ALSO SEE THE COUNTERPOINT ARTICLE: How LibreOffice Writer Tops MS Word: 12 Features
LibreOffice (and previously, its predecessor, OpenOffice.org) is the premier office suite available today. I first reached that conclusion after hundreds of hours of using it and every other office suite available. Thousands of hours of use later, I have only had my opinion repeatedly reinforced.
Confident of my empirical evidence, I am perfectly happy to explain LibreOffice's advantages over Microsoft Office in particular, as I did a few weeks ago.
However, the only perfect office suite would be one that I designed myself. Although LibreOffice is developing far more rapidly than OpenOffice.org ever did, honesty makes me admit that there are still eleven or more features in which Microsoft Office is more powerful:
As a former English instructor, I firmly believe that anyone with enough knowledge to use a grammar checking function properly doesn't need one. Far from helping correct usage, they are far more likely to lure the grammatically insecure into unnecessary or incorrect changes. Anybody else is likely just to be annoyed.
Still, users clamor for one, and LibreOffice has barely begun to meet their demand. Depending on your distribution, LibreOffice may or may not include Lightproof, an extension that is complimented by being called basic.
Lightproof will query a few things, such as capitalization, duplicate words, word and letter spacing, and the correct use of obscurer punctuation such as em dashes and ellipses. It will also convert back and forth between Imperial and metric measurements.
Everything else falls under "possible mistakes" -- and there are not many possible mistakes that Lightproof catches. Unlike the grammar checker in MS Word, it will not query basic elements such as subject-verb agreement.
Of course, neither can Lightproof or Microsoft Word make themselves really useful and query obscure pronoun references, changes in verb tense, or faulty parallelism. All the same, LibreOffice's has a long way to go before it even equals Microsoft Office's.
Two things are wrong with LibreOffice's bibliographical database. First, since before OpenOffice.org's code was created twelve years ago, it has shipped with misleading examples.
Second, while the database columns can be used with any form of citation current in academia, users have to set up the database according to their own needs.
These problems discourage users from having anything to do with the database. By contrast, the bibliographical tool in Word is straightforward, and users can choose the citation style from a drop-down list.
Both Microsoft Office and LibreOffice include the basic tools for making an organizational diagram or a flow chart. However, neither installs with extensive libraries of shapes for similar tasks such as drawing electrical circuits or architectural layouts.
However, Microsoft does offer various versions of Visio, the premier proprietary diagram editor, as an add-on to its office suite. Until recently, free software users have only had Dia, whose home page warns in its first sentence that it is intended for "casual use" and is far more basic than Visio.
The latest LibreOffice release does include an import filter for Visio, which suggests the demand. But perhaps in a release or two LibreOffice will borrow Flow from the new Calligra Suite (formerly KOffice) to achieve something closer to parity. But for now, its diagramming tools remain limited.
Since LibreOffice began, its slide show Impress has been enhanced in many ways. After years of OpenOffice.org users' requests, under LibreOffice Impress finally includes a selection of background templates. In addition, the Presenter View extension is now standard.
Sound, though, remains only basically supported. You can add a clip to a slide, but, unlike in MS PowerPoint, you can't set up a continuous narration or sound track. The best you can do is make the transitions as quick as possible, then add separate clips to each slide and hope that nobody notices the gaps.
This lack of functionality not only makes the most sophisticated slide shows harder to design but makes Impress less suitable for stand-alone shows that might be used at a kiosk or maybe a booth at a trade fair.
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