OpenOffice, LibreOffice: why do they suck so much?

LibreOffice is a recent fork of OpenOffice, made to counter Oracle's mistreatment of the neat stuff they bought with Sun. Whatever Sun did or didn't do, its policy of openess is something so good and unique for a large company that I doubt we will see it again any time soon.

Anyway, LibreOffice has big plans. They are trying to set up a foundation to ensure resources and governance for future software development - which is a good thing, even great thing, and I hope they won't end up as some other foundations.

Update: I am not the only one who noticed OOo's buggyness and general suckage.


I am a daily user of OpenOffice, and I mean it literally. There is hardly a day when I don't use it for something and usually I have it opened at all times, working on one document or the other. I have been a daily user of OOo since the late 1.x versions so I've seen versions come and go with key features remaining unimplemented and ignored.

Here is, for example, a list of most wanted OOo features, maintained by the project itself. Note how many of the highly desired and literally easy to implement features are dated years ago, some even before OpenOffice has been called that! All these years users have gone unheard.

Here's a list of features I consider imporant based on my experiences with OOo and the above list (in order of importance):

  • Support for MS Office XML file formats. While ODF has been a great idea and I wish it happened earlier and ended up on top, I think it is time to admit that it has failed in practice and the dominant Office formats are .docx, .xlsx and other OOXML formats. Please bite the sour apple and implement full 1:1 support for OOXML formats, allowing document interchange between OpenOffice and the rest of the world. Please show that all that talk about open formats was not just empty rhetoric and that you value users above politics. The complexity of OOXML and the fact that it's in some points closely bound to MS Word, Excel, etc. behaviour cannot be an excuse since the same relation exists between ODF and OpenOffice (as is clearly demonstrated by there not being a single compliant implementation of ODF outside OOo, and even OOo uses plenty of extensions and "unspecified" behaviour").
  • Support for SVG import and export. It is the year 2011, and by its importance SVG is a format right up there with HTML (for which btw also isn't a decent full-format export filter!). SVG images are becoming not only standard but also popular. Having a decent support for SVG would allow, among other things, to use Inkscape (which is a very nice tool) for drawing illustrations for documents!
  • SQLIte for the  main database engine. The only reason a non-ACID, memory-only database engine written in Java (HSQLDB) was imported in OOo was that Sun wanted to justify the requirement for Java in OOo which would, presumably, make it more enterprisey. See how that worked: OOo Base is one of the most hated parts of OOo. SQLite is all HSQLDB isn't: ACID, small and portable to everything from Android to mainframes. As such, it is ubiqutous and has became a defacto standard for small databases everywhere. The SQLite engine around 500 KiB in size *alltogether*!
  • Java. Just throw it out. It was brought in for political reasons and has brought OOo only pain. Java as a scripting engine? Really, when Lua's interpreter is around 100 KiB in size. As a *requirement* for a *database engine*??? Really! That's ridiculous. Even nowadays I hear potential users (i.e. those who might use OOo but don't because of this and other reasons in this list) how they're avoiding OOo because "it's written in Java and it's slow", "it uses Java", etc. Seriously, just throw Java out and don't look back. It's a dark page in OOo's history and should be forgotten.
  • Multi-monitor support. A non-brainer: just do what MS Office does (especially in PowerPoint) and be done with it.
  • Finish the Bibliography tool. As a writer of scientific and technical documents, the Bibliography tool is simply one of the tools of the trade but I keep constantly running into its limitations: no import / export support (e.g. for BibTex), a funny table schema, hard or nonexistent ways to change / switch databases and absolutely *no* way to create new ones. And of course: no way to link in-document references to in-database references so that the database overrides document data (really, really needed as that's the point of having a database). The tool is not atrociously bad but is coming close to being so - it simply needs finishing.

I'm sure there are other bugs and wishes (I come across new ones almost every day,) but these I think are the key for making LibreOffice have any chance of being accepted by normal users.


#1 Re: OpenOffice, LibreOffice: why do they suck so much?

Added on 2011-02-17T09:05 by cronin

Use LaTeX.

#2 Re: OpenOffice, LibreOffice: why do they suck so much?

Added on 2011-02-18T00:34 by Ivan Voras

There is a tool for every job and Latex isn't it :) While it could possibly solve my bibliography problem, this stil leaves all of my intra and inter-office communication with people of whom 99%+ use MS Office, multi-monitor presentations (projector+laptop), and SVG.

