LibreOffice / OpenOffice / NeoOffice - do you use it, and why / why not?

As a member of the QA volunteer group for the LibreOffice project that deals mainly with bug triaging, I would be interested to know whether or not you use LibreOffice, Apache OpenOffice, NeoOffice or something related to any of these for your daily document productivity needs.

For those that might not know, LibreOffice is an office document productivity suite. It runs on Windows (from XP to 8), Mac OSX (10.4 to 10.10), and various Linux distributions and other Unixes (I believe FreeBSD and Solaris versions are available, but not officially supported as yet). It is entirely free, both financially and in terms of use (or re-use) of code, copying of the binaries, installation, subject to the terms of two open source licences (LGPL / MPL).

A similar sister project exists, called Apache OpenOffice with similar goals, although a different licensing scheme for code submissions - I won't get into the embroglio of the philosophical principles behind the differing choice of licences between the two, but suffice it to say, they are still very close in terms of actual shared lines of computer code, although the two are diverging.

Both of these products stem from Oracle's OpenOffice, which Oracle acquired from Sun, the first company to open up the source code and create a community of contributors. Prior to Sun's acquisition, the product was a closed source, proprietary offering from the German company StarDivision GmbH.

Well, enough of the brief history of time, and back to the question(s) :

- do you use LibreOffice / Apache OpenOffice / NeoOffice ?

- if yes, what for - professional / personal use ?

- if yes, which modules (or apps, if you prefer) ?

- if no, why not ?

I prefer the split apps approach, definitely.

I have used Open Office for some years now mainly because I could no longer afford to support Microsoft Office. It does everything I want it to, seems to be relatively free from bloat. However, I am using it only for very occasional personal use these days so I may not be a "typical" user. My current version is 4.01

The versions that ship with Ubuntu have their own particular problems, due to decisions made by the Ubuntu or PPA packagers / compilers, in addition to those already present in the TDF (The Document Foundation, the founding body for the LibreOffice project) versions, but yes, the askubuntu site is a good resource.

Another, excellent, and historic resource are the OpenOffice forums :

these community run resources are replete with answers and examples to help people out, from complete beginners to budding experts. For me, this is a far better resource than anything that the LibreOffice project provides itself. The people there will answer questions from all variants of LIbreOffice/OpenOffice/NeoOffice, or at least point you in the direction of an existing answer if that question has already been asked.

A very good resource is the Ask Ubuntu site ( As LibreOffice is shipped with the distro, the guys and gals on that site are more than helpful and a very good fount of knowledge about LibreOffice.

Thanks Krister. Just out of interest, did you prefer the all-in-one desktop approach of StarDivision's StarOffice, or the split apps as they became when Sun got rid it ?

Hi Graham,

Thanks for the reply.

One of the problems the project has, like many open source projects, is that developers develop new functions, e.g. formulae for Calc, and do not always explain how those new functions are to be used, nor add help entries to the built-in help. This leaves the documentation project, which is "under-subscribed" when it comes to members actually writing stuff in the dark about the existence of the function and how best to provide documentation for it - the people who write the documentation are generally users of the product and not the developers. Obviously, this is a difficult situation to redress, and currently our only way to make things any better is to try and engage people to contribute their own knowledge (whether by discovery or experience) to improving the documentation.

I still feel that the technical barriers to entry to contributing to the documentation project are too high, although the FAQ and manuals tend to be fairly well written, albeit a few versions behind the actual current release.

As for the built-in help, it uses a specific engine to render rather obscure XML files, and editing these is by no means something for the neophyte, as it requires knowledge of XML syntax, and use of the source code repository versioning tool, git (or logerrit via the web).

Having moved over to Ubuntu (linux) after the end of life statement regarding XP (cant stand MS 7 or later derivatives) I started to use LibreOffice which is distributed free with Ubuntu. It reads in all of the spreadsheets I constructed in MS Office previously without incident and in some cases has even offered a welcome feature bonus not available in Office. I have created business cards (cartes de visite) with better quality and features than available with MS Publisher.

Naturally, there was a steep learning curve and it would have been easier just to throw hands in the air and declare it an impossible task but with nothing better to do, I persevered and am pleased with the results. I've created a few more applications for daily living and am pleased with the result.

My only criticism is the lack of useful on-line help through the applications themselves but I have found other references which have been more than helpful in finding the correct syntax for formulas and have yet to find a task which has defeated me. Some syntax in the help files are completely wrong - but hey! the packages are free and the help files have been worked on by unpaid enthusiasts so I guess one must accept that.

Yes, we use LibreOffice. Both for private and professional use. Only the modules Write and Calc. Actually, I was using StarOffice already in last century. Our machines are two Macs and one Ubuntu laptop.