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How to configure LibreOffice to default to MS Office file formats

Here's how to configure LibreOffice so you can more easily collaborate with others.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Woman typing on a laptop in an office by windows
iStockphoto/Getty Images

LibreOffice has been my office suite of choice for a very long time. I've always found it works as well as any other solution and is flexible enough to be exactly what I need. 

And, to be honest, I do prefer the default file formats used by the open-source office suite. Those file formats (such as ODT for text documents) follow the Open Document Format, which means they are widely accepted for many common applications.

However, that doesn't mean the default file formats are the best option for some users. 

If you primarily collaborate with (or have to send files to) people who use MS Office, you might well have run into instances where those users either cannot open LibreOffice files or don't know exactly what to do with them.

Also: What's new in LibreOffice and how to install it on MacOS

Fortunately, because LibreOffice is very flexible, you can set the file formats such that they default to the MS Office types of DOCX, XLSX, etc. 

Although MS Office can open the LibreOffice file formats, they aren't nearly as widely accepted. And even though the LibreOffice formats better conform to open standards, it's sometimes a losing battle to get others to accept the open formats. 

Instead of trying to win that fight, it's often just easier to make the MS defaults your LibreOffice defaults. This makes it easier to share files, and it's also simply more familiar to most people.

How to configure the LibreOffice to default to MS Office file format

Let's get those default formats changed.


The only thing you'll need for this is LibreOffice installed. You can install it on Linux, MacOS, and Windows. That's it.

1. Open LibreOffice Settings

The first to do is open LibreOffice. I would recommend opening LibreOffice Writer for this, as it's very easy to access the menu structure from that application. Once it's opened, click Tools > Options.

2. Change the default file format

In the Options window, expand the Load/Save entry and click on General.

You'll see three different drop-downs under Default File Format and ODF Settings. The first thing to do is select Text document from the Document Type drop-down. Then select Word 2007-365 (*.docs) from the Always Save As drop-down.

Click Apply to save the change. Once you've saved that, select Spreadsheet from the Document Type drop-down and then select Excel 2007-365 (*.xlsx). Click Apply to save the change. Do the same thing for Presentations and HTML documents, making sure to click Apply after each. With all of the file types taken care of, click OK and you're done.

The LibreOffice Options window.

Changing the default file formats in LibreOffice.

Image: Jack Wallen

Also: How to get Microsoft Office for free

3. To save in the Open Document Formats, go to Save As

Now, whenever you go to save a LibreOffice document, it will default to the MS Office file type. That doesn't, of course, mean you cannot save in the Open Document Formats. For that, you can go Save As and then select the Open Document Format suitable for that file.

The LibreOffice format dropdown.

Saving a file in LibreOffice as a non-default format.

Image: Jack Wallen

And there you have it, you've just made LibreOffice slightly easier to use when you have to share those files with people who only use MS Office. Although I would recommend sticking with the Open Document Formats (simply because ODF is better at adhering to open standards), there are too many occasions when the MS Office file formats are the only acceptable option (such as when you have to upload a file to a service). Now, you have the ability to make that happen.

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