The desktop computer was an American invention, but four decades after the first ones graced offices and households, they are now in just about every office and home in the world.
This means that people who speak many different languages use one, and most likely use office applications to create documents in a myriad of languages.
This article compares the language support for Microsoft Office and LibreOffice. Both office suites support many languages.It also explains how to install language interfaces.
In general, LibreOffice supports 150 languages, while the Windows version of Office 2016 supports 92. The Mac version of Office 2016 supports 58. Support for languages means built in dictionaries and thesauri, as well as the ability to change menus, toolbars, help resources, and dialogs to another language.
Office for Windows
On the language pack Web page for Windows version of Office, the languages are in a drop-down menu. The tools are listed two ways. For fully supported languages, like English or Russian, the pack includes display, help, and proofing tools. If it is a language that is more obscure, like Amharic, the following will be stated: “the pack includes your selected display language for some Office applications but does not include proofing tools.”
To download and install a pack, click the x86 link if you have a 32-bit version of Office or x64 if you have the 64-bit version. After it has downloaded, double-click on the file that was downloaded.
After installing a language pack to Office, open a document in one of the applications. Then click File, followed by Options to open the Options dialog. The Language tab lets you change the language of proofing tools, user interface, and help section.
The installation may take awhile. After the installation has completed, open an Office application and a document. Click File. Then click Options to open the Options dialog. Finally click the Language tab. This will allow you to set the proofing, display, and help languages.
Office for Mac
The Mac version has a Web page for languages it has proofing tools for. This just lists the languages that are supported. There are not any packs to install.
To change a proofing language, simply click the Tools menu in one of the applications, then click languages to pull up a list of supported languages.
Most of the languages are for proofing tools. Office for Mac menus and help section are only available in 20 different languages.
To change the user interface language in Office, change the user interface of OS X. Open System Preferences. Click the Language and Region icon. Then change the language in the Preferred languages list. Make the desired language first in the list by clicking and dragging it, or add a language by clicking the plus button below the list.
LibreOffice’s Web page for language support lists the 150 languages in a table, listing what the of support they have. There are actually a lot more languages on this page. Many of the languages have support tools that are in progress.
The types of support tools are as follows:
Localized user interface
Localized help system
Localized user interface and help system
These can be downloaded from the LibreOffice Website. Click on the “need another language?” link to select the desired language. You will be returned to the download page. There will now be links for downloading language support. The types of links will depend on the type of operating system you choose in the drop-down menu:
Linux x86_64 (deb), Linux x86_64 (rpm), Linux x86 (deb), Linux x86 (rpm)
If one of these four types of applications for Linux distros are selected in the drop-down menu, there will be a download link for the selected languages user interface plugin and one for the offline help system. The application that matches the installed version of LibreOffice is the one that needs to be downloaded. If you want a Spanish user interface and have LibreOffice 5.3.2 installed on Ubuntu, you will need to click the Translated User Interface in the 5.3.2 section of the Web page.
These versions of the user interface and help system are typically used when the latest version of LibreOffice has been installed through the Terminal application of a Linux distro. Many distros come with the office suite pre-installed, and if it is not, it will be available through the operating system’s software center or library, such as Ubuntu’s Software Center. However, this usually doesn’t give the user the latest version of LibreOffice.
Those users who prefer the version of LibreOffice that comes with their distro and want to install a new user interface or helps system can search for the packages in their software center. They will most likely need to type “libreoffice” in the search field of it and skim through the results until they get to the desired item.
Mac OS X x86_64
This selection in the drop-down menu is for the Intel Mac version of LibreOffice. There will only be a Translated User Interface link available when this item is chosen. The .dmg application that is downloaded when you click this link contains the offline help system. After it downloads, click the application icon in the folder that opens. The next time you open LibreOffice, change the language in the Preferences dialog, then restart LibreOffice. The menus, dialogs, and help menus will now be in the new language.
