It was finally time for me to try at least the word processing component (Writer) of LibreOffice now that it is up to version 4.0.4 for PowerPC Macs. That is a pretty mature number in terms of software revision unless you are talking about Firefox and the twenty-something number it is on now.
Lately I have been spending most of my time in Windows 7 and Microsoft Word 2010—my favorite version of Word for the PC by far. Originally I thought it was cumbersome, but everything seems to just flow properly now. I wondered if LibreOffice would similarly feel like it flowed properly as I prepared to use it for the first time after an easy download and installation.
LibreOffice feels like a Mac application should. It has good visual clarity, is colorful, intuitive and most formatting commands are conveniently accessible via an easy right-click of the mouse. The thing I need most when it comes to word processors though, is speed, or at least the feeling that the program keeps up with my typing.
In this regard LibreOffice has been pretty responsive on a Sonnet 1.8 GHz processor upgraded G4 Power Mac Sawtooth tower with 2 GB of RAM. The PC flashed 256 MB Geforce 6200 that supports Quartz Extreme and hardware accelerated Core Image graphics technologies may add to the feeling of responsiveness. Although I experienced some occasional lag the program did not feel discernibly slower than Microsoft Office 2008 Word for Mac on this beast; to the contrary it held its own when I really let my fingers do the walking. A quick check of Activity Monitor revealed only the slightest RAM and CPU usage. This is thankfully different from Word which can make word processing slower over long stretches of time as it demands more of your CPU cycles and available RAM.
Using LibreOffice has me wanting to experiment with a flavor of Linux again at some point (maybe when I am finished with school). LibreOffice is powered by Java that is running on my G4’s OS X Leopard installation. Although this ancient version of Java is a security threat while online (disable it in browsers running OS X Leopard to be fully secure), it more than adequately drives LibreOffice on the word processing side.
LibreOffice Writer gives you a feeling of confidence while composing at the keyboard. There is no feeling of uncertainty regarding how things are done. I was pleased it was able to open and handle some older documents formatted in less than current versions of Word for the PC, too. The formatting of the documents (while not too complex) was maintained nicely as well—another plus as this is not something to be taken for granted. Will it always transfer documents with nary a hiccup formatting-wise? I’m sure there will be instances of more sophisticated formatting causing it to struggle to maintain original document design and layout. This is not unheard of in office productivity suites that have to be compatible with Microsoft Office suite versions. But it is not something I am personally concerned about. My word processor is my writing tool—nothing more, nothing less.
As a writing tool, LibreOffice’s Writer application has a functional, capable word count feature and many of the bells and whistles one would expect from a fully developed office suite word processor application. There is a spell checker of course. And when it thinks you have misspelled a word, just like in Microsoft Word it alerts you via an underlined, colored notation. From there, just like Word, it is a matter of right clicking the misspelled word and choosing the properly spelled one—no problem.
While not overly detailed, this 10,000-foot view review of LibreOffice’s Writer application reflects a writer pleased about having a capable new option at his disposal for composing on the PowerPC platform. As I prefer writing on this old Mac beast, it’s good to know I still have choices when it comes to word processors.
LibreOffice is available freely. That said, the good folks there rely on your donations to keep the project moving forward with the latest features and under the hood fixes. Give it a try for yourselves and enjoy the thrill of new office productivity suite software for your PowerPC Mac: http://www.libreoffice.org/download/?type=mac-ppc&version=4.0.4&lang=en-US.