Consistency helps LibreOffice Writer power users more than Word’s ribbon helps its users

User interfaces for office applications have evolved over the past few decades. Microsoft has transitioned its popular office applications from drop-down menus to a ribbon user interface. The Document Foundation, on the other hand, has added to LibreOffice’s toolbars and menus over the years.

This article will compare the two word processors: Word 2016 and Writer.The Mac and Windows versions of Word will be discussed separately because there are differences in their menus and ribbons. LibreOffice has the same menus and toolbars, regardless of the operating system it is installed on. Therefore, it can be presented in one section.

All three applications have similar user interfaces as the other applications in their suites. However, each word processor has unique menus and ribbons, so it is important to discuss each one individually.

They will be discussed in the next three sections: Word for Windows, Word for Mac, and LibreOffice. After these are explained, the interfaces will be compared and the pros and cons of each one will be explained.

This blog only lists the drop-down menus for the Mac version of Word. Click here to see the ribbons for the Mac and Windows version.

Word for Windows

Word 2016 for Windows right-click and highlight menus
Word 2016 has a right-click menu (top) and a highlight menu in addition to the ribbons, but they do not have nearly as many functions.

The ribbon interface has been part of the past four versions of the word processor: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. The 2003 version of Word had drop-down menu and toolbars. The new ribbon interface made Word look sharper and cleaner.

According to a 2006 article in Computerworld, Microsoft wanted to simplify the user interface without reducing productivity, and the 2003 and earlier versions appeared to be “mishmash.” However, the article pointed out that it took more mouse clicks to perform certain functions.

In addition to ribbons, you can access features and tools through keystrokes, the right-click menu, and the menu that appears when you highlight text, but they are limited compared to the ribbons.

Some functions, such as inserting a table or a picture, bring up additional ribbons. These ribbons appear when you select the associated element, and disappear when you click off of it. For example, if you insert a table, two ribbons appear to the right of View: Design and Layout. These are under the heading Table Tools.

Many of the items in the menu will open a dialog box with numerous functions. For most of the dialog boxes, you need to exit the dialog, by clicking Cancel or OK, so you can perform other tasks in your document. This is the case for all three word processors.

The ribbon interface has made the versions of Word released in the past 10 years cleaner than their predecessors. 

However, many of the functions can only be accessed through the ribbons. This forces users to work in a linear method. They have to click on the desired ribbon, then click the desired function. Then repeat this process for the next function.

While you are performing a function, you may decide that you need need to perform another function first. To do this you may have to click on a different ribbon to access the function. In LibreOffice and the Mac version, you could simply click one of the drop-down menus to perform it.

For example, if you are inserting a table, but decide you need to add a table of contents first, you need to click on the References ribbon to switch from the Insert ribbon to select Table of Contents.

In the Mac version, you wouldn’t need to click the References ribbon. You could just click Insert menu and choose Index and Tables …

Word for Mac

Word for Mac menus

  • Word: This simple menu gives basic information about Word. It has an About Word item and a Preferences item.

  • File: The menu has items that File menus in most applications have: New, Open, Save, Save As. It has the same items as the Home ribbon.

  • Edit: The menu has function items such as Copy, Paste, and Cut. It also has a Dictation item as well as others. Most of these items are in the Home ribbon. It is the only menu that has Dictation.

  • View: This menu allows you to change from a Print view to a Web view, Outline, or a Draft. You can also view guidelines, rulers, and gridlines. These items are in the View ribbon.

  • Insert: This allows you to put a number of items into a document. These are Pictures, Audio files, videos, etc. You can also insert breaks, footnotes, and indexes. This matches the Insert ribbon.

  • Format: This has items that will open several different dialogs, such as Bullets and Numbering, Font, Text Effects, etc. Clicking one of these opens a dialog corresponding with that type of element. Tools to edit these elements are in different ribbons. You can only open the dialogs through this menu.

  • Tools: This has items to help you edit your document, like grammar and spell checks, word count, and the ability to track changes. It also has items to access to a dialog for Envelopes and Labels. These items are in the Review and Mailings Ribbons.

  • Table: This menu lets you insert a Table and edit a table. You can also insert a table through the Insert drop-down and the Insert ribbon. When insert a table, Word adds a Table Design ribbon to the list of ribbons.

  • Window: This allows you to control the open Word document windows.

  • Help: Word uses Mac OS X help menu system for articles about Word for Mac. This menu gives you access to those help articles.

As mentioned previously in this article, Word 2016 for Mac is different from its Windows counterpart. It has drop-down menus as well as a ribbon.

The document window is similar to the Windows version. It has eight of the ribbons, but the Windows version has more features than Word for Mac, and some similar functions are in different ribbons.

One key difference is that the Mac version is missing, the File menu – which is the settings for the Windows version – to the left of the eight ribbon choices. Instead, it sticks with the traditional Mac layout and puts the settings in Preferences in the Word drop-down menu in the menu bar.

It also does not have all the preferences that the Windows version has. The language settings for the user interface, for example, can only be changed through the OSX Settings dialog. Other language settings can be found in the Tools drop-down menu.

Besides language settings, there are other functions that are in the drop-down menus of the Mac version, but not in the ribbons. Another example of this is a list of open document windows. This is in the Windows menu, but the function is not in any of the ribbons.

The drop-down menu is in Mac OSX menu bar at the top of a display. The placement of functions in these menus follows the layout of older versions of Word for Mac.

Like its Windows counterpart, the Mac version has a right-click menu, but it does not have the highlight menu. Word for Mac’s menus, along with the ribbon interface, allow Mac users to have multiple ways of accessing most of Word’s functions. As stated in the Windows section, they could perform another functions without changing ribbons.

