When it comes to document processing, manipulating spreadsheets and creating presentations Microsoft’s Ms Office is the defacto standard. For decades those who use Linux have been trying to find an answer to Microsoft’s dominance in this field. LibreOffice is one of these answers. As the name suggests LibreOffice is a free replacement for Ms Office. Recently the team behind the project released version 7.2 which comes with a host of improvements.
The age old interoperability problem
On its own LibreOffice is a capable piece of software. You can open and edit documents in pretty much the same way you do when you are using Office. LibreOffice has its own document format known as the Open Document Format which it inherited from its parent Open Office. When you create, open and print documents exclusively in LibreOffice everything is fine. No one can even tell the difference between a hard copy made using LibreOffice and one made using Ms Office.
Life is rarely that simple though. The majority of people out there use Ms Office. Often it is necessary to collaborate and share documents with these people. Ms Office does not support the Open Document Format. Instead, it prefers its own proprietary formats such as .xlsx, .pptx and .docx. This means that more often than not when you create a document using LibreOffice you will need to save it in one of these formats if you want to share it with people using Ms Office.
Again these are proprietary formats and LibreOffice has struggled to support them fully. Often when you share your document from LibreOffice with MS Office users something unexpected happens. It might be as minor as the document overflowing beyond a single A4 page or if it’s a complex spreadsheet it just becomes a garbled mess.
LibreOffice’s support of interoperability with MS Office formats is, therefore, an ongoing process that has been years in the making. Each new release brings us closer to true interoperability. Version 7.2 is no different. Over 60% of the new code in this release is focused on this one big issue. You can definitely feel the improvements when opening large MS Office files.
Other new features in LibreOffice 7.2
In addition to numerous bug fixes here are some noteworthy changes in the latest version of LibreOffice:
- This version comes with dark mode. Is this still a thing?
- A new Heads up display that allows you to run commands from within LibreOffice. You can access it by using Shift+Esc
- A scrollable style picker
- You can now access Fontwork (similar to Ms Word’s WordArt) in the sidebar
- You can now browser LibreOffice templates in the templates dialogue much like in MS Office
- You can now have background fills that extend beyond your selected page size margins
- Impress (the equivalent of Powerpoint) comes with 5 new templates
- You can now run LibreOffice on Apple’s new Silicon processors
NB. While we are focusing on Linux as LibreOffice is the main office suite there, LibreOffice is also available for Windows and Mac.