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Bye Bye Microsoft Office, Hello LibreOffice (easydns.com)
349 points by StuntPope 12 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 311 comments

Excel is a piece of software that I would absolutely not hesitate to pay for... but I'm unfortunately stuck with LibreOffice.

I used to work in an insurance company on an actuarial pricing team where the preferred tool was Excel (the modelling was pretty simple). Needless to say, I became very accustomed to and adept with using Excel. We definitely pushed the limits... but what was nice was being able to grab 600K records (maybe 20 cols) from a DB, throw it in Excel and get some results in a matter of minutes. You might have to wait a few seconds based on what you were trying to do, but Excel could handle it.

At home I run Linux... where there is no Excel, so I use LibreOffice instead. Just a few days ago I was poking around the Himalayan Database[1] and one of the tables has about 50K records. LibreOffice absolutely chokes when I try to do any filtering or calculations. As well, the pivot tables in Excel are in a totally different league than LibreOffice in terms performance and flexibility. It's unfortunate because I try to support OSS as much as possible... but LibreOffice is just so painful.

You could argue that I'm using the wrong tool for the job. Ultimately, I do throw it in SQLite or Pandas, but Excel is just so nice for ad hocs if it fits in memory.

[1] https://www.himalayandatabase.com/

> You could argue that I'm using the wrong tool for the job.

Without comparing Excel vs LibreOffice vs etc, I've found the category of spreadsheet software to be immensely helpful for analyzing, aggregating, visualizing and reducing small datasets.

You do have to end up falling back to python scripts using pandas or whatever if you need to run jobs that need to take data from one DB and put it into another DB or something like that.

But if my output is basically a reduced set of tables, series or graphs for presentation, spreadsheets are an immensely useful tool.

What I've specifically done is have one sheet of the spreadsheet represent the "raw, unreduced data", and write up formulae for aggregation in other sheets, based on the raw data and intermediate aggregations. Starts becoming less ideal when you have 10 or more sheets, but for simple cases, it's very much underrated by us engineering folks.

I always found that excel can be as simple and as complex as you need it to be. You can use it to write your shopping list (ok, not ideal), or a small budget, and you can ramp it up for really complex simulations. Once you know vlookup, indirect/match, sumif/countif and very few other formulas (for example text manipulation to clean and harmonise data inputs), you can do really interesting stuff even with datasets of thousands of lines. I found that often in excel the most difficult stuff is not the back-end (data analysis and simulation) but the front end (i.e. giving the user a clear interface for inputing data and conditions in the model, and visualising outputs, for example with buttons, constrained inputs, conditional formatting etc.).

Why not ideal for shopping list? When we go skiing with a couple of friends, we setup a long shopping list in excel, there each row has the name, category, amount and amount unit.

Before heading into the store we have a Pivot table sum it all up, group everything by category sorted by the order those categories are encountered when walking though the store.

This way it takes 2-3 people less than an hour to shop for a 4 day trip for 10-20 people. One holds the list, and then 1 or two runners go fetch stuff.

It’s been perfected over the years:)

Hats off for this. I was thinking more about as a substitute of a simple paper list (or if on mobile, just a list on whatever default note app is you have in iOS or Android)

>What I've specifically done is have one sheet of the spreadsheet represent the "raw, unreduced data", and write up formulae for aggregation in other sheets, based on the raw data and intermediate aggregations

This is exactly what I do. When it works, it is just way too fast for ad-hoc reporting to consider doing anything else. Pretty much all of my first draft reporting is built this way, so i can cut through the back-and-forth of management change requests before going through the trouble of setting up a full thing.

It is amazing how much you can accomplish with appending a couple columns to your raw data for categorization and then pivoting.

when im in a rush and need another layer (pivottable of a pivot table), I even set up formulas to reference a produced pivottable and then pivot on the formulas. You can extend the formulas far beyond expected use-cases and filter out the irrelevant rows later

> LibreOffice absolutely chokes when I try to do any filtering or calculations.

File a bug. https://bugs.documentfoundation.org/

It's easy to complain in an HN comment, but a clear description of the test case would certainly help with getting the issue resolved.

I wish this comment was banned from HN. Every time someone says that some free software is in any way flawed there's always the completely useless reply "well did you file a bug?" or even worse "it's open source - why didn't you fix it?"

I'd hope it's obvious why these comments are bad, but I guess not so:

* Not everyone has time to fix a bug or even file one.

* The ability to fix or file bugs doesn't mean that the bugs don't exist!

* The ability to fix or file bugs doesn't mean that one shouldn't talk about the bugs.

* The possibility of fixing a bug doesn't help if you don't have the time or ability to fix it and actually want to use the software.

* Not everyone is able to fix all bugs

* It's not nearly as easy for people outside a project to fix bugs as it is for people familiar with the code.

* Everyone already knows it is possible to file and fix bugs in open source software so you're not adding anything to the conversation.

Specially because you usually have to jump through a lot of hoops to file a bug. I remember some time ago trying to file a bug for some major open source software. It was so painful that I gave up before finishing.

Without context, it was likely painful as they need that information to have any chance of fixing the bug.

I don’t mind collecting useful information, it’s the having to create accounts on some hard-to-navigate project-owned bug tracking thing that kills it for me.

There's a word for people who expect to get things for free without giving anything back to the authors or community that made it possible.

There's also a phrase for people who give things away for free and expect something in return.

Could you point me at the paid for equivalent for excel on Linux? If he donated even a thousand dollars he wouldn't get the product he can get for almost free on windows.

Doesn't Excel run under Wine? That might actually be the better option.

(LibreOffice user here on Windows, donated in the past, but I find LibreOffice Calc really unpolished. It puzzles me because NeoOffice is really quite good on the Mac. I should probably just switch to MS Office.)

Certain versions yep :) . Although I'm not sure it's flawless. Crossover office is best if you're going down that route, or just put windows in a VM and run it there if it's crucial to your work. That's what I do.

This just turns Foss into the inferior but free option, and I don't think that was the intention.

And since you mentioned you'd pay for Excel, please contribute a one-time life-time $50-$100 bounty to help fix that performance issue.

Would this hypothetical fix include a performance suite, and a regression testing system, to ensure this task stays fast forever?

IME, systems that don't focus on performance as a primary metric tend to slow down over time as they accumulate features. Someone who is willing to buy Excel ($130) may not be willing to pay a $100 bounty every time some other programmer makes LibreOffice slower again.

I googled for LibreOffice performance regressions and found several, going back many years, and they tend to include a one-line fix. For all its faults, I'm sure there's a team at Microsoft that knows every time Excel performance regresses.

Good point. How can one prevent this though, for any free/open source software? Introducing issues (intentional or careless) to keep some funding going.

Why is that? Nobody ready to improve LibreOffice Calc? Calc is not good enough to start improving on?

Do we need a list of missing features? I would also add:

* Copy paste from Writer does not work

* Summing a column (not a range) isn't possible

* Type detection is not as good

* Auto-update doesn't work at all

I've just pasted some data from Writer into Calc.

Could you elaborate on your column summation problem please. =sum(E:E) works as does the summation button.

Don't understand your third point but if it is text vs numbers and dates etc then I've had plenty of fun with this in Excel as well over the decades.

Auto-update - please elaborate where it fails

I've just pasted some data from Writer into Calc.

Try to paste a table from Writer into Calc so that the structure is converted to rows and columns (like Word and Excel does).

Could you elaborate on your column summation problem please. =sum(E:E) works as does the summation button.

~I get Err:522 when I run =SUM(E:E)~

It works!

Don't understand your third point but if it is text vs numbers and dates etc then I've had plenty of fun with this in Excel as well over the decades.

Me too. It's annoying in Excel, but worse in Calc.

Auto-update - please elaborate where it fails

The built-in auto-updater doesn't so much fail, as hasn't ever worked at all (Mac, but I think Windows as well). iirc I get a %%PERCENT%% placeholder sometimes, and the rest of the time I have to download the update from the website instead. Same on several machines.

I can paste a table into Calc OK. It was a simple effort with a,b,c,d in row 1 and 1,2,3,4 in row 2. The numbers came in as numbers OK. Paste as unformatted text is rubbish (single column of data) and I think I might file a bug for that.

Sorry, I get you now about auto updater - software updater not [Google: Excel auto-updater]. That's not really a thing on Linux because when you update the system, the whole thing updates - apps and all.

The pace of development in LO is absolutely amazing but there are some horrendous bugs with near immortality status. If you can put up with them then use it. No software is perfect but LO is moving at increasing speed towards the light.

Isn't that the job of brew or whatever package manager you're using on apple?

Copy and paste on linux when using multiple apps and remote vms/vnc/rdp etc, is a pain. Depending on what app you use, its looking for which clipboard buffer and what commands to copy/paste. Mixing Os's and apps, is a clusterfuck on a multiheaded desktop with excel in a windows rdp session and libre office in another, then throw google sheet in because work decided to switch to google office at 1/2 the price of office 365 per user.


I absolutely hate type detection in Excel. It's at least comparable to type coercion in Javascript, maybe even more capricious. I know the type thank you very much.