#3 RE: #2

Added on 2011-02-18T13:37 by vermaden
LaTeX supports SVG including, but in a 'special' way, You just export SVG (for example in Inkscape) to PDF and You include that pdf as a image in LaTeX ... seems complicated but works very good. LaTeX is great for large documents, thesis, books, large documentations ... for everyday 1-2 page documents *Office is better/more suitable. I also have to 'work' with docx/xlsx documents at work, but I also need IE to access some pages (like KVM or SharePoint shit), so I just use Windows XP under VirtualBox ... and also MS Office there (rarely fortunately). OpenOffice sucked till I remember, in many ways, maybe LibreOffice change that ... probably it dont, time will tell. I am curious how IBM Lotus Symphony works, looks quite nice on the screenshots ...

#4 IBM Lotus Symphony

Added on 2011-02-21T13:45 by Fabien Briffod

Did anyone who likes OpenOffice or LibreOffice ever take some time to try IBM Lotus Symphony (based on OpenOffice)?!??

Except the user interface that is quite different and the fact that you like it or not, what really surprised me is the MUCH BETTER support for MS Office Word document and rendering with IBM Lotus Symphony.

For "complex" Word documents with header, footer, tables, etc., OpenOffice and LibreOffice failed to render the documents correctly and, to some extent, the rendering is very bad. This makes these products not a real alternative for MS Office, unfortunately (and trust me, I like OpenOffice / LibreOffice !)

I invite any OpenOffice/LibreOffice lover to try IBM Lotus Symphony! http://symphony.lotus.com/

I am working personally with very complex MS Office document that were rendering awfully in OpenOffice and LibreOffice and make them just unusable. With IBM Lotus Symphony, the rendering is "perfect", I didn't notice any difference compared to MS Office!

#5 Re: IBM Lotus Symphony

Added on 2011-02-28T04:57 by Pikachu

To Fabien Brifford....

Yes...you are right about OpenOffice / Libre Office when reading MS File....Totally Sucks.....So right now i'm looking for portable version of Lotus Symphony....

Thanx for your info....

#6 Re: OpenOffice, LibreOffice: why do they suck so much?

Added on 2011-02-28T12:32 by Arnaud Gomes

I'm pretty much convinced the reasons why OOo sucks are much more profound than just a list of bugs, however important.

I have only used OOo Writer so I can't really speak about the other parts of the suite. Anyway, designing it as a clone of MS Word (or Wordperfect, or whatever) kind of makes sense from a marketing point of view, but it just means we get yet another text processing tool, not really better than the alternatives (not really worse either, actually). In fact I get the impression that the tool has been designed for selling, not for using.

In fact, from my experience, good software must be designed by its users. "I want to do this, that way" may work. "Let's clone this" definitely does not.

#7 Re: OpenOffice, LibreOffice: why do they suck so much?

Added on 2011-02-28T12:42 by Ivan Voras

In an ideal world, sure. However, producing a long-term, ideal system (or an application) is definitely *not* one of the strenghts of Open Source. See Hurd, the thousand slightly incompatible dialects of Lisp, even Linux and FreeBSD (for different reasons) - there is simply not enough voluntary resources to make a clear vision possible, and like it or not, a clear and strong vision is needed. And there need to be resources behind this vision to pay developers to do it, because a single developer or a small group of enthusiastic developers simply cannot self-sufficiently create such a complex system.

But even that is not of the top importance. The most important thing *now* is to have a tool which works, and can do (in whatever way, in whatever user interface or paradigm) things that people need to do. This list is a list of features that I want to do but cannot - there are others but these are important to me, and no change of paradigm, user interface or any other high-level thing will "fix" things that I cannot do.

#8 ODF format

Added on 2011-02-28T14:52 by Michael W Lucas

Publishers and physical book manufacturers have adopted ODF in a big way. Some publishers work entire books in ODF, from the author writing the book to the editors to page formatting. Some web presses can even take raw ODF and use it to produce a book.


So, the format hasn't failed.

#9 Bibliographic

Added on 2011-06-01T13:12 by Morten Juhl-Johansen Zölde-Fejér

I completely agree that the bibliography manager is such a promising tool but not very well executed. I love the idea that it is there, but I never managed to make it fly. While wiriting my thesis I tried to use it, but it just fell flat, and I ended up doing it manually instead. Nowadays with the integration of Zotero, I would probably have used that.

A thing I find unimpressive is the graphics. It actually does present a clipart gallery, but all the graphics are useful for is creating a website from the heyday of Netscape.

#10 a list of most wanted OOo features...

Added on 2011-06-01T17:22 by Mike Linksvayer

...that link only points to the LO home page.

I've been a regular user of Star/Open/LibreOffice since at least 1998. I never say they "suck" as I'm mostly appreciative that they work well enough for me to get work done without using Windows or Mac.

