-and-icon menu arrangement that LibreOffice by default employs. Microsoft gave up on this custom in favor of the new Ribbon interface years ago, and LibreOffice now provides a comparable choice.

Format for LibreOffice Writer
Text formatting choices in LibreOffice Writer, displayed here in its Mac edition, include a conventional dialog box and an optional sidebar.
Initial Interface Problems
Consistency is a benefit of LibreOffice, particularly for big businesses. On every platform it supports, LibreOffice has the same user interface and functionalities. Unfortunately, LibreOffice Writer welcomes you with a cluttered UI in contrast to the elegance of Google’s and Microsoft’s programs. In addition to a vertical toolbar with icons leading to panes with formatting menus, a gallery of shapes and diagrams, and a navigator panel, there are two horizontal toolbars packed with icons, a ruler, and a top-line menu. This virtually unintelligible jumble of features from the outset is all too typical of LibreOffice’s design, which seeks to please everyone in a way that frustrates them all. You may turn off any of these modules from the View menu.

You can switch between the conventional top-line menu and the aforementioned ribbon-style Tabbed menu using the User Interface submenu in the View menu. It was nearly impossible for me to switch back to the Tabbed menu once I had chosen it in LibreOffice. It took me a while to accidentally realize that the User Interface menu had been moved to a submenu on the three-line hamburger menu in the window’s upper right corner because it was no longer located on the View tab.

With Microsoft 365, you can enter a command or function to reach the dialog box or menu that manages that functionality. LibreOffice provides you with a Search Commands box, but it only locates commands in the menu by their precise name, which you probably aren’t familiar with. For instance, if I click the search button at the top of the window and type “margins,” Word will take me to the Adjust Margin menu where I may adjust the page margins. Margin is not found when I search for it in LibreOffice’s Search Commands box. I could only get there if I knew the command was named Page Style, and even then, I would have to go to the Page tab of the Page Style menu in order to adjust the margins. You won’t have much trouble if you’re a frequent user or if you’re familiar with Microsoft Office’s previous menu structure.

FreeOffice can create images
LibreOffice comes with a sizable gallery of dated artwork from the late 20th century. They complete the task, but if you’re looking for style, look elsewhere.
The sidebar pane menus of LibreOffice’s apps are exceptionally clear and roomy for the most part, but the Options menu is crowded and frequently difficult to understand unless you’ve been using the program for a while.

The unsightly Liberation Serif typeface is the standard document font for LibreOffice Writer, although subsequent updates to Writer have rectified this font’s rather unattractive appearance. In prior assessments of the suite, I bemoaned how the font’s letters were crammed together in a way that strained my eyes. Evidently, someone chose to fix it. Although the present version of the Liberation Serif font won’t injure your eyes, it also won’t make them feel better, so you should probably change it from the default. Don’t seek for that in the Text or Character options. You must locate the Styles menu, navigate to the Manage Styles submenu, right-click on the Default Paragraph Style, select Modify from the menu that appears, and then select the Font tab from among the 14 options. In contrast, Corel WordPerfect, SoftMaker Office’s TextMaker, and Microsoft Word all let you choose the default document font from their respective font menus.

Another benefit of using Microsoft Word is that you can edit documents in a variety of views, depending on your needs. Microsoft provides a print view (with the option to hide the top and bottom margins), a view that presents your documents as though they were saved to the web, an outline view, and a clutter-free read-only mode that makes it easier for you to focus on the text. Additionally, you can organize numerous pages horizontally rather than vertically when displaying them. Documents can be viewed in print mode, a web-style view without page layout, and a collapsible outline view in LibreOffice. Recent updates have included a Show Whitespace option to the print-mode view, allowing you to reveal or conceal the blank top and bottom margins of the page, finally catching up to Microsoft 365 and Corel WordPerfect.

Feature Hits and Misses
Although LibreOffice has several distinctive characteristics, it often uses them in awkward ways. One illustration is how LibreOffice handles document redactions. Redactions can be applied to a document when it is exported as a PDF, but to do so, the suite opens a graphics-based image of your document in its Draw program and exports the PDF as an image-style PDF, making it impossible to search the text. The program can also automatically redact words or word combinations that you enter into a menu. However, you must manually create boxes around the text in the Draw software in order to pick it for redaction rather than utilizing more conventional text-selection techniques.

