MS Office Compatibility For Free

A fact of life is that Microsoft’s Office suite has become the standard for editable documents. I say “editable” because PDF is the standard for document portability. In order to share things across a team of people, you have to consider “format” –¬† especially with a volunteer staff who may or may not deem it justifiable to purchase document software.¬† Luckily there is a solution – and it’s free.

LibreOffice (formerly OpenOffice) is a full-featured office product that is a group effort between major technology players, like Sun, Novell, Redhat, and Google. It is extremely feature rich and stable, and enjoys constant development. Here are some reasons why I think LibreOffice can (and should) be a valuable¬† player in your ministry’s collaboration culture.

  1. It’s free. LibreOffice is a major competitor to the Microsoft Office Suite, and is offered by free of charge to anyone. You can download an entire suite of office applications – including word-processing, spreadsheet, database, graphics, and presentation software – for free. And these are impressive applications, even offering some features not found in their commercial counterparts.
  2. It’s compatible. While the software has it’s own format (open document format or ODF), you can set each application to default to saving and opening to its Microsoft Office counterpart format. For instance, you can set “Writer” to save as one of several flavors of Microsoft’s “Word” format, and you can set Calc to open and save in Microsoft’s “Excel” format. This means that no one has to buy any additional software, but you still can use the same formats for sharing files.
  3. It’s pretty good software. This is subjective of course, but LibreOffice does not feel like a cheap-o free Office wanna-be. It’s good software. Sometimes it seems slower than office. Sometimes the margins are off a little when moving files between LibreOffice to Microsoft Office (but not unmanageably so). But all in all, after using it as my exclusive office suite for 8 years, it works great.
  4. It’s cross-platform. LibreOffice runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac OsX, and Solaris. it is also available in a ton of languages.


If you want to get everyone on the same page for document formats (try mixing Microsoft Office and Microsoft Works files – blech), then LibreOffice is a very good solution that won’t cost your ministry a single dime. Your team-members who already own Microsoft Office can still use it, and the rest of your team can use LibreOffice and be able to collaborate with one another.

Now, it’s not perfect software. The formatting “issues” can be mitigated by tweaking the default template settings between Office users and LibreOffice users – but this is tedious. Also, if you’re an old-pro at Microsoft Office, you will have a minimal re-learning curve. But the free price tag makes it worth the re-learn.

Oh, and did I mention that it is absolutely free?

NOTE: I recently ran across this list of additional alternatives to Microsoft Office.

P.S. I just recently, after 8 years of using LibreOffice exclusively, began using Microsoft’s Office suite. The reason wasn’t because of any problem with LibreOffice. Late one night, while working on a project, I decided to relent to the recurring messages and update Apple’s Java. Something in Apple’s update broke my LibreOffice. Since I had to get the project done, I decided to purchase Microsoft Office online. The java issue persists so I still can’t use my LibreOffice. Thankfully, I set all the LibreOffice apps to save to their Microsoft counterpart formats. What’s interesting is that my wife’s MacBook Air has the same Java update, and LibreOffice works just fine for her.

9 Replies to “MS Office Compatibility For Free”

  1. FYI, Arthur Holt, one of our frequent readers pointed out that OpenOffice still exists as a project, LibreOffice being a fork of that project. He is right, but to me, OpenOffice died the day LibreOffice started.

      1. WOW! they really put a spin on that FAQ. “Q: So is this a breakaway project? A: Not at all.” It most certainly IS a breakaway project. In fact, when they started, it was hoped that the LibreOffice name would be temporary. Oracle was invited to become a member of the Document Foundation, and was asked to donate the brand to the project. Oracle instead rejected the project. The FAQ section also has this to say, “We’ve decided it removes ambiguity to have a different name for the two, so the Community is now “The Document Foundation”, and the software “LibreOffice”.” Wrong again, they wanted the name, but Oracle didn’t join the tea party. This statement makes it sound like changed it’s name, and the use of the pronoun “WE” is misleading.

        1. well, since most of the players left, and since Oracle is the only entity that did not come along, they say “we” – what I’ve read elsewhere is that problems arose when Oracle wanted to get tighter control over the project and who was allowed to participate, bringing “competitive tendencies” into the open source project. If you read the FAQ, you can see them addressing those issues.

          1. also, they are pretty clear they want the OpenOffice name in the fifth answer:

            The trademark is owned by Oracle Corporation. Our hope is that Oracle will donate this to the Foundation… However, we need to continue work in the meantime – hence “LibreOffice” (“free office”).

          2. I agree with their reasoning. LIBRE, OPEN, FREE… as in FREEDOM. I’m just a sticker for wording and their wording is misleading. I HATE political correctness… with a passion. Instead of being all “We decided to… [blah blah blah]”… just say “Hey, the guys at Oracle were becoming megalomaniacs and we got out… :-) But I digress, this is NOT what your post was about. It’s about ministries using what’s out there to further the KINGDOM OF GOD! And I love it. Like I’ve said before, I’ve gone completely open source and it’s great. It’s blessed our ministry to be able to have access to free (as in no cost) software that rivals the high dollar brands.

          3. yeah, I hate PC stuff too, but I think they did it hoping that Oracle will join them if they were gracious enough. and regarding excellent software for free, I like that a lot too!

  2. The beauty of open source is that ANYONE can take a distribution of open source code, modify it to their liking, and re-distribute it under a different name, as long as they distribute it under the same or similar GPL. Open Source is NOT the same as Freeware. Freeware is “free” as in “no charge”, Open Source is “free” as in “FREEDOM!” There is nothing more liberating than knowing that the software on your hard drive is YOURS and not just licensed to you to use. Well, nothing except knowing that we are redeemed by the blood of Jesus!

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