Microsoft Office Alternatives

[last updated 2016.9.6]

The latest posts on LibreOffice are available by clicking here.

Explanation of free LibreOffice as an alternative to Microsoft Office Suite

Microsoft sells its software, so the University is not able to provide free copies of Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) to anyone. The University has to pay for licenses to use that software on campus computers.  Students must purchase their own copies of Microsoft Office to run on their personal computers.

Student discounts are available from Microsoft and through many distributors.

However, a FREE substitute is LibreOffice, which can save documents, spreadsheets, and presentations in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint formats. This would allow you to work in at home, for example, and save in a Microsoft Office format to bring to use on campus.

REMEMBER: save in a Microsoft Office (.doc, .docx .xsl, xslx, .ppt, .pptx, and so forth) in either program, to be able to use with both Microsoft Office and LibreOffice.  See below for the way to default to this.

What You Get

The programs you use have slightly different names in LibreOffice:

Microsoft Office Suite
Microsoft Word for word processing Writer
Microsoft PowerPoint Impress
Microsoft Excel Calc
The database comparable to Microsoft Access is called Base, but is reportedly not quite as compatible with the Microsoft program — you should be able to trade the data itself, but you may not be able to swap all the display, queries and other programming with it.
LibreOffice also has Draw which is a “vector graphics editor and diagramming tool, and Math which is for creating and editing mathematical formulae, similar to Microsoft Equation Editor. Formulas can be embedded inside other LibreOffice documents, such as those created by Writer. It supports multiple fonts and can export to PDF.
The software is free, but requires very large downloads (over 180 MB for the program, another 8 MB for the help files, for example).

What Can Run It

LibreOffice has versions that can run on Windows, Mac (Intel or Power PC), and Linux.  The most likely version will be offered when you go to the site, but you can select another version if you’re saving it to install later on something different.

There are also versions of LibreOffice which can be run from a USB Flash drive. Click here for links.

Converting files from one to the other

LibreOffice uses the ISO/IEC standard OpenDocument Format (ODF) for data interchange as its default file format. (Since this format is not “owned” by one company so it is less likely to be changed or limited by one company.)

To convert existing files you created in LibreOffice from an ODF format to a Microsoft one, just load the file into whatever part of LibreOffice you need, and click on the File drop-down menu, select Save As, and save the file again with the appropriate Microsoft format (don’t just type in the change — change the extension where it says Save as type: ).

Since the extension is different, the full name of the file is different, so you can use the same name with the new extension.  When you want to open the file in Microsoft Office, select the Microsoft format version of the file.
BTW (By The Way): the Boreham Library has LibreOffice installed on a few staff computers so we can do this conversion for you in a pinch, if you forgot to do it on your own computer.

Notice the file name in Writer, for example, will end in “.odt” instead of “.doc” or “.docx“.  So you need to change the file extension so Microsoft Word will recognize it in one of the offered Microsoft formats:


and then name your file as you normally would.

The same thing goes for using Impress, Calc, and so on.

Want to change LibreOffice so you don’t have to worry about that?

At the top of the screen, go to Tools, then select Options, then select Load/Save, then General and change the setting for Always save as to a Microsoft format instead:


That means that from now on, documents will be saved with the “.docx” extention.

You’ll need to do the same thing in the other parts of LibreOffice such as Impress, Calc, and so on, by changing to the Microsoft format for those files.

Microsoft is said to be planning to allow open formats in Office 2013.  Earlier versions, however, cannot read ODF and other open formats.

Alternate Office freeware

Other Office-suite freeware includes:

Please note that OpenOffice may be closing down in the future, so it is not recommended here.

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