Windows x86 and Windows x86_64
In the Windows version of LibreOffice, you need to run the installation application for the suite to add a new language user interface. If you already have the suite installed, choose the Modify radio button then click Next to get to this screen. If you are installing a new version of LibreOffice for the first time, choose custom installation.
These items in the drop-down menu only give you the offline help applications for the chosen language. There is not a download for a the language’s user interface. Instead, these are available in the install application for the office suite.
If you are installing a version of LibreOffice for the first time, there will be two options Typical and Custom. To include additional languages in the installation, choose Custom and select the language from the menu.
Click the plus sign next to Additional User Interface Languages. Then click on the desired language and choose whether this feature will be stored on local hard drive or this feature, and all additional subfeatures, will be stored on local hard drive. Then click the next button.
However, if you already have the version you want installed and still have the installation download, run the installation. It will give you three options: Modify, Repair, or Uninstall. Choose Modify. This will give you the same list of languages that the Custom choice will give you during the first-time installation.
Language proofing tools
The proofing tools are the other items in the above list: AutoText list, AutoCorrect list, Spell-check dictionaries, Hyphenation patterns, Grammar check, and Thesaurus (synonyms). Most of these can be accessed for your desired language through the language support Website. Many of these links are to pages in the extensions section of the LibreOffice Website. Others link to the Apache OpenOffice Website.
These extensions, in the oxt format, will work on any LibreOffice instance, regardless of whether it is running on a Windows, Mac, or Linux operating system. Sometimes a particular extension will not work on a particular version of the office suite. The Web page for the LibreOffice extension will state which versions it is compatible with. However, if the version you are using is not listed, this does not necessarily mean that it will not work with your installed version.
Office for Windows and LibreOffice both support the major languages and cover most of the world linguistically. LibreOffice has the advantage when it comes to the languages used by less people. While Microsoft does not support as many languages as LibreOffice, it has support tools for languages that both suites share that LibreOffice does not offer in that language. For example, the Windows version of Office has a display UI, help system, and proofing tools for Thai, while LibreOffice only has a display UI, auto text, and spell check available in it.
The opposite also is true. Both suites support Icelandic, but LibreOffice has a display UI, hyphenation, spelling, and a thesaurus for it. Office only has a display UI and some proofing tools.
Office for Windows has a more straightforward when it comes to installing language packs than LibreOffice. the user interface, help guides, and proof tools all come in one package. It also allows you to use certain aspects of the language tools and choose not others. You can use the proofing tools in one language and the user interface of another language.
The language extensions and applications for LibreOffice, on the other hand, will not take up as much hard drive space as Windows Office’s installations because the proofing tools are separate from the user interface and help guides. A user can install proofing tools without the user interface in the same language. People who work with documents that are written in multiple languages most likely don’t need to see menus, dialogs, and help entries in more than one language, so having an installation that contains all the components is most likely not necessary.
LibreOffice is also an advantage for Mac users. Office for Mac supports a lot less languages than both LibreOffice and its Windows counterpart. Documents that can be opened in the Mac version can be created and edited in LibreOffice.
LibreOffice supports the most languages, and it is the only office suite mentioned in this article that runs on Linux distros. There are several Linux distros that run well on older computers, such as those with Pentium III processors. Workers in developing nations can use a modern office suite, even if their computers are old, and typically they can have one with proofing tools and a user interface in their native language.
As far as Mac users, LibreOffice is a more full-featured office suite in general than Office. It has more applications and tools. It also supports more file formats. The amount of languages LibreOffice supports compared to Office, though Office supports languages in all the countries where Macs are sold on a regular basis. There are Mac users in other countries, but the cost of the computers and the lack of stores that have strong footprints in those countries probably means use is more sporadic.
Windows version of Office will still be the office suite of choice for Windows users around the world, even in countries that speak languages that are not fully supported by it. However, as pointed out on previous articles in this blog, LibreOffice may be a good companion to it. Microsoft Office formats can be opened, edited, and created with the open-source applications. Its automatic spell check also works better when there are documents with multiple languages. Those documents could be edited in applications of both suites to create a final draft.