LibreOffice, NeoOffice: two great suites for your application toolbox

When OpenOffice was first released it was available for Linux distros and Windows natively, but it ran on Mac under Unix. A company called NeoOffice responded by forking the code into their own distribution for the Mac.

For the past 5 or 6 years LibreOffice and OpenOffice have run natively on Mac, but NeoOffice is still being developed. The suite is being sold through the Mac App Store for $29.99.
It has some different features than it’s other open-source counterparts. These include being able to sync with iCloud and having independent floating windows that are common to a lot of Mac applications.

This article will compare the two office suites.

The applications

Both suites come with a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, vector drawing, database, and formula applications.

Word processor

The word processors for the two suites are very similar. One of the key differences is that NeoOffice is missing the Styles menu. In LibreOffice, this is between the Table and Format menus.

The menu contains many of the items that you would find in the Paragraph Styles (or Apply Styles) drop-down menu that can be found in the Formatting toolbars of both word processors. It also contains the link to open the Styles and Formatting dialog. This dialog can also be opened by clicking the Styles and Formatting icon in the sidebar of both applications.

Other items in the Styles menu can be accessed through the sidebar as well. The menu is just an additional way LibreOffice users can access and edit styles.

The formatting and standard toolbars have many of the same items. NeoOffice does not have a track changes icon in its Standard toolbar by default. Both word processors have toolbars that you can add and remove items from.

LibreOffice has more than 230 fonts available for the Mac version. NeoOffice has many more fonts installed by default. It has more than 500. Fonts can be added to both suites.

Spreadsheet

Like the word processor, LibreOffice Calc has an additional menu. NeoOffice does not include the Sheet menu.

This allows you to add cells, rows and columns, as well as delete them. By default, NeoOffice includes Insert Rows and Insert Columns icons in the Standard toolbar. NeoOffice places the insert cells function, as well as items for inserting rows and columns, in the Insert menu.

LibreOffice Calc’s Insert menu mainly has items to insert images and artwork. NeoOffice’s has these items too, but it also has items to insert sheets and functions. These are items LibreOffice places in the Sheet menu.

Both have almost 400 functions that can be accessed through the Formula bar.

Presentation

When you create a new presentation in LibreOffice, a select a template dialog appears by default. You can turn this feature off, and the next time you create a presentation, you will see a blank presentation. The Template Selection dialog is something LibreOffice added in version 5.3. The template wizard was discontinued.

NeoOffice still uses the template wizard. By default, when you launch a new presentation, you will be taken to a blank document. You can use the wizard to stylize the presentation. It is located in the File menu.

You also can set the wizard to launch when you create a new presentation.

Like its fellow applications, the NeoOffice presentation does not have a menu that its

LibreOffice counterpart has. It is the Slide menu.

LibreOffice puts items for creating new slides, editing slides, and managing how a presentation transitions from one slide to another in this menu. NeoOffice places these items in other menus, toolbars, and the sidebar. For LibreOffice users this is simply an additional way to access features.

Draw

The two vector drawing applications are identical. They have the same menus and tools.
NeoOffice includes the Text box and Vertical Text icons in its Drawing toolbar by default. These need to be added through the Customize toolbar dialog.

Database

NeoOffice took the database application from LibreOffice, like its other applications, but it doesn’t have the ability to create a database. It can only open a local one or connect to one on a server.

When you select database from the New icon or File menu, a dialog appears and it says you can connect, open, or create a database through the wizard. However, the interface doesn’t have a way to create a database.

LibreOffice uses HSQL as its default engine.

Formula editor

Like the drawing applications, the formula editors for the two suites are identical. They can work as stand-alone applications or in conjunction with the other ones.

Document management

Both NeoOffice and LibreOffice give you access to all the applications and recent documents from an open document. You can create a new spreadsheet from a text document, and you can open the presentation for tomorrow’s meeting from the same text document.

NeoOffice, however, does not have a central document manager, like LibreOffice’s StartCenter. When you launch it, a new text document is opened. The software can be set to open a spreadsheet or new presentation when it is first launched, however.

For some this may be an advantage over LibreOffice. One less step that needs to be dealt with.

Many may prefer the StartCenter, especially if they spend an equal amount of time in spreadsheets and presentations as they do text documents.

LibreOffice StartCenter in Mac
LibreOffice has a document management app, called StartCenter, that NeoOffice doesn’t have. It is a central hub for creating new documents and accessing recently opened ones.

Remote storage

NeOffice save document to iCloud
In NeoOffice you can save documents to iCloud. It appears in the drop-down list when you save a document. This cannot be done in LibreOffice.

Both office suites can access the standard Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive folders that you set up on your Mac. Documents can be saved to them, and both can easily open documents stored in them.

