It’s been a few weeks since the release of Office 2013 and the response is somewhat mixed because Microsoft is trying something new, that is, a subscription-based model with Office 365 to get access to one of the most popular office suite of applications in the world, instead of continue licensing the software with the same benefits like in previous versions.
Now, if you’re not in favor of paying a yearly subscription ($99) or you simply feel that $219.99 is a steep price for the standalone version of Office Home & Business 2013, you still have a choice. LibreOffice is a great free alternative to Office 2013, is fast and well-documented open source project based on the good old OpenOffice.
What it offers
With LibreOffice you get: Writer, Calc, Impress, Base, Math and Draw. You pretty much can figure out that LibreOffice Writer is the equivalent to Microsoft Word, LibreOffice Calc is the equivalent to Microsoft Excel, LibreOffice Impress is the equivalent to PowerPoint, and so on…
Microsoft Office support
Another great feature is that it has support for Office documents file formats (*.doc, *.docx, *.xls, *.xlsx and many others). This way, you don’t have to worry when a friend or co-worker sends you a new file to work with or if you need to display a presentation using a PowerPoint document.
Free for all
The key feature of this suite is that it’s absolutely free, you don’t have to pay for a standalone product key, you don’t have to pay a yearly subscription, you get free updates and it upgrades as they come available, and you can install LibreOffice on as many computers as you want, because you aren’t limited to only five devices or one PC if you buy Office 2013.
Furthermore, it offers support for many languages and more are added constantly!
LibreOffice is based on LGPL public license, meaning that you can do anything you want with it. If you had the skills, you could modify and customize it to suit all of your needs.
Also there is free support, not exactly the same dedicated support you’ll get when you purchase Microsoft Office, but it’s a good support. LibreOffice has a Get Help page, there you’ll find documentation on how to get started and how to install the software — It’s worth noting that there is a portable version of LibreOffice as well –. There is online help for each applications, mailing list, Wiki community driven in the works, and even you can use the IRC channels to get help.
About the applications
Writer: is the word processor, powerful enough to get the work done. From writing a quick message to develop your next big novel with graphics, tables of content, diagrams and bibliographies. It also offers auto-formatting, spell checker and smart auto-completion to get things done quickly.
Calc: is the spreadsheet processor that can tackle all your numbers. It offers most of what you would expect from a spreadsheet application with charts and analysis tools. Helps you with the most complex formulas. You can add data from external databases such as Oracle or SQL, with the ability to sort and filters.
Impress: is the office and school presentation application and as PowerPoint, you can create great animations and special effects to make your presentation stand out and make them look professional.
Draw: is an application to help you build diagrams and sketches (very similar to Microsoft Visio). If you are involved in a special project, you can use Draw to create boxes, lines and arrows to illustrate procedures that will get the project done.
Base: is the database application. You can easily integrate import database structures into the other applications within LibreOffice, or you can create a standalone database. It supports links and queries from MySQL, PostgreSQL or Microsoft Access and various others.
Math: is the equation editor for LibreOffice. It allows you correctly display mathematical, chemical, scientific and electrical equations easily in standard written notation.
Finally a very useful tool integrated in with LibreOffice is the PDF file creator, this way you can create a document and export or save as PDF file.
What you don’t get
LibreOffice 4.0 doesn’t have all the same features found in Microsoft Office, for starters those users who now are very familiar with the ribbon menu, unique to Office since the 2007 version as part of the “Fluent User Interface”, is not part of this open source suite. But it still share many similarities to the traditional version of Office, that most of us are accustomed anyway. This means that there isn’t much training to start using these applications.
Although LibreOffice is an excellent alternative worth considering instead of paying for a Microsoft Office 365 subscription or buying one copy for one PC of the standalone version of Office 2013, it is still not a great option. There are certain other things you won’t get. For example, we are living in fast paced world and having cloud storage and web version of the applications, that enables you to edit documents on the fly using a smartphone, is getting really important. LibreOffice is a standalone office suite that you can only install on Windows PCs, Macs, or Linux and do not have cloud or mobile solution.
However, you can always complement LibreOffice with SkyDrive and the free version of Office Web Apps or Google Drive with Google Docs.
Also there isn’t an email client like Outlook that you often find in Office. But there is the Mail app for Windows 8 or the free Mozilla Thunderbird email client as other alternatives.
Considering that LibreOffice is free, this software is very well packed with many features, more than enough to get your work or school homework done. It supports Microsoft file formats, so you know that if you receive an Office document from someone else, you know you’ll be able to open and edit. And it has a familiar user interface that makes super easy to start using any application without previous training.
Besides, thanks to its cross-platform support, you can install the suite on many machines as you want because there is not a licensing or subscription fees — It’s totally free!