Open Source Office Software

I’ve been looking at laptops. Until now all my writing’s been done on desktop PCs and, if I’m out and about, in notebooks and typed up later. Currently our household has two desktops, one on Windows 7 and one on Windows 8 but no tablet or other ‘on the move’ device apart from smartphones. But I like coffee shop writing and my husband fancies sitting with his feet up in the lounge when he’s on the internet, rather than at a desk upstairs – hence the decision to look at laptops.

A new Windows 10 laptop demands a new version of Microsoft Office. Microsoft are trying to move towards an annual subscription model but there is still, currently, the option of a one-off fee version, which will not get any software updates. Both of these are expensive on top of the laptop cost. So I’ve been looking into the free open source alternatives.

There are two main free open source alternatives to Microsoft Office: OpenOffice and LibreOffice. Both contain a Word equivalent and an Excel equivalent. Both can read and write in .doc and .docx formats (making them Word compatible) and have similar capabilities to Word. Both are compared to Microsoft Office in this useful article by Techsoup.

I decided to give LibreOffice a try on the Windows 8 desktop PC prior to making any laptop decisions. Downloading and installing was straightforward and the install automatically put a nice little icon on my desktop. I created a document in LibreOffice Writer and saved it as .docx and then opened it in Microsoft Word, amended it, saved it and opened it in Libre. Everything seemed totally compatible (that was one of my worries about not using the ‘proper’ Word) within the simple document that I used as my initial test.

LibreOffice Writer feels like Word but without the final ‘polish’. I haven’t tracked down how to do everything yet but I’m sure a quick question to Mr Google will get me the answers. First impressions make me think that LibreOffice Writer will do the job on our new laptop – especially since I’ll still have access to Microsoft Word on the desktop PC to give manuscripts a final once-over before submission.

Does anyone else use ‘free’ word processors?

I put ‘free’ in inverted commas because LibreOffice does encourage donations towards the software’s further development and support. I didn’t donate on download but if the software turns out to be as useful as I hope then I will return to their donation page. But first we have to make a decision on which laptop  to buy…

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  1. #1 by Robert Crompton on January 17, 2017 - 9:12 am

    I’ve used LibreOffice for several years and found it to be great. Uploaded books to Kindle and Smashwords (which need .doc) with no problems. Can’t see any reason to go back to MS.

    • #2 by Sally Jenkins on January 17, 2017 - 11:00 am

      Thanks, Robert, that’s reassuring to know.

  2. #3 by susie8765 on January 17, 2017 - 9:17 am

    I used Open Office years ago when i was applying for ‘proper jobs’. It messed up the formatting on my CV so that when employers opened it in MS Word, they saw bad spacing and tabs that didn’t exist when viewing it on my Open Office screen. If you want to be assured of what your work looks like when someone else opens it in Word, I’d suggest looking at older, cheaper, versions of office (or just Word) instead. I think we’re running Office 2000 now.

    • #4 by Sally Jenkins on January 17, 2017 - 11:03 am

      Thanks, Susie. Conflicting advice coming in here! I think there’s a case for trying LibreOffice on the laptop (when it’s bought!) but double checking anything that’s going to be sent out in Word on desktop. And seeing how I go.

  3. #5 by admin on January 17, 2017 - 10:58 am

    Hi Sally. I too made this move about 18 months ago and took a long time deliberating. My first laptop went back and I ended up with a MacBook Pro. And I love it. Pages is intuitive and everything can be converted to docx very easily (without extra software).
    I’m now an Apple convert….. May be worth a look??

    • #6 by Sally Jenkins on January 17, 2017 - 11:05 am

      Thanks for the advice, mumofteens, but the price of a MacBook is putting me off at the moment – maybe when I’m rich and famous!

