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LibreOffice - Free Office Suite

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by David Vincent (subscribe)
Occasional blogger and sometimes freelance writer, hammering away in the West Midlands.
Published October 20th 2020
Cut those costs with OpenSource
laptop, computer, keyboard

We all want to save a few dollars, right? Well, one way might be to ditch that increasingly expensive chunk of software you pay for every year or month, and embrace OpenSource. OpenSource offers a viable alternative to many of the most popular paid-for computer packages - and it's totally free.

Yes! Totally free!

That makes it especially attractive for those who are setting up a new business or side-hustle and looking to make swift savings. But equally, if you're studying or just hobbying, or need to write a professional job application or letter, and want something more than a basic vanilla text editor/ note app, it's perfect too.

With lockdown, so many people have taken the opportunity to write poetry, short stories, novels, scripts, sketches and more, and need the right tools to make their works presentable to others.

What's the catch, we hear you cry?

Essentially, there isn't one!

Often created collaboratively, the best OpenSource software packages offer robust alternatives to big-name/ big-developer programmes and apps and are regularly updated too.

Whatever paid-for software you use, there's a fair chance there's an OpenSource alternative that can to a pretty similar job - for free (did we mention that already?).

One of the most popular OpenSource alternatives in the world today is LibreOffice.

What is LibreOffice.

LibreOffice is the OpenSource equivalent to Microsoft Office and, for the average user, it more than does the job.

Sure, you can continue to buy MS Office for a one-off fee - you'll be able to use for a few years until those regular updates stop and it's no longer supported - and you can run it on a single computer. Or you can subscribe to Microsoft 365 and pay an annual fee for life.

If you have the money, why not?

Or you can download LibreOffice and save yourself those well-earned pennies / dollars / quids / euros etc., and install it on as many computers as you like - for zilch cost.

It's available for Windows, macOS and Linux operating systems.

So what do you get?

With LibreOffice, you get a full suite of tools comparable to MS Office.

For the word processor, there's Writer; Calc is LibreOffice's spreadsheet; Impress is for presentations, a la MS Powerpoint; Draw is for Diagrams; Base is the database tool, and there's also a formula editor and chart tool.

They are pretty powerful tools, packed with features that are regularly updated. There's plenty of templates too.

Want to export a PDF? No problem!

Want to import an Office file? Yup, can do that too!

What's the difference?

Like any programme, LibreOffice has its quirks and may take a brief time to master fully, but for most tasks - letters, writing WeekendNotes reviews, straightforward presentations - you'll be up-and-running within minutes of installing.

LibreOffice does automatically save documents in its own native '.odt' format, but a quick settings change can make sure Writer, for example, automatically saves in .docx / MS Word format, so you can open and edit those old Office documents with ease, or share docs with other MS users.

libreoffice, the document foundation
LibreOffice by The Document Foundation

What about Google?

Sure, you could go down the Google route - G Suite is a very viable and attractive option, although the business version of G Suite does require a monthly fee.

LibreOffice may not back-up your documents to their cloud, but setting up your own (free) cloud back-up is just a few minutes work; or simply back up your files with an external drive. Job: done.

You can pick up a good-sized USB stick for the price of a couple of coffees!

If it's so good - why is it free?

LibreOffice is community-driven and developed software, and is a project of the not-for-profit organisation, The Document Foundation.

It's been developed by users who believe in the principles of Free Software and in sharing their work with the world in non-restrictive ways.

As they explain: "We seek to eliminate the digital divide and empower all as full citizens, support the preservation of mother tongues, and avoid proprietary software and format lock-in."

So where can you get LibreOffice?

Find out more about LibreOffice and download the latest version from:

Need more?

To find more OpenSource alternatives to popular paid-for apps and programmes, from image editors to project management tools, see:

Tips: Some tools will be better than others, so before you download, we'd recommend you check the on-site reviews, and also do an independent search - there are plenty of tech websites quick to review OpenSource programmes.

Search for "opensource alternatives to xxx [ie. your fave paid-for prog]", and you'll find comparisons.

Avoid programmes that aren't updated regularly. Also, be aware of programmes that may be free for a set period, or offer slimmed-down versions (with paid-for additional options, or annoying extra programmes you don't want thrown in) - these are NOT OpenSource.

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Why? A free alternative to your paid-for word processing software
Cost: Free
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