I really liked OpenOffice
July 29, 2014 6:32 PM   Subscribe

I really liked OpenOffice, but apparently it's defunct. According to this, my choices are now ApacheOpenOffice or LibreOffice. Of course, there's also Google Docs. I need something for occasional use on my home PC. What should I do?

Pertinent considerations:
- My home PC is running windows 7
- I'm used to MS Office because that's what I've used at work.
- I won't be using it enough to justify buying MS Office. Free is what I'm shooting for.
- I need word processing and spreadsheet functions, and would like an Access clone
- Document access via the internet would be nice, but I can just save to Google Drive, right?

Which should I go with, ApacheOpenOffice or LibreOffice? Is there any appreciable difference?
posted by Daddy-O to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
When you open up the LibreOffice launcher in the latest version (, it shows a thumbnail of recent documents, without an easily-accessible way to disable that. There are apparently workarounds, though. The ApacheOpenOffice launcher doesn't do that.
posted by Small Dollar at 6:43 PM on July 29, 2014

LibreOffice handles .docx files, which Open Office didn't the last time I used it. I don't know about ApacheOpenOffice, though.

You can just save everything to Google Drive, but it doesn't edit Word or Excel files natively; to edit, you have to convert to a Google doc. So if you want to be able to edit online, you might as well just save files as Google docs to begin with; otherwise, you can save them to Google Drive if you just need to be able to view files (but at that point, it's easier to save everything to Dropbox instead; that way you can view online and edit in place on any computer you can install the Dropbox client on).

I've use LibreOffice when I need to, and it works perfectly fine, but I'm slowly converting everything to Google docs, mostly because it's a lot easier to link to things on Blackboard / Moodle (I'm a professor) and then be able to edit them if I need to change something (otherwise, I have to upload a new version every time I change something, which gets really annoying about the 5th time I realize I've gotten a date wrong in a schedule). So, if this is an aspect of how you're using personal documents (if you're, say, sharing recipes with people who also need to be able to edit them or collaborating with colleagues or whatever) then that's something to think about too. This solution is not without its pitfalls - there are some things that Google docs just won't do, like let you flow text around a table in a document - but overall, it's working out best for me.

Then again, all 3 solutions are free, so you might as well download both office suites and fool around and see which of the 3 will work best for you. :)
posted by joycehealy at 6:58 PM on July 29, 2014

Libre office is made by the guys who split from open office and is very actively developed. That's what ibusw now.
posted by chasles at 7:08 PM on July 29, 2014 [5 favorites]

I transitioned to LibreOfice without really thinking about it. I got the idea from somewhere that it was the successor to OpenOffice and just installed it. It feels like OpenOffice so it has that going for it, but I would expect that ApacheOpenOffice would as well.

I like the concept of Google Docs but I find that it is much worse at preserving formatting than OpenOffice is. If you can live with Google Docs thats what I would go with.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 7:09 PM on July 29, 2014

Since you're used to it, you might also check and see if you can get MS Office at a heavy discount through your work. I got the full suite for something like $15
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 7:14 PM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

I also use LibreOffice, all the time - just in case sheer numbers of "I use it" responses help you :)
posted by amtho at 7:15 PM on July 29, 2014

Apache OpenOffice is not really dead, per se, but it's basically become a pet project of IBM and the community has largely moved to LibreOffice. Due to the way the projects are licensed, all of the improvements that IBM contributes to OpenOffice will be absorbed into LibreOffice but not vice versa.
posted by Poldo at 7:17 PM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think Google Drive (dba Google Docs) does indeed edit docx and xlsx files now. Anyway, I also think Microsoft offers a free online version of Office. It's very basic.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:22 PM on July 29, 2014

I just downloaded Apache OpenOffice 4.1.0 last week, having no previous experience with OpenOffice. So far it seems like a good MS Office emulator. OpenOfficeWriter can save as Word 6.0, Word 95 and Word 97/2000/XP docs, plus RTF and other options. I gather it can open DocX files, but I haven't tried yet. I'm not seeing an option to save as DocX. It's free and seems like a fine program, so I'd say give it a go.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 7:35 PM on July 29, 2014

LibreOffice - because it's better for file import/export than the abject thing that is Excel on Mac OS.
posted by scruss at 8:16 PM on July 29, 2014

Microsoft offers a free online version of its Office suite for with a (free) Microsoft account. It's not full-featured, but covers the basics.
posted by AppleTurnover at 8:32 PM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I decided to go with LibreOffice, and it seemed to do just fine for the simple doc I needed to create.
posted by Daddy-O at 9:48 PM on July 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Just for future reference; Oracle bought Sun, who managed OpenOffice.org. Oracle dicked about the associated community, so they cloned the code (which you can do with open source) and founded LibreOffice, which the vast majority of contributors shifted across to. Oracle basically decided they'd had enough of the whole business, fired their remaining inhouse developers and handed control of their version (and the name) over to the Apache Foundation, who manage a number of open source projects.

As it stands, there's not huge differences between the two versions yet given their shared history, but they are steadily growing apart over time. LibreOffice is getting far more developer love though, and is the one getting new features much more rapidly; such as better font support, and docx compatibility; it also includes a bunch of extensions that are manual options on Apache OpenOffice.

Out of the two, I think you made the right choice, as LibreOffice has the much better prospects; it has become the default office suite for most linux distros, for example.
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:22 AM on July 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've been using LibreOffice for many years now, including recently using the spreadsheets to get me through a statistics class. No complaints. Besides, it's free and loads a little faster than OpenOffice.
posted by Foam Pants at 12:27 AM on July 30, 2014

You can just save everything to Google Drive, but it doesn't edit Word or Excel files natively; to edit, you have to convert to a Google doc.
As a result of the quickoffice acquisition, google have recently added the ability to edit microsoft word, excel and powerpoint files and keep them in the office native format (or export to google docs format, as before). You can use the android app, the chrome extension, or if you have the new version of google drive (settings, Experience the new Drive) via the web-editor.
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:49 AM on July 30, 2014

Try this.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 5:25 AM on July 30, 2014

It should be noted that while some alternatives may be "free" in terms of cost, both LibreOffice and OpenOffice are are free as in speech (hence, "libre").
posted by Poldo at 6:03 AM on July 30, 2014

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