LibreOffice

LibreOffice menus

  • File: This menu contains items to save a document, print it, and give you access to Wizards.

  • Edit: This menu allows you to copy, paste, and cut text and other elements. It allows you to Find and Replace text along with other functions.

  • View: This gives you access to toolbars, rulers, scrollbars, and it allows you to zoom in on documents. It also allows you to switch between Normal view and Web view.

  • Insert: This menu allows you to put images, media, charts, page breaks and other elements.

  • Format: The menu’s items open dialogs for formatting text, paragraphs, lists, images, shapes, and other elements.

  • Styles: This menu gives you access to standard styles for headings and other elements. It links to dialogs that let you edit the styles.

  • Table: This menu allows you to create a table, stylize it, and make changes to its structure.

  • Tools:  This menu gives you access to spell check, mail merge and other functions.

  • Window: This lists the open documents and allows you to switch among them.

  • Help: This gives you access to the Help articles for LibreOffice and has links to information about the office suite.

Writer basically has the same user interface on every operating system, so it can be discussed as one application, rather than dealing with it as more than one application as with Word. The open-source word processor has a similar user interface as Word 2003 or earlier.

There are two ways to access tools and features of the the word processor: toolbars and the previous mentioned menus. Unlike Windows version of Word, clicking the menus reveal drop-down lists, and they don’t change a ribbon.

 There are 30 toolbars that can be used in Writer. The toolbars are listed on this Web page.

They can be attached to the top, bottom, left, and right sides of the document window. Typically a LibreOffice installation will reveal the Formatting and Standard toolbars by default. These contain the basic functions of an application, such as changing fonts, saving, and creating a new document.

Toolbars give you another way to access functions. Functions and icons can be added toeach toolbar, so users have the ability to set up their document workspace in ways that are best for them.

In addition to toolbars and menus, LibreOffice has a right-click menu, where you can access many of the functions but not all of them.

The toolbars and menus give Writer users more ways to access most of the functions than both versions of Word do. It doesn’t force users into one or two ways of working.

Conclusion

The three word processors have many functions and are the most feature rich of their kind on the market. Each one has features that the other two do not. Both Microsoft and the Document Foundation have spent much time and effort redesigning their applications, so they are attractive yet still give easy access to its functions.

LibreOffice has an older style of interface, but it  allows users to work in a non-linear fashion. They can start  performing one task, realize something else needs to be done first, so  he can easily access another menu or toolbar to perform it with out  needing to close a dialog and the toolbar they were using will still be  there.

This is not true of Word for Windows. Other than some functions being available through keystrokes, the right-click menu, and the highlight menu, there is only one way of accessing some functions. This has been a criticism of the application’s user interface since it was introduced in Office 2007. Word, however, has a much cleaner layout. Your document won’t get buried in numerous toolbars that are open. This could easily happen in LibreOffice.

Word for Mac has menu bar menus that its Windows counterpart does not have. This gives it another way to access the functions, which allows Mac users more freedom in the ways they can work.

The ribbon interface is the same as the Windows version, though several functions and icons are in different places. Many Mac users probably use the Windows version at work, home, or school, and they probably appreciate that the ribbons in the two are the same.

User interfaces affect power users – those who perform an application’s advanced functions – the most. They are more sensitive to changes in menus and other interfaces than basic users because they are highly familiar with a version of an application.

According to an article an Redmond Magazine, power users for Word 2007 thought the new user interface “took too much time and patience to learn.” The change forced them to learn something they were not used to.

LibreOffice has updated its user interface but has kept drop-down menus and toolbars from its OpenOffice.org origins. This may have thrown its power users a curve, but it still retained what they were used to.

Even though it is considered to be less clean and attractive than Word, LibreOffice’s user interface makes it more flexible to its power users and causes them less stress when new versions are released.

Easily make LibreOffice, Office 2016 more worldly by adding languages

The desktop computer was an American invention, but four decades after the first ones graced offices and households, they are now in just about every office and home in the world.

This means that people who speak many different languages use one, and most likely use office applications to create documents in a myriad of languages.

This article compares the language support for Microsoft Office and LibreOffice. Both office suites support many languages.It also explains how to install language interfaces.

In general, LibreOffice supports 150 languages, while the Windows version of Office 2016 supports 92. The Mac version of Office 2016 supports 58. Support for languages means built in dictionaries and thesauri, as well as the ability to change menus, toolbars, help resources, and dialogs to another language.

 Office for Windows

 On the language pack Web page for Windows version of Office, the languages are in a drop-down menu. The tools are listed two ways. For fully supported languages, like English or Russian, the pack includes display, help, and proofing tools. If it is a language that is more obscure, like Amharic, the following will be stated: “the pack includes your selected display language for some Office applications but does not include proofing tools.”

 To download and install a pack, click the x86 link if you have a 32-bit version of Office or x64 if you have the 64-bit version. After it has downloaded, double-click on the file that was downloaded.

Microsoft Office for Windows language settings
After installing a language pack to Office, open a document in one of the applications. Then click File, followed by Options to open the Options dialog. The Language tab lets you change the language of proofing tools, user interface, and help section.

 The installation may take awhile. After the installation has completed, open an Office application and a document. Click File. Then click Options to open the Options dialog. Finally click the Language tab. This will allow you to set the proofing, display, and help languages.

Office for Mac

 The Mac version has a Web page for languages it has proofing tools for. This just lists the languages that are supported. There are not any packs to install.

 To change a proofing language, simply click the Tools menu in one of the applications, then click languages to pull up a list of supported languages.

 Most of the languages are for proofing tools. Office for Mac menus and help section are only available in 20 different languages.