      • #7 by admin on January 17, 2017 - 11:55 am

        Ha ha! Yes I know it’s a big investment but don’t have to pay for software or upgrades and I was lucky to have a daughter at uni so could get the student discount which isn’t bad. Good luck in your search… Looks like some good advice here

  4. #8 by Anne Harvey on January 17, 2017 - 11:05 am

    Sally, useful info as I didn’t know about the new Office subscription etc. Must ask my computer chappie about that. I just recently bought a laptop for when I’m laid up following my ankle op )postponed because of the NHS crisis). It’s an Acer and it’s taken a bit of getting used to but I’ve now made myself write on there so that I have to get used to it. It’s much quicker to react than my desktop.

    • #9 by Sally Jenkins on January 17, 2017 - 11:08 am

      Hi Anne – I guess the laptop is quicker because it’s newer. Glad you’ve got used to it and hope you get that op soon!

  5. #10 by judybrulo on January 17, 2017 - 11:18 am

    Ji Jenny. I’ve been using Libre Office for ages. It works well. Judy

  6. #12 by Maria Smith (@mariaAsmith) on January 17, 2017 - 11:36 am

    I got sent a document from someone with Open Office, I have Word (and pay the subscription) and couldn’t open their document. it was a real hassle! It was years ago and things may be improved, but I would try emailing a document to a friend with Word, as it’s still the most preferred tool out there.

    If you aren’t aware, Microsoft Office’s charge for Word, Excel etc covers up to four people and they can be either Windows and Mac which fits with our family as two of us have Apple machines.

    However, my first choice nowadays is Scrivener, which takes a hell of a lot of getting used to…but, it converts the documents to Word for you to send on to editors etc

    Regards laptops and operating systems – I use a Windows laptop for my day job, and Windows 10 does take a little getting used to at first, but you’ll really appreciate the freedom of a laptop. Do consider things like screen size though, and weight if you are going to go out and about.

    My machine is 11inches, great for portability, except in the almost five years I have had it, my eyes have deteriorated due to age, and my next machine will probably be a 13 inch machine. Where as hubby likes to surf on the sofa and has a 15 inch screen as he can’t get on with mine.

    That sort of suits me though… 🙂 Good luck making your choices.

    • #13 by Sally Jenkins on January 17, 2017 - 11:46 am

      Thanks for the comprehensive comment, Maria. From the little testing I’ve done, LibreOffice docs can be opened in Word as long as you remember to save them as .doc or .docx in LibreOffice. Have never used Scrivener – don’t think I could go through the hassle of getting used to it! Interesting what you say about screen sizes -I have to sit here in reading glasses to type. Always too many decisions!

  7. #14 by susanjanejones on January 17, 2017 - 4:17 pm

    Hi, Sally. I admire your delve into more technology, but you do that for your day job don’t you I think? I’ve thought about a laptop, and been and looked. That’s as far as it got. I like to sit at my desk and type on the desktop p.c. Otherwise, I use a notebook and pen. Maybe one day I’ll get round to it, but not quite yet.

    • #15 by Sally Jenkins on January 17, 2017 - 4:26 pm

      I do work in IT, Susan but I’m by no means a PC expert. I like to sit at a desk an work – but sometimes I just want to get out of the house for a change of scenery!

  8. #16 by juliathorley on January 17, 2017 - 4:56 pm

    It’s a minefield. Whatever you do, someone will tell you’ve made a mistake! My son uses only Google docs. who knows!

    • #17 by Sally Jenkins on January 18, 2017 - 9:46 am

      You’re right, Julia, it seems to be totally subjective! I think the answer is try it and see.

  9. #18 by hilarycustancegreen on January 18, 2017 - 6:03 pm

    I have just indulged in a new laptop – a Macbook Pro (version 10.12.2 – this has the latest operating system, but is the older machine which still has input sockets). I am thrilled with it and I did add a new set of Office, so that we have at least one machine that is to up to date. I can now travel with it to give talks. It was expensive and I waited nearly a year to save up and make the decision, but I don’t regret it.

    • #19 by Sally Jenkins on January 19, 2017 - 1:00 pm

      Sounds great, Hilary. Not sure my budget can run to a Macbook but sounds worth it!

  10. #20 by zoyagia1978 on January 27, 2017 - 10:37 am

    Reblogged this on Geeky Stuff Corner.

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