This article will cover some options for office productivity software for Linux.
Microsoft Office dominates the office productivity space – it’s the industry standard. If you’re in business, other businesses probably expect to be able to send you an Excel or Word file and for you to be able to view or edit it.
Microsoft Office, of course, does not run on Linux (unless you want to run an ancient version under emulation). It’s also not open-source or free. Here are some of the best alternatives – I’ll stick to those with similar functionality (spreadsheets, documents, slideshows), which have decent compatibility with Microsoft Office file formats.
Note: Unfortunately, the constant comparisons to Microsoft‘s offering are sort of necessary – it’s the most popular software in this category, for better or worse.
LibreOffice – The Free & Open Source Office Suite
LibreOffice is a full-blown alternative to Microsoft Office with comparable tools and functionality. It’s based on OpenOffice.org – and has superseded it as the most popular open-source office suite.
LibreOffice can read and write files from Microsoft’s Office suite without much difficulty (with the exception of macros and scripts), so your Excel macros and Access databases probably won’t work.
Here’s what’s included in LibreOffice:
|Writer||A word processor with similar functionality to and compatibility with Microsoft Word|
|Calc||A spreadsheet program analogous to Microsoft Excel|
|Impress||A slideshow/presentation program similar to Microsoft Powerpoint|
|Draw||A drawing/graphics editor|
|Math||Create and edit mathematical formulae for use in other LibreOffice applications|
|Base||Similar to Microsoft Access, a database management tool for creating simple databases, forms, and reports|
Other Standalone Programs
If you don’t need a full-fat office suite and only need a single program to perform an office task, or you don’t like how LibreOffice does things, there are standalone tools that can perform the same tasks:
|AbiWord||A standalone word processor for editing text documents|
|Gnumeric||Popular open-source spreadsheet program for Linux|
|Symphytum||Personal database software. Create forms to collect data and store them in a simple database. I really like this tool for managing small projects.|
|Scribus||Professional document editing tool perfect for both home and use in professional press printing|
While the above programs are all solid tools that do their jobs well, they’ll never be 100% compatible with their Windows brethren. Fonts will differ across systems, and layout issues may be apparent.
The best way to get around this is to save documents to the PDF format before sending them to others – locking their formatting in place to ensure consistent viewing no matter what program/device is used on the other end.
As mentioned earlier, the scripting language used for macros and Access Databases in Microsoft Office is not replicated by any product (even versions of the same software for other platforms). So if you need to use VBA script and macros in Microsoft Office, you might be stuck running Windows.
None of these issues will greatly affect the average user.
Office Online / Google Docs
As a last resort, there’s always Microsoft Office Online – the online version of Office runs in your web browser, so it runs on Linux. It’s Microsoft’s own and offers similar functionality to the mobile versions of Word, Excel, and Powerpoint.
There’s also Google Docs for those looking for a free cloud-based Office suite.