In the beginning there was a fork: After the takeover of Sun by Oracle, the future of the free office suite Open Office, which had emerged from the proprietary StarOffice, was in the stars. No wonder the LibreOffice fork quickly became standard on Ubuntu (and other Linux distributions). This has not changed, although OpenOffice continues to be developed as an Apache project as well. That kind of diversity is typical of the open source scene. As always in such cases, however, the question must be allowed why the wheel has to be invented twice instead of working together on a powerful alternative to Microsoft Office.
Since version 6, which was released on January 31, 2018, the ribbons copied from Microsoft Office, called notebook bar in LibreOffice land, have also been successively implemented in all program parts. Since version 7.1, there is a configuration dialog for this during the initial installation. In older program versions, you have to activate the notebook bar manually. First, the experimental functions must be enabled via Tools > Options > Advanced, which requires a restart of LibreOffice. Then, under View > Tab Views, the new Notebook bar option is selectable. The classic menu can additionally be shown by selecting the Menu Bar option in the hamburger menu at the top right.
With version 7.1 released on February 3, the Document Foundation, which is the entity behind LibreOffice, started a new release policy. The old distinction between “still” (stable) and “fresh” editions was dropped. Instead, there is a community and an enterprise edition – one for personal use, the other for corporate customers including support. However, the functionality of the office suite should always remain the same – whether for private users or paying customers.
LibreOffice can be installed directly from Ubuntu’s package sources, but is only in the community repository Universe, so it is not one of the programs officially maintained by Canonical. To get Libreoffice fully working in your language of choice, you also require packages for dictionary, thesaurus, hyphenation. Here is an example for the German language:
sudo apt install libreoffice-l10n-en libreoffice-help-de hunspell-de-frami hyphen-de mythes-de
The package libreoffice-gtk3 (or predecessor libreoffice-gtk2) provides integration into desktops with the GTK toolkit, such as Xfce/Xubuntu. For Gnome one installs libreoffice-gnome accordingly. For KDE there is libreoffice-kde5 or libreoffice-kde4 depending on the desktop version.
Since LibreOffice is constantly updated, you may not always get the latest version from Ubuntu, like, for example, version 7 of LibreOffice did not make it into Ubuntu 20.04. In such casest may be worthwhile to get the latest version via LibreOffice Fresh PPA, which is first mounted as follows:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:libreoffice/ppa sudo apt update
New LibreOffice versions are also officially available as snap or flatpak.
Help and Documentation
LibreOffice has received a revised online help with version 6.1. In addition, a number of application manuals are available for download, some of which are outdated. The shining exception is the LibreOffice Writer Guide, which has been updated for version 6, but for now only in English. On the German documentation page, you can get an overview of the status of the translations and read them, of course.
Equally open source is Open Office – see above. A commercial, continuously developed office suite for Windows, Mac and Linux (including .deb packages) is Softmaker Office; the professional version comes with Duden corrector software. There is also a stripped-down free variant called FreeOffice. OnlyOffice is a cloud application whose open-source, free community edition can be installed on its own server. The office from Latvia additionally masters project management, customer relations (CRM) and team collaboration.