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Breaking Microsoft’s Chains by Moving to LibreOffice

Sometimes it’s necessary to let go of the past, even if that’s somewhat painful.

Anyone still using MS Office should consider the advantages of moving to LibreOffice. For most single computer users, the move can be made with ease. When multiple computers and users are involved, as would be the case with most businesses, migration must be handled with care. However, any effort in this direction would quickly pay for itself in reduced licensing fees to Microsoft.

Italo Vignol with LibreOffice

Italo Vignol, board member at The Document Foundation

There are other reasons besides saving money to move to LibreOffice. For one, since the program is platform independent, its use will make easier a later migration to another operating system, such as Linux, should that ever be wanted or needed. Also, LibreOffice defaults to the open standard Open Document Format or ODF, meaning that once this move is made, data once held hostage by Microsoft can be easily opened and edited on just about any office productivity suite. And because LibreOffice is quite handy at opening and saving files using Microsoft’s proprietary format, that function will remain available for those few incidences when it’s needed.

There are a lot of things for companies heavily dependent on Office to consider before making such a move. Unfortunately, good information can be hard to come by. Value added retailers, or VARs, specializing in Microsoft products, for example, will often make the task seem extremely daunting, if not downright impossible as they don’t want anyone moving off of Redmond’s farm. On the other hand, some firms that specialize in open source solutions might be inclined to give the impression that a migration will be much easier than it will be. As is often the case with IT, knowing where to turn for advice can be problematic.

There’ll be good advice available in Atlanta on Thursday April 3rd, however, in the form of a two and a half hour workshop led by Italo Vignoli. The workshop, “Migrating from Microsoft Office to LibreOffice,” is being conducted as part of the Great Wide Open conference.

Vignoli is one of the founders and a member of the Board of Directors of The Document Foundation, the organization behind LibreOffice, where his duties include marketing and communications as well as being an international spokesperson for the project. Before helping start The Document Project, he spent over six years on the marketing team for OpenOffice.org, which was the original code base for LibreOffice. In other words, this is a guy who knows his stuff and who has “been there/done that” when it comes to large enterprise level migrations from MS Office to LibreOffice or OpenOffice.

When I asked the folks at IT-oLogy, the nonprofit educational organization hosting Great Wide Open, about this workshop, they sent the following information they’d received from Vignoli about the workshop:

“Migrating from Microsoft Office to LibreOffice is a complex endeavor, which is prone to failure if managed in the wrong way or by inexperienced people. In order to ensure the success of migration projects, The Document Foundation has developed a reference protocol, which provides guidelines to tackle the resistance to change and address the most common technical problems. The protocol is based on best practices from the most successful migrations in 2012 and 2013.”

I expect that Vignoli will also talk about the economics of such a move, answering pertinent questions such as how much should it cost and how long should it be before the migration pays for itself. In other words, those attending the workshop should be able to determine whether such a move would be right for them.

Again, this workshop is being held as part of the Great Wide Open conference, an open source conference for the enterprise that will be held on Wednesday and Thursday, April 2 and 3, at the 200 Peachtree Special Events & Conference Center in downtown Atlanta. “Migrating from Microsoft Office to LibreOffice” will begin at 1:45 PM and end at 4:30 PM on April 3rd. Admission to the conference on April 3 automatically includes this workshop.

Attending Great Wide Open is dirt cheap. The “Early Bird” special, available until March 19th, is $99 for a single day or $149 for both days of the conference.

That would be cheap enough, but the fine folks at IT-oLogy have agreed to offer an additional 50% discount to readers of FOSS Force. Simply type “fossforce” (without the quotes) into the Promotional Code box while registering online. Users of this discount will pay only $50.00 for a single day or $75.00 for both days. Register soon, as this price is only good through March 19th.

Any company that’s been considering breaking the bonds with Microsoft and moving to free and open source LibreOffice, should try to find a way to get some people to this workshop.

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Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux.

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22 comments to Breaking Microsoft’s Chains by Moving to LibreOffice

  • Henriette P

    Everyone who runs a company or is in corporate IT should go to this, and if you don’t adopt Libreoffice your company obviously has too much money to throw around.

