Software compare

Five tips for migrating from Microsoft Office to LibreOffice

If your organization is moving its users over to LibreOffice, there might be some initial confusion. Here are a few things you can do to make sure the experience is as painless as possible.

Many small businesses are migrating from Microsoft Office to alternative solutions to save money and sidestep the Ribbon interface that arrived with Office 2007. There are plenty of alternatives, but none of them stacks up to Microsoft Office as well as LibreOffice.

LibreOffice? Wasn't it OpenOffice? Yes it was and still is. But OpenOffice has been forked, and a newer, more actively developed alternative has been born. That alternative is LibreOffice, and it's already surpassing OpenOffice in terms of development. Naturally, when you make this switch, your users will need to know a few best practices to avoid the typical migration pitfalls. The following tips will help ease the transition.

1: Learn the names

The first thing your users should know is that LibreOffice has everything they need to get their jobs done (with respect to office suites). Along with that, they need to know the corresponding names for the tools. Let's compare:

Microsoft Office LibreOffice
Word processing Word Writer
Spreadsheet Excel Calc
Presentation PowerPoint Impress
Database Access Base

LibreOffice also includes a graphics tool, Draw, that Microsoft Office does not include, as well as a tool to help you create mathematical formulas (Formula). After installation, each of these tools can be found on the Start menu under the LibreOffice subfolder.

2: Take advantage of the LibreOffice Desktop

LibreOffice includes a very good desktop tool. Instead of having to open individual tools/files from the Start menu, users can simply open up the LibreOffice Desktop. From within a single window, they can launch any of the included tools, open a recent file, manage the LibreOffice extensions, and manage their templates. To open this desktop, select the LibreOffice X.X entry (where X.X is the release number).

3: Save files in a format Microsoft Office can read

As much as it pains me to bring this up, I feel it's my duty. By default, LibreOffice will save in its native formats. As you might expect, Microsoft Office will not know what to do with these open formats. Make sure your users know they'll need to save in a format that Microsoft Office can read, if they're sharing documents with Office users. They can do this two ways. On a case-by-case basis, they can click Save As and select the proper Microsoft Office document format. They can also change LibreOffice's default formats by clicking Tools | Options, selecting General from the Load/Save section, and selecting the default format for each type of document they use.

4: Don't expect personalized menus

Microsoft Office includes dynamic personalized menus that remember and display the most commonly used menu entries. LibreOffice does not have this, so your users will have to get used to the full layout of the various menus. It is possible to get around this by adding user-configured buttons to the toolbars for the most-used menu entries. But this is a more advanced feature, so you may not want to show it to your less tech-savvy users.

5: Use familiar keyboard shortcuts

Many of the keyboard shortcuts your users have grown accustomed to work the same way in LibreOffice:

  • [Ctrl]C - Copy
  • [Ctrl]V - Paste
  • [Ctrl]Z - Undo
  • [Ctrl]A - Select All
  • [Ctrl]N - New Document
  • [Ctrl]S - Save Document
  • [Ctrl]P - Print
LibreOffice is well laid out in terms of functionality. Users who have used the standard toolbar/menus found in most software on the planet will quickly adapt to this new office suite. And since most users use only about 10% of an office suite's capability, they shouldn't have any trouble getting up to speed on the features they need to do their work.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

26 comments
piratesmvp04
piratesmvp04

This article is incorrect when it says Microsoft Office cannot open LibreOffice native format. Microsoft Word 2007 and 2010 can open the native ODT OpenOffice format. And on Windows 7, Wordpad also supports ODT. Microsoft has been fully onboard with XML support since Office 2007.

Orodreth
Orodreth

I'm not sure who was the intended audience for this article. IMHO, those reading this article have been using OO or are already familiar with LO. For instance, the commentary about .ODT vs. .DOC was more interesting than the article. At least the article does introduce LibreOffice. I haven't used MS Office extensively since about 2004, but I'd appreciate an article that discusses the differences between LibreOffice and MS Office 2010. Why do so many users think they must use MS Office instead of LibreOffice (or Open Office). What in can't be done in LibreOffice that can be done in MS Office? Can LibreOffice documents, spreadsheets, presentations, database records be imported into existing MS Office databases or spreadsheets, etc.? BTW, I like LibreOffice and the interface better than I liked OpenOffice's interface. I haven't noticed any gotchas using LO from using OO.

