In 2010, Open Office, an open-source freeware alternative to Microsoft Office, got into some conflict with one of its partners at that time – Oracle. People who were behind the development of Open Office couldn’t stand this monopoly. So they decided to part their ways, and formed a non-profit called The Document Foundation. Later they released their Office suite named as LibreOffice. Last month, its version 4.0 came out – a version which is fully mastered and has what it takes to, if not defeat its rival competitor Microsoft Office, stand along it.

What’s new in LibreOffice 4.0?

As you would expect of any new major release, the version 4.0 of LibreOffice fixes a lot of inept issues and brings tons of improvement. For instance, there is a significant melioration over startup and loading time. Another noteworthy implication this suite has undergone, is cutting down of dependency off notorious Java. They have replaced most of the Java tags with native platform codes and Python. LibreOffice has betted too hard to get this thing echelons in the corporate world. However, it isn’t like they haven’t done anything for a casual end user.


As expected, there are a lot of improvements in the compatibility for Microsoft Office native documents format: .doc and .docx. There is a slight improvement at rendering of the files, and the orientation of the document is quite well, too. LibreOffice 4.0 also offers support for Microsoft Publisher files, this is the only free software which could work around such platform. Punching Microsoft where it hurts the most, the publishing feature will give thousands of students, institutions and end users a chance to cost cut and do it for free.

LibreOffice has also strengthened its user interface; version 4.0 gives you an option to dress up the suite as you desire by using Firefox Personas.

Libre office Firefox Persona

There is an extensible work done on the support and integration for CMS (Content Management System) and DMS (Document Management System). They have also amended RTF handling and Maths formula engine. You can also access and manage Visio files with much convenience in LibreOffice now. In addition to all this, LibreOffice Writer, the word processor now has the ability to set variant first page headers and footers to a given page style.

Another feature that caught my attention while writing this article (mind you, I wrote this article on LibreOffice Writer) is the word predictions feature. If you have a smartphone or a tablet and you use any 3rd party keyboard app like SwiftKey Keyboard, you would know that those apps give you a feature where based on your writing pattern, they predict your next words. Well, LibreOffice has got this exact feature.


In the coming months, LibreOffice is expected to be ported for Android and iOS devices as well. LibreOffice’s major challenge was to get the code as compact and clean as possible. The Document Foundation mentioned this in the Libreoffice 4.0 announcement-

The resulting code base is rather different from the original one, as several million lines of code have been added and removed, by adding new features, solving bugs and regressions, adopting state of the art C++ constructs, replacing tools, getting rid of deprecated methods and obsoleted libraries, and translating twenty-five thousand lines of comments from German to English.

Microsoft goes haywire with licensing

Well, there is Office 2013 and Office 365. Which one do you want?

Microsoft, in Office 2013, offers several confusing and horrendous licensing terms. Cutting the chase, a single copy is licensed to a single machine, and not the single user. What’s the difference? Up until now, whatever Microsoft Operating System and Office suite you had purchased were licensed to single user. Which means, that you, though, not preferred, could install the same software in your other machine as long as you have deleted it off from your first system. Hate to break this to you, but things have changed now. When you buy a new Office 2013’s copy, you won’t be able to install it on multiple machines. Although, after getting all the due anger feedback it deserved, Microsoft has made some changes to its license. In case of PC failure and new system, you could use the same copy. All in all, customers are still living in the fog.

buy word alone in office 2013

Concept of À-la carte has been introduced in Office 2013, giving you the option to single out the software you want. So, suppose you want only the Word and not Excel or Powerpoint etc, you could leave them, and pay just for the Word. Pricing might not be justifiable for some users, though.

Comparison: LibreOffice 4.0 vs MS Office 2013


Wrapping up: Which one should you go for?

LibreOffice is one of the best productive suites out in the market today. Being a freeware, there is no reason why you shouldn’t try/switch to it, just yet. Popular belief is that a freeware can never be as good as its premium rival, which is true in most cases but not in this one. LibreOffice is gaining ground, being the default productive suite for most Linux distributions and it already has gained a lot of fans. And if Microsoft continues to alienate its users, then they’ll soon be facing a mass upheaval in favor of Libreoffice.

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Manish is pursuing a degree in Computer Science and Engineering but spends more time in writing about technology. He has written for a number of Indian and international publications including BetaNews, BGR India, WinBeta, MakeTechEasier, MediaNama, and Digit magazine among others. When not writing, you would find him ranting about the state of digital journalism on Twitter.


12 thoughts on “Is LibreOffice 4.0 Better than Microsoft Office 2013?

