Are other office suites as riddled with problems as LO?

A question for those experienced with other office suites such as MS office, Apache Openoffice etc.

I find LO to be rather frustrating and difficult to use due to the number of issues, bugs and inconsistencies in the program.
Even the most basic functions tend to have problems surrounding them.

I have no experience with other office software… Is it an open source thing? Or are other, “closed source”/purchased software programs like MS office also plagued by a veritable swarm of issues?

Admittedly I am a layperson of sorts, not a programmer. Am I better off with a more user-friendly office suite? Any recommendations?
Just trying to gauge whether or not, as someone who doesn’t know how to code and thus fix issues/customize LO to suit me, I’m wasting my time with Libreoffice and should try something tidier, with less issues…


This is a place for questions and answers about LibreOffice. For other programs, go to respective forums or mail groups.

Which are your use cases? Perhaps you do not need a rich featured office suite, but applications like MS WordPad would be sufficient.

@gabix Yes, that has occured to me; I shouldn’t post questions about other software here.
However I can’t think of a better place to obtain knowledge about LO vs. other programs than on a LO forum, as I know for sure there are plenty of users here who have experience using both LO & a multitude of alternative office suites/software.

Also I hope that other LO users will find the answers to my question useful, making this question all the more appropriate to be asked here.

I have used Word, WprdPerfect, OpenOffice, WordPad and others of that ilk. After getting used to the stylistic programming differences (or quirks) in LO, I find it a fantastic program with features the others don’t or didn’t have. Also, I find it more stable than the current versions of any of those.

Notwithstanding @gabix’ remark, I’ll try to answer.

User expectations about document composition have become very high with time. User now requires very complex things from his suite.

Speaking only for Writer I know best, we now want not only visual variations in text (font face, size, weight, color) but also structural organisation (paragraph rendering, headings with auto numbering, lists, cross-references – including header/footer capturing excerpts from main text flow --, etc.).

There are only two ways to handle this from user point of view:

  • the “programmatic” way

    User salts its raw text with instructions/macros (a markup language) to tell what to do. This is LATEX approach.

  • the UI way

The markup is hidden under a plethora of pre-cooked menu items or buttons. This is the WYSIWYG approach of common office suites.

The first approach offers end user full control at the expense of a tedious programming which explains why specific-domain layers (APIs) have been developed to ease paper writing in various situations.

The second approach tries to leverage access to document writing by offering so-called “intuitive” use after developers have chosen which features they shortcut through menu items and buttons. It becomes “intuitive” after you’ve fully understood the basic principles they’ve applied. Unfortunately, these primitives are rarely made clearly explicit.

To make matters more complicated, user expectations increase with the success of office suites and features are added to address new requirements. The main source of trouble is this dynamic nature of specifications. Some new features must be added anyway to keep abreast in competition versus other suites, despite the number of pending bugs. Due to the limited number of developers (in FOSS as well as in closed/commercial apps), there is a trade-off between curing known bugs and adding awaited features.

Also, office suites are used by millions (billion?) people with diverging needs. What is surprising is suites succeed in coping with such contradictory needs and workflows. Of course, this is not optimal for everyone but the result is impressive.

I personally find the case of LO is acceptable. Of course, I’d prefer it to be bug-free, but compared to M$ Office, I can file bugs and get feedback about them. There is some reactivity (of course, I’d prefer a shorter time-frame but not being a contributor I can’t complain for a free app solving 99% of my needs), reactivity completely lacking with M$ Office (take it as is or don’t take it).

To fully appreciate the “swarm of issues”, I’d like to read the code (or some part of it) but the entrance fee is rather high. I have not found any architecture document which would help finding my way through this huge code base. I’m afraid the synthesis document I dream of doesn’t exist. Its maintenance cost would anyway be tremendously high.

Another cause of problems is standardization. Many bugs or feature requests are discarded with “ODF incompatibility” reason. Even questions here are answered with this argument. I fully understand the need to have a reference frame for developers and portability of documents. This reference must also be stable enough so that development can reach mature state but it must not create a locking situation.

