So rumors are swirling right now that Microsoft is considering releasing Microsoft Office for Linux. I suppose that this might have been big news…about ten years ago. But does anybody really care at this point if Microsoft Office runs on Linux?
I sure don’t, and here’s why.
Linux Office Suites
Linux has a number of office suites and office type applications available for it. This software performs many, if not most, of the same tasks as Microsoft Office. And they have the virtue of not costing a single dime!
Here’s a brief run-down of office applications for Linux:
LibreOffice 4 is the most recent stable version of our software and marks a major milestone for the LibreOffice project. LibreOffice comes with a host of new features for its users as well as several important changes and improvements under the hood. Below are some noticeable changes brought by this version and you can get the full list in the release notes.
The Calligra Suite is Calligra for the desktop. It offers a comprehensive set of 8 applications which satisfies the office, graphics and management needs.
AbiWord is a free word processing program similar to Microsoft® Word. It is suitable for a wide variety of word processing tasks.
AbiWord allows you to collaborate with multiple people on one document at the same time. It is tightly integrated with the AbiCollab.net web service, which lets you store documents online, allows easy document sharing with your friends, and performs format conversions on the fly.
Google Docs is not a Linux application, but it does run in browsers on Linux. So it has the virtue of letting you perform many of the same functions as other office suites. It’s also free for individual users. So I’ve included it here as it is a worthwhile alternative to Microsoft Office for many people.
As you can see from this list, there’s quite a bit to choose from for office software in Linux already. And there’s a lot of other applications that I haven’t even listed here. So Linux has even more to offer from a desktop office app perspective.
See the screenshot below of some of the more than 200 office packages available in Linux Mint Debian Edition’s Software Manager.
Microsoft Office’s Data Lock-in Tentacles
One of the virtues of Linux is that most software is free and open source. There is no mechanism to lock people’s data into one format or another, unlike Microsoft Office which has always been geared toward pushing people into locking their data to Microsoft’s software in one way or another.
How many Linux users – who value their freedom and the freedom of their data – would really want to use an office suite from Microsoft? Oh sure, you can export data to different formats, etc. But let’s face it, Microsoft wants you to use the default file formats in Microsoft Office. It’s not in their interest to encourage you to do otherwise.
Microsoft’s Windows First Policy
Microsoft Office and Windows go hand in hand, they’ve always done so. Yes, there is a Mac version but it seems to lag behind the Windows version. Microsoft still makes some money off Mac sales, but it has never been the company’s primary focus. At best, the Mac version of Microsoft Office is an afterthought.
So exactly what sort of priority would a Linux version of Microsoft Office be? My guess is that it would probably come in a distant third, with Windows getting all the latest features and updates. The Mac version would probably get updated after that, and then the Linux version of Office would get whatever attention the company could spare.
In other words, expect to lag behind Microsoft Office for Windows on an ongoing basis if you use it in Linux.
Microsoft Office Already Runs on Linux…in VirtualBox and Wine
The other onion in the ointment is that you can already run Microsoft Office via virtual machines in software like VirtualBox. Yes, it requires having a copy of Windows to run in it, but the fact remains that you can already use Microsoft Office in Linux if you really need to have it.
And I believe that some folks use Microsoft Office via Wine. I haven’t tried this, but it seems to work for some people. So that’s another option without having to have a native version of Microsoft Office for Linux.
Final Thoughts About Microsoft Office for Linux
I guess you can call me a skeptic when it comes to Microsoft Office for Linux. I just don’t see the need for it, and I see comparatively few Linux users that would want to pay for it, and use it. No doubt that there are a few die-hard Office users who would buy it, but I think the vast majority of Linux users would shrug their shoulders and ignore such a release.
Anything associated with Microsoft tends to draw negative feelings from a lot of Linux users, and I don’t blame them, given the company’s bad behavior over the years. Microsoft even referred to Linux as a “cancer” at one point, so I don’t expect that a half-ass version of Office would warm many linux users up to Microsoft. Microsoft has always been its own worst enemy, and I think that will still be true even if they release Microsoft Office for Linux.
I haven’t run Microsoft Office in many years, and I have no intention of doing so now. I don’t want it or need it in Linux.
What’s your take on this? Would you buy Microsoft Office for Linux? Tell me in the comments below.