 To change the user interface language in Office, change the user interface of OS X. Open System Preferences. Click the Language and Region icon. Then change the language in the Preferred languages list. Make the desired language first in the list by clicking and dragging it, or add a language by clicking the plus button below the list.

LibreOffice

 LibreOffice’s Web page for language support lists the 150 languages in a table, listing what the of support they have. There are actually a lot more languages on this page. Many of the languages have support tools that are in progress.

 The types of support tools are as follows:

  • Localized user interface

  • Localized help system

  • AutoText list

  • AutoCorrect list

  • Spell-check dictionaries

  • Hyphenation patterns

  • Grammar check

  • Thesaurus (synonyms)

Localized user interface and help system

 These can be downloaded from the LibreOffice Website. Click on the “need another language?” link to select the desired language. You will be returned to the download page. There will now be links for downloading language support. The types of links will depend on the type of operating system you choose in the drop-down menu:

 Linux x86_64 (deb), Linux x86_64 (rpm), Linux x86 (deb), Linux x86 (rpm)

 If one of these four types of applications for Linux distros are selected in the drop-down menu, there will be a download link for the selected languages user interface plugin and one for the offline help system. The application that matches the installed version of LibreOffice is the one that needs to be downloaded. If you want a Spanish user interface and have LibreOffice 5.3.2 installed on Ubuntu, you will need to click the Translated User Interface in the 5.3.2 section of the Web page.

 These versions of the user interface and help system are typically used when the latest version of LibreOffice has been installed through the Terminal application of a Linux distro. Many distros come with the office suite pre-installed, and if it is not, it will be available through the operating system’s software center or library, such as Ubuntu’s Software Center. However, this usually doesn’t give the user the latest version of LibreOffice.

 Those users who prefer the version of LibreOffice that comes with their distro and want to install a new user interface or helps system can search for the packages in their software center. They will most likely need to type “libreoffice” in the search field of it and skim through the results until they get to the desired item.

 Mac OS X x86_64

 This selection in the drop-down menu is for the Intel Mac version of LibreOffice. There will only be a Translated User Interface link available when this item is chosen. The .dmg application that is downloaded when you click this link contains the offline help system. After it downloads, click the application icon in the folder that opens. The next time you open LibreOffice, change the language in the Preferences dialog, then restart LibreOffice. The menus, dialogs, and help menus will now be in the new language.

 Windows x86 and Windows x86_64

LibreOffice Windows installation wizard
In the Windows version of LibreOffice, you need to run the installation application for the suite to add a new language user interface. If you already have the suite installed, choose the Modify radio button then click Next to get to this screen. If you are installing a new version of LibreOffice for the first time, choose custom installation.

 These items in the drop-down menu only give you the offline help applications for the chosen language. There is not a download for a the language’s user interface. Instead, these are available in the install application for the office suite.

 If you are installing a version of LibreOffice for the first time, there will be two options Typical and Custom. To include additional languages in the installation, choose Custom and select the language from the menu.

 Click the plus sign next to Additional User Interface Languages. Then click on the desired language and choose whether this feature will be stored on local hard drive or this feature, and all additional subfeatures, will be stored on local hard drive. Then click the next button.

 However, if you already have the version you want installed and still have the installation download, run the installation. It will give you three options: Modify, Repair, or Uninstall. Choose Modify. This will give you the same list of languages that the Custom choice will give you during the first-time installation.

 Language proofing tools

 The proofing tools are the other items in the above list: AutoText list, AutoCorrect list, Spell-check dictionaries, Hyphenation patterns, Grammar check, and Thesaurus (synonyms). Most of these can be accessed for your desired language through the language support Website. Many of these links are to pages in the extensions section of the LibreOffice Website. Others link to the Apache OpenOffice Website.

These extensions, in the oxt format, will work on any LibreOffice instance, regardless of whether it is running on a Windows, Mac, or Linux operating system. Sometimes a particular extension will not work on a particular version of the office suite. The Web page for the LibreOffice extension will state which versions it is compatible with. However, if the version you are using is not listed, this does not necessarily mean that it will not work with your installed version.

Comparing

 Office for Windows and LibreOffice both support the major languages and cover most of the world linguistically. LibreOffice has the advantage when it comes to the languages used by less people. While Microsoft does not support as many languages as LibreOffice, it has support tools for languages that both suites share that LibreOffice does not offer in that language. For example, the Windows version of Office has a display UI, help system, and proofing tools for Thai, while LibreOffice only has a display UI, auto text, and spell check available in it.

 The opposite also is true. Both suites support Icelandic, but LibreOffice has a display UI, hyphenation, spelling, and a thesaurus for it. Office only has a display UI and some proofing tools.

 Office for Windows has a more straightforward when it comes to installing language packs than LibreOffice. the user interface, help guides, and proof tools all come in one package. It also allows you to use certain aspects of the language tools and choose not others. You can use the proofing tools in one language and the user interface of another language.

 The language extensions and applications for LibreOffice, on the other hand, will not take up as much hard drive space as Windows Office’s installations because the proofing tools are separate from the user interface and help guides. A user can install proofing tools without the user interface in the same language. People who work with documents that are written in multiple languages most likely don’t need to see menus, dialogs, and help entries in more than one language, so having an installation that contains all the components is most likely not necessary.

 LibreOffice is also an advantage for Mac users. Office for Mac supports a lot less languages than both LibreOffice and its Windows counterpart. Documents that can be opened in the Mac version can be created and edited in LibreOffice.

Conclusion

 LibreOffice supports the most languages, and it is the only office suite mentioned in this article that runs on Linux distros. There are several Linux distros that run well on older computers, such as those with Pentium III processors. Workers in developing nations can use a modern office suite, even if their computers are old, and typically they can have one with proofing tools and a user interface in their native language.

