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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.

Comments on "LibreOffice 3.3: First Impressions"

troym

Great article, although sad about Oracle’s decisions involving openoffice and the developers, but I am going to be replacing it with LibreOffice because I support open source software.

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njsharp

Am I over-optimistic? I am really hoping for a much better LO IMPRESS experience when viewing and editing .ppt and .pptx files from colleagues running Powerpoint. I want the slides to look identical and I want to be able to read the notes. Not exactly overly demanding eh? Yes, I know there are font issues, but Jo Public wants that solved, not trotted out as an excuse.

Neither (look, notes page) is true for me on OO.o 3.2.0 Build 9483 or:

LibreOffice 3.3.0
OOO330m12 (Build:2)
libreoffice-build 3.2.99.3

though (trivially) it was nice to be able to select and copy the above three lines (unlike OO.o’s ‘about’ window), and the .pptx opened a lot faster with LO than OO.

Reply
heeter

Right out of the box, LO has been able to do what OO was not, slowly integrate into a 70 workstation office. Openoffice never made itself easy to use in a MSOffice-dominated building with MSOffice-dominated clientele. LO has been fully intergrated into the first workstation, and is installed and being worked with on 5 other workstations with more than positive results.

The reality is that this thing has to work side by side with MSOffice, and OO never let itself think about reality.

Reply
oraldeckard

The article and comments make it sound like Open Office is no longer free. I went to OpenOffice.org and saw nothing to indicate a change, and the usual statement: The Free and Open Productivity Suite

I did a search for any commentary regarding Open Office no longer being free and found nothing besides this article and comments.

The license for Open Office is still LGPL.V3.

What is the basis for implying that Open Office is no longer free?

Reply
    sgtcedar

    The article is not talking about free in the sense of cost. It is talking about free as in freedom from control by a single corporation.

    Reply
cjcox

Oracle has proven over and over and over that if what they “have” cannot be sold for profit, then it’s dead. Thus Oracle has been divesting themselves of a ton of open source software by either getting out completely, or by pulling the plug on resources used by the open source project. The ONLY reason that OpenOffice is still around is because of StarOffice (the commercially sold variant that Oracle has). And with that said, there are other “open source” projects that Oracle is sponsoring (which do NOT make profit) and we MUST wonder when they too will get killed (and Oracle doesn’t exactly give warning). Things like ocfs2 and btrfs come to mind.

Sure, the GPL is the IP protector in these cases, just realize that so far, it seems very likely that Oracle will make any GPL project that it is a part of…. go through some pain….

And… with that said, most big software companies are haters of the GPL and open source (truth be told). And that includes many of the companies that a lot of FOSS users think are their friends. Beware.

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oraldeckard

Thank you both for your replies. I understand cjcox to say that pulling the plug or hindering is what we have come to expect from Oracle, and that the GPL is still protecting Open Office.

But troum siad “…although sad about Oracle’s decisions involving openoffice and the developers, …” So what decisions have Oracle made involving Open Office ?

If Open Office is going to be drug down by Oracle then I want off, but I’d like to know that that is true first.

Reply
oraldeckard

Well I did a search on “Oracle decisions about Open Office” and found that a lot of distributions, including Fedora and Red Hat, are dropping Open Office. That’s good enough for me. Open Office has been good, but a stick in the mud is not good. Onward and upward.

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oraldeckard

OK, I uninstalled Open Office from one machine and installed Libreoffice. I then opened a Word document that had to be done in Word because Open Office rendered it too long for the paper. It worked fine in Liberoffice. I then opened the same document in Open Office on another machine and it spilled onto the next sheet just like it always did. The article said Liberoffice was starting off as essentially just like Open Office, with improvement down the road, but this shows significant improvement for me.

Reply
radleym

@linuxmagazine …
Since this is an end user productivity tool, how about not scaring end users off with the command line stuff. By all means don’t eliminate it, just preface it with something like “Just go to your distribution’s software installer and search on LibreOffice, or if you prefer the command line, …”.

In this case, a warning to uninstall OpenOffice first might also be in order.

My 2c

Reply
nosnetrom

I installed LibreOffice a few weeks ago on a PowerPC Mac Pro (Mac OS X 10.4.11); I tried installing OO.o on it a long time ago, but it required an XWindows library that was only available from the (long since departed) original OS install disk. LibreOffice installed with no complaints and ran like a champ. I’m a believer!

Reply
khess

@radleym

I did put in a warning to uninstall OO.o under Basics:

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

Reply
jloveless

Does anyone have a feel for what changes have been made to Base in LO? I know it is not widely used but it would be a good thing to see a solid Base for a change. To me, it never looked finished in OO. The manual for LO makes it seem like there have been many improvements. Maybe they came from Go?

Reply
yorkie

Hello from New Zealand,
Just installed LibreOffice, as a Polytechnic Tutor I now use it for all my notes for the programming courses I teach here in the Bay of Plenty, and encourage my colleagues and students to try it.My programming is Java using Netbeans 6.9.1 on a Linux Mint 10 OS. Open Source is where the real innovation in software and hardware is now taking place.
Quite simply it is a splendid tool to use and a credit to the development teams considerable effort.

Reply
timmytonawanda

I switched over to LibreOffice as soon as I found out it could open my old StarOffice documents. OpenOffice would not do that.

Reply
arjay

I switched to libreoffice from abiword and it lasted just one hour (on a linux desktop). LO is so slooooooooooooow it is appalling. It takes around 30 seconds to open a small spreadsheet. Then, if I mark a block of cells to cut and paste, the cursor freezes and everything is unusable for several seconds before I can paste to another part of the same spreadsheet, or to another spreadsheet. What cr*p.

I tried LO running in a win XP virtual machine and it is MUCH faster. I then tried it on another PC with a different linux distro and it was just as slow – unusable for any length of time.

Also, with a Brother MFC240C printer, it prints the first line of any text above the print space at the top of the page. I have to set the first line of text of a document 2 inches down the page to have a chance of it printing.

Yuch – back to abiword

Reply
linuxlobo

Libre Office has replaced Open Office on most of my systems. It has worked great on Fedora 14, Linux Mint 10 and Fusion Linux 14. It gave me access to some of my old files that I could not under Open Office.

I want to thank the Libre Office people for the courage to strike out on their own and not only maintain but improve their suite above Open Office.

Reply

I am running Libre Office 3.4 on Windows XP SP3 and it is EXTREMELY SLOW – well over a minute to start up and load a medium size document – and it frequent stalls during editing with Windows showing “Not responding” in the title bar. Is there any fix for this or is it just the cost of “free” software? If so, then $300 or so for MS Office is a much better deal!

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