LibreOffice has long since moved on from being an offshoot of the OpenOffice project. It's now the go-to alternative to Microsoft Office, enjoying regular development and a constant tweaking to keep it up to date, stable and secure.
While LibreOffice lacks the slick presentation of rival Windows freebie Kingsoft Office Suite Free and its Office-inspired ribbon interface, it has the major advantage of offering a full set of office applications, including database, drawing package and mathematical tool on top of the requisite word processor, spreadsheet and presentation tool found in most free office suites.
While it’s definitely more navigable than before thanks to better placement of tools and visual previews of styles direct from the main toolbar, it still looks a little dated, despite the refreshed icon sets. Nevertheless, this is still a powerful suite capable of meeting most people's needs, making this zero-cost alternative to Office a valuable tool to have in your armoury.
Ever-improving support for third-party file types (including both new and classic Office formats) means you're not cutting yourself off from industry standards while cross-platform support means you can run LibreOffice on Windows, Mac or Linux without having to retrain yourself to a new way of working each time.
What else is new in LibreOffice 6 (see changelog for more info)?
- Boost your productivity. In LibreOffice 6.0, a new ePUB export filter has been added, so you can save your documents as e-books. The user interface customisation and special character dialogs have been redesigned, while OpenPGP keys can be used to sign documents on all desktop platforms (with experimental encryption support). Also, the Help system has been modernised to be more attractive and easier to use.
- Edit documents with ease. In Writer, a Form menu has been added, making it easier to include interactive forms in your documents. New table styles are available, while the Find toolbar now has a drop-down list of search types, to speed up navigation. In addition, mail merge operations can now use tables inside Writer itself as data sources.
- Work smarter with spreadsheets. In Calc, new commands have been added for selecting unprotected cells on spreadsheets. Using the File > Export dialog, you can now export a cell range selection (or a group of shapes) in JPG or PNG imported. Finally, the Links dialog has been simplified, while three new ODF 1.2-compliant functions have been implemented, for finding and replacing text using byte positions.
- Perfect presentations. Ten great new templates have been added to Impress, to make your presentations shine, while the default aspect ratio is now 16:9, so your new presentations work with widescreen displays straight away.
- LibreOffice online - your office suite, anywhere. In LibreOffice Online, the cloud-based version of the suite, user avatars are now supported and displayed in comments. Dialogs have been added and updated, while spell checking is now available across Writer, Calc and Impress. An interactive horizontal ruler has been added to Writer, and Calc now supports basic editing of charts.
Don’t be put off by the dated user interface – LibreOffice is a powerful tool that includes all the core functionality most people will ever need.