LibreOffice is a fork of OpenOffice.
That requires a bit of explanation for those not familiar with open source slang.
A decade ago, Sun Microsystems donated the code for their office program, StarOffice, to the open source community as the Open Office office suite. They contintued to develop proprietary components for OpenOffice, while OO took on a life of its own under the terms of a variant of the GPL.
Since Oracle bought Sun about a year ago, many in the linux and open source communities have been concerned that Oracle might just ignore Open Office. LibreOffice is a result of that concern.
A group called the Open Document Foundation formed, including a number of experienced Open Office developers and has relaunched the open source code under the name of “LibreOffice.” A LibreOffice-branded beta is now available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Indeed, OO developers have been fleeing Oracle.
In other words, Open Office has forked into two projects: Open Office and LibreOffice.
I’ve installed LibreOffice on both my Windows box and my Debian Linux box. They both seem fully functional, though there were some glitches.
I was able to import my Open Office template, which I spent lots of time tweaking to meet my tastes and preferences, into both versions. Here’s the user templates folder in Windows (click for a larger image):
Here’s the user templates folder in Linux:
This is the dialog for setting it as the default template. It’s accessible either from the main screen (see above) or from the menu by selecting File–>Templates–>Organize.
Installing the Beta:
The beta installed smoothly on my Debian machine, but the package is clearly not ready for distribution. It contains 50 separate *.deb (Debian-style package) files. Once I got everything installed, it worked smoothly.
The Windows beta comes as one *.exe file of 239 MB. The first time I tried to install it, it hung with the progress bar at about the 80% position. I had to open Task Manager (right click on the Taskbar and select “Task Manager” from the pop-up) and “end process” the msiexec process. Then I started the installation again and it went smoothly. Once again, once I got everything installed, it worked smoothly.
I started using OO shortly after it was released as a free office suite. This was long before my Linux days and I can’t remember where I heard about it.
It has several appealing qualities:
- It can open and save in various Microsoft Office formats (see Note), as well as in its own native formats.
- It is free under the terms of the license.
- It can read and save Microsoft Office formats, though it does not always save complicated formatting in Word *.doc format. (See the Note, below).
- It has had the ability to export to *.pdf format since v. 2.x.
- It looks the same in Windows and in Linux. The menus, tools, dialog boxes, formatting techniques are completely portable. (I have not seen the Mac version.)
Because of the dominance of Microsoft Office in the business world, OO made little headway in the world of Windows. In the Linux world, though, it became the go-to office suite. There are others, in particular KOffice and, for word processing, Abiword, but OO is dominant. Most major distributions include it as part of their base install (Slackware does not, but it is easy enough to install later).
The Note, below:
From time to time, when Microsoft updates Microsoft Office, it breaks OO’s compatibility with the lastest document formats. The current Open Office and LibreOffice can both open *.docx formats, though older OO’s could not.