LibreOffice 7.5 update: A great time to jump on this FOSS productivity suite
Decent upgrade from older versions, essential if you're still on OpenOffice
FOSDEM The Document Foundation has released LibreOffice 7.5 with a host of improvements. Windows and Mac users can just download it, and for Linux types the new version is already up on Flathub.
LibreOffice, formerly known as OpenOffice, and before that StarOffice, is the go-to FOSS office suite, but there's always room for improvement. This version is a bit prettier than before, with new, much more colorful icons for both the individual modules and their respective documents.
We liked this – frankly they were verging on drab before. There's also improved dark mode support. As before, there's a choice of UIs: you can have old-style menus and toolbars, or a single context-sensitive toolbar, or a tabbed toolbar (which is to say, a ribbon), if you like that sort of thing, which can be full-size, compact, or moved to a sidebar – especially useful on widescreens. This puts LibreOffice ahead of rivals such as OnlyOffice, WPS Office, and of course Microsoft Office, all of which give you just the ribbon-type UI whether you like it or not.
The new version's more colorful icons contrast clearly against the plainer ones of LibreOffice 7.4
The apps also have built-in themes for UI elements such as toolbar buttons, which is somewhat more elegant than other approaches, such as the old Ubuntu one of installing a separate distro packages to reskin the suite. While it will take a little while for stable-release distros to catch up – which apparently includes the Ubuntu Snap store – we were pleased to see version 7.5.3 on Flathub on the day of release.
We added Flatpak and installed this new version on Ubuntu 22.04, which worked smoothly alongside the bundled version. The only glitch we saw was that initially all the toolbar buttons were blank, but switching the icon theme to "Sifr" resolved this – instantly, without even a restart.
This version has improved support for non-English languages in several areas, including better spell-checking and suggestions, and improved font handling for non-Roman alphabets. It ships with support for 120 different languages and work is in progress for another 38 on top of that, meaning that it supports the first language of about two-thirds of the people on Earth and the second language of another two and a half billion. We suspect that's significantly more people than have access to computers. This current version supports back to Windows 7 SP1 and Apple macOS 10.14, and there is also a stable business version, now on 7.4.5.
There's improved support for screen-readers, so you can now read bookmarks in documents aloud, search for spreadsheet functions by description as well as by name, check documents for accessibility and more. We also found that keyboard navigation of the menus worked perfectly, which has occasionally been a problem in the past. If you prefer fewer on-screen fripperies, not only is there a full-screen mode, but all toolbars, rulers and scrollbars can be turned off, leaving a totally uncluttered window. We chose to leave the status bar on, partly for its handy live word count.
- Document Foundation starts charging €8.99 for 'free' LibreOffice
- LibreOffice improves Microsoft compatibility with version 7.4
- Open source 'Office' options keep Microsoft running faster than ever
- Experimental WebAssembly port of LibreOffice released
Other tweaked areas include PDF generation, font embedding on macOS, new content controls. Its support for other suites' files mean that it's worth having LibreOffice installed, even if you primarily use a different office suite. LibreOffice is not only pretty good at importing MS Office documents, but it's significantly better at recovering damaged or corrupted MS Office files than Microsoft's own suite.
If you prefer an MS Office-like, ribbon-style UI, it's just a couple of clicks away
We generally find it more robust than Microsoft's Office 365: while a few years ago we could reliably crash Excel by pasting in a non-rectangular section of a table, LibreOffice Calc handled that without a twitch. It can also generate PDF files for you, even if the underlying OS can't do that. For instance, it can import additional file formats that some proprietary suites can't, then save them out into modern versions. If you didn't install some optional components of a proprietary suite – say, file conversion filters – and long ago lost the media so you can't do it now, LibreOffice can save your, er, breakfast food of personal choice. This article was written in the app on the day of release and it didn't miss a beat.
Windows and macOS users can grab the new release from LibreOffice.org, and users of rolling-release Linux distros will almost certainly get it with the next release. If you're impatient and your distro has a bundled version, we suggest a containerized version that you can run alongside the natively packaged version. We're sure that the Snap store will have it very soon, and as mentioned earlier, Flathub already does.
A mention for anyone still using OpenOffice: it's time to move over. This is the same codebase, but modernized and cleaned up. It's smaller, faster, and more stable, and backwards-compatibility is pretty much perfect. OpenOffice still has better brand recognition, but it's now far behind and will never catch up. You can install both side-by-side, and once happy, remove the older suite safely. If you know anyone still on OpenOffice, do them a favor and help them move across. ®