LibreOffice has long since moved on from being an offshoot of the OpenOffice project. It's now the go-to alternative to Microsoft Office, enjoying regular development and a constant tweaking to keep it up to date, stable and secure.

While LibreOffice lacks the slick presentation of rival Windows freebie Kingsoft Office Suite Free and its Office-inspired ribbon interface, it has the major advantage of offering a full set of office applications, including database, drawing package and mathematical tool on top of the requisite word processor, spreadsheet and presentation tool found in most free office suites.

While it’s definitely more navigable than before thanks to better placement of tools and visual previews of styles direct from the main toolbar, it still looks a little dated, despite the refreshed icon sets. Nevertheless, this is still a powerful suite capable of meeting most people's needs, making this zero-cost alternative to Office a valuable tool to have in your armoury.

Ever-improving support for third-party file types (including both new and classic Office formats) means you're not cutting yourself off from industry standards while cross-platform support means you can run LibreOffice on Windows, Mac or Linux without having to retrain yourself to a new way of working each time.

What else is new in LibreOffice 6.3 (see changelog for more info)?

- Writer and Calc performance has been improved by an order of magnitude based on documents provided by end users: text files with different bookmarks, tables and embedded fonts, large ODS/XLSX spreadsheets, and Calc files with VLOOKUP load and render more quickly. Saving Calc spreadsheets as XLS files is also faster.
- The Tabbed Compact version of the NotebookBar user interface, introduced in LibreOffice 6.2, is now available for Writer, Calc, Impress and Draw. It leaves more space for user documents, spreadsheets and presentations on laptops with wide screens. In addition, the new Contextual Single UI is ready for Writer and Draw.
- In Calc, a new drop-down widget in the formula bar replaces the old Sum tool, giving the user quick access to the most frequently used functions. Also, a new FOURIER function has been added, to compute the discrete Fourier transform of an input array.
- Export as PDF has been improved with the support for the standard PDF/A-2 document format, which is required by several organizations for long term file storage. In addition, the design of editable PDF forms has been simplified with the addition of the Form menu to Writer, to further improve one of LibreOffice strongest features.
- Documents can now be redacted to remove or hide sensitive information such as personal data before exporting or sharing the file, to help companies or organisations to comply with regulations.
- On Windows, a proper console mode was added, with better output and error codes. This makes it easier to use LibreOffice to perform batch operations such as printing or converting many documents.
- Interoperability with Microsoft Office proprietary file formats has been improved in several areas with export support for DOTX document templates and XLTX spreadsheet templates, import of charts from DOCX drawingML group shapes, import/export of SmartArt from PPTX files, to preserve editing capabilities in PowerPoint, and better XLSX Pivot table interoperability.

Verdict

Don’t be put off by the dated user interface – LibreOffice is a powerful tool that includes all the core functionality most people will ever need.