LibreOffice 7.2 Arrives with Improved Microsoft Office Document Support

Posted on August 20, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Office with 15 Comments

The Document Foundation has announced the release of LibreOffice 7.2, the latest version of its free and open-source office productivity suite. Among the changes is a significant number of improvements related to interoperability proprietary Microsoft DOC, and DOCX, XLSX, and PPTX documents.

“LibreOffice 7.2 Community provides a large number of interoperability improvements with Microsoft’s proprietary file formats,” the announcement post reads. “In addition, LibreOffice 7.2 Community offers numerous performance improvements in handling large files, opening certain DOCX and XLSX files, managing font caching, and opening presentations and drawings that contain large images.”

As noted, LibreOffice 7.2 offers “a significant number of improvements to interoperability with legacy DOC files, and [with] DOCX, XLSX, and PPTX documents.” LibreOffice still defaults to OpenDocument format documents, which it described as “a true open standard format.” It also features performance improvements, in particular with using large files, and it is now available natively for Apple Silicon-based Macs.

You can learn more about the new features on YouTube. And you can download LibreOffice 7.2 Community for free from the LibreOffice website.

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Comments (15)

15 responses to “LibreOffice 7.2 Arrives with Improved Microsoft Office Document Support”

  1. dennisblondelldecker

    On one hand it is truly impressive that this office suite has managed to do this much, and I have used it to open old documents with success more than once, but on the other hand after more than 20 years it still cannot render and show an office document in the same way as the original office software from Microsoft.

    • LocalPCGuy

      Microsoft Office is designed to tie into Windows code, which gives it a distinct advantage when viewing a document on a display screen. Printed out, as long as the original font(s) is installed, shows little to no difference. That's what actually matters in an office setting, where going paperless is still a dream. Bosses still enjoy holding a paper printout when reading. It's far easier to take notes on, IMO.

      • wright_is

        I haven't tried the latest version, but it is a lot more than looking a bit different on screen, but prints the same. No, it doesn't, or didn't.


        I had a Word document that was a master-document with about 50 sub-document chapters, which were indexed. Opening it (and printing) in LibreOffice was a no-go. It changed the positions of the page breaks for nearly every page, gradually moving the whole document down a few lines at a time. By the end of the document, the index was about 15 pages out, compared to where the text actually was.


        If you have a simple one-pager, then it doesn't matter too much. A long report or manual with ToC and index and it matters very much.


        Likewise, a client sent us a PowerPoint, which was put on the conference room PC (PC and large screen built into a wall in the conference room, no cables to attach other devices, just a USB port stick out the wall - it had to look good, but being practical was irrelevant. What the company had given out on interior decoration, they had saved on software licensing and it only had LibreOffice on it.


        The presentation was a process flow. Unfortunately, LibreOffice had joined up the boxes wrong! Arrows were going to a totally different box or were terminating in mid air!


        I ran my own business and I used LibreOffice on Linux extensively. But I was having to exchange documents with clients regularly and I had to keep an old Windows PC in the corner to double check the formatting on each document I sent out. Eventually, I just gave up and used the old Windows PC for all client documentation, because it usually meant an hour or so reformatting, before sending out.


        LibreOffice is excellent, but if you have to regularly exchange documents with MS Office users, there is no real alternative to using MS Office, although SoftMaker Office comes very close, allegedly.

  2. Benoit Lamarche

    LibreOffice has unique features that make it suitable in a variety of use cases. In some way it is much better designed than Microsoft Office.

    • wright_is

      Yes, both have areas where they excel over the other. And, as long as you don't need to regularly swap documents with users of the other platform, LibreOffice is an excellent solution. Hopefully the changes to the interpretation of MS files means it is getting a real step closer to interoperability - I haven't had a chance to test the new version yet.

  3. LocalPCGuy

    I've installed LibreOffice on hundreds of customer computers, where they can't or won't pay at least $150 for MS Office. I always set the default file save-as format to the latest MS file formats. With Writer, changing the default font to Calibri makes the documents look almost 100% as if they were created with Word. Printouts of the same document, one laid over the other, show a bit different line spacing. That's about it. What a nice free office suite.


    Where it fails is in some corporate Excel spreadsheets. Even this deficit shrinks with every LO update.

