I work in a big company and one of my daily work companion is MS Office, in particular Excel. They also had me do a course on Power Pivot.

If you don’t know, Power Pivot is a tool introduced starting from Office 2010 allowing to manage data in Excel and create Pivot tables taking data coming from several sources. If you’re familiar with relational databases, you have already guessed where I’m going to. Excel’s Power Pivot lets you manage data like a SQL database without having the SQL infrastructure installed on your PC. It’s very useful, it has a lot of potential, even though excel files can become outrageously heavy and you need a Xeon CPU just to add one column in a reasonable time.

Anyway, Excel is commercial and proprietary software, you have to pay for it and you can appreciate its plus only when you heavily use it, in all its advanced feature. Pivot table are one of them, at work for me they are vital.

Since I’m used to twiddle with pivot tables, I’ve tried to use one of them in the spreadsheet I use to register all my expenses with Libreoffice.

The result is wretched. The way Libreoffice Calc handles pivot table is so primitive, so complicated, I was scared. You can have a sort of Power Pivot feature but you must go through Libreoffice Base. Also, Libreoffice Calc does not recognise tables when you format an array as table, so that if you add another row and that array is unfortunately linked to another table, you will need to fix the link with your own two hands.

I know, it’s FOSS, but during my years of experience with Linux and open source softwares I’ve run into plenty of wonderful and powerful free softwares. Though, Libreoffice has a long way to become a sensible alternative to Microsoft Office if you need it to work. If you use it to do simple things, Calc is perfect, but if you want more, you’ll be strongly disappointed.

I think that with Libreoffice the devs and the community have lost their bearings. A software is not effective if it has a nice UI; on the other hand, in my opinion, a free software is really effective if it provides with all the basic features I need plus some advanced features for working environments. I’m not saying that Libreoffice calc should draw maps starting from a pivot table but at least it should handle them in a sensible way. Improving Libreoffice is not just adding a clone of the ribbon UI like MS Office. Improving Libreoffice should mean add all the features you need to work with it. Don’t be surprised if public administrations ditch FOSS for MS Office: it’s a great defeat for the FOSS movement.

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3 thoughts on “Have you ever tried to work with Libreoffice?

  1. While LibreOffice doesn’t meet all the strange end use cases a small number of users might have, licencing MS Office across a business of 1000s so that one or two people can use pivot tables (as an example) is just crazy.

    For the vast majority of people LibreOffice is more than capable and in my experience easier to use with a more consistent experience for the end user.

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    1. Unfortunately, what the author is describing is fantastically far from a “strange end use case[s]”.
      Excel is an all-singing-all-dancing-swiss-army-knife-when-you-need hammering power drill, machete, scalpel, angle grinder, and chainsaw.
      That’s the facts of the matter.
      Calc has massively improved, but, as we see here, it is still missing a few features.

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