Flexibility is important when it comes to technology. It is more than applications that are user-friendly. A flexible application allows the user to work where he wants and how he wants.
The two applications covered in this blog, LibreOffice and Microsoft Office, are both flexible. They are flexible in different ways, however.
Microsoft Office’s applications work on Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and there are versions that can be accessed through a Web browser. Documents created on an Office application on one of these platforms can be edited on another.
Someone can create a Word on Windows while sitting in front of his desktop computer at work. He can then edit the document on his iPhone, while waiting in line to order a cheeseburger. When he gets to night school, he can log on to his Microsoft account through Firefox on a public computer and make further edits before class starts.
This is Office’s flexibility. A user can edit a document on just about every device he has access to. However, the person cannot use every feature and application on every device.
There are some things that can be done on the Windows version of Office that cannot be done on the Mac, mobile, or Web versions of the software. An Access database can only be edited on a Windows computer, for example.
Microsoft making applications that are not equal on every platform limits their flexibility.
LibreOffice is a non-profit, open-source project that has thousands of volunteers who have made the suite run on almost every operating system. This includes Windows, Mac, and just about every Linux distro.
The office suite can be installed and run natively on these operating systems. Each instance of an installed version has the same features and capabilities, regardless of the operating system.
For example, version 6.0 running on Ubuntu and Fedora has the same applications and features as version 6.0 running on Windows 10. A user can create a database with Base on a Windows computer at work and save it to a cloud folder, like Dropbox. When he gets home, he can open and edit that database on his Ubuntu computer.
In addition to instances that can be installed, LibreOffice is also a portable app. This means that that it can be stored and run from a USB stick, external hard drive, or cloud drive and run without being installed on a particular computer. It can be taken from computer to computer and run.
The instance is made to run on Windows computers. It will run on any office or school computer, so users can take both documents and applications to any computer they are working on. This is useful for those who often work on different computers.
While LibreOffice does not yet have applications running on mobile devices, users can edit with other applications, including Office ones. They will run into the same hinderances that those who create documents on the Windows version of Office run into.
Equality on different operating systems is not the only way LibreOffice, is flexible, however. LibreOffice is an open-source application, so users are not forced to wait for official releases of LibreOffice through libreoffice.org.
Users can change and add features as desired, or they can hire someone to do it for them. The official releases are important, and the Document Foundation needs to continually improve the software, but unlike with Microsoft applications, it is not the only way to progress.
Office users always have to wait for Microsoft to develop new features and new applications for the suite.
The last article on this blog discussed how LibreOffice Impress lacked the ability to export a presentation to a video format without a plugin. A programmer created the plugin and released it. The plugin was created for OpenOffice, but it still works in LibreOffice because the two suites have common source code. He did not have to wait for the Apache Foundation or the Document Foundation to officially release the plugin.
Programmers can download the source code and make changes to it, so LibreOffice has new features. Like the “official” versions of LibreOffice, the modified versions can be distributed freely and installed on an unlimited number of computers.
From libreoffice.org, the source code can be downloaded from the Download page. Most programmers will edit the code in an integrated development environment application.
Flexibility means an application is available on as many platforms as possible, and it can be changed to meet the user’s needs.
Both Microsoft Office and LibreOffice offer users flexibility. However, since LibreOffice works equally well on just about every operating system and it is open-source, it is more flexible than Office.
LibreOffice has been designed to run natively on Windows, Mac, and almost every Linux distro. There are also versions for BSD and other operating systems. In addition to being installed on multiple operating systems, it can be stored on an external drive and run on multiple computers.
It also can be modified by downloading the source code and making changes to it. Desired features can be added and the “new” versions can be distributed to as many people and computers as desired.
While not everyone has the ability to modify it or hire someone to do it, the ability to modify it and distribute the modification freely exists. This means that if something is missing in the versions released through libreoffice.org, there is always a chance someone has released a plugin or modified version with the desired feature.
Microsoft may have more money and paid manpower to dedicate to Office, but it does not give one person the ability to change the software on a whim and share the changes with countless others.