LibreOffice love sees Microsoft removed from thousands of PCs in South Tyrol

LibreOffice love sees Microsoft removed from thousands of PCs in South Tyrol

Summary: LibreOffice has got a vote of confidence from South Tyrol. Over the course of the next three years, the government plans on replacing Microsoft Office on 7,000 machines with the open source alternative, saving up to €600,000 in licensing costs.


South Tyrol, an autonomous region in northern Italy, is preparing a major switch in its office software.

Instead of Microsoft Office, the government is planning to use LibreOffice and the open file format ODF. LibreOffice was forked from the popular OpenOffice productivity suite in 2010 after concerns surfaced that the project might be discontinued. 

LibreOffice is the first free software that South Tyrol has used, and will be rolled out progressively over the next three years. The long migration time is down to the fact the local government has to integrate no less than 200 different software packages with its new office suite.

The region's first step in the migration will be to switch a on 7,000 machines from Microsoft Office to LibreOffice and establish the file format ODF as the standard for the data exchange between the different branches of government.

south tyrol
South Tyrol institutions announcing the switch from Microsoft Office to LibreOffice. (Source: DiKOM/ohn)

According to Kurt Pöhl, the region's head of IT, South Tyrol won't get rid of Microsoft Office overnight.

"Even after the migration is complete, we will keep using Microsoft Office on some systems because some specialised applications need it. However, analogous to Munich, Germany, it should possible to reduce the amount of licenses to a few hundred... we should be able to save around €600,000 over the next three years," he told a press conference.

"Saving money is of course one of the reasons for the introduction of free software, but it isn't the only reason: Free software also provides us with flexibility, and this flexibility is important for us in a vastly changing IT landscape," Robert Biozzo, a member of the government of South Tyrol, said.

One of the biggest challenges in the migration will be the acceptance of users. "We have to communicate the project well, prepare the users for the migration and help them in the first phase of the migration. They need to be able to use as many of the documents and templates as possible. This will be a big share of the overall project costs," Pöhl said. 

Topics: Enterprise Software, Open Source, EU

Moritz Jaeger

About Moritz Jaeger

Moritz is a Munich-based IT-journalist with more than eight years of experience as an author under his belt.

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  • Fact check?

    You write that "LibreOffice is the first free software that South Tyrol has used". But there are articles claiming that they were using open source for many years, e.g.:

    And in fact the already migrated to, and wrote a paper about it, many years ago:

    So it is odd that someone is now claiming that they are moving to open source for the first time and that they are saving money over MS Office licenses.

    Note also. that LibreOffice made similar odd claims with Munich, that they were saving money from moving to LibreOffice, when they were in fact already OpenOffice users. Generally speaking, migrating from one free open source product to another free open source product does not save money.
    • Re: migrating from one free open source product to another free open source

      I see somebody trying to sow divisions between different Open Source products by highlighting imaginary differences between them. What does it matter which one they use? Go back to your Microsoft masters with your tail between your legs.
      • @ldo17

        Umm... I think he is making a point, saying Libre office is not replacing MS office but Open office. That's a valid point provided the article is about the switching from Proprietary to Open source implementation.

        We need not bash him for pointing out the mistakes(according to him) in the article.
        • LibreOffice vs OpenOffice

          Is there sufficient difference between LibreOffice and OpenOffice to even make such discussion worthwhile? Since OpenOffice is today developed under the Apache umbrella, it is just as "safe from becoming stale" as LibreOffice. In fact, considering many factors, I would rather trust OpenOffice future more (but again, this is my own opinion).

          It is the standardized and open file format, that is important in this case.
          • Accounting for costs and savings

            I think the distinction is critical when you are accounting for costs and savings. If you migrate from Microsoft Office to LibreOffice directly, for the first time, then you have upfront costs related to training, document conversion, rewriting VBA macros, and all the other technical stuff, as well as the internal communications and push related to the change management and user buy-in side of it.

            If, however, you migrated first to OpenOffice and then to LibreOffice only years later, then almost all of the migration related work has already been paid for by the earlier migration. So has the cost savings from forgoing Microsoft licenses.

            So whenever someone quotes cost savings, I think it is critical to understand the exactly context of the migration. The article portrays them as being entirely new to open source, which is not an accurate statement. They've invested in this area for many years, since 2004 at least.
      • ldo17: "Go back to your Microsoft masters with your tail between your legs"

        The poster to whom you have directed this diatribe (I believe) is Rob Weir of IBM:

        An IBM employee since 1995 and currently an ODF architect in IBM's Collaboration Solutions Division. In addition, Mr. Weir is an ASF (Apache Software Foundation) Committer for the OpenOffice project and is Chair of the OASIS ODF TC:
        Rabid Howler Monkey
        • Re: The poster to whom you have directed this diatribe (I believe) is Rob W

          Really!? Hard to believe. IBM has been such a long-time supporter and beneficiary of Open Source, why would it shoot itself in the foot by employing someone to try to sow discord among the Open Source ranks?