 As far as Mac users, LibreOffice is a more full-featured office suite in general than Office. It has more applications and tools. It also supports more file formats. The amount of languages LibreOffice supports compared to Office, though Office supports languages in all the countries where Macs are sold on a regular basis. There are Mac users in other countries, but the cost of the computers and the lack of stores that have strong footprints in those countries probably means use is more sporadic.

 Windows version of Office will still be the office suite of choice for Windows users around the world, even in countries that speak languages that are not fully supported by it. However, as pointed out on previous articles in this blog, LibreOffice may be a good companion to it. Microsoft Office formats can be opened, edited, and created with the open-source applications. Its automatic spell check also works better when there are documents with multiple languages. Those documents could be edited in applications of both suites to create a final draft.

Insert and play video in Office, LibreOffice apps

Creating videos has become easier for the average person with smartphones and inexpensive digital cameras. There are also many free an inexpensive software applications that can help you edit and view those videos.

Recent versions of office suites have joined the group of applications. Microsoft Word and LibreOffice can both import videos into documents.

Microsoft Office

All of the applications can handle images and other objects, but only two of them can have documents in their documents: Word and PowerPoint 2016. This is true of both the Windows and Mac versions of these applications. To access the video Insert interface, click the Insert ribbon in one of the four applications.

Microsoft Word for Windows

The latest version of Word cannot import videos stored on a local drive on your computer, but it has an import interface for online videos. It allows you to search YouTube or search the Web with the Bing search engine. The Bing results will mostly turn up YouTube videos.

This shows the three ways you can insert a video into Word 2016 for Windows.

There is a third choice: copy and pasting embed code. If you have uploaded video to your OneDrive account or to another cloud service, you can take the embed code and paste it in the associated text box, then click the Insert arrow button.

An image for the video is inserted into your document. It can be edited with Word’s tools just like any other image. You can wrap the surrounding text around it, apply different borders and filters, change the effects, and other edits.

When you want to watch a video, click on the image for it and it will be played in a new window. Word (and PowerPoint) have a YouTube interface that looks exactly like the one when you play a YouTube video in a browser. Videos from other sites will have a similar interface in Word.

Microsoft PowerPoint for Windows

Unlike Word, PowerPoint can insert documents from a computer,  as well as online sources. The file formats are as follow:

  • Windows Media file (asf)

  • Windows video file (avi)

  • MK3D Video

  • MKV Video

  • QuickTime Movie file

  • MP4 Video

  • Movie file (mpeg)

  • MPEG-2 TS Video

  • Windows Media Video file (wmv)

  • Adobe Flash Media

These videos are treated like images, and you can perform the same edits as you can in a Word document. However, the videos can be played directly from the slide. A window will not pop-up to play the video.

Videos from online sources also can be played from the slides. PowePoint’s online video insertion interface is also different from Word’s. Instead of Bing, it has a link to your OneDrive account. Click on it and videos uploaded to your account will appear in the dialog.

Insert video dialog PowerPoint for Windows
This shows the Insert Video dialog for PowerPoint for Windows. It is different from the one in Word. It replaces the Bing search with a connection to OneDrive and Facebook.

At the bottom of the dialog is a button to connect to your Facebook account. Clicking this button will open the steps to login to your Facebook account in a new window. Your images and videos will appear in this window.

Mac versions of Word and PowerPoint

Browse Video dialog in Word 2016 for Mac
This shows the Browse Video dialog over the Media drop-down menu (red circle) in the Mac version of Word 2016. The same menu is available in PowerPoint, but the drop-down menu is called Video.

Like the Windows versions of these applications, all the editing tools for images are made available to integrate the videos with text and other elements in the document. However, the Mac versions have a different interface than their counterparts.

Both Word and PowerPoint have a drop-down item in the Insert ribbon that allows you to choose Movie Browser or Movie from File. In Word it is called Media, and in PowerPoint it is called Video.

Movie Browser opens a dialog that allows you to choose videos from the iMovie directory, Movies folder in Finder, or the Photo Booth directory. Click on one of these and icons for videos in the chosen one will appear in the lower part of the dialog.

If you click once on one of the videos listed, the Play button at the bottom of the dialog will become active. Clicking Play makes the entire video take up the lower half oh the dialog when it plays. Clicking the Play button again restores the bottom half so it lists the videos

 To insert a video, click and drag the desired video to where you want it in the Word document or PowerPoint slide.

Movie from File will open the Choose a Movie dialog that will allow you to find a video in one of the folders on your Mac’s hard drive or a peripheral drive or remote drive connected to your Mac. The video will be inserted where your cursor is located.

Once a video is in the document or slide, a menu item appears to the right of View, Picture Format for Word and Video Format in PowerPoint. Clicking this menu item changes the ribbon to all the items Word and PowerPoint for Mac have to edit images. This includes adjusting the color, contrast, and transparency; changing the height and width; cropping the image; and changing how text wraps around it.

The videos also are played within the document. A separate window does not popup. To play a video in Word, simply double click on it. Once one starts playing, it will have pause and volume control buttons along the bottom of it.

In PowerPoint, there are playback controls at the bottom of the video, regardless of whether it is playing or not. These are present when you are editing a slide or reviewing the document in Slideshow mode. PowerPoint also has a Playback menu item that appears when you click the item that has various controls for adjusting how the video is played back.

LibreOffice

Insert video into LibreOffice
This shows the Audio or Video item in the Media sub-menu in the Insert menu of LibreOffice Writer. Videos can be inserted in Writer, Calc, Impress, or Draw.

