OpenOffice.org has long been one of the top competitors to Microsoft Office, but the open source productivity suite's future was clouded in 2009 when Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems, which had maintained OpenOffice.org since late 1999. Oracle eventually donated the OpenOffice.org code to the Apache Foundation, which promises a new release this year.
Meanwhile, buzz has been building around LibreOffice, a fork of the OpenOffice.org code by a consortium of former OpenOffice.org developers known as the Document Foundation. Like OpenOffice.org, LibreOffice includes a word processor (Writer), a spreadsheet (Calc), a presentation maker (Impress), a drawing and diagramming program (Draw), and a database manager (Base). Superficially, the two suites appear almost identical, and LibreOffice even carries over its version numbering from the last OpenOffice.org release.
[ Also on InfoWorld: Open office dilemma: OpenOffice.org vs. LibreOffice | Microsoft Office 2010 takes on all comers | Track the latest trends in open source with InfoWorld's Open Sources blog and Technology: Open Source newsletter. ]
Behind the scenes, however, the Document Foundation and its volunteers have been hard at work, cleaning up the code, fixing bugs, and adding features. The new version 3.5 includes more than 30,000 code changes -- making it, in the Document Foundation's words, "the best free office suite ever." Based on my tests, that claim might actually be true -- but price isn't everything.
Installation is free, but not easy
LibreOffice is available for Windows 2000 and later, Mac OS X 10.4 and later (Intel and PowerPC), Linux, and Linux x64. I installed the Windows version, which comes in two parts: one installer for the applications and another for the online help (available in 107 languages). Version 3.5's new installers are MSI packages, sure to please sys admins.
Installation took longer than it should, mainly because of LibreOffice's reliance on Java. You can use most of the suite's features without Java installed, but it's required for a few functions and Base won't work without it.
Unfortunately, LibreOffice doesn't come bundled with a Java Runtime Environment (JRE), so you have to download and install one yourself. Keeping current with Java updates and security patches is also your responsibility, which could be a deal breaker for organizations with strict IT policies.
|Test Center Scorecard|
Having trouble installing and setting up Win10? You aren’t alone. Here are many of the most common...
Picking an Android phone can be difficult, but we're here to help. These are the top Android phones you...
Confidence in our power over machines also makes us guilty of hoping to bend reality to our code
Sponsored by Intel
Sponsored by Puppet
With new hardware hacking devices, it's absurdly easy to attack organizations through the USB port of...
Android provides a model for Apple to use in iOS, and Apple has an option for CarPlay that should get...
Not only is data integration an afterthought in most cloud migrations, it's usually addressed with...
The budding language with Ruby's syntax and written in Go is aimed at microservices development