I have been using https://openrefine.org/ for interacting with large csv files, and it has been amazing. It supports the normal filtering / transformation and other import / export actions. Plus it's open source.

I run LO on this laptop under Linux. I've just opened the member's table which has 74,853 records in it. It's a 54.8MiB FoxPro database and took about 10 seconds to import. I've put an auto filter on the whole thing and a search for France took blink. I created a pivot table in seconds showing counts of sex by citizenship (roughly 10% of UK climbers are women.)

This is a fairly beefy machine but over two years old so nothing particularly special nowadays.

>You could argue that I'm using the wrong tool for the job.

For ad hoc filtering, calculations, merging, analyzing tabular datasets a dedicated tool such as our EasyMorph (https://easymorph.com) would do a better job than Excel in the vast majority of cases. It can handle millions of rows, keeps data in memory, has a wide range of available transforms and built-in charting. We target heavy Excel users and it works quite well. Disclaimer: I work for EasyMorph.

I think both Excel and Libre Office have their place. Excel has the power and refinement for professional users such as accounting, actuarial, and the commenter's data analysis.

Libre Office is for home use: tax prep, budgeting, graphing science projects. That's what I use it for, and it's perfect and free. That might be unfair to all the hard work that's been put into it, but if you don't push its limits, it works great.

So I guess I am arguing it's the wrong tool for data heavy jobs.

Always felt it was a shame that scheme in a grid was abandoned (and last I tried getting it up and running I gave up;I believe the only viable option is to change the gui library - and that didn't seem trivial at the time. I suppose these days one might rustle up an ancient version of Slackware in a docker container...).


Anyone know of something similar, but more up to date?

> Excel is a piece of software that I would absolutely not hesitate to pay for... but I'm unfortunately stuck with LibreOffice.

But... according to the rest of your post, you _did_ hesitate to pay for it and are finding that LibreOffice doesn't fit your needs. So why not buy Excel?

From the parent:

> At home I run Linux... where there is no Excel

You can run it in a VM, but at that point you're already settling for a sub-optimal experience, so why not try a alternative that's free and packaged for your OS?

I had the same issue with LibreOffice choking with big datasets so I've started using SoftMaker PlanMaker for loading anything with more than a few hundred records. It's works just fine with documents with tens of thousands of rows and it allows me to do the - admittedly very simple - calculations and charting I need.

The whole SoftMaker Office suite is pretty nice. Not sure where it's on feature parity with Microsoft Office, but the price isn't terrible (something like $20 a year for the paid version, or free if you don't care about the paid features) and it does a great job of reading Office files.

have you tried gnumeric? I prefer gnumeric to open office's spreadsheet when it comes to open source.

gnumeric is great for simple tabulated data as far as simple charts etc, but the advanced features that spreadsheet lovers use aren't available.

Have you tried WPS Office? It kind of works for the things I do, but I am not an advanced Excel user.

I would be very curious about your experience as you certainly tax the software much more than I do.

  LibreOffice is just so painful
You were running it on a different OS and different hardware. LO vs Excel was not the only variable.

* You could argue that I'm using the wrong tool for the job.*

You are. You could try this reporting tool instead: http://pebblereports.com it has an Office like interface, works really well with databases and has performant crosstabs.

They said they're using LibreOffice because they're running Linux. That tool you're suggesting is Windows-only.

If they were using Windows, they could save a couple hundred bucks and just use Excel.

Excel is the most widely used domain-specific language -- maybe even widely used "programming language" (if I'm painting with a broad brush, though it is turing complete) used to date. Getting people off, when a company's livelihood is literally at stake, is no small ask. Solve this problem and you'd be a bajillionare (official title).

I scan the comments and see a few anecdotal comments about how life is just fine with LO. But as many other comments point out: it's not the one-offs that make this hard, it's the fact that excel is the de-facto information exchange between people, businesses, and boards. To be a broken record: it's too ingrained.

The CS industry doesn't understand that the rest of the non-CS world runs on tools the employees learn once and never look back.

Coming from engineering, CS people never seemed to understand why someone used Matlab at all, when python existed or even the utility of 'R'/'Stata'.

The effort needed to onboard onto a programming/mathematical/computational tool, when you don't have a strong coding background to go with it, is extremely high. The users will hold on to them till their dying breath, because the is tied to more than 50% of their own value proposition.

Excel is the epitome of this phenomenon.

Also, excel is straight up a good tool. The only advantage of Libre office is the price, which is a non-factor for any major corp. Google's collaboration suite is better, but they lag behind in every other area.

I can see windows being completely replaced by competitor, but Office will stay. It is MSFT's stickiest product.

> The only advantage of Libre office is the price, which is a non-factor for any major corp.

Another one: Excels stubborn insistence on mangling anything that can be somehow construed into a date into one :-/

Format your column prior to pasting data, paste special > match destination formatting

the most solid way to handle it is to use data import from text file (handles csv) so you can configure the columns while looking at them

Which recent excel versions you can bring that data table directly into power query as well, which is useful if youve got multiple csv you are trying to look at that are related

> onboard onto

Another way to say this is: "learn".

i think 'onboard' might refer to the wider context of using a tool in say, a research group. it's not just you learning the tool, it's about how the group uses the tool and the historical developments in place.

It's just a tech business language mannerism. People use it for the same reasons they use "price point" instead of "price", or "usecase" instead of "use", or "form factor" instead of "size": to show that they belong to the tribe, and to sound clever while saying something that could be expressed more simply and elegantly. The jargon adds nothing, except cringe.

Another way to say this is: "con". But language changed. It's almost as if it's defined by what's spoken, not by what's in a dictionary.

Another way to say this is: "teach".

People who code for a living are used to regularly teaching themselves new things, but there are lots of folks in other corners of the organization that expect to be taught / onboarded, and it's not an entirely unreasonable expectation. I think the word "onboard" implies a cost will have to be paid (e.g. time, money, man-hours, hiring new talent, etc.), and that's what the parent poster wanted to emphasize.

worked with a lot of techs this way. They get mad if you show them what you're trying to teach them shows up with very good instructions on the first page of google. At least half of them get pissed off :)

You’re right about Office being sticky, but that is changing. Heaps of people are using Google Sheets for basic spreadsheets these days. Advanced users will stick to the tools they know, but I’ve reached the same conclusion as the author of this post. Licensing issues, nagging about cloud subscriptions, inconsistencies between Windows and macOS and the lack of Linux support have become so painful in recent versions of Office that using LibreOffice no longer feels like a greater inconvenience – just a different inconvenience.

At least LibreOffice runs on Linux/Windows

In my experience anyone in CS who was doing enough work for which Matlab and R to be relevant definitely found them useful, at least in the correct situations.

Proprietary math software, to which I'd add Mathematica, has the specific non-value proposition that you cannot take home your precious research work from the university lab without expensive, hard to buy and impermanent licenses and subscriptions.

Take all of this with a grain of salt: I'm an Excel and VBA developer. I'm a bit of a dinosaur and I'm looking to pivot to Java + JavaScript as I'm just a smidge underpaid.

However, I have this to say about Excel. MicroSoft is making a push to kill VBA with two prong. One, replace VBA with JavaScript through OfficeJS. Two, beef up Power Query and Power Pivot so that you can do enough ETL in Excel through a point and click interface.

But the nasty truth is that on the ground in offices worldwide, there are ETL flows that shouldn't exist, but middle managers do not possess the political capital, incentives, or technical skill to remove. And while Power Query, M, DAX and Power Pivot are excellent, in, let's say, 5% of workflows, you need some business logic in some language that is more flexible. And this is the real problem with VBA; it papers over dirty workflows, even if the data structures you are provided are not good.

What kind of software do you develop in VBA? I've used it a fair bit over the past few years to build spreadsheets and Access databases for people in locked-down enterprise environments who can't run arbitrary .exes. I wish I had just built web apps, despite the huge downsides of needing to trust a system administrator to secure user data, and being sandboxed into a browser.

Using VBA was much worse. I could manage with the VBA language alone, but the number of security controls and macro-related warnings I had to click through, the poor quality of free online documentation, the lack of version control support and the hacks I had to use to get things into Git, and the lack of decent libraries made the experience an overall nightmare. Have you found solutions to these problems? Or do you work in an environment where you control the users' computers?

There are other areas like this, too. I'm part of a firm that does grant writing for nonprofits, public agencies, and some research-based businesses (http://www.seliger.com for the curious). Word and Excel are standard, especially for any documents that may touch governments. All narratives are written in Word and budgets in Excel.

I like and approve of LibreOffice but it doesn't seamlessly transfer complex styles or tracked changes to and from Word. When an organization is working with people who bill in the hundreds of dollars per hour and a grant in the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, cost of MS Office is a non-issue. I approve of and generally support OSS (I'm writing this in Firefox), but the level of integration into the MSO world is ill-understood.

I've also written novels and the whole publishing industry and infrastructure is based around Word.

This is very true. Fighting Excel is like waging the Drug War. You can make what appear to be gains while still losing.

As someone who started in Windows 97 and .NET at the 1.1 Framework release: VBA is a gateway drug to a career in MS languages.

There has never been Windows 97.

You know that was a typo.

