LibreOffice 24.2 review - A pleasant surprise

Updated: July 8, 2024

In many ways, LibreOffice is the Linux of office suits. What do I mean by this? Well, some releases are good, some bad, there are often seemingly random regressions in between, and it never quite fully manages to become the ultimate replacement for Microsoft Office. On top of that, LibreOffice is dogmatic, and it sticks stubbornly to an ideology that, in the long run, actually causes more harm than good. My opinion, of course.

That said, I've been using it forever, I like it, it's my primary office suite, and I've written many a book using it. The problems almost always revolve around document format support, and the fact publishers and companies out there insist on Microsoft standards. This forces me to always make the very last revision to any one of my manuscripts in Word, even if the entirety of work is done in LibreOffice until that point. But I digress. I would like to review the new LibreOffice version, 24.2. A year-month naming convention, perhaps it spells an additional, fresh, much-needed change to the suite? Begin, we do.

Teaser

Setup, first steps

My test box was a KDE neon system. I grabbed the latest version of the program suite, extracted it, and then install the 20-odd .deb files that came as part of the archive. Quick and easy job, no problems, so far. The one thing you will notice right away - new icons. They look fresh and exciting. Good.

Launch program

You will also notice an artifact in the system menu (Plasma 6.1); more in my dedicated review soon.

I launched Writer, and it looks reasonable. Not that different than before, but still a little bit more ... composed, if you will. The scaling seemed to work fine, there were no artifacts with rendering or theming, which sometimes used to be a problem with LibreOffice on top of Plasma.

Writer, open

I decided to invoke the UI layout changer thingie, to see whether the UI layouts have improved. The short answer is, no. There are, one, waaaay too many layouts, and two, they are not really well done. Crude and buggy, with artifacts all over the place. Fonts, icons, texts, all of different sizes and proportions. The classic, standard toolbar is the only really usable layout. Everything else feels just unfinished and raw. I would strongly suggesting dropping the five sub-categories, and at best maintain the top two options, if at all. Designing even one UI is already hard, doing two is next to impossible, and doing seven is meaningless.

Change UI

More Plasma 6.1 visual bugs, notice screenshot corners.

UI, weird positioning, elements

Feels raw, unfinished. Only the standard toolbar is okay.

Personalization

LibreOffice 24.2 comes with a handful of preinstalled themes. Neat. I also played with the icons. You get some really nice options, like Colibre and Sukapura. They do add a bit of color and contrast to the toolbar, making the workflow a bit easier - monochrome icons are cool, but somewhat harder to distinguish quickly. Furthermore, all of the icon themes come in the SVG format, so you won't be having any fuzzy, weird artifacts on any which display or resolution. Great. Finally, on the 1920x1080px 14-inch HD display on my IdeaPad 3 test box, scaled to 125%, even the large icon set felt "small" - or at least not in proportion with the rest of the system UI. I had to choose the extra large icons for the toolbar to get the right feel. BTW, if you make any changes, they are immediate, across all open LibreOffice programs.

Themes

Extra large icons 1

Extra large icons 2

And zoomed in, you can definitely see the difference:

Extra large icons 1, zoomed

Extra large icons 2, zoomed

Styles

This aspect of LibreOffice still remains meh. One, you need to double-click to apply styles - this is a waste of clicks. Second, when you move through your text in Writer, the styles will jump to whatever's applied to the particular section. This means if you want to change a style, you will need to scroll in the sidebar, double-click, waste time. The whole idea of applying styles is that they stay "static" so you can quickly use and access them, while the content changes - not the other way around. What's the point, then?

Styles

Microsoft Office file format support

This is a big one. Without this, LibreOffice stands no chance. Ordinary humans will not sit and ponder ideology when they need to get work done. They will try a (free) program, but if they have difficulties opening files, they get weird warnings and such, and the formatting looks odd, they will simply follow the path of least resistance, and that's using the familiar Microsoft Office. Cruel, stupid, whatever, that's the reality. There are only two ways to affect change: your software or people. I think it's easier to re-code your program than re-educate eight billion souls. Also, the latter does not work.

I grabbed two Word templates and three Powerpoint templates at random from Microsoft. Just looked at some files that have lots of tables, styles, colors, and tried to open them in LibreOffice. Surprise, surprise, the results were extremely good. The files opened instantly. There were no weird errors. And only minor visual glitches that I could spot. Is this perfection? Nope. We've been here before, too. There was a period of time when I was ultra-excited by what LibreOffice did. Then, it stopped doing that, and glitches returned aplenty.

Writer template 1

Writer template 2

Impress template 1

Impress template 2

Here, you can see a small glitch - the second name listed on the slide overflows onto the second line, and partially obscures the first bullet point. I do not know if this is a template-specific problem, or a rendering problem in LibreOffice. Just an observation.

Impress template 3

Therefore, I must reserve my optimism. However, that said, the results were really good. In the present time, taking nothing else into account, LibreOffice 24.2 did a solid job of opening proprietary formats. Requires more rigorous testing, of course, but for now, nice.

Conclusion

Overall, LibreOffice 24.2 looks like a very decent suite. Let's start with the positives. Fast, responsive. The look is more coherent than before. The new icons are cool. I had good results opening Microsoft Office templates, and they seem to have rendered pretty well. There were no obvious errors, and only tiny glitches. All in all, seems like a fresh start for LibreOffice. I also tried PDF export, printing, a few other small everyday functions, and the results were good. Spell check and grammar tools are decent. Macro security is set to high. Solid.

On the downside, the styles in Writer remain clunky and inefficient - they require too much work, and they aren't the prettiest, either. Calc is the underdog of the suite, and it lags behind Excel in many aspects. The UI layout tool is simply unnecessary. It detracts from more important elements of the suite, and it takes a lot of effort maintaining and developing. And in vain, too, because the results feel rather awkward. Badly put together, with tons of incompatible elements. The free price tag helps, but that can only work if the actual output meets the user's expectation. So far, LibreOffice has failed to dislodge Microsoft from the throne. Now, this latest version 24.2 comes with lots of good things about it, and I'm cautiously optimistic. By and large, it does feel like the best LibreOffice release yet. They say, you always gotta quit on a high note, so with that mind, I'm gonna drop me mike, and let you digest this review. Me like, a lot. Bye bye.

Cheers.