This is where some issues find their origin: the reference must be carved into a pre-existing base with perhaps contradictory primitives. All suites are certainly affected by the phenomenon.

I’m not convinced that switching to another suite will confront me to less issues. They’ll be different and I’ll have to learn new strategies to live with. I’ll also have to re-learn the underlying principles to benefit from the new suite. And, in the end, there will appear other issues.

I just hope developers have enough time to fix bugs and also add really value-added features leaving aside cosmetic time-consuming gadgets. I admit I don’t know how development is regulated.

+1: A very deliberate anslysis!

Personally, despite qualifications in using it, I have never liked Microsoft Office and for writers, LibreOffice is the better option. It does have glitches, but as I use it I am finding that most issues have an answer that is more about my lack of understanding than about LibreOffice itself. I have tried Calibre and most other word processors out of interest and prefer LibreOffice, bug or no bugs.

I may ask a lot of questions, but I hold that if someone like me who as my ex-husband said, “will never be a programmer as you have not the brain for it,” can use LibreOffice (and prefers it on anything Linux,) then anyone can. It is just that people get taught MSO at colleges and never realise there is another way. I object because it is a monopoly that excluded those who are not rich enough to access those tools and yet to get by one needs this particular set of tools to be employable in many cases.

For most people, LibreOffice is fine because they have no need for the stuff where you find the glitches. It is when you do the fancier stuff like using styles etc that the glitches might appear.

(Many think that they are incapable of using styles or doing anything more than making a heading in capitals and putting things in italic and bold! They think styles are a mysterious land for the initiated. (I meet a lot of these people. For some reason they are sure their computer might break if they do anything as complicated!) I speak from the experience of marking many essays! I spend time downloading and installing things for friends who think this is a mysterious, complicated process beyond their capabilities. I keep telling them anyone can. People make money out of making a simple thing complicated so people think they need to be taught it. My point is that Microsoft is a monopoly and people are fooled into thinking alternatives are for the clever or initiated. How many “Learn LibreOffice” courses do you see in Community Education? LibreOffice is actually easier to use. It might have a few problems but the advantages outweigh this.

Anyway, most of the time, the issue is with the user and lack of experience. If there are bugs etc then it will probably affect those who are experienced. I use all sorts of add-ons but my friends are kind of like “uh I better not I might break LibreOffice.” “Ooh no I couldn’t use a style as I couldn’t understand that and why can’t I just do what I have always done.” They will not have done anything so fancy in MS Word either.

I also object to how those who produce hardware buy a Microsoft licence and then do not know that at some point, this licence will expire. Sometime before this, the user will have bought a version of Microsoft Word. This means at some point all the money paid out literally disappears because your average person using something to “look at the Internet and write things” has no idea of how to make back ups for their OS or that the Microsoft Word they thought they were buying will expire if they got it as part of their computer deal. The worst that can happen is you can need to reinstall LibreOffice. This is not difficult to do.

Yet those who live anywhere in the world can have a Linux system and Libre Office and discover that most things we pay for have a viable Open Source alternative that works well. Once you realise you can copy and paste code into the terminal it all gets less daunting. Of course, those with the monopoly do not want Joe or Jane Public to know this

Or they can have it installed on their Microsoft OS. Most people are amazed that their computer does not break when you do that and they can have two Word processors side by side if the Microsoft one is still working. I have, over time, renovated three different laptops using Ubuntu and that comes bundled with LibreOffice. Several times I have helped friends who are in despair as they no longer have Microsoft Word and cannot afford to buy it although they thought they had it forever. I don’t think it right people should be sold something that implies there is no other word processor other than Microsoft Word or Office or whatever it is.

There is also greater likelihood of finding solutions to problems with LibreOffice as it is not easy and often expensive to get advice from companies.

By the way, the online versions of anything never work as well as LibreOffice. I have tried them all.

Thank you for your answer! I recently, having used LO for approx. 3 years, have discovered the wonders of Styles; I don’t know how I got by without them now!

