LibreOffice 3.5 review

LibreOffice, the free suite spun off after developers lost faith in OpenOffice’s direction under Oracle, is building up a head of steam with its third major release in only 16 months. With the help of full-time and volunteer “hackers”, The Document Foundation says LibreOffice 3.5 has had its 15 years’ worth of accumulated code “renovated” with the aim of pulling away from its still-alive ancestor.

First things first: this aggressive approach to redevelopment means stability isn’t necessarily the immediate priority. This new release is recommended only for power users initially, with others advised to remain on the more stable 3.4 branch until kinks have been ironed out. We had one fatal crash during our testing, but PC Pro readers should be savvy enough not to worry too much. You also can’t upgrade from any version before 3.4.5, so you may need to completely uninstall to get 3.5.

LibreOffice 3.5

Although the vast majority of the work is hidden beneath the surface, you’ll notice a few visible changes straight away. LibreOffice now finally has an automatic update checker, which sounds a faintly ridiculous introduction in 2012, and it comes in a single MSI installer to make it as simple as possible to attract new users. If you were fearing a Microsoft-style ribbon overhaul, there’s no sign of that, and coming across from Office it has something of a traditional feel. It’s also largely consistent across platforms, with the OS X and Linux toolbars practically identical to Windows.

Writer is the core word-processing application, and it now comes with an improved built-in grammar checker, a more visual entry method for headers and footers, and a live word count. All are solidly implemented, yet hardly groundbreaking, although the live word count would be more useful if it wasn’t in a separate pop-up dialog. There’s also an automatic word completer turned on by default, which gets irritating extremely quickly.

LibreOffice 3.5 - Writer

Word file compatibility is generally pretty good, and we could open the latest DOCX files complete with a wide range of formatting and styles; some Word-specific features such as WordArt objects were lost, along with some fancier fonts and effects. On the other side, saving a file in DOCX format within Writer saw a few less common fonts and some spacing fail to carry back over to Word. Be aware also, if you save and encrypt your file in LibreOffice 3.5 it won’t be compatible with version 3.4.4 and earlier, as the old Blowfish encryption has been replaced by AES.


Software subcategoryOffice software

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