Tom graduated from university with a degree in graphics design, and finding a full-time job was difficult. He had to take a job creating technical manuals for an appliance manufacturer. This job was through a temp agency.
His cubicle was in the basement of the office, and he was given a 10-year old computer, running Windows XP with the standard Microsoft apps minus a copy of Office. The IT department sees Tom as a low priority, so they have taken there time upgrading his computer.
Tom cannot use his own computer because he is required to save documents to the in-house servers that the XP machine is connected to. This problem would have frustrated most workers adapting to the professional world for the first time.
However, Tom ran into a similar issue at school. He had to complete various projects for classes, but he did not always have access to a computer with graphics design software, such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, and Microsoft Office.
He learned to always carry a USB stick with LibreOffice, Gimp, Inkscape, and other open-source applications he downloaded from PortableApps.com. These apps run on Windows operating systems without needing to be installed on them.
This means that, in most cases, an adminastrator's password is not required to use the software. A user can go from computer to computer and use the applications on the USB stick.
Tom’s experience highlights a difference in the flexibility of LibreOffice and Microsoft Office.
Microsoft’s applications work on smartphones and tablets, and users also have access to an online version. This allows them to edit a spreadsheet or other type of document while riding on a train or bus. If they have to use a desktop that does not have Office installed, they can access their documents through office.com and continue to work on them.
However, there are several issues here.
Syncing Office documents among mobile devices, an office.com server, and the Office software running on a worker’s PC at his desk requires OneDrive or a SharePoint server. Many times businesses do not use SharePoint servers. They install Office on workers’ computers and use another service on their servers.
In Tom’s situation, it wouldn’t matter if the company he is working at has SharePoint or OneDrive. The IT department has not yet worked with him, so he doesn’t have a Microsoft account with the company. He can’t access work documents through any of his personal devices or through a Web browser.
The other issue is that the Microsoft applications that run on mobile devices and the cloud do not have the features the that the Windows version of Office has. They also don’t have the features that LibreOffice has.
This means that workers, like Tom, who need to perform more complex tasks would need a more robust set of applications than what Microsoft created for devices and the cloud.
LibreOffice’s flexibility allows Tom, and workers like him, to have the same features and apps, regardless of the operating system he is working on.
Since the suite is open source, programmers, who are interested in different operating systems, have been able to make it run on just about every desktop operating system, and they have given those instances to the general public. Windows, Mac, Linux, and BSD users can install and run LibreOffice thanks to them, and all the users have the same features and applications.
A group of programmers has taken the source code and created the portable Windows instance described above. It can be run from any external drive or cloud service. The users of it have the same features and applications as those who install the suite.
This means that workers who need to perform more complex office suite tasks can do them, even if they don’t have access to regular work computers, or they are given work computers with inadequate software.
Microsoft has embraced cloud and mobile computing with its latest versions of its applications. Businesses around the world can integrate them into their systems to make workers more productive and more mobile.
The same is true for LibreOffice. It also can be integrated into a business’s system. There is an online instance of the suite, and there are Android and iOS applications that are compatible with it.
The advantage in flexibility LibreOffice has over Microsoft is that it can often work in spite of a business system. It gives workers who are not fully integrated into a business system tools to perform complex tasks. It also allows them to perform those tasks when they have to work from different locations.