Venablito
Venablito

"By default, LibreOffice will save in its native formats. As you might expect, Microsoft Office will not know what to do with these open formats. Make sure your users know theyll need to save in a format that Microsoft Office can read, if theyre sharing documents with Office users." This is not right. LO, like OO.o before it, uses the Open Document formats (.odt, .ods, etc) as defaults. These are open, non-proprietary standards, not "its native formats". Office uses its own proprietary, closed (and IMHO inferior) formats such as .doc and .docx as defaults. However, it is perfectly capable of reading ODF documents - it just doesn't advertise this to keep people locked in. Saying that LO is using its own thing and should conform to Microsoft is exactly backwards - LO is using the standard (to the extent one exists) and Microsoft is the deviant.

JackOfAllTech
JackOfAllTech

Good! I hate them. The first thing I do on a new Office install is turn that off. It's ironic, actually. Decades ago MS was at the forefront of GUI and usability design. Their CUA really did make sense and was one of the main reasons Windows caught on so quickly. Now, however, every new release of any MS product includes a new, steep learning curve because they are always changing the UI. It drives me crazy. I still write my programs by hand with straight API calls using the old guidelines and no one ever has to study a manual for days to learn how to use them.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I switch between OOcalc and Excel depending on where the falshdrive is plugged in. In Excel, formula for the local sheet specify only the cell address (c1:c2). In Oocalc, formula for the local sheet specify the sheet (thistab!c1:c2). Excel accepts the sheet specification if a formula reaches to another sheet but not when it reaches for another cell on the current sheet. This means every workbook saved under Oocalc then opened under Excel requires a search/replace to correct cell formula. Is there a setting in Oocalc to remove the sheet name when formula point to a cell on the current sheet. Alternatively, can Excel be told to accept sheet names for pointers to current sheet cells? I'd also like to see Oocalc accept pasted dates as date values. In excel I can past a column of dates (mm/dd/yyyy) and it takes them as date values even if the column is not formated for date values. In Oocalc, my paste of dates drops as text strings even if the column is formated for date values. (oddly, Office 2k3 under Win7 ignores data values also though winXP/Office2k3 is fine) Oocalc here referring to OpenOffice but including LibreOffice since the fork is still close.

ian
ian

a couple of things are holding me back. 1. The majority of my clients are MS users so I need to be sure there is absolute compatibility both ways. 2. Integration with, or replacement of Outlook. Most open email readers that I have found are just that, email readers. Outlook is integrated with contacts, calendar and tasks (which includes billing) and can send directly to One Note. Is there a FOSS that can replace Outlook 2007 and One Note???

esup
esup

Does exist a LibreOffice for mac version?

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

Another free Office app. Starting to remind me of Linux. All these free versions - each with a very, very small chunk of the market. Open Office, Symphony, LibreOffice, ... Regarding #3, this is the biggesat issue. Very few MS Office clones have files that can open up correctly [other than a plain text document for example]. Another issue is that you will always be saving to the MS Office formats because few will use this application. Hopefully it opens MS Office files - otherwise you are scr?wed.

SerrJ215
SerrJ215

There is just one thing, Open office and libre office have no analog for Outlook. Shouldnt one of these tips be suggesting an email client to replace it?

IndianArt
IndianArt

Thanks Jack, The Find Text box adds to productivity. This is so much better than the "Find & Replace" button as this has the additional functionality of 'Find Previous'. The context specific menu on right-click is very "feature-packed" and I love the extensions. My favorite extension in LibreOffice is gdocs that helps me directly upload to Google Docs. Personalized menus: for those interested, Right click on an icon and then select/ de-select the particular icon button you want from "Visble Buttons". Ubuntu 11.04 latest daily build has LibreOffice, so that's another great reason to get familiar with it.