However, if you use Apple’s iCloud server, only NeoOffice can save documents to it and open documents stored on it. LibreOffice users do not have the ability to save documents to or open them from iCloud through the suite.

LibreOffice has access to servers that are not available through NeoOffice. With version 5.1, LibreOffice added easy access to remote servers, like Google Drive and Microsoft Sharepoint, through the File menu in any one of its applications. The two items are Open Remote and Save Remote File.

They open a Remote Files dialog. Through it, you can access the following types of servers:

Remote Files access in LibreOffice
One of the features that LibreOffice has added in version 5.1 is easy access to remote storage and servers. In the File menu of any application click either Open Remote File or Save Remote File to connect to remote files.
  • Google Drive
  • OneDrive
  • Alfresco 4/5
  • IBM FileNet P8
  • IBM Connections Cloud
  • Lotus Quickr Domino
  • Nuxedo 5.4
  • OpenDataSpace
  • OpenText ELS 10.2.0
  • Sharepoint 2010
  • Sharepoint 2013
  • Other CMIS
  • WebDAV
  • FTP
  • SSH
  • Windows Share

Through Remote access, LibreOffice can access documents on these servers. The documents will not be dowloaded. They will remain on the servers.

NeoOffice unique features

NeoOffice has been designed to integrate with the Mac operating system more than LibreOffice. In addition to iCloud, it has the following features. The descriptions are taken from the NeoOffice Web site.

  • Versions:
    In OS X Lion, Apple added a feature called Versions that allows applications to save and restore previous versions of your document. Using this feature, saving a document causes Mac to keep a copy of your document before any changes are saved so that you can restore any of the previous versions of your document.The NeoOffice engineers have implemented this Mac feature and saving a file will automatically keep a copy of your document before any changes are saved. Also, by selecting NeoOffice’s “Browse All Versions” menu, you will be able to restore any of the previous versions of your document in Apple’s document version browser.
  • Native Mac text highlighting:
    NeoOffice draws highlighted text the same as Apple’s Safari and TextEdit applications. Recent versions of OpenOffice and LibreOffice attempt to emulate native Mac text highlighting by drawing a very light shade of the system highlight color on top of the highlighted text.However, many users have requested support for full native Mac text highlighting behavior in NeoOffice so we have rewritten the text highlighting code in NeoOffice’s underlying OpenOffice and LibreOffice code to draw highlighted text the same as Apple’s various Mac applications.
  • Native file locking to safely edit files in iCloud Drive, Dropbox, or network drives:
    Because Microsoft Office and iCloud Drive use Mac native file locking, NeoOffice also uses Mac native file locking to prevent a collision when NeoOffice, Microsoft Office, or iCloud Drive users on different computers save the same file simultaneously.
  • Support for Mac Services:
    In NeoOffice, many of the menus within the NeoOffice > Services menu will be enabled whenever you highlight data in your document. When you select any of the submenus in the NeoOffice > Services menu, the highlighted data will be sent to the Mac application that matches to the Services menu that you select. NeoOffice also supports Mac services that change the highlighted data in your document.
  • Native floating tool windows:
    In OpenOffice and LibreOffice, many floating tool windows such as the Styles and Formatting and the Color windows look and behave like document windows. Also, other floating tool windows such as the Bullets and Numbering and the Table windows look and behave like Windows floating tool windows.But in NeoOffice, all floating tool windows in NeoOffice will be native floating tool windows. This means that they will look and behave like floating tool windows in most other Mac applications.They will have the small window titlebar, all of the floating tool windows will float above the document windows, and when NeoOffice is not the active application, all of the floating tool windows will automatically be hidden until NeoOffice becomes the active application again.

Conclusion

Many toolboxes have more than one hammer and screwdriver. Perhaps every Mac should have more than one office suite.

LibreOffice and NeoOffice are very similar because they are designed from the same source code. However, there are key differences between the two that may make one better than the other in certain situations.

For example, someone who uses iCloud may prefer NeoOffice and use it to save documents to iCloud. They may use versions to retrieve older versions of a document that have content they want to reinsert in the updated version. However, when they are done they may need to save the document to a server hosted by the company they work for. They can do this through the Save Remote File item in LibreOffice’s File menu.

Someone, who mainly uses NeoOffice for working with text documents and spreadsheets, may need to create a database from time to time. He cannot do it in the current version of NeoOffice, so he must use LibreOffice Base.

For those that are not concerned about having an office suite that is integrated with the previous mentioned Mac services, may prefer to simply use LibreOffice. However, the additional fonts that are available out of box may make the $29.99 price tag worth it.

Both office suites can easily open and edit Microsoft Office, OpenDocument Format, as well as other formats. They also have features that iWork and Office 2016 for Mac do not have. Either one would be good to have in your toolbox of applications.

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