As mentioned in a previous article in this blog, LibreOffice is different from Microsoft Office because you can create and open a document for one application from a document in another application.

This centralization also applies to other menus. One of those menus is Insert, which contains an Audio or Video item. Four of the applications have the menu and item: Writer, Calc, Impress, and Draw.

Videos are treated like images. Writer, Impress, and Draw have different tools to edit the images and integrate them with the text and other objects in the documents. In Calc, the image is a layer above the cells. The spreadsheet application does not have many tools for integrating it with the cells.

The media playback toolbar has the Play, Stop, Pause, and Volume controls to play the videos. They are played within the document. Unlike Word, a window does not pop up when the video image is clicked.

Here are the formats that can be inserted into a document:

  • FLAC Audio flac

  • Flash Video (flv)

  • Matroska Media (mkv)

  • Ogg Video

  • Quicktime Video

  • WebM Video

  • Real Media (.rm)

  • Digital Video (.dv)

  • Ogg Opus (.opus).

Neither one of the four applications has an interface for finding or inserting videos from online sources nor do they have the ability to insert embedded code.

Be sure to save your documents in the OpenDocument Formats, otherwise the videos will not be saved in them.

Conclusion

While Microsoft Office has an advantage over LibreOffice as far as video insertion capabilities, its users have a dilemma, especially if they want to insert a video in a Word document. If they are using a Mac, they cannot insert a video from YouTube or another online source. If they are using Windows, they cannot choose a video they have stored in their hard drives.

LibreOffice works the same regardless of which operating system it is running on, so Windows, Mac, and Linux distro users can insert videos and share their documents with someone else who is using LibreOffice on a different platform. However, in this situation the free office suite cannot be used as a companion for Office users, regardless of whether the user has Mac or Windows, because a video that is inserted and saved in a LibreOffice Writer document will  not be present if that document is opened in Word.

For this reason the open-source suite does not give the Windows or Mac user any reason to use it for video work if they have a copy of Microsoft Office. YouTube videos cannot be inserted unless they are downloaded, so this does not help the Mac user. Since videos stored in LibreOffice documents do not appear when they are opened in Office, it cannot be used as a method to insert videos into Word for Windows documents.

The best thing to do is work with the limitations of your office applications. If you are using Word for Windows, upload your videos to a service that creates embedded code, so you insert them. If you are using a Mac, download the desired videos. LibreOffice users also need to download the videos they want to use, and make sure they are in formats it can recognize. Whatever application you use to insert videos with, you will need to finalize the draft of your document with.

LibreOffice, Microsoft Office can work together when it comes to graphics

Photographs and graphics have been used in text documents since desktops started having GUI interfaces in the early to mid 1980s. Users had to copy and paste images into documents created by those early word processors.

 As technology evolved, different file formats and applications that create them have come and gone. Since office-suite applications have been the standard tools used to create documents to share with others for various business and personal purposes, many of these image formats can be integrated into documents created by them.

 It is no different for the two office suites discussed in this blog. Microsoft Office and LibreOffice can import and export many of the standard image and graphic formats that are popular today.

 Both Office and LibreOffice can open the basic format images, such as JPG, PNG, and BMP. These are universal formats that can be opened by many applications.

Here is the Open list in LibreOffice. It shows the list of graphics formats that the suite can open.

 LibreOffice, however, has the advantage in the number of formats it can import. Though there are several formats that can be accessed by Office that LibreOffice does not support. This information comes from a Web page, published by the Document Foundation that was used in previous articles.

 The differences is supported formats are fairly obvious. For the most part, Office supports ones that have been created for Windows or other applications owned by Microsoft. LibreOffice supports more open formats and ones from industry standard applications.

 An example of this is Adobe Photoshop. Its default format, PSD, is a popular format used by many photographers and graphic designers. LibreOffice can open these documents, but Microsoft Office 2016 cannot.

The open-source suite also can export to Adobe Flash (SWF) and import graphics formats from other popular Adobe, Corel, and other programs:

  • CorelDraw (v1-X7)

  • Corel Presentation Exchange

  • Adobe/Macromedia Freehand (v3-11)

  • Adobe PageMaker

  • Zoner/Callisto Draw (.zmf)

 Here are a list of formats that Microsoft Office does not support:

  • SVG: Scalable Vector Graphics is an XML-based format for two-dimensional graphics.

  • EPS: Encapsulated Postscript Vector graphics are used in vector images in Adobe Illustrator.

  • DXF: This is an AutoCAD format.

  • MET:  MET files contain information such as the preferences set in the application, hashed file ID’s, resource download links, server addresses, file names, and statistics

  • PBM: This is a format that is part of the Netpbm project. Images in these formats are designed to easily  be exchanged among different formats. Portable Bitmap is  0-1 black and white.

  • PCD: This is the format of images that are on a photo CD.

  • PCX: This is a Paintbrush Bitmap Image file. It was one of the first image standards for MS-DOS.

  • PGM: This is a format that is part of the Netpbm project. Images in these formats are designed to easily  be exchanged among different formats. Portable GrayMap is  0-255 gray scale.

  • PPM:  This is a format that is part of the Netpbm project. Images in these formats are designed to easily  be exchanged among different formats. Portable Pixmap is  0-255 RGB.

  • RAS: This is a bitmap file.

  • SGF: Smart Game Format. This is used for storing records of board games.The format pairs properties and values that describe games.

  • SVM: This commonly used when inserting and copying images in the drawing and presentation applications of the OpenOffice and LibreOffice suites.

  • TGA: file extension for a raster graphics file created by TrueVision Inc. Truevision was also called Truevision Advanced Raster Graphics Adapter (TARGA),  the first family of video cards for IBM Compatible PCs that supported TrueColor display,

  • XBM: This is X Bitmap. It is typically used for storing cursor and icon bitmaps.

