Office 365 alternative: Consider LibreOffice for your next PC office suite

If you want a standalone office suite for your computer, LibreOffice may soon not just be your best choice, it will be close to your only PC-based choice.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Editor's note: The article's headline has been updated because the original headline misrepresented Microsoft's MS Office product.

I've long been a fan of the open-source LibreOffice suite. It works well, it's free, and it does everything I've ever needed an office suite to do. The latest edition, LibreOffice 6.3, is better than ever. It may also be your best choice for a standalone desktop office suite in the years to come.

You see, Microsoft doesn't want you to buy its next office suite: Office 2019. No, I'm not making that up.

Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365's blog, The Twin Challenge, showed Office 365 crushing Office 2019 because it "keeps getting better over time, with new capabilities delivered every month, while "Office 2019 apps are 'frozen in time.'" "They don't ever get updated with new features, and they're not cloud-connected," he added.

Office service packs? Forget about them. There will be security updates, but what you see today in Office 2019 is what you'll get when you use Office in 2029. 

That presumes, of course, Microsoft will still be supporting it. I doubt it will. For example, Office 2010 support life comes to an end on Oct. 13, 2020. There will be no extended support unit, ala Windows 7, for it. When it's done, it's done. 

After Office 2010 expires, Microsoft really wants you to switch to Office 365. As a "last resort" --Microsoft's words, not mine --  Microsoft recommends Office 2019.

Microsoft underlines this policy change by dropping Office 2019 from its Home Use Program (HUP) for its Software Assurance business customers. The Redmond crew will, however, still be happy to sell you discounted Office 365.

That makes me feel warm and fuzzy about running Microsoft Office for much longer.  I'll be surprised if there even is an Office 2029 or any other standalone version of Office.

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There are advantages to cloud office suites. I use Google Docs myself. But, if you want an office suite, and to run on your machine without an internet connection and without having to worry about Google or Microsoft looking over your shoulder, you must consider LibreOffice.

With its latest edition, LibreOffice is much faster at both opening and saving documents and spreadsheets. The Document Foundation, LibreOffice's parent organization, claims it's an order of magnitude faster. I'm not sure I'd go that far, but it is a lot more spritely. 

As always, LibreOffice is working on fully supporting Microsoft Office's Open XML (OOXML) format. This includes export support for DOTX document templates and XLTX spreadsheet templates, import of charts from DOCX drawingML group shapes, import/export of SmartArt from PowerPoint PPTX files, and better XLSX Pivot table interoperability. It's not perfect yet, but it's getting closer.

LibreOffice's Export as PDF has improved. It now fully supports PDF/A-2 document format. This is required by several organizations for long-term file storage. It also simplified its editable PDF forms by incorporating the Form menu into LibreOffice Writer.

A new feature, which security-minded businesses may find interesting, is that you can now "redact" information in documents. With this, you can remove or hide sensitive information such as personal data before exporting or sharing the file.

You can run LibreOffice on Linux, MacOS, and Windows. You can also use as a cloud Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) application, LibreOffice Online, by deploying it on a cloud you control. 

So, if you want a PC-based office suite, which will be updated with new features regularly, check out LibreOffice. Given Microsoft's decision to pursue SaaS for its office suite, LibreOffice may soon be your best choice even if you've been using Office for Windows rolled out. 

The future of the traditional office suite belongs to LibreOffice. Microsoft is abandoning its first take on the office suite.

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