I don't think a lot of businesses are really that dependent on the sophisticated Excel features. And if they are it's concentrated in certain areas. You can buy per seat licenses (honestly no idea how MS prices this) for whoever needs it and out the rest of the enterprise on something else for their documents.

But why should they do this? MS Office 365 is 150 USD per year per user. For the vast majority of companies, large and small, this is a very small price for a software that is so engrained in daily business processes and activities. If a company is at the point of deciding about cost cutting by cutting excel, it probably is beyond salvation (certainly in the developed world, but i dare say even in developing countries). And the productivity loss of the first year would probably negate any saving.

> But why should they do this? MS Office 365 is 150 USD per year per user.

As someone in the Linux/Debian/Ubuntu area of my organization, the main headache with licensing from what I can see as an 'outsider' is not so much the price as the auditing/compliance overhead.

We can spin up/down as many Deb/Ub/CentOS systems as we want and not care, which as much RAM and (v)CPU as needed.

Trying to do the same with Windows and/or VMware seems to be something else.

Absolutely. 150 USD is a trivial amount of money in most bureaucracies, but the time cost of getting that expense approved and accounted for could be weeks.

Excel is sold as a bundle with Office 365. Many if not most large companies are already paying for O365 for emails/teams/MDM etc anyway.

My company is standardized on G Suite and only dole out MS licenses on request.

Thanks for the anecdote! There does seems to be diversity among the suite of tools large companies use to conduct business.

The parents point seems to still stand -- a significant proportion of companies use Office internally, and Excel is bundled as a part of O365.

To add another anecdote, I've noticed that many educational institutions (including government departments with tens of thousands of staff and hundreds of thousands of students) use G Suite. I'm sure some corporate staff in these organisations have Microsoft Office too, but there are many people in large bureaucracies who use Google Docs and Google Sheets daily.

The excel work I've seen finance gurus perform is absolutely programming. There's usually "that guy" who assembled it and understands how the massive 100 tab completely uncommented spaghetti mess works.

And then he retires or gets run over by a bus and I have to spend three months reverse engineering it only to find that it is really just an over complex UI hiding a bug ridden home made database management system. Which I then reimplement in SQL Server and C#/VB.Net in a week; and the new version is faster, properly multi-user, more reliable, and actually maintainable.

Nah thats when you hire a consultant to support the spreadsheet at twice the rate. You can even pay them to make a new spreadsheet and train the next unsuspecting victim.

That's in fact what I was hired to do. I told them the first day on the job that they really needed a database, even sketched the schema. But they were adamant that it had to be an Excel solution so I wasted three months trying to untangle the crap that was there all the while trying to persuade them that a DB and a simpler front end would be much better. Eventually they agreed.

We've both seen too much... O_O

..and people wonder why Google hasn't pulled the plug on Chrome OS and Chromebooks. It is essential for the next generation to prefer "Sheets" over "Excel".. only way to do that is to get in early.

That hasn't appeared to work. Students who are forced to use Chromebooks don't beg their parents to get them one for home. The ones who do care about laptops ask for PC's or to a much lesser extent Macs.

That also never really worked when Apple was much bigger in pre-college education.

Edit: Chromebooks in education are like Enterprise software. The end user never chooses to use it. The vendor is not incentivized to make a product that end user will like, only the corporate buyer.

How many teachers and administrators who do have a choice are using Chromebooks willingly?

Many. I’m on a K-8 school board and the #1 technology ask from the teachers is Chromebooks.

They like iPads up to around grade 2-3. After that, the keyboard makes the kids more productive.

Windows requires too much IT overhead and Mac is too difficult to do business with and expensive.

The real magic of Chrome is the management suite. It’s dirt cheap for .edu and works fantastic. Chrome devices on a cart are reconfigured by the time the cart is rolled into a different classroom.

It’s way too expensive for commercial customers though.

I agree. I'm not saying that Chromebooks aren't a good fit for education. I'm saying that using Chromebooks in schools aren't going to necessarily endear them to students to the point where the next generation is going to prefer either Chromebooks or GSuite when they have a choice at home or when they go to college or start working.

Teachers want Chromebook's for their students. When they have choice, they will use their own laptops for themselves.

Just like no one ever said they want to use Version One for their own personal projects. They would choose something like BaseCamp Personal or Trello.

G is making progress though - automation / building of tools is 100x better on google sheets than in excel.

I can make a g form, output to a g sheet, automatically email if an entry contains certain text, etc. All that takes ~20 minutes, 1 add on, and 0 lines of code. Excel simply cannot compete with that.

Edit - I still use excel all the time for heavy lifting though. They fill different use cases for me.

My initial post may have sounded more negative than I intended regarding the quality of Google Sheets. I have an Office365 subscription and Numbers is free and either could do the simple things I use a spreadsheet for, I still use Sheets.

Have you tried Microsoft Forms and Microsoft Flow? They are the equivalent of your G Forms work flow

Nope, that looks awesome though thank you! My current work doesn't let us use g products

Is there an easy way to set LibreOffice Calc to the Excel keybindings? It might not help for things like macros but at least sheet navigation could be consistent.

What exactly is the story of LO as regards Excel: do they want to emulate Excel's VBA, or do they have a different framework in place(for example using python)?

is there a list of the missing feature set and is there any group working on the backlog?

Does LO support RTD or eg the Bloomberg toolbar?

Can’t replace Excel in many finance roles without those.

Software engineers opining on Excel vs LibreOffice strikes me as pretty funny. Imagine someone who programs sporadically asking why anyone would pay for intelliJ or Visual Studio.

Even if Excel is just marginally better than LibreOffice, if you use it day after day to do your job, the $150/year cost is basically nothing (especially when enterprise software that does a lot less can routinely charge $1000/user/year). Meanwhile, It Just Works™. Plus, it's a huge pain to learn something new or deal with the aggravation of compatibility issues. Any LibreOffice document will tend to open up nicely in Word or Excel because otherwise, it's worthless if you want to share it with others. But the opposite definitely isn't true.

You should read the post.

> if you use it day after day to do your job, the $150/year cost is basically nothing [...] [Excel] Just Works™.

From the post:

> It’s not that I’m cheap either, I just want something that works according to my preferences, not Microsoft’s.

See the post for details about what's wrong with Microsoft's Office offering.

The author even goes on to say:

> I took the $319 I was about to spend on an Office license and I donated it to the LibreOffice project, and will just continue to do so every time I have to go through this process.

I really don't think they're as cheap as you make them out to be.

And I agree with the sentiment. I'd also be fine to pay for it, but I don't want to have to struggle with emulation layers to get Microsoft's crap to work on a non-Microsoft supported operating system (it's not as if I can compile it myself), when there is a perfectly fine alternative that does not rely on being a monopoly. If someone has a layout issue with my document, the solution is very simple. If someone has a layout issue with Microsoft-made documents, they expect the other party to pay over a hundred bucks just to open one document (it doesn't happen more than once a year to me, so they're asking me to pay that for one document). This scheme only works if there is a monopoly because those people wouldn't actually themselves pay for two or three licenses just to open other people's documents.

For me, LibreOffice also works better (ever tried opening a CSV in Excel? It comes out wrong 90% of the time and I don't know how, or if, you can change it; LibreOffice Calc just gives you a dialog with the csv settings and a preview of the result), in part because I'm used to it and no longer used to newer Office versions, it aligns with my ideology more, and on top of all that it's free.

"Even if [one] is just marginally better than [the other], if you use it day after day to do your job" then indeed it's a no-brainer to use LibreOffice instead of pay money for an inferior product.

> the $150/year cost is basically nothing

The cost is a lot higher for Linux developers - you also need a Windows licence and to spend significant time managing a VM (I did that, no more).

I boot Linux for my dev machine (because Windows costs me more time).

I actually like Excel.

(Word and Outlook are toxic waste as far as I am concerned: they frustrate me more than they serve me).

> Word and Outlook are toxic waste as far as I am concerned: they frustrate me more than they serve me.

This opinion is largely shared even in the non technical world.

Outlook is a lot better than Lotus but it suffers from the comparaison with Gmail. Powerful search was a game changer for me and I miss it dearly since my company decided to switch to Office 365.

Excel and Powerpoint really are the two gems of Microsoft Office.

Search? Gmail didn't even index attachments until recently. Give me a break - Gmail is a joke. Never thought I would pine for Outlook but here I am :/

Work wanted a cloud office provider, Went to M$ and they quoted 35 dollars per user. Thinking they own the market they price gouged us. Google gave us 15. This is for 20K+ users, guess what email solution we went with. 9 months later, M$ Came back and offered to match the price of google, after we already deployed to google office.

3 years later, Work is now thinking about switching the mobile iron (google phone management) piece to microsoft, since we are finished our windows10 upgrades, and switching from wsus to sccm with microsoft security/patching on azure. Fixes our remote laptop patching issue this way, since sales folks dont vpn in.

Dont get me started on the ssl cert authentication installed on every laptop for gmail, with no password for gmail, just the oauth just the ssl cert password.

Microsoft costs do come in play.

$150 a year + Microsoft telemetry which gives itself the liberty of downloading your files to solve bugs.

Indeed, why would they? Lots of developers work fine full time without using them.

