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Not Just Microsoft Office

Official Description

Microsoft Office is the leading suite of office applications - for text, spreadsheet, presentation and database. But LibreOffice is a popular, practical and free (open source) alternative. This two-hour class will explore the open source alternatives to Microsoft Office. You should learn enough to decide whether or not one of the alternatives is right for you.

Prerequisite: Basic familiarity with Microsoft Office
Dates: Oct. 8 and again on Oct. 10
Time: Tuesday, 10:00 a.m. – 11:55 a.m.
Location: VIC 607A
Instructor: Bob Fabian

Expanded Description

Many, many people now use Microsoft Office for all of their standard office tasks. Word oriented people can spend much of their day working within MS Word, and financial types can spend a similar fraction of their time working within MS Excel. Many presentations use MS PowerPoint. It often seems as though Microsoft Office is the only option.

That's not true - there were always options. Today, the big open source option is what used to be OpenOffice. It started a number of years ago as a program called StarOffice from Germany. Its authors saw the handwriting on the wall and decided to make it an open source application – anyone was free to use and/or modify the program. For several years, the successor program was just called OpenOffice.

But there was a falling out of those contributing to the OpenOffice application. There was a “fork”, with LibreOffice and OpenOffice the two most visible successors to the original open source project. The two suites of office applications are today still nearly equivalent, with LibreOffice having somewhat wider support and OpenOffice also available in a for-fee version from Oracle.

This two-hour LIFE Institute session will mostly provide an interactive exploration of LibreOffice. There is an interesting word-oriented alternative that may be worth considering, at least for certain purposes. AbiWord is much less grand – it just does word processing. It's open source, and availble for use at no cost. It will do mail merge, but does not provide a background programming language. And it's not nearly as extensive or customizable as is LibreOffice (or Microsoft Office).


Step one is to obtain your own copy of LibreOffice. Go to www.libreoffice.org and download a copy appropriate for your machine (Windows, Mac, Linux, 32-bit, 64-bit, or PortableApps). Install as required by your operating system. You're all set. All you need do is begin the process of mastering that portion of LibreOffice that's important for you. I use Writer frequently, Calc ocassinally, Impress less frequently, and the other applications almost never.

Extensive documentation is available online. The full Getting Started user manual provides a 400-page introduction, and there are similarly sized user manuals for each of the LibreOffice applications. There is also a short, 18-page Introducing LibreOffice. But if you have some familarility with MS Office, it's reasonable to just jump in.

Let's begin …

What are your questions and concerns?


Bob Fabian was the first Chair of Computer Science at York (1971-76) and is now retired after a career as a consultant, manager, and academic. Computers and computing were always an important aspect of his professional work.

Copyright © 2013-2017. Creative Commons

May 6 – June 10 (6 sessions) Time: Wednesdays, 10:10 a.m. – 11:55 a.m. Location