  1. Totally agree with you that “LibreOffice is one of the best productive suites out in the market today.” Its my favorite productive suite.

    I feel it should be more than enough for most users & the best part is that it gets better & better at a quick pace!

    Also completely agree with you when you say “Being a freeware, there is no reason why you shouldn’t try/switch to it,”.

  2. The new version of LibreOffice has several improvements, but still a lot of bugs and problems with Microsoft Office formats. I still prefer FreeOffice (an office suite made in Germany by SoftMaker) which is way better – totally compatible in both directions, quicker installation, takes up less hard drive space, opens faster, better UI. Everyone can get it free of charge for Linux and Windows

  3. I always found some great productive tools, apps and software for make my work fast, better and easy. i mostly use Evernote, Remember the Milk and Dropbox productivity apps that maximize my efficiency. and now i try this new version of LibreOffice for my business, this new 4.0 version come with much more new improvements, but still it is not work properly with my microsoft office 2013 files. but still it is must have free productive tools. and i like usb app portability and free PDF export features.

    Paid software are good but free is always better then we think.

  4. Very interesting article. But does not get too far into the actual functionality of the software. Although I have Office 2013. I use Office 2010. The set up and coloring and many things MS with 2013 seems like they moved a step backwards. It was almost like they tried to make the program use less RAM and decided to cut out much of what made it customizable and so it, in part acts like Office 2007 and 200
    3 in my opinion. With respect to Libre Office, the pivot table capabilities look like they are very good in the Spreadsheet. Still, the spreadsheet still doesn’t not have a lot of the high level functionality. However, for the average user, it should suffice. The Presentation module still has a ways to go and of all the applications, this still appears far behind MS. The writer program continues to improve and seems to have gotten little faster. The compatibility changes have certainly helped. Spelling and grammar has certainly improved and still needs some work in pulling from a larger dictionary. This program is MS strongest program. Libre Office continues to make major strides in catching up to MS and its efforts. In some respects the writer program is better. With each update Libre Office comes out with, it is clear they are making greater progress catching up with MS than MS has made in pulling away. The strength MS Office still has is that it’s quicker, more comprehensive. In addition it’s outlook with its business cards, scheduling has really an edge up on everything out in the market. The modules work better together. The strength with Libre Office has is that when it adds functionality, it does put more emphasis in ease of use and simplicity for the user. What I envision Outlook to go it to begin to add feature to capture notes people make after phone calls and capture them for sales reminders and also to work as an electronic planner. To also have templates to include for stationary and to more easily add music and video in their documents. To print document right clicking on a document to print it without opening the document first. All in all I agree that Libre Office has indeed made some great strides with 4.0.

  5. If it allowed embedding documents and displaying the embedded document as an icon like I can do in Word, I’d totally switch to LibreOffice. This is a must in my line of work and the only thing holding me back at all. Currently in LibreOffice, when embedding a document, it embeds the content of the embedded document, not the document itself.

    • What exactly do you mean by embed the “document itself” ?
      Embed a link to the document ?
      Or embed an icon image of the document ?
      Or embed as an attachment ?

      • In MS Word, I can insert an object and display it as an icon. So basically, I can insert, say, an .xlsx document and it will display as an excel document icon. When I double click the icon, it opens the full .xlsx document in Excel.

  6. Hello,
    In the comparison table you specify that Office 2013 has no PDF export options. I am not 100% sure about Office 2013, as I have Office 2010, but PDF export options are indeed available in Office 2010 — you need to click Options… button in the Save As dialogue after selecting the PDF export format. The options include whether to generate bookmarks, whether to save in PDF/A format, etc.
    Best regards,

    • Does MS Office have export in locked PDF, with password to open it, and disable copy and print (low/high), and include a digital signature? I have stopped using MS Office a long time ago, and these three features are critical. I to be able to submit a signed contract, that cannot be copied in any other form than taking screenshots of the screen.

      • Hi,

        There is a password setting, but it sets a password needed to open the PDF file (when you try to open the generated PDF document, a prompt appears). Again, this is for Office 2010. Office 2013 may have better options.

        Best regards,

  7. Kingsoft Office has impressed me, and is complete taking into consideration that Kingsoft is on the phone.
    Linux/KDE has the Caligrafy suite – give this some more time and this is a dark horse. The GUI resembles the Mac / professional publishing tool.

  8. You know, looking at the comparison table I can’t help to wonder that it just shows specific features LibreOffice has and make it look like Office 2013 is at a disadvantage when it isn’t really the case at all. This is just me of course but this wasn’t even a versus but a way to just throw dirty at Office.

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