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Published 25 February 2016

Adrian Fowler

Adrian Fowler
Managing Director

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A free copy of the latest version of Office anyone?

At last, you can obtain a copy of Office for free. Totally free. No cost whatsoever.

For years we’ve been battling with accepting the cost of upgrading our computers either at home or work. Since Microsoft Office released their first version in 1990 we have upgraded 17 times, and at an average cost of £180 per upgrade, we have spent a staggering £3060. And let’s face it, you can’t tell if a Word document has been written on Word 95 or Word 2016, it generally yields the same end result.

But as we know, we’ve had no choice but to upgrade as each version of Office brings with it yet another set of compatibility issues which ultimately frustrate you into spending the cash and upgrading. Another few quid in Microsoft’s bin.

But not any more. At last I live to see the day. Welcome to LibreOffice, we were expecting you, we just had to wait 26 years.

LibreOffice – a free alternative to Microsoft office

LibreOffice is free. Totally free and as it states on their homepage

“LibreOffice is Free and Open Source Software. Development is open to new talent and new ideas, and our software is tested and used daily by a large and devoted user community”

That means no more parting with huge amounts of cash to update Microsoft Office. Just install LibreOffice and that’s it.

When you consider a business with 25 copies of Office, that could equate to a staggering £5500 off your bottom line.

Is it any good? Well, I’m writing this document on LibreOffice Writer, which is their version of Microsoft Word, and you know what? I can’t tell I’m actually using a different word processor. All the menu’s are in exactly the same place as is the tool bars and other elements. It is what you could describe as being intuitive.

The only missing function which I’ve noticed so far is the lack of ability to save a document as a PDF, which isn’t entirely the end of the world as there are plenty of free converters out there. I’m also almost entirely convinced that this feature is about 5 minutes or so from being added in later editions of LibreOffice.

As with any review article, it’s best to cover all bases and start talking about Microsoft Excel or in this case, LibreOffice Calc. Upon opening the alternative immediately you notice it’s actually very similar to Excel. Again the menu’s and tool bars are all very much the same and working with Calc is very intuitive. I find everything I need in the same places and it performs so far the same as Excel.

It opens all the usual Excel files maintaining, from what I’ve seen so far, complete functionality. You can password protect workbooks as you can with Excel but as with Writer, you can’t yet save to a PDF file which I find quite useful particularly when saving quotations to be delivered later by email.

This may come as a surprise but I actually prefer the menus in LibreOffice as they are more akin to Office 2007 and 2003. When Office became 2010 & 2013, the menu’s changed significantly and it became a learning curve / pain of significant magnitude to be able to find all the usual features. A task I still am struggling with today, but now I’m trying LibreOffice, I’m back in the good old days and I can find stuff I previously thought had been removed from the feature list of Microsoft Office because they had been buried in the new ‘improved’ menu structures.

At this stage, I have no complaints about LibreOffice Writer or Calc.

Moving on, we have also in our new free Office suite a copy of Impress, which is LibreOffice own version of Microsoft PowerPoint. Upon opening that I notice again, a similar look and feel.

I can see you can open PowerPoint files and do pretty much the same things on both versions. I don’t confess to being an avid PowerPoint user or fan so I’m not going to get into too much analysis of this product as I simply won’t be able to do it enough justice. I’m also going to leave LibreOffice Draw for now as I use extensively my Adobe product, but I will say, LibreOffice Draw isn’t a bad alternative to Microsoft’s erm? What? Exactly, it’s a useful drawing product that is bundled in the LibreOffice Office suite which Microsoft didn’t include in theirs.

So, if you are a one man band or a business with a hundred desktops, LibreOffice is a good alternative. It’s like deciding to swerve McDonald’s and going for a Byron.

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