Perhaps the examples were too specific, and outside your particular area of expertise? In other words, do you program primarily in Java or C# / .NET applications?

I've seen (a little) of both sides. While I use mostly free tools now (like VS Code!) to program Node, etc., when I was programming .NET / MVC applications with C#, Visual Studio was essential and excellent. I still have a few odd projects geared up for those environments, and while can poke around clumsily with VS Code, for deep dives and local builds, I'll fire up Visual Studio.

Of course, all that being said, the Community version, which is free, is sufficient for me. But it doesn't take much to find scenarios where professionals have to pay for tools to gain specific efficiencies.

Yes, indeed, I'm not working with C# or Java. My point is, it's far from a given that Visual Studio or IntelliJ are required in general case.

During the few months I spent as a C# developer, I found that Visual Studio was indeed essential but not excellent. It was a slow and incredibly complicated build-time dependency that I'm glad to be free of.

One of the reasons why I don't use LibreOffice is completely broken kerning: https://bugs.documentfoundation.org/show_bug.cgi?id=103322

The keming is terrible too.

Yeah, our kerning is not great. We're slowly chipping away at the problem because it requires fixes at several different layers.

I would strongly suggest prioritizing kerning. How text looks is the feature of a word processor, and I quit using LibreOffice a number of years ago because the text looked so hideous compared to anything else.

Yeah, there's something about the kerning that is just a little off. I agree that what happens on the page in the center of the screen has to be 100% perfect for any word processor.

I was thinking more about the printed page. I can deal with bad kerning on-screen if it prints out beautifully, although I won't be happy about it. But the whole point of the word processor is to print out text, so kerning is an essential requirement.

There's always LaTeX.

You're getting downvoted, but you have a point. Word processors are for writing documents; if you really care about typography in the final product, at some point you need to use a real typesetting tool. From what I can tell, most large companies and governments draft documents in Word and then send them to graphic designers to reformat in InDesign or something and publish as PDF. You can tell when a document has been typeset in Word; it feels unfinished and unprofessional, even if it looks better than a LibreOffice document.

I learned LaTeX because that was the "Word" of Linux when I was installing Slackware from diskettes.

And I don't regret it at all.

Any other show stopping bugs you have encountered? I'm thinking of making the switch myself, but I hear nothing but anecdotes of people having a bad time getting proprietary Microsoft Office .docx files to play nice in LibreOffice

I used LibreOffice at work for two years (on linux) and it was good for most things, I used the powerpoint equivalent and it's definitely under-powered compared to MS but probably fine for 95% of people.

I also did the MS 360 thing once about 3 years ago and will never do that again.

> I also did the MS 360 thing once about 3 years ago and will never do that again.

What happened or was the key issue?

The main criticism I have is the requirement to create an 'account' and then having it 'phone home' every time one of the Office applications starts. This is totally unnecessary as annual licensing for desktop applications was worked out decades ago. The date for when the license expires is not displayed, unlike most annually licensed desktop applications so when it does expire is usually a surprise.

To make matters worse MS office applications always default to saving files to cloud based storage despite my always picking a local drive to save files. There is noticeable lag while the file explorer tries to access cloud storage despite it never being intentionally used.

My experience is that I’ve used libreoffice to convert unreadable .doc 2003 files to working .docx documents. In these (admittedly few) cases, (a more recent version of) word could not read the .doc files in a meaningful fashion.

For me, I can't use it on macOS because it freezes for several seconds any time I open a document, try to scroll, etc. Thankfully I don't need to open doc and xls files much.

Last time i tried to use LibreOffice (~2 years ago) on OSX it was super slow/hanged when opening large CSV files while Excel on a virtual machine (same host) had 0 problems.

How this is not the top priority totally befuddles me.

A company paying millions for Microsoft Office would probably get better value if they paid some LibreOffice developers to fix the issues. Or just switched to use ODF format.

MS Office is around 150 USD per year (on Premium Plan, and it comes with 1TB/user of OneDrive: good luck beating that package), I would imagine it would be less for large corporations. This is really not much for a software platform that any white collar employee knows how to use at least at its basic level. Excel and Powerpoint are critical software for most large companies. Budgets, financial analyses, forecasts, quick calcs, presentations on factory shop floors and in board suites rely on them. I am a management consultant so I see a wide range of corporate tools: I have seen large companies use Google as their cloud, email and calendar platforms, dropbox for their shared drives, PowerBI or Tableau, SAP or Oracle or Salesforce for ERP, but not even once I saw a company not relying on Excel and Powerpoint for much of the daily activities. They wouldn't risk getting away from PPT and Excel (and, to a lesser extent, MS Word). The certainty that somebody in another country or organisation will open the file and it will appear as intended is essential to large (and small) companies. Plus there is almost no training needed for new hires, as both student and expert hires will have experience with it. Today MS Office for MacOS is quite good: some functionalities are missing, I think, but what is there is 100% compatible with Win platform - I wouldn't bet on this to be true for LibreOffice. If a company wants to save money on licenses it might be netter off reviewing how often certain software packages are utilised and prune based on this, rather than blanket-switching an almost universal software, used daily and that is not even that expensive.

Would they?

For personal use, I don’t care which tool I’m using - my use cases are simple enough it just doesn’t matter.

When I worked in almostMegaCorp, though, I had the freedom to push through whatever tools I wanted. With the exception of adding R and Python to my machine, the Office provided everything I needed and did so better than the competition. I don’t care, in that context, about pricing, competition, OS ideaology, etc. Setting up an in-house software division to throw bug fixes at OpenOffice to try and transition to a tool that is equal to or inferior for almost all of our actual uses?

Jfc why?!

I made a slideshow in LibreOffice Impress for my grandfather's funeral last week. We ended up playing it via PowerPoint because of how the chapel's AV system was set up.

PowerPoint rendered the images in the ODP poorly, like it jacked the contrast up to 100. Saving the document as a PPTX within LibreOffice and then playing it on PowerPoint fixed the issue. From my naive perspective MS Office seems to have issues with ODF just like LibreOffice has with docx/pptx/xlsx/etc.

This to me is THE quintessential issue surrounding potential adoption of libre office. If formatting & commands remained 100% consistent between the two, I think you'd see a lot more people switch, out of the shear convenience of not having to whip out their wallet. Students would probably be first to adopt because they usually operate on a tight budget to begin with. That would filter out into the business world eventually.

But if you can't absolutely rely on it to be totally compatible, then it's a total non-starter. Not worth the risk.

I think you're wrong there.

Counterpoint: Google Docs. Its OOXML compatibility is for shit. Its adoption is HUGE.

Not one person mentions how amazingly shit its OOXML compatibility is, even for quite simple DOCX.

Almost nobody in an office uses the fancy bits of Excel. Spreadsheets are mostly used as flat-file data stores.

And Office is notoriously incompatible between different versions of itself.

In practice, I don't think the file compatibility objection to LibreOffice is real. It's just an excuse.

The actual competition is Google Docs, which is a shitty word processor and a shitty spreadsheet and a shitty presentation app, but absolutely brilliant at quick and convenient collaboration. That's why LibreOffice is working super-hard on the web-based online version.

> Almost nobody in an office uses the fancy bits of Excel. Spreadsheets are mostly used as flat-file data stores.

This has never been my experience. Even if there's a more robust DB based system, someone will do everything in Excel.

This is why I always export my slides to pdf. (Obviously doesn't work so well if you've got fancy slides.)

I'm sorry for your loss. Dealing with technical issues at a funeral sounds terrible.

The problem is that we have to share documents with other companies, and all those companies send us Office files.

Sure, so long as you never have to open a document created by an external entity.

I feel like that, with the exception of a few Excel spreadsheets that were getting pretty fancy, I haven't had any real compatibility issues opening up MS Office file in [Open|Libre]Office.

Nowadays I usually tell whomever is asking for something in a "Word" format that I don't own a copy of Word, but I can send them a PDF, and they're OK with that, but when I was first getting started as an engineer I used to have to work with recruiters a lot, where they'd ask for my resume in a Word format so that they could insert their ugly logo on the top and break all the formatting. No one ever said anything about my files that were initially made with LibreOffice. In fact, for all the essays I've had to write for school (that I started again semi-recently), I've done them with either Pandoc+Markdown or LibreOffice (depending on how much formatting is required), and no one has said anything about the MS Word export, or me potentially breaking the teachers' templates that they made in word.

I'll definitely give it to you for Excel though. For simple stuff LibreOffice's compatibility is fine, but if you do any kind of elaborate Excel function, you're going to have a bad time, and things are going to break.

I have an issue at my work right now where excel files generated by some Java libraries used by another team do not open in LibreOffice. To share them with members running linux and LO, someone with a real Excel installation has to open it up, and re-save the file, then it is compatible.

I think that's what they mean by external entity? I've also personally had problems with openpyxl in python

ODF has its own issues. When I'm sharing a spreadsheet between libreoffice and gnumeric I use XLS, because the compatibility is much higher than using an ODF.

The challenge with switching is all the custom VBA code and Excel stuff people have come to rely on.

I'd just like to know why companies who have Macs still buy MS Office as well... because it's compatibility with Windows Office is about as good as LibreOffice.