That said, I agree with most of your important features, especially the first two.

I think the long term prospects of ODF are very good. But good support for OOXML is independent of that. MSFT seems to have successfully transitioned most people to its products which save in .docx et al by default, such that in the past year or so most "documents" sent to me are OOXML, not the MS97/2000 .doc et al format that OOo/LO handles nearly perfectly. Viewing comments in .docx doesn't really work in OOo/LO, though this is partially fixed in soon to be released LO 3.4 https://bugs.freedesktop.org/show_bug.cgi?id=34489

Poor support of OOXML makes OOo/LO (and thus free software desktop generally) difficult to use and recommend. As long as this is the case, OOo/LO is a weak vector for ODF adoption -- superior OOXML support for ODF world liberation! I'm serious.

#11 LibreOffice Wiki Links

Added on 2011-06-04T07:08 by LeMoyne
The TDF Wiki 'basic stuff that should get in soon' list: http://wiki.documentfoundation.org/Development/Really_basic_missing_features_and_enhancements (I pushed your Biliography list there with a backlink :-) and "This is about some fine piece of vaporware..." http://wiki.documentfoundation.org/Development/LibreOffice4

#12 We should let it die

Added on 2011-06-28T06:06 by mardi

IMO, Open/LibreOffice has become even more bloated and unreliable. What a complete mess. I know good people dedicated countless hours developing it but my god... I can actually state that using WinME was more stress-free than using OOo/LO.

The only reason it's still around is because its seen as the only alternative to MS Office.


The community and contributors should let it die. Move on to other clean, leaner projects that need their skills. Tacking on features to it is like upgrading the Titanic.

#13 superior OOXML support for ODF world liberation!

Added on 2011-07-27T12:10 by Gilles L.

I totally agree with that. Reality is MSOffice is the de facto standard. This mean a lot of people use it. It's not because of software politics or ideology that they do so, it just because this software's history (this means, features, commecial strategy, competitors, innovation, etc.) made it like that. So today it's a tool good enough for most people to build their documents, and to exchange them with others. I am not saying it's better or worse than other, I am just saying "this is reality".

I really want to use more OpenOffice, and three years ago when I bought a new computer, I didn't install MSO (for the first time since a decade). But most people around me keep using it of course, and it's really painfull to exchange document with them.

Today I am looking for an alternative to OO because of that (and also because of all the little silly bugs that happen when editing a document). May be I'll go to Symphony since I have read several times it's more compliant with MSO. And I hope that LibreOffice will benefit soon from these improvments...

#14 Re: superior OOXML support for ODF world liberation!

Added on 2011-08-05T05:13 by Great toa nui

Perhaps it IS worth getting good old ms products.

#15 Re: why do they suck so much

Added on 2011-08-10T15:56 by Simon

Amen to "finish the bibliography tool". Unbelievably, this crucial tool is still in the same pathetic state, despite its inadequacies having been identified years ago and a team allegedly working on fixing it. All it needs is a couple of dialogs and changes of data types so that we can configure our own reference styles etc. Even just proper integration with Base would be enough (i.e. using a Libre/Openoffice Base file for the references instead of forcing everything into the bibliography tool's useless configuration). Unfortunately, as badly as Writer sucks, Abiword and Kword suck far more: at least Writer does a decent job with large documents and import/export of MS Word files. A fixed-at-last bibliographic tool would make Writer worth sticking with; otherwise, the second either Abiword or Kword becomes competent with large documents and Word documents, I'll be ditching this bloated mess.

#16 Re: why do they suck so much

Added on 2011-11-09T16:08 by Björn

Wouldn't using either Zotero or Mendeley solve your problems with the bibliography tool? (both have plug-ins for Libreoffice)

IMHO Libreoffice isn't that bad! I have been using OpenOffice/Libreoffice on my private laptop for a couple of years now and have had minimal problems - except with powerpoint/impress.

#17 Re: why do they suck so much

Added on 2011-11-13T10:39 by wannabe
Looking for free alternatives MS Office ? And OpenOffice & LibreOffice still sucks ? Well, you should try Kingsoft Office 2012.....

