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Who cares about Microsoft Office for Linux?

February 10, 2013

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.

Calligra Suite

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
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.

Office Apps in Linux Mint Debian Edition Software Manager

Office Apps in Linux Mint Debian Edition 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.


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36 Responses to Who cares about Microsoft Office for Linux?

  1. dopadapo on May 13, 2013 at 10:51 am

    In Linux. is there any offline notebook application comparable to MS-OneNote? If not, I would buy MS-OneNote for Linux if it is available.

  2. Craig Wessel on February 28, 2013 at 3:28 am

    Why would you ridicule office for Linux? If you have an employer who requires the latest office or you want to check out Linux but want to keep office I think this is a great idea. While I still like libreoffice Having office on Linux without wine wouldn’t be to bad. I could actually get my mother to switch over if that’s the case. So I fully support this Idea and while I will still use Libreoffice I’ll also have MS office installed when I need to use Data Tables and Graphs and such. I LIKE THE IDEA OKAY! And I fully support Microsoft porting it.

  3. Asmer Mlaco on February 12, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    Forget Wine and VirtualBox. Did anyone ever tried to print a Word document while running it with Wine or VirtualBox? That is why native app would be cool. Love it or hate it, MS office is the best product, especially in corporate environments (Exchange, SharePoint, Outlook integration). LibreOffice is good product, but it looks like it is from Win95 era.

  4. Tim Climis on February 12, 2013 at 2:08 am

    I’m surprised that no one has yet mentioned the need for Outlook. Yes, it’s terrible as an email client, but when your entire corporation is on an exchange server, and you need to have meetings with others, it becomes a necessity. Outlook calendars are the one thing preventing me from running a Linux box at work. If I could get Outlook calendars to work reliably in Linux, via MS Outlook for Linux, I’d pay for the whole suite, just for that one part of a single application.

  5. Bill Payne on February 12, 2013 at 1:05 am

    I would buy this.

  6. Ralph on February 11, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    In work, I run Ubuntu and usually use LibreOffice. However, I receive frequently Word, Excel, Powerpoint documents and I have to exchange documents with other users. In many cases, the layout may not break and then I need MS Office. Example is a review of a scientific article…

  7. kmb42vt on February 11, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    Understanding that I would not need a native version of MS Office for Linux…

    This would be a fine thing indeed if MS put together an MS Office suite for Linux distros. It would be a big push toward getting “Linux” (meaning any particular “distro”) into the enterprise end of things. Being able to productively run a Linux distro would save any big business quite a lot of money in the long run and those in IT know this. Having a native version of Office would help make this possible.

    For personal users, it would just be another choice. There are plenty of closed source native applications and libraries out there all ready. The user has a choice of using them or not. I’m sure if Adobe offered up a native edition of Photoshop for Linux, professional photographers would be jumping all over it as they would now have have the chance to run this resource intensive photo software on an OS known for it’s stability, reliability and being light on resources.

    In essence, nothing has changed. Just another choice.

  8. Steven on February 11, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    This is all about the mobile space and Linux net books. They need office to run on chrome OS and android.

  9. George Mitchell on February 11, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    The question is NOT which Linux users would choose MS Office if it were available. The real question is which MS Office users would switch from Windows to Linux IF Office were available for Linux. Over the years I have encountered plenty of Windows users who REALLY LIKE Linux, but they are tied for various reasons to MS Office. This is were the action is likely to happen. And that begs the question of why MS would port Office to Linux in the first place. But then who can explain why MS does what they do.

  10. chuck on February 11, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    Current linux users will not purchase MS Office. They’re already doing fine without it. Future linux users? That’s another matter. I set up a non-profit with 5 PCs all running linux and the fact that we couldn’t run office on them eventually forced me to trash the machines. It was a sad day. The director simply refused to use openoffice. If MS Office ran on those machines, that wouldn’t have happened.