Munich tried that and failed. To many plug-ins, addins, macros etc etc etc...

Munich didn't fail, in fact they actually saved some 11 million Euros in the process.

It was just politics 101. Their politicians when facing the choice "keep using Linux => bye bye huge Munich MS Offices", didn't think twice and axed the penguin. Admittedly, it wouldn't have been an easy pick even for FOSS enthusiasts as many of us are, if we were in Munich politicians shoes: letting one of the biggest corporations out there build their huge headquarters in your city doesn't just mean bribes but jobs (almost 2000 in the HQ alone). As long as you're being identified as the one who let all this happen, you have just won a huge PR boost for creating jobs, plus all those people -and their families- votes, not to mention strong ties with MS high profile execs which would be of use one day. Honestly, Linux would have lost no matter its convenience.

If I had to, I'd bet all my horses that we'll see finally one day Munich and other cities adopting Linux, although it will be Microsoft branded and mostly FOSS.

MS made a deal, to keep german headquarters in Munich. The price for that was to kill Limux. Sad story actually and doesn't put the responsible politicians in the best light. But in Bavaria the political party CSU is known to be susceptible to ideas from the industrial lobby.

Here's a recent interview with Christian Ude who was mayor when LiMux was introduced (german): https://www.golem.de/news/von-microsoft-zu-linux-und-zurueck...

> Here's a recent interview with Christian Ude[...]

This is a really interesting interview, unfortunately it is only available in German so I translated (with the help of deepl) the part about the situation right after the switch.


Linux-Magazin: How big was the pressure afterwards?


Christian Ude: The most intense thing I personally experienced was a visit from Steve Ballmer, after all Vice President of Microsoft. He interrupted his skiing holiday in Switzerland to visit me. With his well-known enthusiasm, with which he dynamically jumps around on stage at conferences, he jumped around in my office and first of all praised the beauty of Munich. But then he said that I was making a catastrophic decision that I could never justify to anyone, especially not to a taxpayer.

Funnily enough, he constantly made new financial offers during the conversation, he talked about what Microsoft would add for free, for the school department for example. On and on he reduced the price, one million and a another million and a another million and a dozen million cheaper than before. This is how important Munich - which is internationally perceived as an IT center - was to Microsoft as a symbol.

Would [Munich] walk a new path or repentantly return into Microsoft's lap? We have calculated that Ballmer has improved the financial offer by around 35 per cent. But since we wanted to make a strategic decision and not just make a price comparison, this was not important to us.

Linux-Magazin: Bill Gates also came to visit?

Christian Ude: He was in Munich because of a presentation of the "House of the Future", which inspired him insanely. With it, you could determine from your car how high the room temperature in each room is and whether the refrigerator should defrost a bit. On his way back to the airport I had the opportunity to talk to him. So I sat together with one of the richest men in the world in a camouflaged van, which was luxuriously equipped inside, but looked from the outside as if it belonged to a small craft business. Gates asked me stunned: "Why are you doing this? That's absurd! That's incomprehensible!

Now that I'm not the hard-boiled IT specialist who could stand up to a Bill Gates in every detail, I just said:

"Please note, we're all about independence. We don't want to be dependent."

Then he said, "That's nonsense, who do you depend on?"

"Now that you are here [I can tell you]: From you, of course!"

That really made him collapse, and he said: "It's incomprehensible to me, it's ideology".

There were no technical problems, only political ones AFAIK.

You can pry excel from my cold dead hands. I try to use LO regularly but it can't even come close to meeting my needs, for example handling very large tables. The only response I get from LO boosters is "You're using it wrong. Teach sql to all of your front line office workers, or don't do what you want to do." meanwhile excel does what I want it do do.

It didn't fail, it was a political decision to keep Microsoft's Germany headquarter in Munich.

I made the switch to libreoffice a few years back. For simple word documents, it works well.

It breaks down when you are using something like Excel with complex macros/calculations. This is why most companies continue to use Microsoft products.

> It breaks down when you are using something like Excel with complex macros/calculations.

As in compatibility with MS Office breaks or as in it can't be done in libreoffice?

For example, if I understand it correctly libreoffice supports javascript, python, beanshell and libreoffice basic for scripting and additionally offers non-complete support for VBA.

Does MS Office "break" when you try to import "complex macros/calculations" done in python?

The megacorp I work for has 40k people. There’s probably more people who can write Macros for excel than know JavaScript or Python (or who are willing to learn either). I’ve met business people who are masters of excel who’ve been using it since the 90s. Asking a huge amount of non-tech people to switch is extremely hard, much harder to convince them to use a new scripting language.

Sure, that is a perfectly valid point. However, I think that "libreoffice breaks" says something quite different than "MS Office's VBA has bad compatibility with anything but MS Office and thus provides very strong lock-in".

Out of interest, is there any non-MS office suite with better VBA compatibility than libreoffice? For instance in view to the whole Adobe Venezuela story.

It ultimately doesn't matter.

Excel macros are code, and they are very often production-critical code. The people who wrote them don't see themselves as coders, sure, and management often doesn't give the code the respect it deserves (e.g. Excel is often exempt from basic things like version control and code reviews), but it's still code that the business still depends on.

When someone proposes replacing MS Office with LibreOffice, what they're really proposing is to replace the runtime that a significant amount of production code runs on with something that's only compatible with part of your codebase.

"If we switch, we are going to have to rewrite a decent chunk of our production-critical code" is a non-starter, especially when coupled with the fact that the developers have no experience with the new runtime and are going to have to learn it as they port the code. And because they don't see themselves as coders, they don't have the theoretical background that makes it easier for experienced software engineers to pick up new languages.

Sure libre _might be better_ in that regard. But 99% of business sheets are done in excel, and work in excel.

If they don't work in libre then that's an automatic no-go for most managers/whoever makes that decision.

There are multiple avenues for supporting python macros and calculations in excel. As a matter of fact I believe Microsoft was considering adding python as the default scripting language for excel.

It's the top voted suggestion on their UserVoice, but no updates from the devs in a while


Libreoffice supports plenty of scripting options but documentation is abysmal, and there's barely a thought given to web service integration.

> It breaks down when you are using something like Excel with complex macros/calculations. This is why most companies continue to use Microsoft products.

It breaks down because you need some serious backup in your organization (for example from the owner) to switch to something like LibreOffice. People got enough on their plate and changing their tools for (from their perspective) no apparent reason will get a lot of push back. I think technically LibreOffice is perfectly up to the task. Sure if your a statistician then maybe Spreadsheet won't work as well for you as an Excel replacement. But other then that...

It doesn't matter how much backup you have in the organization if the product is missing essential functionality. LibreOffice just doesn't have everything that MS Office does. That doesn't matter for some businesses but for others it creates a total block.

I have some pretty complex spreadsheets from Excel that I now run under LibreOffice without any problems.

That said, while they do use some complex formulas, they don’t use any VBScript or other such madness.

Complaining that your custom MSFT/VBScript stuff doesn’t work, so you can’t migrate — it sounds to me a bit like “We’re stuck on Oracle and can’t move to PostgreSQL because we decided to use a lot of Oracle magic stuff that doesn’t work anywhere else”.

This is classic vendor lock-in, which I tend to view as a business risk best avoided. There really is no option except to recognize it as technical debt and find time to dig yourself out from it.

When your only option for “Business Function X” limits you to a single vendor, fix that first.

Everything has risks and tradeoffs. Excel means that you can communicate with clients and vendors in their preferred tool, it means you can onboard new hires more quickly, it means you need less internal support staff, etc. Switching from Excel adds those things back in as risks for your business.

Good business is about managing and understanding risks, and not about eliminating them at all costs.

This is a very sane approach, and I agree wholeheartedly.

But when the only thing holding you back and locking you in is your own company's internal vendor-specific tooling/infrastructure, the argument doesn't hold as much weight.

fwiw, I have never received an Excel spreadsheet from a vendor/partner/customer that I could not open and work with in LibreOffice, re-export to Excel and send back to them.

I did because a lot of our clients and partners were non technical people using complex excel spreadsheets with macros and vba.

And since Excel is the de facto standard, shouldn't Libre Office offer a 100% compatibility to whatever Excel has if it wants a piece of that market share? Also $150/year for something that does it all and just works it's really not much. The same reason why we don't ask how much Visual Studio Enterprise costs or IntelliJ products even if you have free alternatives.

This sounds like an argument I would've made in my early twenties. I will now correct you in the way my elders corrected me:

Oracle and Microsoft Office are global standards. The world uses them. Our civilization relies on them. If alternatives such as PostgreSQL and LibreOffice are not 100% compatible with these standards, they are lacking in functionality.

They are de facto standards as an application. As data formats, governments and large companies required them to become available under formal standards. After doing a lot of outright sleazy things, Office format (which is basically xml files wrapped in a zip file) is now a formal standard. When companies like Microsoft step around interoperability, they should be severely chastized and then punished, which apparently only governments and large companies have the wherewithal to do.

I wouldn't compare Oracle and Office: office is a monopoly, with LibreOffice being David against Goliath. Oracle is big, but it's not at all a standard, it's one of the players of database market, which is quite competitive: there are open source alternatives(MySQL and postgres) which are widely used (not like LibreOffice), and also big corporate players (DB2 and SQLServer).