  • Phillis Wilkinson

    Or you don’t care about your job….! – Downsizing is coming and if you can save cash by going Libre Office and keep your job then I am all for it. Why should Microsoft have the money that would otherwise keep you in work…

  • W. Anderson

    Although the statement frequently made that “for simple tasks, LibreOffice is an excellent replacement for Microsoft Office”, the truth is that LibreOffice is used extensively by small and large businesses, Fortune 500 corporations, School Systems and Universities, International governments and Not-for-Profit organizations with great success in all the functionality “claimed superior” in Office.

    Wile the reduced costs of operations using LibreOffice are often quoted, especially in marketing efforts, there are also many technical features including greater reliability over office and greater flexibility of use options that accrue to LibreOffice, for example one as mentioned of being Supported on Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X and Linux, with Cloud hosted versions and suport on mobile devices arriving very shortly.

  • Eddie G.

    I have been using LibreOffice since it’s earlier version (3.x and up) and I can say that it has proven to me that you don’t need to pay ridiculous prices for an office suite that works and has compatibility with a large range of formats. I have only recently gotten my youngest brother to use it on his Linux Mint laptop and he says he’ll never go back to MS office again. He is equally amazed and is constantly in a state of awe in the fact that this software is “free”, to him to use, and install on as many machines that he likes (even though he only has just one!) The slow but inevitable “creep” of FOSS into the corporate world is taking place, and the more companies that learn, adopt, and hire accordingly will be the ones that have an advantage over the ones who refuse to budge from the safety of their corporate partnerships with software companies.

  • Chuck Davis

    Until they get rid of the stupid, idiotic, annoying, Microsoft-copy-cat marching ants around a selection in Calc I’m sticking with Apache Open Office which, contrary to popular opinion, is still as good or better than LibreOffice. Just because your distro has elected to distribute LibreOffice doesn’t make it better.

  • John W.

    The multiplatform aspect of LibreOffice will become even more important with time, as OSes and CPUs evolve further. For example, LibreOffice works right now on Linux devices with ARM processors.

  • Mike

    Unfortunately, not everyone is free to switch; the main issue being compatibility with MS Office legacy formats.

    An example: Connections Academy (a virtual public school) requires MS Office documents for much of their coursework and compatibility is always an issue. Specifically, their gym classes require a program known as ‘Activity Tracker’. This little Adobe AIR (another proprietary nightmare) application exists solely to produce an Excel spreadsheet of the student’s physical activities. These spreadsheets never open properly in anything other than Excel. I’ve tried several versions of Open Office, Libre Office, Google Docs, etc. with no success.

    Empowering students to use open software in place of expensive proprietary stuff is very difficult when schools make choices like this.

  • Rudy Hartmann

    What would be great for Libreoffice had an integrated email client like Outlook

  • @Rudy Back when Sun first bought Star Office, which is the code base that OpenOffice and LibreOffice grew from, there was a built-in email client. You had an option to send any document as an email directly from Star Office, with the choice of sending the document as text inserted into a text email or as a Star Office document attachment. In those days, Star Office also had a built-in browser.

  • Phil

    @Mike: Hi! Have you tried the latest version 4.2.1, yet?

    If it still does not work, please file a bug report using the bug report wizard: http://www.libreoffice.org/get-help/bsa/

    The LO developers are actively looking to improve document format compatibility and need documents that don’t work properly.
    Thanks!

  • Eddie G.

    @Chuck Davis: I wasn’t trying to say “mines is better than your is”…that’s childish I was merely making a statement from MY perspective…from MY point-of-view if you will. You use what you feel comfortable with, and I wish you the best with it. but don’t go around trash-talking people who are merely trying to give input into a conversation / discussion. I don’t use Linux Mint my BROTHER does!…LOL!

  • abarbarian

    The USA Navy uses Libre Office as does the ISS International Space Station as does the French Police Force as does etc etc etc etc . The reason no vendor lock in , cost reduction, freedom to alter the program to suit plus they are not dealing with a monopolistic greedy bully.
    Wake up and smell the freedom.
    Penguinistas will rule the world.
    ;-)

  • sgardiner

    For me it starts earlier, in our schools. In the UK we are teaching kids, MS Powerpoint, Excel, Word. If we can break the link at this early age we have a chance of increasing the adoption of Libreoffice OpenOffice.

  • Eddie G.

