LibreOffice experience

We’ve been running LibreOffice on our Citrix clinical desktop environment for about 18 months now. If you want to garner some feedback from clinicians, I’d be happy to organise a questionnaire. In some ways you’d think they wouldn’t have a need for office apps, but it turns out clinicians keep a horde of Word and Excel documents (that should really be in a clinical system, but that’s a different battle).

They also use LibreOffice for reviewing letters generated by the BigHand dictation system.

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This is really helpful to know, @jlscott

Much of the feedback we’ve had about NHSbuntu has been along the lines of ‘users will reject LibreOffice - it’s not good enough’ so it’s nice to know you have a good amount of experience of LibreOffice and have integrated it with BigHand etc.

Would you consider pinging out a message to your users asking them to let us know about their LibreOffice experiences here on the open NHSbuntu forum? Some of them may be interested in the wider NHSbuntu mission themselves.


Are you able to create a SurveyMonkey questionnaire? We can get this sent around to our user base and their responses will be directly available to you.

Kind Regards,


Hi Jason - would love to get some more details and possibly connect you to another terminal-server deployment in the NHS, any chance of a mail: ? =) Thanks !.

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Libreoffice is the bees knees and should have been set as the default as all other top Linux distros do. Those who want to catch up open a terminal then type sudo apt-get install libreoffice. You should then find it in the your software package. Then right click and save to your desktop and again to your panel.

I switched from Microsoft on both my desktop and laptop nearly two years ago and moved to Ubuntu and I certainly would not move back. However, I have to say I have struggled with Libre Office which I’ve found clunky and flakey.

The developers seem not to agree if they are trying to clone MS Office or build a better office suite - This makes for confusion, in places it works just like Office in others it’s completely different. Generally, file compatibility is fine between MS and Libre Office, but not perfect particularly between Powerpoint and Impress and like it or not we can’t escape the need to work with Office users.

My biggest complaint is that after some hours/days of use it grinds to a halt with delays of many seconds between key-input and response making it quite unusable without rebooting my machine - I suspect memory leaks. I leave my desktop machine running all the time and those who don’t may not see this problem but nothing else I run makes me reboot.

I’m very committed to open source and really wanted to make Libre Office work for me. By and large, I’ve moved to Google Apps, but when I need to use a traditional office suite I spin up a VM. I’d be very wary of trying to move MS Office Users to Libre Office unless you want a lynch mob on your tail.


That exactly mirrors the last experience I had with LibreOffice. Those who know me know I am a big advocate for open formats and anti- tool lock-in. When I last used LibreOffice seriously about 3 years ago, I found it was pretty buggy, but my overriding feeling was exactly what Ewan says here: why are these guys trying to make the tool look like Word (Powerpoint, …)? Why not make a well-designed tool that just knows how to interoperate with the same file formats as MS Office (or at least the standardised export formats)?

One thing this illustrates is that being open source doesn’t guarantee common sense in development (witness the KDE/Gnome wars…) - something more is needed. The level of bugs tells me that something is probably missing in terms of clean architecture and componentisation.

I don’t know what the way out of this is - but at some point one would have to ask the question: could an NHS fork of LibreOffice make sense, in order to clean it up? The amount of work to do so might well be too great to contemplate, and perhaps a clean ground up build with bits of LibreOffice plugged in might be possible.

The other way to look at this is for the procurement side to just say to MS (sometime in the future, after having started a move to desktop Linux): make Office work on Linux, stick to our NHS list of standard open file formats, or else we’re done here.

Well three years is a long time. Libreoffice now has no bugs I use it all the time.