  11. Polymerase on February 11, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    I think that this MS Office for Linux is unrealistic. If this was true, this would seriously dent into Windows market share. For a lot of people, the lack of Office is the main resistance to using Linux. At home, we get away with a WinXP Virtualbox machine. Regardless if this rumor is true or not. The quickest and safest solution is to spread the use of LibreOffice. Personnally, I create very simple documents. This makes absolutely no difference to me if the format is LibreOffice or MS Office.

  12. Illegal Downloader on February 11, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    I will prefer to download an illegal copy from TPB and run it with virtualbox or CrossOver (which will also be illegally downloaded from TPB) :)

  13. Bruno on February 11, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    Ok, there are other options, and I personally use Libreoffice. When I get in need of some ms office feature, I just take a windows pc borrowed from someone.

    But what you say is, that I really do need to use MS office, because you know that it is better to write papers and things like that, I should use virtualbox or get it working trhough wine ? That sounds horrible. I would really like to have a version of it to linux. Those who don’t want it, simply do not buy it.

  14. Dr Enigma on February 11, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    If Microsoft sell Office as standalone program (not cloud service already available) will be a huge boost to Linux, a lot of users refuse it due to lack of “their” Office apps. Of course when they are familiar to Linux OS is a matter of time change a big percentage of them to switch to Libreoffice.

    And as Linus Torvalds said Linux will have won the battle when Microsoft sell their products for Linux

  15. Olivier Zanchetta on February 11, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    I do not need MS Office on my Linux machine, and happily use LibreOffice at work on parallel with Microsoft Office. I am not a power user by no means (still type with 7 and 1/2 fingers) but when I copy large chunks of data, Microsoft Office (I only use Word, Excel and Visio) often crashes repetitively. This is on Windows 7 64, and I have still not understood why this happens.

    However, I recognise the need and interest of people to have Microsoft Office on their Linux Machines, as import and export is not always a flawless experience when going from one software suite to another. I am sure that there is a market for commercial software on Linux.

  16. ahk on February 11, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    Now with the Microsoft Office 365 subscription, it’s really easy to have Office running in your browser, you won’t need to wait for 2014.
    I am afraid but I agree with the other commentators that an official Office for Linux is great news for the mainstream adoption of Linux, especially in government agencies and companies who require Office for their legacy applications.

  17. Mike Frett on February 11, 2013 at 11:44 am

    Good grief. Why exactly do people need any Office software?. Just write your stuff in Leafpad. If you do need MS Office for whatever reason, it’s only because you or someone else saved their file in a proprietary format. There is a difference between WANT and NEED. Office is not a need, complain to your Boss.

    Solution? Save your Documents in a Cross Platform format. Or just do like me and write your stuff in Leafpad, (Or equivelant) or use a Typewriter, that was truly an open format. =p

    • kmb42vt on February 11, 2013 at 7:55 pm

      Leafpad? No offense, Mike but get real. Like a “Simple text editor” can take place of any office suite, open source or not.

  18. Luke Wiwatowski on February 11, 2013 at 10:26 am

    I think you underestimate the amount of people who would make the switch to linux if this software was available for the platform. My mum, girlfriend etc who are not computer literate would be well at home on linux with Office installed as they get sent documents in that format and thus use it themselves.

    I would rather pay for a native version for them on linux then try and run it in WINE and hope they can handle themselves. Just my opinion but this alone has been a barrier to setting up my family on Linux in the past.

  19. Duarte Molha on February 11, 2013 at 10:07 am

    I love linux BUT this is big news without a doubt!
    There is no match to Office … and please don’t tell me google docs or Office Libre are!

    Try and import a word document to office libre and see how many formating error you get, Or try to open up an spreadsheet with hundreds of thousands of lines in gdocs and see it crash and burn.

    However I still doubt they will do it because that will destroy the reasons to run windows in my department, and I suspect in many other departments in the rest of the world.