I’m flattered to have such notions of youth imputed upon me :)

One must not give up the fight against closed-source monopoly.

Oracle is a bit of a reach, imo.

Oracle's definitely a standard in companies of a certain size and pedigree, but it's not even remotely as ubiquitous as Office, which is both a business and consumer product.

Is this the biggest bull* I read today?

there is an option though: accept what you’re calling technical debt (though honestly, calling vendor lock-in technical debt reduces that term to meaningless in my opinion)... there’s nothing technically wrong with it.. you can create something well designed in excel or it can be shitty.

Anyway, it’s a risk like any other, and it may often be worth it. The alternative of switching to libreoffice is not free, and can truly be more costly than some office licenses and the risk that Microsoft will drop or fuck up excel (which most consider low)...

Personally having earnestly tried to do some complex work in libreoffice calc and running into just bugs and poor polish (error handling anyone?), it is not an experience I elect to relive... I still feel locked in to Excel as my life is too short to waste on the inferior product.

Yes, I would imagine given how long Office has been around, there are some people who have delved quite deep into the feature set and become dependent on it. It's hard to let go of one feature that you have come to rely on.

> I think technically LibreOffice is perfectly up to the task.

IT people really need to stop declaring this about FOSS products when it is regarding workflows they have no experience in.

>Sure if your a statistician then maybe Spreadsheet won't work as well for you as an Excel replacement.

We had a client send us a questionnaire in an Excel document with macros to compute various things based on our answers. You underestimate just how many things are done in Excel across companies (ie: you can't even force both side to switch to Libreoffice) that you would, probably, write a quick webpage for.


It also becomes tricky when you need to interoperate or integrate with companies that have chosen to use either GSuite or LibreOffice rather than O365.

With that said, I'm glad these alternatives exist even though they're never going to work for me.

Every spreadsheet I've used has managed to annoy me, but LibreOffice and Apple's Numbers both manage to do it even with simple spreadsheets with simple (or even no) calculations. Excel at least waits until I'm doing something slightly complicated before irritating me.

Example: create four rows of four cells each, like this:

  1  2  3  4
  2  4  6  8
  3  6  9 12
  4  8 12 16
Select rows 1 and 3 (but not 2), copy, and paste just below row 4.

In Excel, that pastes a copy of row 1 at row 5, and a copy of row 2 at row 6.

In Numbers, row 1 is copied to 5, and row 3 is copied to 7.

In LibreOffice, row 1 is copied to 5, and row 3 is not copied.

So we have three ways to handle copy/paste of a non-contiguous selection: make it contiguous on paste (Excel), past non-contiguously (Numbers), and just copy the topmost row (it's topmost, not first row selected--if you select row 3, then non-contiguously add row 1, it is row 1 that copy grabs) (LibreOffice).

I'm not sure which of these is actually the most right from a theoretical perspective, but I bet Excel is the one most likely to be based on data about which method best matches what users actually do with the spreadsheets.

Joel Spolsky has an article [1] where he talks about what they found when he was on the Excel team at Microsoft and they actually started visiting customers to see how they used Excel. A couple quotes:

> Over the next two weeks we visited dozens of Excel customers, and did not see anyone using Excel to actually perform what you would call “calculations.” Almost all of them were using Excel because it was a convenient way to create a table.


> What was I talking about? Oh yeah… most people just used Excel to make lists. Suddenly we understood why Lotus Improv, which was this fancy futuristic spreadsheet that was going to make Excel obsolete, had failed completely: because it was great at calculations, but terrible at creating tables, and everyone was using Excel for tables, not calculations.

Looking at my own spreadsheets...I find that most of them are indeed really just lists or tables with maybe a little calculation. The few that I would say are actually heavily calculation oriented would probably do just as well in LibreOffice or Numbers.

[1] https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2012/01/06/how-trello-is-diff...

I've just tried that row copying activity myself in LibreOffice, and it's behaving the same as you describe for Excel - row 1 copied to 5, row 3 copied to 6.

I selected the rows by clicking the row numbers (while holding Ctrl for the second one), and the version is, FWIW (I'm on Arch Linux so I suppose this is right up to date).

I've got on a Mac.

I was selecting by just selecting the four columns in row 1 by clicking and holding on 1 while dragging to 4 and releasing, then doing the same thing with row 3 while holding the command key down which is how you do non-contiguous selection on Mac, then clicking on column 1 of row 5, and doing paste.

I just tried it with clicking the row number, to do whole row selection. So click the number for row 1, then command-click the number for row 3. Then I clicked the first cell in row 5 and hit paste. Same result as I got before...just row 1 copies.

I also tried it where I clicked the row number for 5, to select the whole row, before pasting, and no difference.

Good to see that it is working better on Linux. That probably suggests this is just a bug in their Mac port rather than intentional behavior.

Yeah, if I select the cells in the way you just described then I get both the rows copied, again. It does sound like something in the Mac port. Certainly I would find that an annoying behaviour if I saw it.

Tangentially, and perhaps weirdly, if the ranges I select don't span the same columns - eg. if I select A1:B1 and C3:D3, a dialog box pops up upon Copy which says "This function cannot be used with multiple selections". Even though the ranges are still the same size. That seems undesirable, to me.

Works as well in version on Linux Mint.

My company fixed that by requiring anything data or calculation related to be done in R

I have been using open office quite a while and it just perfectly works for me

I setup LibreOffice on my mother-in-law’s new computer and gave it the MS Word icon.

No calls yet...

Used to do that on my mom's computer, but it was firefox with the ie icon. Never heard a word. Tried it with my grandpa's computer and he was furious, I asked him how he knew and he said it was completely different, everything had totally changed. Naturally I was wondering what he was talking about, since they seemed like a drop in replacement at the time, what could possibly be so different. Turns out it was the menu where you could increase the font size which he used multiple times a day. Things you don't think of.

side note: as soon as I showed him he didn't have to go into the menu at all any more and could just use the plus and minus keys on his keyboard he was thrilled with the change.

My dad is actually pretty smart and is decent with computers for a guy in his 70s, but he refuses to move from IE to Chrome just because he's more comfortable with IE's bookmark system and he doesn't want to bother learning it in Chrome.

Stuff we care about, like better load times and a cleaner interface, doesn't matter to him.

Heh, reminds me of when I changed people’s CRTs from 60hz to 85... and they don’t even notice the difference.

How ??????

I did the same with changing to the native resolution of the LCD panel, people never noticed the suddenly crisp pixels...

For my parents, I removed ie and replaced it with chrome. I told them its faster for gmail and works better in general. Plus that it auto updates (which are important to apply quickly due to malware) and I wouldn't have to be called as much. They totally bought into it and I didn't even need to tell any white lies.

When I do similar, I just shrug and say "yeh, they're always changing things...".

Anecdotally, this seems to be a typical use case for LibreOffice.

Both my mom and my sister use LibreOffice for "everyday" office tasks like resume building and simple budget tracking, and it's what I recommend to all of my tech-indifferent friends who need to do light office work but don't want to pay for MS Office.

As an aside I really feel like LibreOffice had a lot of momentum back in the day, but when the whole OpenOffice/LibreOffice debacle occurred due to the Oracle purchase, the confusion of the branch (into LibreOffice and Apache OpenOffice) just pulled the rug out.

That combined with lack of innovative/unique features and a UI that is essentially unchanged since Office 95, and it is hard to argue why someone should use LO/OO instead of MSO. For example, what is the USP? Free is one, but is that the only one?

> and a UI that is essentially unchanged since Office 95

How is that a drawback? That's a massive plus. The interface changes that we have seen in Office have been pointless time-consuming travesties with no real purpose but to make it look like the software is completely new. No productivity increases whatsoever. The LO interface hasn't changed since Office 95 because that's when it's peaked. The tasks are the same and the human that do them are the same, and so the interface (if it is already at its best version) should also stay the same. This a great advantage of the open source office suites, not a drawback.

In some regards, yes, but it's more than the structure of the UI. The menu-based interface should be perfectly suited to any task you want to accomplish, as it is in many other apps, but use LibreOffice for any amount of time and you begin to find the UI completely lacks any sort of consistency and tasks you'd expect to find under a certain hierarchy are not there, instead in a completely separate menu or toolbar that has nothing to do with it.

This is a problem with MSFT products as well, but to a lesser extent.

In addition, decades-old bugs have not been fixed. It's a showstopper.

> As an aside I really feel like LibreOffice had a lot of momentum back in the day, but when the whole OpenOffice/LibreOffice debacle occurred due to the Oracle purchase, the confusion of the branch (into LibreOffice and Apache OpenOffice) just pulled the rug out.

IMO, the concerted attack against the ODF format[1] was also a large contributing factor towards OpenOffice/LibreOffice loss in the format wars[2]

I posted about this in another thread and was down-voted for some reason[3], but I think it is important enough to not forget.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standardization_of_Office_Open...

[2] https://www.infoworld.com/article/2639468/odf-vs--openxml.ht...

[3] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21596347

Office 365 feels like a cheap beta test even on the biannual channels.