  • XPM: This is X PixMap, used to create icon PixMaps.

LibreOffice Impress supports 3D-model formats that PowerPoint does not. The first are Digital Asset Exchange (DAE) files. These are used for exchanging digital assets among different programs. The presentation program also can open Keyhole Markup Language Zipped (KMZ) files. These are for place holders in Google Earth.

Here is a list of formats supported by Office but not LibreOffice:

  • MEZ: MusicEase Music File Notation

  • WMZ: This is a skin format for Windows Media Player that is Windows Metafile that is zipped into XML documents. A skin file is master file that defines how the other files will be used.

  • PCZ: This is a compressed Macintosh PICT picture image file. PICT is Apple’s standard metafile for Macs.

  • CGM: This stands for Computer Graphics Metafile.  It is a free and open international standard file format for 2D vector graphics, raster graphics, and text, and is defined by ISO/IEC 8632

The conclusion of this article supports the idea discussed in previous articles. LibreOffice is a good companion tool to Microsoft Office. Since you can open or create Office documents with it, you can use it to import graphics that are in formats not supported by the Microsoft suite.

 This is good in environments where Adobe generated graphics and CAD drawings need to be inserted into reports or presentations. It also would be a good way of getting a Google Earth place holder in a PowerPoint presentation.

 With both office suites, you simply have more options in creating and editing documents.

LibreOffice can revive old documents from graveyard

One key difference between LibreOffice and Microsoft Office are the organizations behind them.

 Office is owned by one of the largest technology companies in the world. It charges for its office suite and gives the version that runs on its operating system the most features and applications. The corporation’s goal is to sell its latest versions of Office to as many people as possible.

 LibreOffice is developed by the Document Foundation, a non-profit organization with a guiding manifesto that posits that everyone should have equal access to an office suite, regardless of their ability to pay or their native language. It also maintains that the individual user should retain intellectual property rights over their documents, as stated in its manifesto.

 The non-profit nature of LibreOffice has made the suite a good digital preservation tool. Digital preservation is a process of making sure digital information is usable and accessible, regardless of the applications used to create it are still available or not. LibreOffice uses open formats and standards, which are essential to digital preservation,  and digital preservation is important to retaining an individual’s intellectual property rights.

 Many users have temporarily lost their property rights because they have old documents in formats from office applications that are defunct, or newer versions of applications no longer support their old formats.

 When you click Open in one of LibreOffice’s applications and click File drop-down menu, a list with more than 100 formats will appear. This list is composed of modern and legacy formats for text editors, spreadsheet, and presentation applications.

LibreOffice Open dialog.
The files drop-down menu in LibreOffice has more than 100 formats for text, spreadsheet, presentation, and other documents.

 Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint formats are in the list, of course, but it also includes Apple Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, as well as Corel WordPerfect, Quattro Pro 6.0, and several other Corel formats. Some of the legacy formats include Lotus WordPro and 1-2-3, ClarisWorks/AppleWorks, and Microsoft Works.

 LibreOffice supports all of these formats because the Document Foundation values users retaining intellectual property rights. It allows them to open their documents and migrate them to open formats, such as OpenDocument Text. OS-College has a Web page with the list of formats for LibreOffice.

 Microsoft Office does not have an exstensive list of formats like LibreOffice has, though version 2016 can open Office 97-2003 format documents in compatibility mode, and they can be converted to the latest Office formats (XML-based and open) or OpenDocument Formats. The latest version cannot open older Microsoft formats, however.

The XML formats that Microsoft has been its standard for that past decade or so are easier to examine with other applications than their previous ones. However, it has zero interest in allowing users to open legacy formats from other office applications, so they can migrate them to these XML formats.

 This means that LibreOffice is a better preservation tool than Microsoft Office. While this may not be a reason to ditch the most popular office suite in the world for the open-source one. It may be a reason to include the latter in your toolbox of applications.

 You can use LibreOffice, either by installing it or running the PortableApps version on a USB drive, to open the older documents and migrate them to and OpenDocument or office open format (docx, xlsx, pptx). This can be done by simply performing a Save As.

LibreOffice integrates in ways Microsoft Office doesn’t

 

The previous article has a link to a Web page that compares LibreOffice to Microsoft Office 2016. One of the items in the Website’s table is “full integration of all office components.” This is a key advantage LibreOffice has over Microsoft Office.

Recent documents LibreOffice Standard toolbar
The Open icon, with Recent drop-down, is available in all six applications.

 

This article covers the ease of opening recent documents, creating new documents, and launching wizards in LibreOffice and compares that to Microsoft Office’s integration. All of these are accessible from the File menu in any one of LibreOffice’s six applications (Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, Math, and Base) and StartCenter.

 

You can access any recently opened document from the File menu in any application.  If you have a document open in Writer and want to open a spreadsheet you worked on yesterday, simply click the File menu, highlight Recent Documents, and then click on the document in the list. Recent documents also can be accessed through the Standard toolbar, that is available to all six applications. Click the arrow next to the open icon to reveal recent documents.

 

LibreOffice New sub-menu
This shows the New sub-menu that is in LibreOffice’s StartCenter and all six applications: Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, Base, and Math.

Creating new documents is similar. To create a presentation document while you are working on a Writer document, click the File menu, highlight the New sub-menu, then click spreadsheet in the list. The Standard toolbar has a New icon with an arrow drop-down menu, listing document types. They are as follows:

        Text Document: This creates the basic document in Writer that can be saved in OpenDocument Text, DOCX, Rich Text and several other formats.

