Are you looking for a free desktop alternative to Microsoft Office? Look no further than LibreOffice and OpenOffice. These two open source productivity suites are great if you want to replace Microsoft's software or even Google Docs.
However, you may have trouble deciding between the two. If so, be sure to read our comparison guide below to see how they fit together. We examine factors such as the availability of the platform, the ease of use, the respective functions and the supported file formats.
Note: The following comparisons are based on the latest versions of LibreOffice and OpenOffice: LibreOffice 6.4.7 and OpenOffice 4.1.8. Technically, the latest released version of LibreOffice is 7.0.3, but this version has not been tested while version 6.4.7 is available and is generally for early adopters.
Availability and price of the platform
Let's get the pricing information out of the way first.
LibreOffice and OpenOffice are free to download and use. Both are comparable alternatives to Microsoft's Premium Office Suite, but without the associated costs.
For platform availability, both are available on Windows, Linux, and MacOS.
However, OpenOffice has a slight advantage over LibreOffice. The OpenOffice website contains links to additional ports and third-party distributions that are not supported or maintained by the Apache Software Foundation. One notable port is AndrOpen Office, the Android port from OpenOffice. However, be careful when downloading or using these unofficial ports and distributions.
Winner: OpenOffice by a hair.
User interface and ease of use
Neither LibreOffice nor OpenOffice have interfaces that are too unknown or difficult to use. However, your personal preference for either factor may be due to one factor: Are you a Google Docs person or a Microsoft Office person?
LibreOffice is similar to a Microsoft Office app, except for the ribbon with buttons and options at the top of the screen. The ribbon icons are pretty big and the overall look is brighter and much more colorful. The large icons also make it easy to scan the ribbon to find what you need.
In contrast, OpenOffice looks a bit monotonous and gray and has smaller menu icons at the top of the windows. However, it is similar to Google Docs. So, if you prefer the minimalist look and feel of Google Docs and its clear menus, OpenOffice might be the best choice for you.
In addition, OpenOffice offers what is known as a sidebar deck, a series of sidebar menus that appear on the right side of your screen. It has many of the same tools and options you find at the top of the screen, but in a convenient menu that is easier to get to and has clearer buttons and icons.
LibreOffice also has a sidebar deck, but it doesn't open by default like in OpenOffice. To access this sidebar in LibreOffice, choose View and then Sidebar from the menu that appears.
Winner: A draw. Both functions are simple, familiar and easy to use. It really comes down to just deciding whether you want to use something that looks like a Microsoft product or a suite that looks like a Google product.
Features and skills
Both LibreOffice and OpenOffice have six different types of documents that you can create: a text document, a table, a presentation, a drawing, a formula, or a database.
Both office suites offer document templates, but LibreOffice offers more built-in, ready-to-use templates than OpenOffice. If you want to use templates in OpenOffice, you must first browse the online collection stored on the OpenOffice website and then download the templates you want. Both productivity app suites allow their users to add new enhancements and features to their software to improve functionality.
LibreOffice and OpenOffice include wizards that you can use to create unique templates for letters and more. However, the LibreOffice wizards seem easier to use, while OpenOffice may require you to download and install a Java runtime environment first.
Winner: LibreOffice wins because features like templates and wizards seem easier to use and access. Overall, however, they both share many of the same features and capabilities.
File format compatibility
While you can save documents in a variety of formats in both office suites, LibreOffice is ahead in this category. It offers more modern format options for saving your documents including ODF, Unified Office Format, Word 2007-356, Word 97-33, and Rich Text. You can also export your document as PDF, EPUB, or XHTML.
OpenOffice, on the other hand, tends to use older file formats when it comes to providing Save As … options, including ODF, Microsoft Word 97/2000 / XP, Microsoft Word 95, and Rich Text. In addition, you can mainly only export your documents as PDFs and XHTMLs.
Winner: LibreOffice due to its more modern range of file formats.
LibreOffice is the clear winner, but which one works for you?
LibreOffice is the clear winner here. We love the ease of use paired with an intuitive design and quick access to templates and wizards. As a bonus, LibreOffice makes it easier to handle modern file formats.
You need to evaluate the most important elements based on your individual software needs as no software is suitable for every circumstance.
For those who are die-hard Microsoft Office fans and prefer templates, LibreOffice has some of its additional features.
If you're more of a Google Docs fan and aren't that into native templates, OpenOffice can simplify some unnecessary extras.