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LibreOffice 3.3: First Impressions

Say goodbye OpenOffice.org and say hello to new freedom with LibreOffice.

If you’re looking for something better than OpenOffice.org (OO.o), you’ve found it with LibreOffice. It has all the OO.o goodness that you’ve come to love and expect with a few enhancements to boot. And, there’s no fear of a malevolent corporate overlord pulling the plug on it because it’s not a revenue-generating product. LibreOffice 3.3 is the beginning of a new era of freedom for cross-platform office suites with its LGPL v3 license, community-driven development, extensive language support, and it’s no cost delivery model.

LibreOffice is a cross-platform (Windows, Macintosh, Linux) OO.org derivative productivity suite that includes the six original OO.org applications: Writer, Calc, Base, Impress, Calc, and Draw. The LibreOffice project has also merged code, patches, and other resources from the now discontinued Go-oo project.

The Basics

There are three ways to install LibreOffice: source, packaged installer, repository. The repository route is easier than the other two but also doesn’t allow for any customization that you might want to do during a compilation. For this demonstration, repository and packaged distribution are shown.

Note: If you have OpenOffice.org installed, you should uninstall* it before installing LibreOffice.

For the packaged installer method, go to the LibreOffice Download page, select your system’s architecture (x86 or x64), package type (deb or rpm), and download the two packages that will appear. The installer, as it’s called, is really a gzipped tarball of rpm or deb packages. The helppack is a single package file.

Once downloaded, ungzipped, and untarred, cd into the install directory and install all of the packages listed.

$ sudo dpkg -i *.deb

Or, for rpm-based systems,

$ sudo rpm -i *.rpm

This installation will take several minutes. When it’s finished, cd to the desktop-integration directory and install the desktop integration package so that the menu items and launchers can be added to your Applications menu.

Debian-derived distribution users can install via a LibreOffice repository by using the following method. First, add the repository.

$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:libreoffice/ppa
$ sudo apt-get update

Second, run an update to update package indexes from your /etc/apt/sources.list. Finally, install the LibreOffice packages from the repository.

$ sudo apt-get install libreoffice libreoffice-gnome language-support-en

If you use KDE instead of GNOME, use libreoffice-kde in place of the libreoffice-gnome package.

After your installation completes, find your LibreOffice suite under the Applications->Office menu. See Figure 1.

Figure 1: LibreOffice Applications in the GNOME Office Menu
Figure 1: LibreOffice Applications in the GNOME Office Menu

Using LibreOffice

Using LibreOffice is no different than any version of OO.o that you’ve seen in the past two, three, or maybe more, years. The apps work the same. The icons and general features are all fairly standard fare. If you’ve seen OO.o or any derivative, you’ve seen LibreOffice. The new green color scheme is refreshing but you won’t find many other surprises waiting for you.

If you’d like to see a list of LibreOffice unique fixes and features, go to the New Features and Fixes page. It’s expected that future versions will diverge more significantly from its OO.o upstream parent. The addition of Go-oo’s improvements will further diverge LibreOffice and distinguish it from OO.o.

Some of the significant improvements to look forward to are: faster application startup and response, better interoperability with commercial office suites, and some functionality improvements covering multimedia integration, extended language capabilities, and mathematical enhancements.

LibreOffice Applications

  • Start Center – Global Application
  • Base – Database
  • Calc – Spreadsheet
  • Draw – Graphical Design
  • Impress – Presentation
  • Math – Equation Editor
  • Printer Administration
  • Writer – Word Processor

The Verdict

Sure, LibreOffice 3.3 is basically a recolored OO.o, at this point. But, adding its own fixes and features sets it in a new direction. LibreOffice should retain its compatibility with OO.o so that extensions, fixes, patches, and code enhancements can be used in either product.

Like the Debian Linux distribution, one of the best features of LibreOffice is that it isn’t tied to a particular corporation. I give LibreOffice a 9/10 for its updated design, new, unique features and fixes, and its independent nature. I like the look of LibreOffice. I like that Go-oo has begun merging with it. And, I like that it has diverged from the once exhalted OO.o. Regardless of your operating system of choice, you should use LibreOffice. It works well. It’s free. It also sends a message to corporate overlords that we don’t have to pay $300-$400 for a capable office suite.

* It gave me great pleasure to uninstall OO.o and fill out the online survey to say that I’m now using LibreOffice. I feel freer already.

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