LibreOffice, the best office suite, gets even better with LibreOffice 6.0

The open-source and free LibreOffice is looking better than ever.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Who needs to pay for Microsoft Office when you can get LibreOffice 6.0 for free?

OK, if you are tied at the hip to Microsoft Office I can see why you'll continue to pay year after year for your Office subscription. But, seriously, if you're not, why aren't you using the newest version of LibreOffice 6.0?

The bottom line is the open-source LibreOffice just works. I've used every office suite since WordStar and DataStar were things. LibreOffice is every bit as good as Microsoft Office and it's free to boot.

You can run LibreOffice on Linux, macOS, and Windows. You can also use on your web browser, if you deploy LibreOffice Online as software-as-a-service server on a cloud, bare-iron, or in a Docker container.

This latest edition of LibreOffice boasts much better file compatibility with Microsoft Office documents. I checked this by sending a manuscript to an editor of mine who always found problems with LibreOffice's docx formatting. At last, with LibreOffice 6.0, she's happy with formatting.

Specifically, LibreOffice 6.0 comes with improved Microsoft Office Open OOXML interoperability. This includes: iSmartArt import and ActiveX controls import/export for embedded text documents and spreadsheets, export of embedded videos to PPTX, export of cross-references to DOCX, export of MailMerge fields to DOCX, and improvements to the PPTX filter.

In addition, you can now export Writer documents to the ePub ebook format. You can also import QuarkXPress files. In short, if you want to publish ebooks straight from LibreOffice, you can now.

There's also an improved filter for importing Enhanced Metafile Format Plus Microsoft Office documents. Some improvements have also been made to the Open Document Format (ODF) export filter, making it easier for other ODF readers to display visuals

I'm not a big fan of ribbon style user interface (UI) on any program, but if that's what floats your boat, the LibreOffice Ribbon UI now has two new versions. The first, Groupedbar Full, put three levels of buttons on the bar. The other, Tabbed Compact, is a minimalist version of the standard Tabbed Notebook Bar. To use them, or the other ribbon UIs, you must take the following steps:

  1. Click on the menu Tools > Options
  2. Select 'LibreOffice' > 'Advanced'
  3. Check 'Enable Experimental Features'
  4. Press 'OK'

And then restart the application. Me? I'm sticking with ye olde toolbar.

There are also four significant feature improvements. These are:

Writer PDF Forms: A Form menu has been added. This makes it easier to access one of the most powerful and little-known LibreOffice features: The ability to design forms and create standards-compliant PDF forms. The Find toolbar has been enhanced with a drop-down list of search types, to speed up navigation. A new default table style has been added, together with a new collection of table styles to reflect evolving visual trends.

Improved Writer Mail Merge function: It's now possible to use either a Writer document or an XLSX file as data source.

Calc command standardization: ODF 1.2-compliant functions SEARCHB, FINDB, and REPLACEB have been added, to improve support for the ISO standard format. Also, a cell range selection or a selected group of shapes (images) can be now exported in PNG or JPG format.

Impress enhancements: The default slide size has been switched to 16:9, to support the most recent form factors of screens and projectors. As a consequence, 10 new Impress templates have been added, and a couple of old templates have been updated.

A minor improvement, but one I'll really like, is that user dictionaries now allow automatic affixation or compounding. In the past, if I entered a new word, I'd also have to add the plural or LibreOffice wouldn't recognize it. For example, I'd need to add "dog" and "dogs". Now, instead of manually entering several forms of a new word, LibreOffice's Hunspell spell checker can automatically recognize a new word with affixes or compounds, based on its "Grammar By" model.

An experimental feature which the security conscious will appreciate is you can now sign and encrypt your ODF documents with OpenPGP keys. To enable this, you must install GPG software for your operating systems to generate a PGP key. That done, you can encrypt your document by calling the key with the command: File > Digital Signatures.

How good is LibreOffice 6.0? Well, after playing with betas, I'm already installing it on all my desktops and laptops.

That said, LibreOffice's parent organization, The Document Foundation, would like to remind you that "LibreOffice 6.0 represents the bleeding edge in term of features for open-source office suites, and as such is targeted at technology enthusiasts, early adopters, and power users. For enterprise class deployments, The Document Foundation maintains the more mature 5.4 family -- now at 5.4.4 "

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