In today’s post in my prep for my yearly weekend at the Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE) I’m going to crack open a huge whole that Microsoft is opening for open source software and Linux in general. Desktop application suites such as LibreOffice.
Recently Microsoft released it’s new plan for pricing and implementation of it’s Office 2013 software suite. For those that don’t know when I say suite I’m talking about one package that has a couple different pieces of software in it: Word processor, spreadsheet, slide presentation and sometimes email and database programs. Traditionally people have heard of Microsoft’s Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook and Access programs that fit these needs respectively. However, Microsoft is changing the game this time with the purchase of these programs that I think is going to go the route of the change to New Coke if anyone remembers that disaster.
The new Office 2013 licensing will be a lot different because they’re only going to offer it online. The new software will have to be purchased online and they will not offer any offline media to install it and it has to be connected to a Microsoft Live online account. Installs for the software will have to come from a link that will install it on your computer straight from a server online. This is supposed to make it harder for hackers and people reselling licenses through nefarious means. Oh, and did I mention it’s going to cost a WHOLE lot more? It’s really going to open up the biggest door that other software packages have to the home or office and no software is more primed and ready to take advantage of this opening than LibreOffice.
LibreOffice is actually a fork from the OpenOffice programs. This means that many of the developers of OpenOffice left when Oracle bought the rights to the software and started making it under a different name in case Oracle decided to take it in a different direction. LibreOffice is the most developed office suite out there and the best part about it is that it is absolutely free. I changed over to it years ago and completely dropped Microsoft Office but I still have to collaborate with many people that work with Office. What did I have to change? Almost nothing. That’s because LibreOffice works on all the Office files without a glitch. Only change I have to make is saving files you will have to say, “File” “Save as” and change it to a Microsoft usable version such a .docx or .xlsx for your collaborators to see the files. This is because by default it saves in a free/open format called Open Document Format (just FYI Office 2010 on supports ODF).
“Ok, so how is LibreOffice ready to fill that gap?” you may ask. First is the last thing I mentioned: ODF. The best thing in the world about open standards is that they are free to be implemented by anyone. What that does is makes all of your data free to be transported anywhere. When Microsoft decided to change it’s format to .docx a couple years ago it really threw a monkey wrench into the system. Older versions of Office and many other software packages could no longer read it until they created a downloadable conversion extension. Could this happen again? YES. ODF makes it so 15 or 20 years down the road if you had to open a file off some form of backup media (assuming it survived that long) you could because the format is open and even if development stopped on it there would be available conversion programs because the code is out there.
The second way LibreOffice is able to take advantage of this is because, let’s be serious, very little has changed in the Office package except the package. I sometimes have to work at offices that are using Office 2003 and guess what? It does the same exact thing that the newest version does less a couple little tweaks hear and there. I’m not going to lie. I have had the rare occasion where a little bit of the layout of a document (say a resume because of all the changes in the layout) have come out a little bit off. This however is easily corrected.
Now here comes the best part of all of this though. LibreOffice runs on Linux, Mac and Windows. At one time I was at a company where we paid $50,000 to get all the licenses for all of our Office products for the entire company. At the time this product (then OpenOffice) was not as mature and with minor testing my company decided to pay the money. Now, imagine the same scenario. We have to purchase tons of Windows licenses and Office 2013 licenses. My company has to come out of the pocket $100,000 OR go to Linux and LibreOffice for next to nothing (I say next to nothing because I do encourage donations and paying for support to keep these great packages being developed). Hmmm… If there are no other Microsoft specific applications that the company is running then this is a no brainer. LibreOffice it is!
Check into it yourself and you’ll see why this new licensing is almost like Office 2013 is saying “Don’t buy me!!! Go to LibreOffice!”