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LibreOffice 6.0 pushes for enterprise viability

The debate of office suites may boil down to Microsoft Office vs. LibreOffice. The former is an expensive but consistent native suite, and the latter is third-party and free.

LibreOffice 6.0, the latest version of the open source office productivity suite, offers an alternative to Microsoft Office for cost-conscious organizations.

The Document Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes open source software suites, first released LibreOffice in January 2011. It evolved from OpenOffice.org, which Oracle discontinued that year.

LibreOffice 6.0, released in February 2018, supports a range of file types, from standard Office files to older legacy files that even Office 365 doesn't support. It also offers a comprehensive list of downloadable extensions, including advanced calculators, templates and language tools such as dictionaries and thesauruses. LibreOffice 6.0 also added features such as new calculation commands in its spreadsheet editor and new templates in its presentation builder.

LibreOffice 6.0 works on Windows, Linux, Apple macOS and some mobile platforms. Mobile editing is still in the works, however, as Google Android and Apple iOS can only host the LibreOffice Viewer app and not the full suite. LibreOffice also lacks an email client, but its site points out that there are many third-party clients that run on Windows for business users to choose from.

LibreOffice isn't the perfect suite, but Microsoft is giving some IT pros cause to look at alternatives by supporting the upcoming Office 2019 only on Windows 10. The rigid update cadence of Windows 10 takes away some of IT's decision-making power. LibreOffice offers customization with updates, allowing IT to choose between automatic and manual updates, running an older version of the suite's applications and selectively updating on the organization's schedule.

LibreOffice apps
LibreOffice applications

Organizations with many endpoints stand to save money if they switch to LibreOffice 6.0, but the LibreOffice site recommends purchasing professional support, such as consultants, to ensure security with an enterprise deployment.

The zero-dollar price tag will catch the eye of anyone who has dealt with Microsoft Office licensing, but on the other hand, businesses require a high level of performance that Microsoft has consistently provided. In the debate of LibreOffice vs. Office, a free but faulty alternative to Office may not be viable.

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This was last published in May 2018

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Do you think LibreOffice is a viable option for Microsoft Office users and enterprises to switch to? Why or why not?
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We moved our whole organisation (of 300+ staff with 100+ PCs) to LibreOffice a few years ago. It worked well for about 2 years but unfortunately Microsoft released 'security patches' that identified files converted to Ms Office formats as being vulnerable which although not true caused confusion to staff. Also some suppliers still insisted on using Macro enabled documents that caused some other issues. Overall I use this for our family (with 8 PCs) and other smaller offices but found the learning curve for staff too high unless management supported it.
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For businesses, the standardization on Microsoft Office formats, which it alone controls and makes proprietary, dictates having Microsoft Office on premises. However, that doesn't end the story. LibreOffice does some things that Microsoft Office can't do. So a business can use LibreOffice for 80 percent of its workload and use Microsoft Office to ensure compatibility for Microsoft Office files that need to go outside to other organizations. That will still save a lot of money on licensing, maintenance and operations. 

A significant speed bump is the inability to run third-party MicrosoftOffice plugins  in LibreOffice. That would require total compatibility with the old VB6 language, which may or may not be doable. But also, in 2020 Microsoft will stop making desktop Office applications from using Office 365 services, so even MS Office users will be stymied and need to have some Office 365 installations. 

The  way around this would be if enough organizations installed LibreOffice then  they could ship native LibreOffice files and use MS Office only when required. 
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