LibreOffice is the power-packed free, libre and open source personal productivity suite for Windows, Macintosh and GNU/Linux, that gives you six feature-rich applications for all your document production and data processing needs: Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, Math and Base. Support and documentation is free from our large, dedicated community of users, contributors and developers. You, too, can also get involved!
OpenOffice.org, from which it is derived:
|Writer||A word processor with similar functionality and file support to Microsoft Word or WordPerfect. It also can act as a basic WYSIWYG editor.|
|Calc||A spreadsheet program, similar to Microsoft Excel or Lotus 1-2-3. It has a number of unique features, including a system which automatically defines series of graphs, based on information available to the user. LibreOffice Calc still has a function called "Solver" but it is slightly different to that in OpenOffice.org.|
|Impress||A presentation program resembling Microsoft Powerpoint. Presentations can be exported as SWF files, allowing them to be viewed on any computer with Adobe Flash installed. LibreOffice Impress also includes 3D transition effects.|
|Base||A database management program, similar to Microsoft Access. LibreOffice Base allows the creation and management of databases, preparation of forms and reports that provide end users easy access to data. Like Access, it can be used as a front-end for various database systems, including Access databases (JET), ODBC data sources, and MySQL or PostgreSQL.|
|Draw||A vector graphics editor and diagramming tool similar to Microsoft Visio and comparable in features to early versions of CorelDRAW. It provides connectors between shapes, which are available in a range of line styles and facilitate building drawings such as flowcharts. It also includes features similar to desktop publishing software such as Scribus and Microsoft Publisher.|
|Math||An application designed for creating and editing mathematical formulae. The application uses a variant of XML for creating formulas, as defined in the OpenDocument specification. These formulas can be incorporated into other documents in the LibreOffice suite, such as those created by Writer or Calc, by embedding the formulas into the document.|
LibreOffice also comes with a PDF creator and also a PDF import tool allowing PDF files to be imported.
OpenOffice.org is one of the leading competitors to the Microsoft Office suite of business productivity applications. Originally developed as StarOffice in the late 1990s, the suite had been managed in recent years by Sun Microsystems as an open source project. But when Oracle acquired Sun in April 2009, the future of Sun's software offerings -- particularly free ones like OpenOffice.org -- was called into question. Before long, key OpenOffice.org developers, unhappy with the status quo under Oracle, began defecting from the project.
The result was LibreOffice, a new fork of the OpenOffice.org code base that's maintained by a nonprofit organization called the Document Foundation. LibreOffice looks like OpenOffice.org and it runs like OpenOffice.org. It even reads and writes OpenOffice.org's OpenDocument file formats. The difference is that LibreOffice is being developed in a fully community-driven way, without oversight from Oracle. (The "libre" in the suite's name is derived from a Latinate root meaning "liberty.")
[ Also on InfoWorld: "10 great free desktop productivity tools that aren't OpenOffice.org" | Track the latest trends in open source with InfoWorld's Open Sources blog and Technology: Open Source newsletter. ]
The question is, which suite should you use? Both OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice recently announced version 3.3.0 of their respective wares. Both are available as free downloads (although Oracle also sells a version of OpenOffice.org that includes commercial support). Which one will be the better bet for now or in the foreseeable future? I installed both to find out.
Installation and language support
OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice each consists of six applications, called Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, Base, and Math in both suites. The modules provide word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, business graphics, database management, and formula editing, respectively.
Both suites are available for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X (Intel and PowerPC). You can also get OpenOffice.org for Solaris (Sparc and Intel). Because I wanted to test the most typical Office-replacement scenario, however, I ran both suites on an Intel PC running Windows 7.
The executable installers for both suites are similar; they ask the same questions and the install scripts seem identical, although LibreOffice setup is a little slower. I chose Typical Install for both.
LibreOffice has support for a broader range of languages than OpenOffice.org.