February 13, 2013, 9:13 AM — Despite a change to the left of the decimal point, earth-shaking alterations aren't in store for LibreOffice users this time around. LibreOffice 4.0 feels more like a 3.7, considering the previous edition was 220.127.116.11. That said, LibreOffice is still the best free alternative to Microsoft Office. Current users of LibreOffice -- or OpenOffice, from which LibreOffice is derived -- will be pleased to see their favorite open source productivity suite evolving yet again.
The last few revisions of LibreOffice, this one included, have sported incrementally faster startup and document load times, better compatibility with existing documents, and more features both big and small. There's also less dependence on Java, which in this age of Java security holes is a good thing. Java dependencies are slowly being replaced in LibreOffice with either native platform code or Python.
[ Also on InfoWorld: Office 2013 is the best Office yet | Bossies 2012: The best open source software of the year | Track the latest trends in open source with InfoWorld's Open Sources blog and Technology: Open Source newsletter. ]
LibreOffice has previously allowed some degree of customization of the program's look and feel via color schemes. Version 4.0 adds the ability to use Firefox Personas to dress up the look of the menu and icon bars for all apps in the suite. It works, but it has major practical limitations. If you load a dark-colored persona, the black font used in the program's menus blends with the persona and renders the top menu bar impossible to read. This wouldn't be so bad if you could actually change the color of the font in the program's menu, but that doesn't seem to be an option.