          Sorry, no. I just find it hard to associate such behaviour with the IBM we all know and love.
      • ldo17, why do you get upset at the truth?

        So rcweir makes a point you can't make excuses around, so you attack him? What is it about the truth tha tbothers you so much?

        And if anyone runs around with their tail between their legs, it would have to be you, seeing the way you are chastised and corrected on a daily basis.

        Do your corporate masters flog you for failure, or is it reflected in a smaller (or no) bonus at the end of the year?
        William Farrel
    • @rcweir

      Actually, your point on saying that South Tyrol was using free open source softwares before is true. You can call the author for that.

      However, South Tyrol used Open office only in their public transport department, according to the links you provided. It might be possible that Libre office is being rolled out to the entire government agencies(not just public transport). According to the paper they published, the public transport of South Tyrol is moved to use Linux, Open office for their administration ages ago. However, I guess, the government has now made Libre office as their standard office suite for all the public administration.

      So ideally, Your acquisition of, South Tyrol making a shift to free software for the very first time is false, is legitimate. However, government is going to save money is also true. Hope, that cleared.
  • Just remeber

    you get what you pay for.
    • "you get what you pay for"

      Not when you buy Microsoft office. They are actually making the program worse as time goes on. Most people prefer Office 2003
      • precisely the point

        This is what the guy was apparently trying to say: you get what you pay for, when you buy Microsoft Office. That is, you get Microsoft Office. :)
      • Make it worse as time goes on?


        You're serious?
        Michael Alan Goff
    • Re: you get what you pay for

      Pay for less aggro, get less aggro!
    • @Azzras

      I think Libre office is decent enough. Even though MS office is miles ahead, Libre office is more than enough for completing smaller tasks, which I suppose, government agencies are doing.
      • enough

        LibreOffice/OpenOffice are just as good as Microsoft Office for a very wide variety of tasks that one might need from an office suite.

        As with every comparison, you can always find things that Microsoft Office does "better" and things that Microsoft Office does "worse".

        In this particular situation, I see this choice as more related to the proprietary document format, than to particular software code. Recent versions of Microsoft Office claim full support for ODF, so they should be interoperable with the standard too. Thus, users of government services will be free to chose their office suite based on what their preference is, not forced to purchase specific software, because the government happens to use that software's proprietary file format.
    • And apparently...

      The price of a perfectly serviceable office suite that doesn't continually operate under the assumption that I stole it is $0.00 USD.

      If you aren't using some of Word or Excel's more esoteric functionality, Libre/OpenOffice is more than adequate a replacement.
  • More government agencies should switch

    Microsoft has been bilking the tax payers of the world for a high priced office suite that progressively has been getting more bloated and complex for the average user than any other program on the planet. More Government agencies should be switching from MS to other options which are far cheaper or free. OpenOffice, OpenDocs, Corel, Office Libre are just a few options and there are many other. The only way MS is going to start getting realistic with their prices is if people start switching over to the cheaper alternatives. Beside, all of the Office competitors run so much smoother than MS Office from 2007 and up. MS Office is almost as bloated as an MS OS and frankly the world doesn't need more duplication of source files taking up 25% of the worlds hard drive space. Cloud software sounds great, but then you are dependent on a network connection all the time.

    The whole Office experience needs a simpler and cost effective solution.
  • OpenOffice is OK

    it does even a lot of the power use stuff, like Pivot Tables in Calc.exe. But it is no Microsoft Office.... the integration of Office with various back office tools (like SQL Server and Sharepoint) is where Office still adds a lot of value.
    • Are you saying that

      Openoffice and Libreoffice do not support SQL?

      To execute an SQL statement directly in Libreoffice:

      Choose File - Open to open a database file.
      Choose Tools - SQL.
      Click the Create Query in SQL View icon Icon or
      Select an existing query from the list and click the Edit icon Icon .
      In the Query window, choose View - Switch Design View On/Off. Edit the SQL command.
      Click the Run icon Icon . The result of the query is displayed in the upper window.

      Also: "LibreOffice Base is a database tool the average office suite user can actually use. With LibreOffice Base, anyone can create databases and even the front-ends that allow the entering of data. It’s simple to set up a database using LibreOffice Base on any platform supported by LibreOffice (Windows, Mac, and Linux)."

      Link to article:

      Hope that helps.