Working with Office Documents In Linux

Linux is a brilliant Operating System not just because it is free, but each distribution comes with a plethora of applications to get you up and running right out of the box. Office Libre is usually the standard office productivity suite bundled with Linux and has everything you would need for your daily office productivity activities. However, there are some compatibility issues that you will need to consider if you are planning on editing documents which were created in Microsoft Office.

Install Microsoft Core Fonts

The first thing you may notice when you open a Microsoft Office Document in Libre Office is that the font used in your document may change. This is because Linux uses a different set of font’s to that of Windows and you will be able to see where a font has been substituted by looking at the selected font in the Font Name drop down. If the font name appears in italic then it means that the font is not installed and therefore has been substituted.

The good news is that this is easily fixed by opening up terminal and installing the Microsoft Core fonts with the following command.

$ sudo apt-get install msttcorefonts

You will be asked for your password. During the installation process you will be asked to agree to the Microsoft EULA (End User Licence Agreement). Once installed your document should start looking as it would In Microsoft Office.

Install Additional Fonts Manually

It’s important to note that the above method will only install the Microsoft Core Fonts, however, you can copy additional fonts from Windows to Linux very easily by navigating to C:\Windows\Fonts and copying the fonts on to a USB stick. To install the fonts on Linux, inserting the USB stick into your Linux machine, double-clicking on the font and select install when prompted. Do bear in mind that when you are transferring fonts from Windows to Linux that you respect copyright, and that you have licence to do so.

Now that we have addressed the fonts issues we can now go ahead and identify some of the other compatibility issues that you may encounter.

Document Layout

There’s no getting round this one and it will affect Word/Writer, PowerPoint/Presenter documents. No matter how hard you try you will never get the layout exactly the same between Microsoft Office and Office Libre. The way round this is to look at other Office Productivity Suites that are available for Linux.  The good news is that there are a few out there that will improve on document layout compatibility.

My personal choice is WPS Office which is a cross platform Office Productivity Suite and comprises of a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation software. In addition you also get a pdf reader.  The Office Suite is free to use across all platforms.

There are other Productivity Suites out there and I will list these at the end of this article.

Online Editing

If you don’t want to run two office productivity suites side by side then you could consider using cloud based office applications such as Office Online which I would strongly suggest if you are editing Microsoft Office documents. There are other cloud based office applications such as Google Docs and Only Office. You could even host your own cloud office! (You will find a tutorial on how to do this by clicking here).

Windows Virtualisation on Linux

If none of the above solutions appeal to you then you could create a Windows virtual machine on Linux and then install Microsoft Office. It will work no problem but you will need to consider the following:

  • You can download the virtualisation software for free from VMware (VMware Player) or Oracles Virtual Box, however, Configuration can be a bit tricky and you will need a PC that has a fair amount of disk space, memory and a decent processor.
  • You will be installing Windows as the virtual machine which in licensing terms is classed as a separate PC. This is okay if you have a spare Windows licence. If not, then you would need to buy an additional Windows Licence.
  • The same rules apply to Microsoft Office unless you are installing Office 365 which is subscription based. The good news is that you can get Office 365 for home use with up to 5 licences for £7.99/$10.39 per month.

Conclusion

As you can see there are a few trade-offs to be made when using a Linux system to edit Microsoft Office documents. The good news is that majority of alternative office productivity applications for Linux can be installed for free and that some of these applications are available across all platforms. So if you want to replace Microsoft Office with a free cross platform alternative then this is possible while still being able to edit existing Microsoft Office documents without altering the documents original formatting.

Alternative Office Productivity Suites

WPS Office (https://www.wps.com)

Free to use and available across all platforms.  Compatibility is very good with Microsoft Office document layouts.

Free to use and available for Windows, MacOS and Linux, Compatibility is very good with Microsoft Office document layouts.

Free to use and available for Windows, MacOS and Linux, Compatibility with Microsoft Office documents is not great.

Free to use and available for Windows, MacOS and Linux, Compatibility with Microsoft Office documents is still to be determined. There is also a portable version available.