LibreOffice has long since moved on from being an offshoot of the OpenOffice project. It's now the go-to alternative to Microsoft Office, enjoying regular development and a constant tweaking to keep it up to date, stable and secure.
While LibreOffice lacks the slick presentation of rival Windows freebie Kingsoft Office Suite Free and its Office-inspired ribbon interface, it has the major advantage of offering a full set of office applications, including database, drawing package and mathematical tool on top of the requisite word processor, spreadsheet and presentation tool found in most free office suites.
While it’s definitely more navigable than before thanks to better placement of tools and visual previews of styles direct from the main toolbar, it still looks a little dated, despite the refreshed icon sets. Nevertheless, this is still a powerful suite capable of meeting most people's needs, making this zero-cost alternative to Office a valuable tool to have in your armoury.
Ever-improving support for third-party file types (including both new and classic Office formats) means you're not cutting yourself off from industry standards while cross-platform support means you can run LibreOffice on Windows, Mac or Linux without having to retrain yourself to a new way of working each time.
What else is new in LibreOffice 6.1 (see changelog for more info)?
- Colibre, a new icon theme for Windows based on Microsoft's icon design guidelines, which makes the office suite visually appealing for users coming from the Microsoft environment;
- A reworked image handling feature, which is significantly faster and smoother thanks to a new graphic manager and an improved image lifecycle, with some advantages also when loading documents in Microsoft proprietary formats;
- The reorganization of Draw menus with the addition of a new Page menu, for better UX consistency across the different modules;
- A major improvement for Base, only available in experimental mode: the old HSQLDB database engine has been deprecated, though still available, and the new Firebird database engine is now the default option (users are encouraged to migrate files using the migration assistant from HSQLDB to Firebird, or by exporting them to an external HSQLDB server);
- Significant improvements in all modules of LibreOffice Online, with changes to the user interface to make it more appealing and consistent with the desktop version;
- An improved EPUB export filter, in terms of link, table, image, font embedding and footnote support, with more options for customizing metadata;
- Online Help pages have been enriched with text and example files to guide the users through features, and are now easier to localize.