Open office dilemma: vs. LibreOffice

Dueling open source alternatives to Microsoft Office match word processors, spreadsheets, and much more; which one should you choose?

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For enterprises with ironclad support requirements, may be the only option for now. Oracle offers an edition of the suite tailored for individuals and small businesses that includes commercial support for $49.95 per head. For $90 per head, an enterprise edition is available that covers additional migration, as well as configuration tools and connectors for Microsoft SharePoint and the Alfresco content management system. The enterprise edition requires a minimum purchase of 100 licenses, so it will cost you $9,000 to get in the door.

The Document Foundation, on the other hand, is more a loosely knit development organization than a software vendor. It does not market any commercial version of the LibreOffice suite, nor does it offer any support contracts. Doubtless, third parties will step in to provide support for the suite, and perhaps some already do, but there are no links to support providers on the LibreOffice website. At this early stage of the project, support is largely limited to mailing lists, IRC channels, FAQs, and online documentation.

The other consideration, however, is what happens next. and LibreOffice draw from the same code base, so most of their features are identical -- for now. But Oracle's commitment to maintaining a desktop office application suite is unclear, and with many key developers having defected to the Document Foundation, it seems likely that LibreOffice will improve more quickly than Oracle's version of the suite. Already LibreOffice 3.3.0 contains enhancements not available in 3.3.0.

The great thing about both suites, however, is that your decision need not be set in stone. Because the OpenDocument formats are truly open standards, there is no lock-in like you have with Microsoft Office (or even specific versions of Office). Future versions of either suite will be able to open your documents equally well, and in all likelihood, so will any future competitors. If enterprise-grade support is your priority, go with for now. But no matter what size your organization, LibreOffice is definitely one to watch.

This article, "Open office dilemma: vs. LibreOffice," originally appeared at Follow the latest developments in applications and open source at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.


Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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