Is it possible to use LibreOffice as a MS Office replacement?
Every company uses some kind of Office software.
Office software that has the biggest market share is MS Office.
If you consider that every employee needs
a licence for windows & Office – well that is a huge cost.
Thinking about it, I decided to do editorial: LibreOffice in the Enterprise
Why do companies still use Microsoft product if there are other alternatives, cheaper even free?
In the past most obvious reason was compatibility, also, huge discounts that companies get is one of the reasons. Why would one change for free software if he/her would go out of his/her’s comfort zone, you know the product, you know how to support it your users know it and users are reluctant to change…
Experiences with LibreOffice
I will share my experience with LibreOffice, reasons for implementation, experiences
with users migrating to LibreOffice and reasons for failure – or not, in fact it’s a success story.
Our company is mostly a retail company and most of our users are engaged in drawing leaflets – action prices to put near the product for customer to see. In the past, our users used Microsoft Publisher, part of MS Office professional and Corel Draw for creating leaflets. Since Publisher was cheaper, we replaced Corel Draw. Even though users preferred Corel – it was much easier for them to do leaflets, we made the switch, eventually they learned to cope with Publisher.
Once the company expanded we needed more licences, and more licences would cost more money. A lot of money. We didn’t had many templates, so it was easy to create new ones from scratch, up until now, import filter for publisher files does not exist in LibreOffice (but it will be included in a new version really soon 🙂 ). Users did learn to use OpenOffice Draw and once the need for word processor arose, they start using it, since it was all ready installed.
Not all of the users liked new office, some were used to MS Office. We showed them Office 2007 and after they saw a big difference in Ui, they decide to give LibreOffice a try, in the end was more similar to Office 2003 than 2007. Another problem is / was RAM consumption – Open Office / Libre offices requires much more RAM than MS Office 2003, we had some computers with 512MB only. It may seem funny, but the system did work, ERP, Publisher and browser was all they needed, heck even MS Office 2003 was not a problem with 512MB. When we noticed the problem we have upgraded RAM to at least 1GB and solved the problem. Another downside with LibreOffice was also usability, some features were really hard to find. Even for IT dept. looking to solve users request to do something they were used in MS Office.
One example if you are used to MS Office 2003: Change page orientation to landscape, I would really love to get back from you how long you were looking for that setting in LibreOffice – but don’t cheat, try to find it without google 🙂
Project was a success, we saved a lot of money and users were happy too, when they learned to use LibreOffice.
Now what about back office?
We have started with people who did not have problem with experimenting with new office suits and people who cared for money saved. They adapted quickly, they only need about 10% of features of Word or Excel.
Reasons for failure
So if plan went so good, potentially even more money saved – what made it fail? Bugs, bugs, bugs…. well, actually one bug. And that bug is present from the beginning of Openoffice.org.
Sometimes, process soffice.bin / soffice.exe stops responding. When that happens, any new file you would like to open… nothing happens. New Libreoffice Calc should open with data in it but nothing happens. If you try to open blank file, nothing happens. We discovered that this problem happens when you try to open a file with default program – from other program.
Example is attachement in Outlook or Mozilla Firebird, or when you export report from erp to excel file and ERP calls default program to open the file. It works 20 times, but 21st request to open that file somehow does some magic and process is not responding, blocking any other instances from starting.
When you look at task manager you may see 10, 20 or 40 instances of process soffice.bin, soffice.exe, if you have time and end all of them to find the right one, it LibreOffice will start working again. Telling users they need to restart computer or end all of processes several times per day won’t solve migration plan.
This BUG may have occurred in our environment only, I checked LibreOffice bug list and found only
couple of references to soffice.bin. I hope that you do test LibreOffice, you may not have the same experiences.
Success story after all?
Why do I still call LibreOffice deployment a success if not all of the users were migrated? Because even though, 80% of users do use LibreOffice. That does count for some thing, doesn’t it? Just a thought how much money was saved makes me happy.
Another feature i noticed, is that from latest version, LibreOffice support’s Visio files, you can open and edit files without problems. I have tested many and I have yet to find compatibility problem. From now on, I don’t need MS Visio any more. Diagrams can be easily be drawn. As a side note, Stencils for Visio can’t be opened in LibreOffice yet, but if they are part of a drawing you can get them from there. Problem may be when you are preparing for documenting something and you cant use stencils provided by the company – Veeam comes to mind. They have neat stencils but only in Visio format, so opening them is a no go. Hopefully LibreOffice will make some progress on that front.
Free clipart’s (SVG) can be found on http://openclipart.org/
I was surprised by the amount of IT infrastructure SVGs they hold, you can get cloud, computers…, even Dell computer is there 🙂 I have noticed that Cisco provides stencils in JPG format among others. In the end you can do some nice designs with LibreOffice.
LibreOffice is about to release version 4, I am really looking forward installing
it and testing it with my users.
Since LibreOffice is non profit organisation, I really hope that a new company appears that would sell support and development services. Lets say that the company I work for would have a need to migrate 20.000 or more computers to LibreOffice, what would happen if we came across a bug that would prevent us to migrate?
If there was a support company we would be able to hire them to provide a patch or new feature that we would require. Maybe in the form of an extension.
And even better, both, bug fix and extension could be accepted in to the mainline, in turn helping others with the same problem.
How cool would it be? Maybe LibreOffice foundation could have an option – hire a hacker, or some service like fiver.com, where you could hire someone to fix the problem you have. In a timely manner. Companies can’t wait for community to fix problems. If it was possible to fix unresponsive soffice.bin via financial backing from enterprises, this could be over, sadly it‘s not.
Looking forward to new features coming in the near future.