If not for corp legacy apps that mostly interface with outlook through old, partly deprecated and arcane APIs, a switch to anything could occur.

At home I use LO exclusively, even though I have the licences for MSO.

And the interface doesn't even hold anything against LibreOffice. The categories are completely random. Excel has some nice pivot visualization functions, but that is the only positive thing I can come up with when thinking of MS office.

I don't need office software to be that innovative, because the problem space hasn't evolved since 20 years. And if autosave is one of those innovative features...

> I don't need office software to be that innovative, because the problem space hasn't evolved since 20 years.

Workflows evolve all the time. For example how many word processor competitors that target specific demographics are there (technical writing e.g. Markdown, authors e.g. Scrivener/Storyist, academics e.g. LaTeX, etc)? The problem space is evolving every day, LO/OO and even MSO haven't kept pace, but that doesn't mean things have remained static around them.

> Office 365 feels like a cheap beta test even on the biannual channels.

I’m in one or more Office 365 apps for most of my work-day. They work well and are stable, at least on macOS (which I assume gets less love than the Windows version).

In contrast, LO on macOS is a train wreck when it comes to stability and usability. It’s not competitive.

Ah, the good old "UI churn for the sake of it" argument, a.k.a. "It's $CURRENT_YEAR, people".

Office 97 was peak Office, UI-wise, for me and a whole lot of other users. If a UI works great, and newer UIs do not offer a clear, significant value add, why should it change? Why should not changing the UI count as a negative against the product?

I found the Ribbon a good evolution. Especially if you use plugins for Powerpoint and Excel. Once you have a few of those (and if you work in finance or management consulting it is easy to have 3 or 4 installed by default by your Company) the ribbon layout ensures a certain cleanliness of the toolbar.

> a UI that is essentially unchanged since Office 95

Back when I read slashdot, I swear every thread about office had a top comment complaining about how office’s ribbon UI ruined their work flow. One of the biggest weaknesses in open source is that the people who contribute to these projects seem to love 90s style UI.

Also Google Docs became more viable as a free (as in beer) alternative.

Agreed, free, and easy to use/cross platform.

MSO has somewhat pivoted towards mobile (Office Online, mobile apps). It is unclear if LO or OO have an "answer" for mobile devices, or if that's even in the realm of things they'd want to tacke?

If it's not, there's not much future for them. It's not even about mobile devices, but cross-platform compatibility. That's the biggest driver of Google Docs. Not that it's mobile friendly (although that helps), not that it runs in a browser (although that helps), but that it runs basically anywhere, and offers the same experience basically anywhere.

Even in enterprises, BYOD, VDI, and mobile devices are becoming a lot more popular. All it takes is one exec who says "this doesn't work on my preferred machine" and that whole product is axed from the entire company.

Getting OO/LO working online/mobile would be a big challenge for an open source team to undertake but I'd hate to see them fade away and lose an open source option.

LibreOffice Online has existed for 3 years at least, how come you've never heard of it?

That's a good point, how have I never heard of it? When I search in this entire thread your comment is the only reference I see to it.

I just took a second to look it up, and it doesn't seem to be competing with Google Docs or Office Online, since it's self-hosted and there are warnings all over that page to not use this software for production and it should only be used for development or personal use.

So it's good to know they're working on it. By their own admission it's not ready to be used, but it's good to know it's in-progress.


Well, it is not perfect but actually quite usable. Unlike the competitors, it actually has the full power of a real LibreOffice under the hood, so the compatibility is much better what e.g. Google Docs can offer.

It's essentially fail of Apache Foundation. OpenOffice is essentially dead now (check the commits rate and piling unfixed bugs). The best they can do is to declare its decease, and link/redirect to LibreOffice instead.

I wish I could use LibreOffice, but as a scientist the PowerPoint clone is awful. Editing and importing PowerPoint is very buggy and clunky. For example, sometimes bits of slides become uneditable. Also, the default kerning and anti aliasing is pretty poor.

I thought that Latex/Beamer was a default amongst certain scientific disciplines?

Perhaps in comp sci but my experience in the mechanical/aerospace engineering field has been that most people have never even heard of latex or beamer.

I agree: the PowerPoint clone is a terrible scientist.

The Document Foundation should stop chasing the idea that LibreOffice can be a replacement for MS Office. They will never achieve that goal. Apart from home users and maybe small NGOs, every business and major organization in the entire world uses Office.

So it makes no sense to develop a software for people who will never use it anyway, instead make it nice make it perfect for the home users' use cases. All the advanced feature like DB integration, scripting, etc. probably have so many underreported bugs because nobody uses them.

I would love to use an office suite that is FOSS and does what I need perfectly. Yet, I don't need most of LibreOffice's functionality at home, and the functionality I do need it does poorly compared to MS Office at work.

I agree. A simple to use software, that does very well the things you need for personal / home ( & very small businesses) use (family/personal business budget, lists, calendars, small inventories...). With a large library of well designed, elegant templates. For LibreOffice ( and many other FOSS packages, really) many more contributors should focus on how things look and feel, rather than how many things the software can do... More Airtable than Excel.

On the first read I was inclined to agree. However I would like to see an alternative for use in public services at least. I am not very comfortable with the fact that citizens data gets uploaded to Microsofts servers.

On my work I use Linux as a desktop and LibreOffice Calc just plain sucks.

I needed to do process some CSVs and it crashed several times on simple operations such as delete column, reorder, filter. Assuming that LibreOffice can compete with MS Office is just wishful thinking of someone who doesn't try to do anything remotely complex.

I used to be a big fan of Open Office and Libretto Office but with Microsoft’s support of more open data formats, and their best deal ever of $99/year for a family plan for Office 365, I have switched sides. I write my books using markdown and LeanPub but everything else is Office 365.

You used to be able to buy Office for a one-time purchase and not have to pay yearly. So how is this their best deal ever? Tbf, if this includes OneDrive you are getting more than just an office suite.

Also would be interested in more details on why you like Microsoft Office better than the other two.

Indeed the offering is more than an Office Suite. You + 5 family members each get

* Office Apps -- install wherever you want, including on web, iOS, Android and Android-capable Chromebooks to get native apps on Chromebook. You can install on as many devices as you want, around 5 per-person can be in use at the same time

* 1TB OneDrive storage (clients on Mac/Win/Web only sadly, no Linux client yet)

* 50GB Outlook ad-free email storage

* Bring your own custom domain to get @my-family.tld email for your family

* Priority phone support

All in all, for families it's a good offering that competes really well with Google One (one.google.com) -- quite irritating that Google One still doesn't offer that custom domain thing. The 50GB ad-free email per family member is a great offer for instance. All of this for about $100/yr, less with the revamped Home Use Program.

When did they add custom domain names for email? Do you get that in the $99/year family plan?

Not sure when they added it, but you do get it with[1] the $99/year plan. It's a more restricted version of a feature they used to support with Outlook Premium in the past, in that the domain has to be hosted with GoDaddy for now.

[1] https://support.office.com/en-gb/article/get-a-personalized-...

You can still buy a permanent/stand-alone license - and that product can optionally the 'cloud' apps if you want.

From my perspective its a huge cognitive burden for an organization to change Office apps that they use everyday. For a technical group like easydns its probably easier and most of the staff might even support it. In my organization we have some manufacturing folks that don't like computers and don't want to learn anything about them. Its hard to make this kind of change, there is a cost to retraining and effects on productivity and happiness.

Two weeks ago I searched to buy excel on premises install / own - and could only find it for Windows 10 and Mac (not compatible with windows 8, 8.1, 7.

Last time I bought the on prem off pack (few years ago) it auto installed spyware (one drive) - I did enjoy the multiple layers of phone support though, within an hour it was determined I needed to uninstall and return for refund, no way to run it without the spydrive addition.

open office and libre office have been installed on all systems since.

I understand some orgs can't new software, I think most just need to very basic formatting tools to be highlighted, open and save - which it does great now.

I have to search 3-4 times a year on how to do something with calc.. I see many devs search 4 or more times a day on how to do basic stuff with their daily tools.

Sounds like a couple UX templates would benefit the average company workers out there - one that is super basic, very few icons, and one that mimics word.

I was going to take classes on excel but can't run it.

I wouldn't undervalue it: you're getting 1tb/user of OneDrive, for the year.

That makes it easily the best deal in cloud storage for personal use, if you have multiple members in your family and want to use Office.

the "personal" edition lets you share with up to 6 people and those 6 people can install it up to 5 devices. Each person also gets 1tb of onedrive space and windows now has options to backup files.

And you can still buy a one time license if that suites your needs better.

I want a one time license for excel that works with windows 8.1 and does not install one drive spyware. I have 100 bucks. I am using libre office, calc in the meantime.

contact microsoft

Software is not free - you maintain it with security patches etc. forever and a one time price is no longer viable.

Good question. I pay the $99/year for a terabyte of cloud storage for everyone in my family, I use the web app versions of Office 365 on Linux, and everyone gets up to date Office apps for iOS, Android, and macOS. For me, that is a great deal. I especially like the Word app on my iPad Pro.