#18 Re: why do they suck so much

Added on 2011-11-27T01:25 by bear

I use a wordprocessor many hours every day and i used to be quitr satissfied wirh oo. But lately oo and libre have become a complete nightmare. i then tried abiword, lyx and other, status is there is not a wordprocessor that works for linux at the moment (maybe latex does but its not really suitable for my production of a large number of smaller texts). I am suprised that nobody else have been mentioning it, so much that I have begun start wondering whether no other profesionel writers are using linux. Anyway this issue have slowly completely unravelled my world. After being a hardcore supporter of linux for the last four yeas, I am looking at intalling windows again. I am just tired of the level of the software. Saying that libre is as good as word or Gimp as good as Photoshop is just ridiculous. It seems to me that using linux on the desktop has to be rethought. This whole thing saddens me a bit because with the financial crisis and the many living with a lot less wealth than we in the west, foss is not a nice lifestyle, it is a matter of being able to participate in the modern world for a lot of people. Still knowing this I am now leaving ship. Not really proud of it, but I just need the basic stuff to work, and the truth is, that writing on office, just give me more basic comfort and joy, and I can afford it. I just feel I leave a lot of people behind with this choice of mine

#19 Re: why do they suck so much

Added on 2011-12-05T11:47 by Pikachu

Try Kingsoft Office 2012 ( Free Edition )....for me its perfect alternatives of Microsoft Office....

#20 Re: why do they suck so much

Added on 2012-06-08T07:07 by Tony

I am working on a document with Libreoffice. Everything was ok until I added a png image from a file. It seemed like it added it ok, then I closed the doc. Later, when I re-opened it, Libreoffice about locked my machine up. This doesn't say much for LIbreoffice or Fedora 16, which let a process bring it to its knees.

So, I downloaded OpenOffice. Of course, I got bitten by the LibreOffice-OfficeOffice feud, and could not install OO because it conflicted with the LIbreOffice ure package. So, I uninstalled LibreOffice and installed OO. With OO I was able to open the doc fine. I deleted the image, did a save as, and then could open the doc again in LibreOffice on another machine. LibreOffice can't seem to handle the image.

But if I use another office suite, I blow compatibility with everyone at work, because they use Libre. Tried Symphony, it won't even run. I guess I will need to try to resize the image or something until LIbre can handle it.

All commonly used word processors SUCK if you try to do ANYTHING beyond the simple.

#21 Re: why do they suck so much

Added on 2012-06-08T07:35 by Tony

I changed the image to a jpeg and Libre can handle it now. Can't handle png images I guess. SUCK!

#22 Re: why do they suck so much

Added on 2012-07-01T06:20 by gyprat

Apache OpenOffice 3.4 and Libreoffice both suck. They are unstable with large databases. OpenOffice 3.3 does not have this problem.

#23 @21

Added on 2012-10-16T18:39 by Michael

Yes LibreOffice sucks big time.

@21 funny thing is I can import PNG, but not any JPG's. The previous version of OpenOffice with which I included the JPG's can.

#24 #24 Re: why do they suck so much

Added on 2012-10-16T18:41 by Michael

btw: Before going to OO/LO I've been using Microsoft Office for 10+ years and still use Office 2010 occassionally, however I have to use LO daily. Before switching to OO I thought MS Office sucks, but OO/LO prove me wrong!

#25 ODF support in MS Office

Added on 2012-10-31T11:07 by jpeg729

Did you know?

MSOffice 2010 allows you to choose the default format to save documents in - either OOXML or ODF.

Nobody does choose ODF though, but it was nice of them to propose it.

#26 Re: ODF support in MS Office

Added on 2013-07-16T02:46 by Bob Thompson

Can anyone tell me if there is a way to format a date in LibreOffice Base? I searched and searched, wasting over an hour of my precious time trying to figure out it. Being able to format a date is something basic and fundamental. A database that can't do that truly and honestly SUCKS.

In Oracle: Select to_char(sysdate, 'yyyymmdd') from dual;

In Microsoft Access: Select format(Now, 'mm/dd/yyy');

In LibreOffice Base ????????????

#27 Re: ODF support in MS Office

Added on 2013-10-16T19:31 by Annette Gustafson

There is a reason that this is free. It is horrible. Cuttin and pasting is a nightmare. There is no functionality--maybe for a four year old.

Again, there is a reason it is free. NO ONE WOULD PAY FOR THIS CRAP........

#28 Re: ODF support in MS Office

Added on 2013-11-14T09:34 by Mincho

I'd suggest that we wait for Microsoft to implement OOXML in the way it is standartized, then make libre/open office implement same standard. But when MS themselves cannot implement the standard for so many years, then who is to blame? That libre office has difficulties to read all the variations MS has in each MS office version?

#29 Your wishes mostly came true

Added on 2014-01-24T12:29 by RSeuhs

Now, in 2014, your main requests have been implemented:

- SVG support is available

- Java has been AFAIK thrown out and is only still there fore some legacy things

- SQlite is available

- Multimonitor support works for presentations

The only thing that will never get fixed is perfect docx support - but since even Microsoft can't do it, that seems impossible.

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