Microsoft Office on GNU/Linux

The first thing I want to make clear is that I do not like Microsoft Office. I never use any of the Office softwares for any of my personal needs, for which I have better alternatives like LaTeX.

But it is also a fact that Microsoft is now deeply entrenched in many fields including medical publications. There are alternatives like LibreOffice, but I have found the compatibility to be less than perfect. This is why it is often necessary for me, and people like me, to have Microsoft Office handy despite hating it.

The List

This is a short list of all the methods I found. However, this is not in the order of preference.

  1. Dual boot
  2. Virtual machine
  3. Wine
  4. Office Online

Dual Boot

This is perhaps the most straight forward among all. Just install Windows alongside Linux and install Office there. That way you can just boot into Windows whenever you need to use Office. Just as simple as that.

Pros

  • Fully functional Office software
  • Maximum performance available

Cons

  • Cannot use other Linux softwares while using Office
  • Switching operating systems is too much of a hassle

Virtual Machine

This is the best of both worlds. You run a fully functional Windows system inside the Linux itself. That way the Office softwares can run inside the Windows virtual machine while you can keep using the rest of your Linux softwares.

Pros

  • Both Linux softwares and Office on Windows can be used at the same time
  • Windows viruses cannot infect anything outside the virtual machine
  • Softwares like WinApps can hide the virtual machine in the background and present Office as if it was a native app

Cons

  • Running a Windows virtual machine may be resource intensive and performance may be poor
  • Setting up a virtual machine along with file sharing between the host and the guest system may take some effort

Wine

Wine is a compatibility layer for Windows apps inside Linux. So in theory you can use it to run Windows softwares including Office in your main Linux system. That sounds cool but you may want to think twice before doing that.

Pros

  • Runs Office inside your Linux system as if it was a native app (in theory)

Cons

  • Getting Office to actually work with Wine is pretty difficult and often ends in frustration
  • Using Wine also enables Windows viruses to run in the Linux system which may have disastrous consequences. A Windows ransomware, which is pretty harmless to a regular Linux user, can suddenly get the ability to encrypt your home drive and hold it hostage.

Office Online

Now Microsoft has created a free online version of Office 365. It can be used directly from a browser and hence it is not limited to any operating system. The downside is that you have to upload your documents to Microsoft's cloud platform and you need to be connected to the internet at all times while using the platform.

Pros

  • It's free of cost
  • Can work on any platform including ARM devices

Cons

  • You have to upload your documents to the Microsoft's cloud platform, which may be less ideal from a privacy stand point
  • You need to be connected to the internet at all times while using the platform
  • Heavily reduced features compared to installable versions of Office
  • Performance may be poor

LibreOffice

Now if you can live with a little incompatibility here and there, then using alternative softwares maybe an option for you. There are several but probably the most well known is the LibreOffice. It has all the bells and whistles just like the Microsoft Office with the additional advantage of being open source and using open document formats.

Pros

  • Free and open source (libre)
  • Can work with multiple formats including Office formats as well as open document formats

Cons

  • Compatibility may be less than perfect

Snap Package?

Of course none of these problems would exist if Microsoft would just release Office as a native package for Linux, perhaps as a snap package. They have already done it with Teams, proving that they have the technology. But they have not done so as of the date of writing this post and I do not think we should expect any happy news regarding this anytime soon. But anyway, that's Microsoft for you.

My Preference

Dual booting is out of the question for me as I need to use my Linux apps concurrently with the Office. Wine is also unacceptable due to its security implications.

Running a Windows virtual machine would be good enough for me but I am not feeling like paying Microsoft a single dollar when they are refusing to make the software accessible to my operating system. I would probably buy a license if Microsoft made a Linux package, but they have not.

So I'm using the Office 365 online for now which kind of works for me. As I said I only need it to maintain compatibility with other persons, so I can live with the limitations for now.

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E-mail: mondal@agnibho.com