You make some good points; sometimes a “glitch” is really incorrect User input. But many other times it is a genuine bug, and often the bugs numerous and often ridiculous- it’s often hard to believe similar would happen on a paid office suite.
For example, I have found that after upgrading from version 4 to 6.2 (and resetting the User to ensure User settings/info from the previous install are not adopted by the new version, which I am told can cause problems), the lines in tables are a faint grey colour/barely visible, regardless of the colour setting, and don’t show up as black until 0.75pt thickness and above.
This is random and annoying, as version 4 never had an issue like this. It’s as if for every problem fixed a new one pops up.
Often with these glitches it takes a long time for them to be addressed.

I worked in a situation where the people upstairs taught people how to use computers. As a result, I ended up, at times, upstairs, teaching people how to use computers. All I can say is Microsoft Word seemed to be as problematical as any other Word processor I ever used. Most of the time, what we pay for is not better, just has different issues. I think that it is best to use the version that best suits your purpose. You only need the upgrade if it gives you the improvements you need. It may be worth asking a question here about the lines in the table because so often it is us and not them and there is a simple way to fix things.

I agree with what @ajlittoz wrote, and like him, I prefer LibreOffice.

However, I am told that MS Office really does have fewer glitches. If you’re looking for a smoother experience, then that might be it. Some of my colleagues prefer MS Office, while others prefer LibreOffice.

To see whether it’s for you, try the basic online version of MS Office for free. It requires creating an account, and there are many limitations such as no ability to run macros.

The only other serious players I hear much about are alternative types such as LaTex or XMLmind. Many of my colleagues recommend XMLmind. Neither of these sound like what you are looking for.

To me, the choice between LO and MSO comes down to your preferred style of working. Closed source requires trusting that the application developer has designed and provided instructions that meet your needs. I often find this frustrating because it makes it difficult to get information on how exactly it works, or how to get it to do what I want it to do.

The MS formats such as .docx are more widely accepted, and while LO can save as .docx, it causes many problems. My recommendation is either save as .odt with LO, or save as .docx with MSO. For reading only, either suite can open either format.

A big reason that I promote LibreOffice at work is ownership requirements. <rant> Many of my colleagues are from certain parts of Asia where mostly pirated versions of MS Word are used. Why would anyone do that when LibreOffice is available? Not only is this unethical, but such versions tend to have bugs and viruses. More than once I have had to fix someone’s PC because of pirated MS Office. </rant>

Also, LibreOffice works well on Linux. And a personal preference: The MS ribbon interface makes me feel that it’s impossible to find anything. I’m happy, though, that LO is developing MUFFIN for those that like it.

As a programmer, I am more comfortable with Java and Python than C# and VB_dot_NET, so again, LibreOffice is a better fit for me. This is not an issue for you, however.

Thanks for the link & some very useful info!
You make a good point about the MS Word pirating, it almost sounds like pirating for the sake of pirating when considering the many issues faced & existence of LO!

I am a long-time user of WordPerfect, long before they were bought by Corel. The word processor part of the WordPerfect Office suite is pretty good – well thought-out, well organized, and relatively free of bugs, but sometimes limited in what you can do. Not as rich in features as LIbreOffice.

However, the spreadsheet part of WordPerfect Office, QuattroPro, is full of little bugs, especially in the chart department. The number of QuattroPro bugs that has persisted over the years is what drove me from WordPerfect to LibreOffice.

So LibreOffice also has a few bugs but they get fixed, and the bugs are most often found in areas where users are trying to push the envelope of what can be accomplished. I am a fairly consistent and conservative user and rarely run into any difficulty with LibreOffice. Some of the specialized and convoluted things that people try to do with LibreOffice, and then complain when they can’t do it that way, make me shudder.

I also agree with comments about “user expectations” by @ajlittoz and @JackyAnn. Also, the non-proprietary aspects of LibreOffice weigh heavily in its favour over the proprietary, subscription and software-as-a-service features of other office packages.