Office for Linux

Office suites are one of the biggest reasons why people are hooked to Microsoft Windows and refuse migrating to macOS or Linux. When I first talked about moving to Linux, I mentioned office apps as well. I am going to list a few more options for when you decide to make the move to Linux.

Is Microsoft Office available for Linux?

The short answer: partially.

The long answer: there is no native Microsoft Office app on Linux – yet. Because the market share of Linux is so small it probably isn’t worth Microsoft’s resources to maintain another version of their best-selling office suite. Microsoft even stopped providing MS Office for macOS in the past. There is Office on the Web, though. Office on the Web is Microsoft’s take in response to the widely popular Google Docs.

Office on the Web. Image from Wikipedia. Used with permission from Microsoft.

However, do note that the web apps provides fewer features compared to the desktop apps, so functions you love on the desktop app may not be available on the web version. It is completely free to use for everyone, and is included in all paid subscriptions to the Microsoft 365 service. You also cannot associate file types with Office on the Web (Not that I know of).

Are there alternatives?

Yes. And I am going to list a few of which I tried. They may not all look appealing but are all equally good for use as daily drivers.

Google Docs

Well, that should come with no surprise at all. Google Docs launched back in 2006, predating online collaborating office platforms nowadays. It is deeply integrated with Google Drive, provides basic word processing, spreadsheets and slideshows features for free to all Google accounts owner. Therefore it was very popular as a replacement to Office.

The downsides? Besides those of Office on the Web’s, not much. Google is known to scan users for malicious behaviours on Google Drive and Google Docs. You don’t really own your data with Google. Make your bet and pray your files are not locked when you need them most.

Office on the Web and Google Docs are both based on the Web, which means without internet connection, you cannot use them to process your documents. Google Docs does have Offline mode, but it requires the use of an extension exclusive to Chromium based browsers.

LibreOffice

LibreOffice is forked from another old, famous project OpenOffice.org(OOo). OOo was left behind following numerous dubious decisions made by both Sun and Oracle, and the majority of contributors founded The Document Foundation. LibreOffice was forked as a more libre alternative to OOo, and has thrived while OOo slowly died.

Screenshot of LibreOffice Calc from LibreOffice Screenshots. Permitted to redistribute under CC-BY-SA-3.0.

LibreOffice is a suite of native applications, thus you can associate related file types with the apps on Linux, just like how you did on Windows.

However, LibreOffice has a layout very close to Microsoft Office 2003 era apps. The options are tightly packed together and offer little categorization. It does have a more modern “ribbonized” layout, mimicking that of Office 2007’s ribbon interface. For those who are familiar with more recent Office products, they may find LibreOffice unappealing to their eyes.

WPS Office (WPS)

This is also a very popular office suite. It is close sourced, but is freely provided to individual users. It comes from the Chinese software developer Kingsoft.

WPS adopted interfaces closely resembling Microsoft Office since 2005. This is great because it means you can switch to WPS with virtually no efforts at all. It is also a complete office suite in the sense providing online collaborating platform, templates, as well as pdf reader and editor.

Keep in mind though, it comes from a Chinese developer, and is close sourced. Security of both the editor apps as well as their cloud platform cannot be easily audited. There is no guarantee whether confidential documents you edit in their apps and platforms are safe. Also, the free version is ad-supported, you need to subscribe to WPS Premium in order to enjoy VIP privileges, including ad removal.

OnlyOffice

OnlyOffice is a rather new candidate, their company was founded in 2009. Originally focused on online collaboration platform targeted at business users under the name Teamlab Office, the project is open sourced in 2014, and the developers shifted to an open source business model.

I mentioned in the Going Linux post I chose OnlyOffice in the end. There are a few reasons:

First, it is open source. Open source is very important as this will make sure the final product is auditable and contains no malicious codes. This also means more contributors, and possibly faster bug fixes.

Second, it is free, I am okay with paying but this is a huge plus. It offers both desktop editors and free, personal online cloud. There is also managed cloud service offer, they make money by offering managed services.

Third, great compatibility with Microsoft Office documents. Another major concern with alternatives is how much formatting retains when it loads a document created by MS Office, or the other way round. I did a small test with actual documents and discovered OnlyOffice outperformed WPS, LibreOffice and Google Docs. So I chose OnlyOffice over them.