I have used Libreoffice at home since it was launched, and OpenOffice before that. I rarely have problems. There are advantages (many) and disadvantages (few) compared to MS Office.
There is one form I have to fill in at work once per year which very prissily controls the character count on every field. I really have to do that in MS Office for safety. I regard that as poor form design (it would be better as a web submission)
At work, I use Libreoffice to open old versions of MS Word documents which newer versions won’t open - at least won’t open without some registry hack.
I prefer the cleaner interface of Libreoffice to the horrible ribbon in more recent Word versions.
It’s rare that I have compatability or format issues between the two. MS’s recent messing with fonts is an irritation that can be by-passed easily enough.
I often have to teach colleagues how to use a word processor properly, but those are generic issues not related to Word of LO. (Styles, templates, horizontal layout etc). I have never found anyone who could use Word but not LO.

@wolandscat: If you have time to do some coding, don’t fork LibreOffice, contribute to it.

@bscho - that’s great to know that it has gotten better, especially as my own MS Office (from previous company) licence is about to evaporate. Back to LibreOffice then…

@AFowle - the idea of forking should only be seriously entertained when the current team’s idea of architecture and methods can be significantly improved upon, but the existing components are decent enough to use. It sounds as if LibreOffice isn’t in that category, which is good.

But the general point remains: I think that for any tool that would be useful for the NHS, but its current development isn’t going the right way, noone should be afraid of forking either, as long as it’s done consciously and carefully and with full knowledge of the consequences.

Large government linux migrations like Barcelona recently announced always start by migrating to LibreOffice. This gives users the opportunity to learn about open-source and build confidence in it without abandoning their comfortable MS Windows environment.

LibreOffice 6 has just been released. Will download it today, but I’ve been using earlier versions almost exclusively for a decade now without major problems.

Was they survey of existing LibreOffice NHS users ever done? I think it would be useful.

It works great for me. Please download from and check how it works with your documents/spreadsheets. In general it has excellent support for MS Office documents, spreadsheets and presentation files.

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thanks a lot, will try this out. do you have experience with it? was wondering if i can ask you questions in case something is going to be unclear for me.

Also, and are great for simple usages. They are both lightweight / snappy / simple / FOSS.

-Matthew Vita

With all due respect to Abiword and Gnumeric, these projects no longer have enough developer interest to even produce MS Windows binaries for download. In practical terms, that makes it almost impossible to plan a migration away from MS Office using these. The basic requirement for migration in every case I’ve seen is the existence of identically-functioning MS Windows and Linux binaries to allow users a chance to get used to the new software in their familiar MS Windows environment before transitioning to Linux.

These projects have for all intents and purposes been replaced by LibreOffice. It’s unfortunate (I used both for years before LibreOffice), but it’s the reality.

All fair points, but I think these projects will be around for as long as they keep the features slim and simple, relative to LibreOffice. There is an audience for that - but you’re correct in that the interest is mostly with LibreOffice these days!

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I’ll say what I always said when confronted with the ballpark cost of the old MS Enterprise-Wide Agreement the NHS had in place - the LibreOffice project would wet their pants with joy to receive even a few percent of that amount as contributions in cash or manpower, which would probably constitute a large fraction or even a multiple of their entire dev budget - any such contribution would permit very strong influence on the direction of the project.

MS software licenses covering a potential 1.2M users make a big, fat, single line-item in the budget. It attracts attention. Which is, I suspect, one of the reasons MS cancelled the EWA, what with all the noises about open formats and software the Cabinet Office were making at the time. With the license costs scattered across all the trusts it’s a much less tempting target.

Still holds, of course, even for little things ; I used to think that the 7-zip guys would be similarly delighted to receive 10% of the 5-figure sum I heard was paid for WinRAR licenses (7-zip IMHO being a superior product, despite being FOSS). There’s probably a viable business in just providing 3rd line support for open-source utilities to assuage the nerves of corporate/org buyers.


I switched from Apache OO to LibreOffice on my NHS device a few years ago and have seen a steady improvement in stability. Yes it does occasionally lock up, usually when trying to do complex file format interchanges, but so does MS Word. Version 6.x has been out for a while and has been rock solid for me. Agree entirely with Adrian that there should be some central impetus to drive migration from MS - even if it’s just for the 90-10 or 80-20 users.
Do we even still need an Office Suite for some users ??

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