However, LibreOffice makes it simple to incorporate the original document’s source code into a PDF that was generated from it. This eliminates the need to convert the exported PDF to another format so that someone else can modify it in LibreOffice.

LibreOffice does provide a few additional useful features. For instance, rather than using the linear format found in Excel and the majority of other spreadsheet apps, the Function menu in the Calc spreadsheet editor presents functions in a straightforward outline format. Only WordPerfect Office provides the same simplicity, but in a spreadsheet software with limited functionality.

chart in LibreOffice Calc
Unlike other parts of the suite’s clumsy graphic tools, LibreOffice’s charts are simple and sophisticated even when presenting complex data.
The most recent version of LibreOffice now includes support for SparkLines, a Microsoft innovation that embeds a tiny line-chart into a single cell. However, Calc does not support web-linked information, such as current stock prices. I am aware of no viable method for adding up-to-date stock prices to a Calc sheet other than using the Financials- extension that can be found online but isn’t mentioned in the LibreOffice extensions directory. (Other techniques for adding SparkLines that I’ve discovered online are either outdated or unworkable.)

When advanced users first use LibreOffice, they will be irritated to discover that the “Record macro” menu item is grayed out and that there is no easy way to enable it. The complicated process entails selecting the Advanced tab from the Options menu (Preferences on a Mac), then checking the option to enable macro recording. Even yet, macros aren’t as adaptable or simple to control as they are in Microsoft’s programs.

The Impress presentation tool allows you to save presentations to internet sites for simple remote viewing, but beyond from that, it appears to be restricted to a somewhat outdated feature set. You can’t even add online videos, so don’t count on smooth transitions or even the barest of controls over embedded video. Access databases cannot be imported or created by the Base database app, but it can connect to them.

Safe mode in LibreOffice
A separate Safe Mode icon takes you to this screen where you can reset or restore your setup because LibreOffice can be unstable and you might want to undo your modifications to its settings.
Functionality and Compatibility
I always hope that the latest release of LibreOffice would be less prone to crashes than previous iterations. The most recent Windows version appears to be incredibly stable. The Mac version still occasionally chokes when I try to open or import a file and occasionally crashes when I do anything as basic as alter the font settings. This is more of an inconvenience than a deal-breaker because it usually works on the second try with the same file. If LibreOffice won’t open the file on your second attempt, you can start it in Safe Mode to fix the problem. Additionally, I’ve restored the suite’s default UI using Safe Mode after making changes that made it difficult to use.

The capability of LibreOffice’s apps is astounding, though. For instance, LibreOffice’s Calc is the only non-Microsoft spreadsheet program that can open the enormous Excel worksheet I use for testing. LibreOffice’s Writer quickly and expertly processed 2,000-page Word documents.

Almost all document formats from the last three decades are supported by LibreOffice. For anyone who has to deal with documents generated decades ago on antiquated word processors or spreadsheets, this is a significant edge over every other document suite. Additionally, it opens older Word documents that Word itself won’t open unless you have the necessary skills to alter its cryptic security settings. Even older Apple’s Pages documents can be opened in LibreOffice, but not the most recent version. Even if you don’t use LibreOffice for regular work, it can be quite helpful if you operate in a lab, office, or setting with old documents.

The Windows-only Corel WordPerfect Office suite, which likewise opens virtually any legacy document, is LibreOffice’s main competitor in this regard. Oddly, LibreOffice can access documents made with the most recent unofficial version of Corel’s own WordPerfect for the Mac, but Corel’s office suite cannot.

To the Open-Source Community
Each incremental edition of LibreOffice sees significant advancements, and everyone with old documents lingering on their hard drive should have a copy. However, despite some recent upgrades, LibreOffice still has a clumsy interface. It frequently crashes and does not provide any online editing alternatives. You should pay for Microsoft 365 or use Google Workspace instead, unless your firm needs programs that function on Linux, macOS, and Windows or you have security requirements that necessitate open-source software. LibreOffice is great, but I never enjoy using it for an extended period of time.

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