Lazarus439
Lazarus439

The recurring issue is file compatibility. It's supposed to be getting better, but for a company that lives on files sent to or from customers and clients, "better" isn't good enough. Some people, as an author above noted, can get by with "better"; others can't. Complain and moan to your heart's content, but the MS file formats are the de facto standard. If/when the OO or LO suites can handle them perfectly or until MS Office users stop saving files in the Office native formats, MS Office will be in big trouble; until that time, it's likely to stay a major, if not the major, productivity suite.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

If you require Exchange support then you may be stuck with Outlook; I believe you can buy licenses for it separate from the overall Office license though which may help. If you just require PIM support; look at Thunderbird plus the plugins or Sunbird (what Tbird+plugins comes close to). You can start with portableapps to see if it does what you like; delete the dir with no lingering mess if it doesn't. http://portableapps.com/apps

Ajax4Hire
Ajax4Hire

I really do NOT like the personalized menus. This is a hinderance rather than a help. The Personalized Menus should work backwards. Show everything in the beginning and then slowly start to hide what you do not use. Starting off with 70% of the features hidden is a great way to foster conspiracy and keep typical users in the dark about great features. Microsoft realized this was as bad idea and as evidence, I give you the ribbon in Office2007. Now almost no "menu" item is hidden.

impcad
impcad

I have been using OO for the past two years and it opens and saves to MS Office, including docx, xlsx, etc. My clients are using MS Office and have no idea I'm using OO. All but the most complex formatting translates seamlessly. Quite honestly, I have not seen issues with over 99% of MS files.I have not been working with Access / Base so I cannot speak to compatibility there but Power Point / Impress also works well.

mwclarke1
mwclarke1

evolution just not integrated with LO I would not want it too either

Thomas.Dahl
Thomas.Dahl

We have started to move across to Google email and Calendar. We use The Bat for storage and in-office use as we do not fully trust Google and we want to keep emails "forever" and also it is a VERY powerful email client. Thomas

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I don't see LibreOffice apearing in Debian 6 Testing yet. They are getting along in the release cycle so I'm guessing LibreOffice will be Debian 7 maybe. I notice that they do provide a direct download with .DEB install package so I'll have to check that out. Hopefully one of the smart folk will drop the .DEB into a LO.org official repository for Debian and/or *buntu.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

I fully agree and to this end M$ themselves has broken their Office Application with the introduction of 2007. Just how many copies of earlier Office could read the files sent to them natively? Exactly none when sent in their Native File Formats. I've lost count of the complaints that I have received about new versions of Office failing to properly open/read files from older versions. That started from the second version of office and has continued to this day. Though admit telly no where near as bad as the step from 2003 to 2007 Office has always had Formatting Issues with earlier versions. What you are complaining quite rightly about is a perfect example of why M$ Office is so unsuitable for Business and should be dumped ASAP. Col

Lazarus439
Lazarus439

Two individual major MS apps cost about the same as the Office 2010 Business and Home Suite. OneNote is less expensive by itself, but if you need OneNote and Outlook, the entire suite isn't much more expensive than the two apps. This is true for both retail licenses and Open License pricing.

ian
ian

No I am not using exchange. I'll take a closer look at some of these to see if they will fit my needs. I haven't found anything that comes close to One Note. Appreciate the link. Thank you.

mwclarke1
mwclarke1

Yeah, Now can't find anything with that ribbon interface (Not used to it of course), to me, menus makes more sense, what I am use to, why change something that works. But I am almost doing all my work in OO/LO now and will be 100 percent soon. I agree with personalized menus. I hate anything being hidden from me. Why I use Unix/Linux, everything is accessible, nothing hidden. Any Unix/Linux app, desktop, distro that starts trying to hide things from me, trying to make it more idiot proof I guess as me searching for a different one to use immediately. Why I do not like most MS products.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Is your Apple PC an older PowerPC based machine or newer Intel based machine (if in the last three or more years; probably Intel). Peronally, I'd start with the Intel download an watch for an error similar to "PPC version required" unless you know it's an older Apple PC which may be PowerPC based. (edit): left in place encase it helps others but I had misread the thread when posting originally.

Lazarus439
Lazarus439

I just proposed OpenOffice 3.2.1 to a client for testing and the client rejected it because of file compatibility issues. I've replaced it with LibreOffice and am awaiting the outcome of that test cycle.