File Sizes in Free Word Processors

From my lovely and intelligent wife I just learned that there is a significant difference in the resulting file sizes when using OpenOffice and LibreOffice, so I decided to test it myself since I currently have the newest version of both installed while I decide which to use in the future. I also tested Free Editor, which can open a ton of different formats just as OO and LO can.

I should mention that I have been using OpenOffice since it was called StarOffice, so I have a great deal of brand loyalty, but I did not let that affect my evaluation – LibreOffice was actually winning until she told me that an hour ago.

The test was simple: I loaded up Manny’s origin story that I posted last week, and pasted it into a fresh document in each OpenOffice variant, but since Free Editor can only edit documents, not create new ones, I simply loaded the original in it and then saved it to a new file. Here are the results:

Libre Office 112 kb, OpenOffice 29 kb, Free Editor 4 kb

As you can see, OpenOffice wins out easily over LibreOffice, but LO runs much faster on my laptop, so there are distinct advantages to both. Free Editor tops them both, but as it lacks the ability to use Styles, it is useless to me for all but the simplest documents.

Since we’re discussing drive space, I thought I’d also compare how much space each program takes up in the Program Files folder, excluding my user files in hopes of getting a fair comparison since these are not virgin installations. Free Editor I have only recently installed, and my wife has just finished installing it on her netbook, so that one is pristine. Not surprisingly, Free Editor is fairly tiny at 74.7 MiB, while OpenOffice weighs in at 376 MiB, and LibreOffice a slightly heftier 401 MiB.

As I said before, on my computer LibreOffice is far faster, so I spend less time waiting on the software itself, so it lets me get on with my writing or designing. On the other hand, because so much of what I make gets uploaded to my Scribd library, and because I use a free DropBox (af) account to keep everything backed up, and especially because my hard drive is nearly full, file size is also important.

Granted, my OpenOffice installation is highly modified, and LibreOffice is to some extent, so clean installs are likely smaller. Those modifications may also affect memory usage, which I also compared while each program was running a single instance with no files open. Free Editor wins again at 7.8 KiB. OpenOffice uses 36.3, and LibreOffice 58.3; only three processes currently running on my laptop are using more than LibreOffice*.

Further muddying the waters are that both ‘Offices have quirks that annoy me and unique features I love, so what it boils down do is: use whichever one suits your needs.

If you have a netbook or other low-powered computer, and don’t need extensive Styles support, then Free Editor may be for you. For high-powered machines, try both ‘Offices and use whichever one you prefer – unless you do a lot of sharing of files. In that case, If LO is your choice, then I’d recommend keeping a copy of OpenOffice or Free Editor (depending on the complexity of the document) around and use it to re-save the document into a smaller file.

For those of us closer to the middle of the the power scale, you may need to consider whether you can more afford the additional memory or drive space. If neither is an issue, then, again, try both and use the one you prefer.

* Except when World Community Grid detects that I have enough idle resources to help with some charity distributed computing, since the whole point of it is to use as much of my computer’s idle time as it can. If you ever, as I do, have significant chunks of time where your computer is on but not doing much (for me it’s whenever I’m writing), then why not donate those resources to a good cause by visiting the link above. The client itself takes almost no system resources while monitoring them, so even a relatively low-powered computer should be able to run it with no performance loss.

To date I have helped find new ways to provide water for third-world countries, and was part of simulations that tested new drugs to cure both AIDS and cancer.


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