Office Software for Linux/Ubuntu – What are the Options?

Office For Linux

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

https://www.libreoffice.org/

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 It’s based on OpenOffice.org – and has superseded it as the most popular open-source office suite.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:

LibreOffice Component Description
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:

Program Description
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

Compatibility Considerations

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.

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Brad Morton

I'm Brad, and I'm nearing 20 years of experience with Linux. I've worked in just about every IT role there is before taking the leap into software development. Currently, I'm building desktop and web-based solutions with NodeJS and PHP hosted on Linux infrastructure. Visit my blog or find me on Twitter to see what I'm up to.

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