Choosing an Open Source Office Solution

April 28, 2011, By Christian Cawley

When you move to an open source operating system, you are giving yourself a whole new set of choices that you might not have previously had.

New choices can be confusing – one only has to look at someone who doesn’t go to a fast food restaurant often to see that they find themselves spoiled for choice by what is on offer.

The same is true of anyone who has become used to being restricted to Microsoft Office. As we continue our journey through the process of migrating operations from Windows to Linux, let’s take a look at the various open source office solutions that are on offer.

Choosing an open source office solution

Possibly the most obvious choice for an open source office solution is that provided by  (aka OOo), which has now been offering a popular open source alternative to Microsoft Office for several years now, springing from the old StarOffice solution.

Ownership issues have marred its use and good name in recent years, however, following the purchase of Oracle by Sun. As a result, is no longer the popular choice it was; the latest release of Ubuntu (11.04) is the first not to include OOo.

LibreOffice and Go-oo

Instead, Ubuntu 11.04 offers LibreOffice, a fork of that sprung from the patches and fixes previously released as Go-oo.

Offering the same ease of use and compatibility with other popular office solutions (notably the popular .DOC and .DOCX) formats, LibreOffice offers a word processor (Write) a spreadsheet (Calc) a presentation application (Impress) and a database application (Base) as well as Draw (a vector graphics tool similar to Microsoft Visio) and Math for creating formulae.

GNOME Office

While and LibreOffice offer integration among their constituent applications (something that Microsoft Office also does) GNOME Office is looser, offering the core applications of AbiWord for word processing, Evince for viewing documents (such as PDF, TIF, etc.), Gnumeric for spreadsheets, Ease for presentations and Inkscape for editing vector graphics.

GNOME Office applications all offer some level of compatibility with the various industry standards, but on the whole they do not offer a complete solution. GNOME Office is typically found in GNOME-based Linux distributions.

Calligra Suite/KOffice

Previously known as KOffice, Calligra Suite is a selection of open source office applications offering a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation software, database tool and various satellite applications that might otherwise be found incorporated within the main software on other suites.

Calligra/KOffice is usually found on operating systems using the Linux KDE platform.

Web-based Alternatives

However you don’t have to use a desktop based office suite. If you’re migrating to an open source operating system on a device with an always on Internet connection, it might be more appropriate to take advantage of a free online web-based office suite.

Google Documents is probably the most obvious solution, offering a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation applications accessible via your web browser, while Feng Office ( offers online word processing, task management, email, collaboration and contacts management, and is therefore quite different to many of the other open source office solutions listed here.

You might even consider Microsoft Office Web Apps, although note that while free, this offers a restricted set of features and doesn’t quite fit the “open source” description…

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