Do we really need to talk about productivity suites anymore? Probably not.
Unless you're one of the very few power users out there, you likely won't find much difference between one suite and another.
Yes, there will always be functional differences. And one suite will have more bells and whistles than another. But for enterprise workers looking to get their jobs done, it really doesn't make that much difference.
In fact, SoftWatch contends that suites like Office contain too darned many options for most people. It found most people use one or two applications, and would happily dump the rest.
An Open Source Option
Maybe because of those fuzzy distinctions, free and open source suites like LibreOffice are gaining traction.
LibreOffice was developed by The Document Foundation and forked from OpenOffice.org in 2010.
LibreOffice, which claims 120 million unique downloading addresses in the four years ending this past May, is available for Windows, Mac and Linux desktops and Android mobile devices.
There are also virtualization solutions to bring LibreOffice to Chrome OS and iOS, although these are not optimized for mobile. An online version will be available late this year or in early 2016.
LibreOffice is popular in Europe.
It's used by the French government (500,000 users), the Generalitat Valenciana in Spain (120,000 users), the Dutch Ministry of Defence (45,000 users), the Hospitals of Copenhagen (25,000 users), the city of Munich (15,000 users) and a large number of smaller public administrations in Germany, France and Italy.
“The market is still dominated by Microsoft, although Microsoft Office has been losing market share for the last dozen years. During this time, OpenOffice was the major competitor, with a market share estimated around 15 percent (with peaks in some European countries of around 20 percent,” said Italo Vignoli, a director at The Document Foundation,
Microsoft, Google or LibreOffice?
LibreOffice has many of the same features offered by Microsoft Office and Google Apps. Vignoli claims what sets it apart is better interoperability, including native support of the OpenDocument Format (ODF).
ODF is an open XML-based document file format for office applications to be used for documents containing text, spreadsheets, charts and graphical elements.
LibreOffice also supports a large number of legacy file formats such as Microsoft Works and WordPerfect, and several proprietary file formats like Adobe PageMaker and Apple Keynote.
“This format support is based on the activity of a group of enthusiast developers, who have created the Document Liberation project to liberate content from proprietary locks,” Vignoli said.
Like all free and open source software, LibreOffice is free to use in any environment.
In addition, it's compatible with enterprise solutions such as SharePoint thanks to the support of the CMIS protocol, and can be deployed using enterprise tools such as Microsoft Group Policies.
But it hasn't been easy.
“Growing a free software project is a challenge per se, because volunteers have to be motivated on a daily basis,” Vignoli said.
“In addition, personal productivity is changing, and we have to adapt to the evolution of user habits. Migrating the wealth of features of an application which was born on the desktop to new platforms such as mobile and cloud is not trivial, because the paradigm is different."