    I can bet with you they will not do it, or if they do , the linux version will be so crippled (on purpose) that nobody will want to use it?.

  20. Nick Heywood on February 11, 2013 at 9:53 am

    Up untill now I was bemoniing the fact I couln’t run MSOffice, stabley. It was just farmiliarity thing to be honest.

    LibreOffice 4 fixed that. Wow, Beautiful, Smooth, Fast, Compatible, Extendible. Get it! Download it! Install it! Tell your friends about it! Make your Mum use it! Ground your kids if they don’t!.

    OK, So I like it. Sue me! MSOffice? What’s that? Is that a new thing? :)

  21. Linux since 2006 on February 11, 2013 at 8:38 am

    I would buy this in a second. I need 100% .xls comparability. 99% is useless whenI dealing with clients money. Currently I run office in virtualbox and xp. I would love a native version I could just pop open when I need it. There OS nothing evil about charging money for good software. Its just windows that sucks.

  22. Piki on February 11, 2013 at 8:36 am

    Of course i care. I work at a SAP Consulting company and people here are tied to microsoft office due to our business. One of the major complains is the lack of proper support in libre office for the Excel macros feature. Our FI consultants use this extensively. Visio and Project are also used to an extended level and the open source alternative is way behind…

  23. Matt Farmer on February 11, 2013 at 8:28 am

    I ran Office 2007 flawlessly with Linux via wine recently. If a Linux user really wants to have MS office, I think they’ll make it work.

  24. fox on February 11, 2013 at 8:14 am

    MS Office for Linux would make a big difference to me. In my academic position, I write collaboratively with other scientists, and most journals require submission in MS Word. Yes, LibreOffice is 90% compatible, but the missing 5% is a major problem. For example, try converting a Word document with embedded line numbering into LifreOffice format – it will put the numbers right into the lines. There are similar problems converting tables and figures.

  25. Amir6723 on February 11, 2013 at 8:11 am

    ok now Microsoft wants to make money from Linux market??? I think no Linux user wants the native MS Office. its just lame.

  26. Connie New on February 11, 2013 at 8:02 am

    The only ones who might be interested are corporations and government organisations that might be committing to a move to Linux, but are too tied to MS Office, and too ignorant of the Linux equivalents…

  27. Neycho Mihov on February 11, 2013 at 7:56 am

    MS Office for Linux would be great. Libre Office still have a 100000 miles to walk until reach today’s capabilities of MS Office in data processing.

  28. jt on February 11, 2013 at 7:16 am

    MSO4L MIGHT have been useful, even important 5+ years ago. Today == too late. Win8 is a dud, and Ballmer is a fail. Proof == stock price.

  29. gr0undzer0 on February 11, 2013 at 4:52 am

    I need exchange support at work and getting some of the outdated plugins to work with thunderbird is a pain in the ass. I need an app that I can just enter the damn server name password and be on my way with my work calendar synced and my emails formatted appropriately. Other than that.. don’t need.

  30. Jose_Mendoza on February 11, 2013 at 4:17 am

    lol nope, they can save their money because I doubt anyone will want it… I have at least 5 alternatives I use on a normal basis.
    -google drive
    -zoho office

    • Adler on February 11, 2013 at 9:32 am

      Or, you can install M$ Office with PlayOnLinux. Albeit not all available packages will be available for the hardcore guys.

  31. Brian Masinick on February 10, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    I don’t need it. An MS Office version of Google Doc? Maybe, but definitely not a native version of MS Office.

    • Jim Lynch on February 10, 2013 at 10:48 pm

      Wouldn’t that be the Office 365 thing?

      • Jose_Mendoza on February 11, 2013 at 4:18 am

        isn’t that a paid service only now? besides I also heard that it had some limited functionality.

      • Brian Masinick on February 12, 2013 at 5:48 am

        Yes, Office 365 is the Microsoft Web-based version. I am not aware of a free version; is there one?

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