        Spreadsheet: This creates the basic document in Calc that can be saved in OpenDocument Spreadsheet, XLSX, and several other formats.

        Presentation: This creates the basic document in Impress that can be saved in OpenDocument Presentation, PPTX, and several other formats.

        Drawing: Clicking this opens standard drawing document.

        Database: This opens the Database Wizard that allows you to create an HSQL database or open an existing database.

        HTML Document: This creates a new LibreOffice Writer/Web document.The document is similar to the standard Writer document, but it has some different tools and features for creating Web pages. This document can be saved in HTML (html), HTML Document Template (oth), and Text (txt).

        XML Form Document: This opens an XML Form Document.

        Master Document: This is a container for multiple documents that compose a complex document such as a book. The documents that are part of the master document are called subdocuments.

        Formula: This opens an untitled document in Math.

        Labels: Clicking this opens a Labels dialog that has three tabs: Labels, Format, and Options. Labels allows you to choose the database and table from where the information will be drawn. Format has settings for pitch, width, and heighth, Options lets you set whether it is a single label or entire page.

        Business Cards: Clicking this launches the Business Cards dialog that has five tabs that allow you to set up the business cards.

        Templates: This opens the Template Manager. It has tabs for Documents, Spreadsheet, Presentations, and Drawings.

 

Another sub-menu in the File menu of every application and StartCenter is Wizards. This contains a list of items that are dialogs that help you create various types of documents. However, there is not an icon in Standard toolbar.

 

The Wizards are as follows:

        Letter: This opens a dialog that helps you create a Business, Formal Personal, or a Personal letter. It takes you through list of six steps to create a letter.

        Fax: This opens a dialog that helps you create a fax page. There are five steps that help you create a Personal or Business fax.

        Agenda: This guides you through creating a template for an agenda. You can use the template to create an agenda in the future.

        Presentation: This helps you create a new presentation from a blank document, a template, or an existing template. It allows you to choose the output medium.

        Web Page: This will allow you to select documents from you hard drive to convert to a file format that can be viewed by a Web browser. It will create

        Document Converter: This allows you to convert Microsoft Office documents in a directory on your hard drive to OpenDocument formats and put them in another directory of your choosing.

        Euro Converter: This converts any numbers that are in currencies of various European countries to Euros. The figures can be in spreadsheet documents or in tables in a text document.

        Address Data Source: This allows you to set up a spreadsheet or a database as a source for address information.

 

Microsoft Office applications do not have this level of integration. If you have Word open, you only have access to Word documents. You cannot open the PowerPoint presentation you worked on yesterday without either first launching PowerPoint or going through your computer’s file system to find the presentation and click on it. Each of Office’s applications has its own document management system, so you can access recently opened workbooks in Excel and create new ones based on Excel templates. You, however, could not do anything with a Word document.

 

LibreOffice’s level of app integration helps with workflow. It reduces the amount of steps to create or open a new document and makes it easier to work with multiple documents at the same time. LibreOffice also makes it easy to switch between documents. The Window menu lists all the documents that are open. Simply clicking one in the list makes it the active window.

 

This is just one of the features that makes LibreOffice a competitive alternative to Microsoft Office. The suite also works well with Office formats, so if you are not completely comfortable ditching Office, you can make it a companion to the Microsoft product.

 

New blog compares Microsoft Office, LibreOffice, and Google Drive

 One of OS-College’s key focuses is on applications that run equally well on multiple operating systems. They have the same features and tools, regardless of the platform they run on. The first set of applications covered by this communication and education firm is one of the most universal types of applications: office suites. Every industry and almost every person who operates a computer uses one.

 

Microsoft Office has become the most popular office suites over the past few decades. There are other suites, however, ones that work equally well on multiple operating systems. Since Office dominates the market, however, and is the standard for most workers, the purpose of this blog is to compare them and their features to Microsoft Office.

 

This article is first in the series that compares LibreOffice, and sometimes Google Drive, to Microsoft Office. Most of the articles will only compare LibreOffice and Microsoft Office. These two are most alike. They both can be installed on an operating system. They also have many more features than Google Drive and its applications. However, Google Drive has many of the same tools that the other two have and some features that they do not have, so some articles will include Drive.

 

Below is a basic overview of the three suites. Each section gives an overview of the applications and features for them. They also briefly give the history for each suite and a look at its cross-platform capabilities.

 

Microsoft Office

The flagship product of the tech giant has been the dominate office suite since the 1990s. Two of its central applications were first introduced as stand alone products in the 1980s. Word first hit the market in 1983 on MS-DOS, and Excel was released in 1985 to compete with Lotus 1-2-3. PowerPoint was first released in 1987 for Mac, and as part of the first version of Office for Windows in 1990. The initial Office was a bundled package of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. The three applications have  been available for both Windows and Mac for more than two decades.

 

Currently, Office runs on several operating systems: Windows, Mac, Online, Android, and iOS. The Windows version has more features and applications than the other versions. Microsoft has always sold its applications for a one-time fee and delivered through physical media, such as a floppy disk or DVD. Recently , the corporation started offering its applications through its Website for a monthly or annual fee. There are different plans for home office and business.The service is called 365.

 

For home users, there are two plans: $69.99 annually ($6.99/month) for use on a single Windows or Mac computer or $99.99 annually ($9.99 per month) for use on up to five computers. For both platforms, the plans offer Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook. Windows computers can also download Access and Publisher. The $99.99 plan allows you to install Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook on up to five Android, iPad, or Windows tablets in addition to the computers.

 

Home users also can still purchase Office 2016 for a flat fee of $149.99 at the time this article was published. It can be installed on 1 PC or Mac, and it comes with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.