    • matapillar

      I do the exact same thing, I run a tech suport business in Aus. For clients that are looking for basic use but cannot justify even theh home/outright version, let alone a subscription, Libreoffice becomes a standard install.

  4. hrlngrv

    The best tests I've found for MS Office document formatting compatibility are MSFT's own annual reports in .DOCX format from the early 2010s. There are tables and footnotes which only render correctly in Windows desktop Word; off just a little in Mac Word, worse in the Word web app, dog's lunch in LibreOffice Writer. I need to try them in Zoho Office now I think about it.


    The differences in rendering between Windows Word and web Word is most concerning. Why would there be ANY differences? Alternatively, why did MSFT use formatting so close to .DOCX limits or (cynical me for this speculation) just beyond MSFT's own published OOXML specifications but still just barely within what Windows Word could render as intended? IOW, I'm more than willing to believe Mac and web Word adhere to the OOXML specifications, but Windows Word goes beyond those specs.


    FWLIW, I pay far more attention to LO Calc than any of the other components. Let's just say Excel for Windows remains in a class of its own. For the most part that's a good thing, but it does mean Excel still lacks built-in regular expression support, something LO Calc and Google Sheets have provided for about a decade. There are VBA+automation work-arounds for Windows, but not for Macs or web.


    Then there's LO Draw vs Visio. If structured diagrams are a major part of one's job, Visio may be what one needs. If not, Visio is rather expensive, and likely not worth it compared to LO Draw or a number of web alternatives, e.g., Glyphy and Diagrams. Also, there's always Old School Unix tools like grap, which runs under WSL.

  5. red.radar

    Libre Office is a good product. I use it for my personal uses because my home needs are basic and the free offerings are more than sufficient. Even the web versions of Office are fine.


    Now at work. I really appreciate MS Office and utilize the extended functionality.

  6. ghostrider

    I've been using Libre Office for the last couple of years having dumped MS Office. I see no reason to go back. Between LO and on-the-move Google Docs you've pretty much got everything covered.

  7. christophercollins

    Honest question, so please don't slam me.


    How much of a market is there for things like this? I mean, in an office setting, formatting matters.


    I pay the Office 365 Subscription yearly. It's the one no brainer subscription I have at home. I have 5 devices, everything works, and then the 1TB of OneDrive really puts it over the top. All my phone pictures and videos backup automatically, and I never have to worry about document compatibility.


    Why would someone take a chance on something that may or may not work? I get it if you are really cash strapped, but at about $5 a month, that is the one subscription I don't even think twice about.


    Enlighten me.

    • hrlngrv

      MSFT 365 Home is $80 annually or $8/month, MSFT 365 Personal is $60 annually or $6/month.


      Granted that's cheap for 1TB online storage, so the Office software could be seen as a cost-free extra.


      In terms of functionality, LibreOffice Calc includes regular expression support, Excel doesn't. If one's spreadsheet use include some aspects of data/text mining, LO Calc is more capable. However, that's about the only thing Calc does better than Excel. OTOH, LibreOffice Draw is part of the suite while Visio is a rather pricey add-on for MS Office, so LibreOffice is way ahead for structured drawings. In terms of legal use, MSFT 365 Home/Personal are only licensed for noncommercial use. MSFT may not care if they're used for work from home by people who have work laptops with Office installed (unless one were using features available in MSFT 365 which weren't part of the version one uses for work), but there's no equivalent restriction on LibreOffice usage.


      So if one wanted to use such software legally from home, LibreOffice may have the advantage.

      • christophercollins

        Just to clarify, when I talked about my personal O365, that is my personal subscription. At work, we have the proper version. So all legal here, just wanted to make that clear.


        So, I get what you are saying and can see your point. I guess for me, as far as all the subscriptions I have (including TV), O365 is the most reasonable in my opinion. Especially for the photo & video backup, which I've used for many years to avoid an iCloud subscription fee.


        Thanks for taking the time to lay some of that out for me.

  8. geoff

    Perhaps you're right.

    Perhaps software developers shouldn't be paid for the work they do.

    • hrlngrv

      US$80/year is a fair price for MSFT 365 Home for 1 TB online storage each for up to 6 accounts. The remaining US$0 seems reasonable for all the innovation in MS Office over the past 12 months.

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