LibreOffice vs OpenOffice: Which One Should You Use

By | March 23, 2022

If you need to edit a document, spreadsheet, or presentation without Microsoft Office, your options add up. Chances are if you’ve spent any time looking for Office alternatives, you’ve found LibreOffice or OpenOffice. Maybe you’ve met both.

They both offer the same feature set so you might wonder which one wins when it comes to LibreOffice vs OpenOffice. You may find it difficult to choose between the two, or even tell them apart. Here’s what you need to know.

Origins of OpenOffice and LibreOffice

Although OpenOffice vs LibreOffice seems relatively new, its roots go back to 1985. That’s the year StarOffice was born. At the time, he went by the name StarWriter. The company was purchased by Sun Microsystems in 1999.


In 2000, Sun announced an open-source version of StarOffice, known as OpenOffice.org. It quickly became the default Office suite on Linux distributions. Everything remained relatively stable until 2010 when Oracle acquired Sun and became the de facto development leader of OpenOffice.org.

Members of the OpenOffice.org community were unhappy with Oracle’s past behavior in the open source space and started discussing forks. Then in 2010, LibreOffice was taken from OpenOffice.org, with the Document Foundation as the host. Oracle was invited to join the Document Foundation but declined.

Oracle renamed StarOffice as Oracle Open Office, which caused some confusion. Many OpenOffice.org developers are also starting to leave the project. Development on OpenOffice.org and Oracle Open Office stopped shortly thereafter.

Why Are There Two Similar Office Suites?

When Oracle stops active development on OpenOffice.org, Oracle provides the trademark and code to the Apache Foundation. For years nothing has happened, but since 2014, Apache OpenOffice has seen regular releases and updates. This has updated the LibreOffice vs OpenOffice debate.

LibreOffice is the more actively developed of the two. Regularly add new features and fix bugs faster. It also remains the more popular of the two.

OpenOffice adds features at a much slower pace, but this has the side effect of introducing fewer bugs. Some are still worried about the future of OpenOffice, as it appeared to be in danger of closing as recently as 2016.

License Difference Feature Difference

Licensing differences usually matter only to two camps: Businesses and people who care about the “free as in beer” and “free as in free” nature of software. In the case of LibreOffice vs OpenOffice, the license used by each actually affects the feature set of the two.

OpenOffice uses the Apache License, while LibreOffice uses the dual LGPLv3/MPL license.

You don’t need to know the details, except for one aspect: LibreOffice can freely enter code and features from OpenOffice, but OpenOffice cannot include anything from LibreOffice.

This allows LibreOffice to add features more quickly, as it can adopt new features from OpenOffice as they add them.

User Interface (UI) Differences

There are slight differences, but for the most part, LibreOffice and OpenOffice look similar. Of course, they look similar to each other like LibreOffice Writer or OpenOffice Writer looking to older versions of Word. Word processors tend to look like word processors.

LibreOffice tends to a cleaner interface, as is the modern trend. OpenOffice, on the other hand, messes with a lot more features by default. Launch the word processor of each office suite. You’ll soon notice OpenOffice has a sidebar missing from LibreOffice.

Of course, it didn’t actually go away. It doesn’t show in LibreOffice by default. Instead, you need to click on the smooth arrow to the right of the screen. This is an example of the difference between the two when it comes to the user interface.

File Format Differences

Both LibreOffice and OpenOffice support opening many different formats. You can open any type of Microsoft Office file in any of the suites. The big difference is seen when it’s time to save your work.
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When you go to save, you’ll see many of the same options. Both default to Open Document Format, which uses the .odt extension.

  • OpenOffice can save Word documents, but only the older .doc format.
  • LibreOffice can save the older .doc and .docx formats.

If you need interoperability with modern Microsoft Office installations, neither will be 100% perfect. However, the ability to save more modern formats gives LibreOffice the win here.

Software Size Difference

LibreOffice is a bigger download than OpenOffice, though unless your bandwidth is limited this shouldn’t be much of a problem. The macOS download of LibreOffice 6.2 is just over 250 MB, while the OpenOffice 4.1 installer is around 185 MB.

The installation size is also larger. OpenOffice requires between 400 MB and 650 MB of disk space depending on the platform. LibreOffice, on the other hand, requires between 800 MB and 1.55 GB of disk space.

Both require between 256 MB and 512 MB of RAM depending on the platform, so that’s one area where the requirements are the same.

Mobile Apps

Both LibreOffice and OpenOffice have compatible mobile apps. With OpenOffice, you get the ported AndrOpen Office application, which is available for Android. It lets you open and edit files from OpenOffice Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, and Math. You can also use the app to edit older Office documents.

LibreOffice has the LibreOffice Viewer. It can edit documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, in both Open Document Format and Office format. The difference is that it supports newer Office formats, which AndrOpen Office does not have.

One more option for LibreOffice is Impress Remote. It lets you control Impress presentations from iOS and Android devices. If this is important to you, it gives one more point to LibreOffice when you have to make a choice.

Download: AndrOpen Office for Android (Free)
Download: LibreOffice Viewer for Android (Free)
Download: Impress Remote for Android | iOS (Free)

LibreOffice vs OpenOffice: Which One?

It might seem obvious, but if you want new features to go faster, choose LibreOffice. Its add rate is dramatically faster than OpenOffice. Not everyone will find this a good thing.

Because it adds slower features, OpenOffice tends to change. If you want to update your software with bug fixes and security updates, this can be a good thing. You don’t have to worry about updating only to find the entire interface has changed and you need to relearn it.

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