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LibreOffice RC 3

LibreOffice Editor's Review

Tell people that you can get a legal copy of a word processor or spreadsheet program that's compatible with Microsoft Office and many of them will disbelieve you. But that's the case with a range of open source alternatives including LibreOffice. There's no charge for the software, and no limitations or trial restrictions: you just download it and use it. For casual users at least, it will do almost everything they need.

With this type of software, the issue for most users isn't everything that works, but rather the few things that don't. LibreOffice gets off to a great start by modelling itself on the "classic look" of Microsoft Office that should be familiar to anyone who's resisted the upgrade to the latest editions. The package works intuitively and there'll be little need for help guides for most basic features -- which is fortunate as help is somewhat lacking for some features.

The problems are some clumsy decisions in design. For example, the word processing software automatically saves in a default format that isn't compatible with Word, meaning users need to change settings if they want full compatibility. The system does a good job of importing documents from other formats, though it's not 100% reliable.

All in all, LibreOffice is unlikely to be the best choice for most users. Those who need more advanced features will likely stick with Microsoft, while those who want an open source option will likely find OpenOffice an easier-to-use alternative.

Pros: Fantastic "value" given its free; will suit most users.

Cons: Some frustration and irritation in use.

Conclusions: Although other open source options may be better, the free price means it's still worth a look.

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