Not sure what open formats you're talking about, but their support for OpenDocument (.odf and .ods) has been and continues to be quite shitty. To their credit Google's Docs doesn't even have shitty support for OpenDocument, but that doesn't make MS Office better, not when LibreOffice exists.

$99 / year seems like a good deal, until you realize that it might as well be $0 / year if you don't use Office 365 and you're not missing much.

Office 365 sucks for collaborative editing, where Google Docs shines, or for note taking. It also sucks if you want to write highly technical documentation, for which I prefer Markdown, Org or Latex — I know it's not for everybody, but nothing beats pushing text files in Git.

Microsoft Excel is king for big spreadsheets filled with fancy formulas, but for my own purposes Google Sheets has been much more user friendly and I'm the kind of guy that creates sheets for monthly expenses, tracking my weight, etc. And I've seen this going on in our team too, where Google Sheets is much more convenient.

So you're paying $99 / year which is only useful when other people share MS Office formats with you. And I know this depends on the field you're in, but I can literally count the number of times that happened this year on the fingers of one hand.

And sure they give you OneDrive storage too. But you only use OneDrive when you don't care about your data, because their client is a piece of shit. I tried to use it repeatedly and I witnessed serious data conflicts and sync issues within hours of installing their client and this happened several times. Dropbox is more expensive, but Dropbox actually works for the intended purpose.

I did pay for Office 365 for about 2 years, until I realized that I'm not actually using it, wasted money.

I recommend using the open source Pandoc utility for converting file formats.

I agree, for collaborative editing, I also use Google docs.

Anyway, we have several good choices.

I'd seriously consider the $99/year if I could install Office on linux. I get that I'm not exactly the average user, but my options as a linux user are rather limited.

I tend to agree. For all of the MS 'love' of linux they ignore the desktop.

Most folks I know that run linux on the desktop run a Windows VM to use Office.

Crossover is used on my kid's computers for Office.

I have two Linux laptops and I use the web versions, which are surprisingly good.

I think the $99/year is well worth 5 Office installs, 1TB of storage each, and apps that sync photos and OneNote across devices.

which markdown editor (do) you use?

I used to use Emacs, now I use VSCode.

Hmm.... $99/yr for proprietary spyware or free forever and respects you as a user?

And if you're already going to pay for proprietary spyware for your home, a basic G Suite subscription is about half that price.

You can even use google docs for free if you want, at least they have the decency of working in Firefox on Linux.

This blog post addresses two issues - cost and support. There are a few more that are more important to me and why I won't move to LO. Which I was forced to use for almost a year a year ago -

In order of importance (to me) :

● Document format

● Keyboard shortcuts

● Stability

● The ribbon

● Screen layout

● Power Point. Just... all of it.

Libre Office feels like Notepad.exe with a VB6 UI.

SoftMaker Office (or the free version FreeOffice) is, in my opinion, better than LibreOffice.

Never liked LibreOffice/OpenOffice/StarOffice. I respect the work behind it, but as a product I don't like it.

And using MS Office just contributes to the de-facto monopoly problem. Corel used to have a nice Office suite for Linux but after MS bought them Linux support was dropped.

I've used OpenOffice in the past (since 2005-ish), switched to Libreoffice when it came out. During the same time I used Microsoft Office at work. About a year ago I changed my job and now I get to use macOS.

Some huuuge surprises: 1. libreoffice unfortunately is really slow on macos with retina display. 2. The web version of excel does not hold a candle to Google sheets. 3. Excel for windows is not interoperable with macos. Eg: have data in one sheet in excel, create a separate sheet with pivotable from first sheet. Open the file on macos's excel and it will complain that this usage of data sources is not availabale on macos. I thought it was a funky excel file but no. Easily repeatable with very simple cases.

Also, styles management in libreoffice writer is many times easier and understandable than in microsoft word.

On my new PC I would often forget to install office. Then when I needed it all of a sudden in a rush, I used to stick the Office CD in, start the install process, get frustrated, download Open/LibreOffice, install it, use it, be done, and then watch the Office installer finally finish long after I needed it...

I used to blame LibreOffice for how mangled Word docs looked, but then I used Office365 and realized that there's no such things as the "right" way to display a word doc, since all of the machines I opened it on using Word365 showed it differently...

Unlike another commentator, Calc was way better than Excel for a long time, and much better about not trashing your work. Before like 2010 Excel would make it very easy to accidentally lose your work forever.

> I used to blame LibreOffice for how mangled Word docs looked, but then I used Office365 and realized that there's no such things as the "right" way to display a word doc, since all of the machines I opened it on using Word365 showed it differently...

Probably due to missing fonts being replaced by whatever's available on the machine. Different fonts can have wildly different sizes / metrics.

Yeah. MS Word is notoriously incompatible with itself.

I have a current Office 365 license. I ran into a problem trying to open some old Excel files from a project I did in 1999 and 2000. These workbooks contained some valid VBA modules I had written. Excel's security model would not let me open the files, nor was I able to overide even though I knew they were fine. Finally, I opened them in Libre Office and saved in the current format.

I have migrated the vast majority of my computational work to use R with RStudio. In a Rmarkdown document I can embed R and Pyhon code and generate plots. These documents play well with version control.

I like LibreOffice a lot and it's my office suite of choice. The only thing I'm missing is an alternative to OneNote.

I have been using LO exclusively on my personal machines for years now. I have somewhat limited use cases, I wouldn't be a "Power" productivity app user, but it has been refreshing. Sure there are differences, and quirks, but overall I find I am fighting with the software far less and just getting work done. Once you know the little issues you work around them, easy. They aren't a deal-breaker for me.

For me it was also the transition from paid version to subscription that made me switch full time to LO. It seemed like a negative value proposition to me. Plus Open Source advocates need to practice what we preach. If you want others to use it, you better damn well be using it too, and be ready to recommend it from experience and not ideology. Because we are biased with our ideology toward open source, while users just want convenience and features. Completely different requirements.

I'm confused about what he was actually trying to purchase for $319. Office Home and Business which includes Mac support lists at $249, and the other Office Products like Standard and Professional / Professional Plus I think are only available through volume license agreements which has its own whole separate set of issues.

Update: Office Mac Standard is more, though it's not entirely clear to me why you'd be buying it - does it contain features not in H&B? H&B is licensed for business use.

The other thing that you're paying for with a lot of the Office 365 subscription plans is online storage and added services. On the Windows side for personal use Office 365 gets you a terabyte (or up to five terabytes) for about the same cost as Dropbox and you got a free office suite with it.

In case someone from LibreOffice reads comments here (or someone with enough knowledge/time to contribute), I would write here a little bit of feedback about the first time experience of the website.

This is because I interacted a lot with open source projects and I really think that they should quit the concept: "Use us because we are open source" when addressing general public.

Seems to me that in open source there is an aversion against product marketing, but if we want more people to use open source then we should try to convince them to use it because of the value they offer and not because of the group who is building the tools. It is a good starting point to ask people to use one's software because of your group value. But then, when wanting to get after a wider market adoption, one should try to talk about the value it brings to users lives.

So here are some points:

- There are no screenshots of how the apps look like when opening the website. After a couple of tries, I finally saw Screenshots in the Discovery menu. But really coming from Office and Apple's iWork I was really trying to see how LibreOffice looks like.

- There are no texts trying to explain to me, the user, why I should use LibreOffice in my own life, to solve my own problems. There is a small paragraph saying "Do more - easier, quicker, smarter" but that is hardly believable as almost every product wants me to do more, easier, quicker and smarter. Also it is not clear _how_ LibreOffice is doing that.

- The only point in the whole homepage which could bring value to an end user is about "Free" but for the wide market "free" is not enough. It is just the starting point.

- The look and feel of the website suggests old tools. This is not a bad or good thing per se. But I think to attract new users the website should be redesigned so that the product transmit the idea of polished or ready to be used.

Please do not take this a a critique. It is because I care that I feel to say what I think and hope that someone will pick it up.

Thanks a lot. We started to redesign the website and you input is very much appreciated and will be implemented, hopefully. Would be good to join one of the mailing lists for those discussions...

I'd switched first to whatever later became WPS Office and then to FreeOffice. So far no problems but then of course as a proper dumbo I am probably using 1% of the features available so it is hard for me to judge which tool is really superior for advanced public.

All fine and well but at the end of the day I've tried to convert real world (non SV) companies and issues like people finding a 10yo macro that won't work on libreoffice is just too much in the cost column to outweigh the benefit of paying for MS office.

What a ridiculous article. Nothing comparing the actual feature set and differant professional use cases.

If easydns is writing shallow blog fodder like this, should I expect the same thing from thier actual product line?

I'm an easydns customer and I've always been happy with their products and service. I can get in touch directly with the founder if I need that. I don't have to agree with everything they say to appreciate the offering.

>> comparing the actual feature set

Here you go: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_office_suites

That's not the point, I was commenting on the article.

My point is that you do not need to write again what is written in Wikipedia. You better go improve the latter.

> I took the $319 I was about to spend on an Office license and I donated it to the LibreOffice project, and will just continue to do so every time I have to go through this process.


Generally, I get much more value from OSS than commercial. I donate - not mostly because it's the "right thing", but because I want it to continue.

If you write OSS, and would like something in return, consider this: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10863901

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