 

Like the $99.99 home user plan, the business plans allow up to five Windows or Mac computers to have applications installed under one account. Office 365 Business is almost identical to the $99.99 plan. It adds the professional version of Sway, however, an application that allows you to create engaging, interactive web-based reports, presentations, newsletters, trainings. The professional version has features that the free online version does not. Business Premium adds to these 50 GB of email storage and the ability to host online meetings in High Definition. Premium starts at $12.50 per month per user, while Business begins at $8.25 per month per user.

 

Microsoft also has two business-level products for a one-time charge. Office Home & Business 2016 for Windows or Mac (separate products) has everything that Office 2016 for home users, but add Outlook. It costs $229.99. Office Professional 2016 is for Windows only. It adds Access and Publisher to Home and Business. It costs $399.99.

 

These require Windows 7 Service Pack 1 or later. The Mac version can run on 10.10 or later.

 

Microsoft doesn’t put a price tag on Office for every platform. The online version and versions for Android and iOS devices are free. You can sign up for a Microsoft account, without paying for 365, and use the online and mobile applications for free. Both have a lot less features than their desktop counterparts. The mobile apps have a few extra features, such as tracking and accepting changes, if you are a 365 subscriber.

 

The table below lists the different applications and what platforms they run on.

 

 

Application

Windows (7 SP1 or later)

Mac (10.10 or later)

Android (Google Play)

iOS

Online

Word

x

x

x

x

x

Excel

x

x

x

x

x

PowerPoint

x

x

x

x

x

Outlook

x

x

x

x

x

OneNote

x

x

x

x

x

Publisher

x

 

 

 

 

Access

x

 

 

 

 

OneDrive

x

x

x

x

x

 

LibreOffice

 

The open-source office suite was launched in 2011. It was based on the source code of OpenOffice.org 3.3 because several key stakeholders of OpenOffice didn’t like the direction the parent company, Oracle, was taking the office suite, and there was fear that Oracle was going to drop the office suite. Oracle eventually donated it to the Apache Foundation.

 

In 2010, the Document Foundation, the host organization of LibreOffice, was formed, and a year later LibreOffice 3.3 was launched. It has the same applications that OpenOffice has:

        Writer

        Calc

        Impress

        Draw

        Base

        Math

LibreOffice is the default office suite on most Linux distros, such as Ubuntu and its derivatives. The suite is also available on Microsoft Windows XP through 10 and Mac OSX 10.8 and later. There are also installs available for older versions of Mac OSX, Solaris, and BSD.

 

Unlike Microsoft Office, it makes all of its applications, with all of their features available on all of the operating systems it can be installed on. It also has a version that runs on Windows XP through 10 that does not need to be installed. It can be run from external storage, such as a USB drive.

 

At the time this article was published, The Document Foundation has not yet broken into mobile devices, like Microsoft has (it does have a document viewer for Impress in the Google Play store). There are no official versions for iOS, Android, or Kindle Fire, but several third parties have made versions for these platforms.

 

With version 5.1, there is a Remote Files feature that allows you to connect to several CMIS services such as FTP servers, Google Drive, SharePoint, and others.

 

With version 5.2, code for the online version was released, so it can be installed on a server and used within an organization. This means that users can now collaborate in real time with LibreOffice. This aspect of the suite has been far behind Microsoft Office, which first launched its online version of its application in 2008 and has allowed real-time coauthoring since 2013.

 

The Document Foundation published a Web page comparing the latest versions of LibreOffice and Microsoft Office and their applications.

 

Google Drive

 

Through Google Drive, users have access to the five applications:

        Docs

        Sheets

        Slides

        Drawings

        Forms

Anyone with a Gmail account has a free office suite (Google also allows you to establish an account with other types of email). The applications are accessed through Web browsers. Google’s support site states that the Google Drive is supported on Windows Explorer and Edge, Apple Safari, Chrome, and Firefox. For the most part they run equally well on these. However, there are a few extra features available in Chrome, such as speech to text.

 

Docs, Sheets, and Slides maintain their individual document management systems that only display documents from Drive that they can open and edit. Apps for the three and Drive are also available on iOS and Android devices. Any updates to a document made on the mobile applications, if they are connected to the Internet, will be seen when the user returns to his computer and logs into his account and vis versa.

 

The applications create documents in proprietary Google formats (gdoc for Docs, gsheets for Sheets, and gslides for Slides), and they will convert other formats – Microsoft Office, ODF, and others – to those formats when they are first opened. They can export documents to other formats that can be opened and edited by Microsoft Office and LibreOffice.

 

The applications do not have all the features that the corresponding Microsoft and LibreOffice applications have, but they can perform most, if not all functions, that business users need. They excel over the desktop competitors in real-time collaboration. Because the documents are hosted on Web servers and accessed through a Web browser, users can work on the same document at the same time.

The search engine giant entered the office application market about 12 years ago.  In 2005, it acquired Upstartle Writely, a Web based word processor that can be accessed through a Web browser on any computer. About the same time, Google had been working on a browser-based spreadsheet application, Sheets was released to the public in March 2006. Doc was released for public use a few months later.

 

The third component, Slides, the presentation application was released in September 2007. Other applications – Drawings and Forms – were added to the collection several years after that. There are numerous other applications that can be linked to your Google Drive account through the Apps Library that is accessed through settings.

 

Since then the applications have been further developed and integrated with Google Drive, when it was released in 2012 the central document management system.

 

Conclusion

With at least a decade of experience, each of the three office suites have the applications and features that meet most users need. A word processor, spreadsheet, and a presentation are the core applications of most office suites. The three have these and more. Each one has strengths that the other two do not have. The coming articles in this blog will compare the three, though most of them will only compare Microsoft Office and LibreOffice.