LibreOffice 4 review
Lots of little changes keep LibreOffice moving steadily forward, although the UI needs a revamp
Review Date: 14 Feb 2013
Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray
Price when reviewed: Free
Features & Design
Value for Money
Ease of Use
The development team at the Document Foundation has been hard at it for the past couple of years. Since adopting the OpenOffice.org codebase and turning it into a community project, the popular free office suite has seen a rapid-fire schedule of releases. This is its fourth update in that time, a rate that far outstrips Micosoft’s release cycle.
With such frequent updates, it isn’t surprising that improvements are comparatively minor. Version 3.5 was light on big new features, and that's also the case in version 4 (though we'll also be covering updates included in version 3.6 in this review); anyone hoping for an interface overhaul on the scale of the recently updated Microsoft Office 2013 is going to be disappointed.
All is not completely lost, however. Although nothing has been done to change the look and feel of the buttons, toolbars, menus and dialog boxes themselves, it is possible to freshen up the interface using the new Persona tools to change the toolbar background.
This uses the same framework as the FireFox web browser: to switch personas, simply visit the FireFox themes gallery, pick a background and copy and paste the URL into the Persona dialog box. Themes should be applied with care, though, as dark colours can render menus and icons unreadable.
LibreOffice also brings improvements to Microsoft document format compatibility. This includes the ability to import inked annotations from DOCX and RTF files, plus floating tables and WordArt. None of these new features worked perfectly in our tests, though, with both the position and look of the graphical elements a long way from matching the original.
Elsewhere, LibreOffice gets an updated template manager tool, which also allows the import and use of templates from “other office suites”. We tried this feature with a couple of randomly downloaded Word templates and were similarly disappointed with the results.
At the back end, there's now the ability to integrate with document and content management systems, allowing the opening and saving of files to and from Alfresco, Nuxeo, SharePoint and other similar systems.
The tool we most use in the LibreOffice suite, however, is Writer, and here there are a handful of more effective updates.
- BlackBerry's nightmare quarter: the hard facts
- BlackBerry loses $4.4 billion in a single quarter
- Google approves smartphone running CyanogenMod
- Microsoft's new CEO: we rate the contenders
- Spain fines Google £750m for personal data harvesting
- Project Siena: a WYSIWYG app creator for Windows 8
- Microsoft Security Essentials misses 39% of malware in Dennis test
- Ofcom tells BT to fix faulty connections within two days (well, some of them)
- Zuckerberg cashes in Facebook shares to pay taxes
- Lucky Redditor gets Secret Santa gift from Bill Gates
- Play it again: Berlin's Computer Game Museum
- Switching from iPhone to Android: what I miss, what I don't
- Tech City: Easy to score when you move the goalposts
- How to remove SkyDrive from the Windows 8.1 Explorer
- Switching from iPhone to Android? Switch off iMessage
- Why is Google pumping more money into Firefox?
- Sky Broadband Shield review
- Samsung Galaxy S4: how to double your battery life
- Motorola Moto G review: first look
- IBM Watson meets Willy Wonka
- Internet blackout: could it happen?
- The top five consumer security threats for 2014
- Windows XP: Microsoft’s ticking time bomb
- The top five SMB security trends for 2014
- Backup your life: how to keep your data safe
- Best gifts for Christmas 2013: tech gifts for less than £200
- Online "experts" are full of hot air
- Best tablet PCs to buy in 2014
- Closer to reality: photorealism in computer graphics
- Windows 8.1: Top 10 advanced features
- Is Facebook safe for business?
- Jon Honeyball's money's-no-object Christmas gift idea
- The importance of load balancing
- Windows Phone App Studio: an easy way to create your first Windows Phone 8 app
- The end of Windows XP support: what it really means for businesses
- Don't rely on Chrome's password vault
- Using Buffer to manage your social media
- Microsoft needs its own Steve Jobs
- Forget credit cards: hackers want your Facebook account
- Can't get fast enough broadband? Here's what to do