    @sgardiner – this is still the case today, my son who’s in the 8th grade is learning the entire office suite due to the “computer curriculum” that his school has, (even though he has been using LibreOffice for almost 2 years now!) its just amazing how Microsoft got so many people to buy-in to their “only use our stuff” mentality, although I will say that it seems they might be changing gears, and might even be willing to at least make some things work a little better between Windows and Linux, but the age old question remains: why pay for something that you can get for free..(and yes, I know it’s not really “free” because somewhere at some point in time someone has to “pay” to use FOSS…etc..etc) I guess because of it’s worldwide presence MS Office is considered the standard, but who made that decision? LoL!

  • Mike

    @Phil – Thanks, I will try the latest version as soon as I get a chance.

    I can echo the sentiment with regard to schools which others have said. When I was in grade school in the early 80′s, I had classes for programming on Apple IIe’s. Now I see my children taking ‘computer classes’ that are nothing more than how to use MS Office products. It’s disgusting really.

    That’s why I like projects like the Raspberry Pi, which are trying to bring back the fun, and exploration into computer education, instead of filling kids with mindless corporate drone garbage.

  • Sum Yung Gai

    Used to work for a school system. If it wasn’t Microsoft, they didn’t want it. The administrators and staff considered Microsoft Office such a “holy cow” that any mere suggestion of OpenOffice.org was automatically and quickly dismissed out of hand. “That’s not the standard,” they would dismissively say.

    Here’s an example of why this is bad thinking, especially in a school.

    One school’s principal approved a K12LTSP installation in one of the computer labs as an experiment. There were 25 older PC’s that got turned into basically fancy X-terms. The server was a multi-core box with max DRAM and ran Red Hat Linux with OpenOffice.org, Firefox, Thunderbird, GIMP, the standard desktop apps. The kids *LOVED* it. The teachers at first had no idea the kids were using OpenOffice.org instead of Microsoft Office to do their schoolwork (that was part of the experiment). When MSBlaster and Nachi came visiting and infected all the Microsoft Windows PC’s, the K12LTSP lab (unaffected, naturally) became the computer “hub” of the school for a while.

    Kids started asking for copies of OpenOffice.org to take home. No problem, since it’s Free/Open Source Software. They thought it was very cool, and their parents definitely appreciated the cost savings.

    Everyone was happy.

    News of this resounding success eventually reached the district’s Dept. of IT. They’re totally pro-Microsoft and hated anything “open source”, mostly out of MCSE-type fear (“OMG, IT AIN’T MICROSOFT, KILL IT NOOOOWWW!!!). They went straight to the higher-ups and painted this successful K12LTSP lab as “rogue”, “non-standard”, and “unsupportable”, along with a few other choice words. They came in and threatened the principal with pulling all IT support unless she got rid of that “damn Linux thing!” They yanked out the K12LTSP lab, over the protests of the school staff.

    Way to teach kids initiative, there. The kids wondered what the heck happened to “the cool Linux lab”, and the computer teacher was left having to explain that to them. Can we say, “chilling effect”, folks?

    This is what we’re up against in our school districts.

    –SYG

  • Kathleen Ross

    LibreOffice as well as Apache OpenOffice (https://www.openoffice.org/) or Kingsoft Office (this one http://softwarepuppy.com/review/Kingsoft-Office-Suite-Free.html)to my mind are much better than Word by Microsoft. Today there are so many free programs that are not worse than the paid ones so why paying. That was such an interesting article to read and your opinion is very curious to get familiar with as well. Thanks a lot.

  • Eddie G.

    @Sum Yung Gai – I think the teachers and students should protest this matter! This is so unfair, and I’m not speaking from a “tech-open source advocate” perspective, but fro ma concerned parent. I thought school was where one went to broaden their minds and experience new things, not be “ordered” on what to use and how to use it. Granted there’s algebra, calculus and all the “strict disciplines” required to graduate, but to insist that one particyular office suite be used ONLY because the IT staff are comfortable with it?…that almost smacks of Imperialism! LoL!

  • […] Breaking Microsoft’s Chains by Moving to LibreOffice […]

  • Mike

    @Phil – Just tried the “fresh” 4.2.2 and had no problems at all with these previously intractable documents.

    Woohoo!

    LibreOffice just became a complete replacement for Microsoft Office as far as I’m concerned.

  • Eddie G.

    The funny thing is Microsoft finally released a version of Office for Apple’s iPads..after four some odd years!..not the full office suite…but the “Usual Suspects”….Word…Excel…PowerPoint…I guess they’re realizing that with a variety of office suites available to the average user…Microsoft Office isn’t the titan it once was!…LOL!