The general consensus is that open source software is safer to use because the code can be checked by anyone that wants to. This should mean it is impossible to hide back doors or other code that purposely weakens the software as it can be discovered by those checking the code. I’d say this mostly holds true but it has also been pointed out that while the code may be tamper free, the compiled end product may not be. Either way I believe in this post Snowden day open source is the way to go in the fight for privacy. There may still be risks but I feel they are far less common as those that may be hiding in proprietary software.
In this post I’ll cover a way to replace Microsoft Office without losing any functionality or compatibility (as far as I am aware). Why Microsoft Office? Their involvement and mention in PRISM, their back doors and decrypted access to Skype and Outlook, the fact that even their own former privacy chief doesn’t trust them or just the price tag. Whatever your reason for wanting to move away from Office, there are really good alternatives out there and they are completely free.
Being able to open and/or create Office documents is still a must in the corporate world and while you can easily open a Word document in TextEdit, creating a Word compatible file requires more than just the basic text editor. Apple’s iWork is a nice alternative but it is not free, severely outdated and still plagued by compatibility issues when exchanging documents with Office users. Also, the mention of Apple in the PRISM documents has me trusting their software about as much as Microsoft’s. So what’s left? Open source alternatives.
LibreOffice and OpenOffice
These are full office suites that are pretty much identical. I will not point out any differences between them as these are usually gone when updates are released. I chose LibreOffice simply because it does not make a single outgoing network connection until I tell it to check for updates. OpenOffice attempts to connect to several servers immediately after launch. While I’m sure these connections are harmless checks for updates and such it was my deciding factor, try them both and see which one you like better.
LibreOffice has everything you’d want or need in an office suite, or as they say “a modern, easy-to-use, open source productivity suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations and more.” I find they try to implement all the latest state of the art features and update on a regular basis. In the few simple tests done I found no issues opening or exchanging documents but I did find the application taking a while to launch sometimes but this is rare. Whether this is the software, my antivirus or an incompatibility with OS X Mavericks I do not know, it’s not annoying or bad enough to make me move to another product.
LibreOffice is 64-bit, very responsive once launched, has a Windows, Mac and Linus version, is completely free and… completely FREE! This should make it particularly interesting for students, home offices or simply those that want to save a couple of hundred bucks. You can get LibreOffice here and OpenOffice here (also for Windows and Linux). Give one or both of these fine products a spin and see which one you like best and if it’s good enough to replace your Microsoft Office installation. I know a few people that have used these suites side-by-side and ended up uninstalling Office completely.