Last Updated on March 18, 2020
This is a weekly blog about the Raspberry Pi 4 (“RPI4”), the latest product in the popular Raspberry Pi range of computers.
The last couple of weeks I’ve looked at whether the RPI4 is capable of two absolutely essential desktop activities: web browsing and email. I was impressed by the wee device in this regard.
This week I’m summarizing my experiences of another fundamental desktop activity: running an office suite.
The LibreOffice suite is one of Raspbian’s recommended software. With good reason, LibreOffice is truly remarkable open source software. If you’ve not used it before, you definitely want to try it. Never pay for office software ever again.
LibreOffice is a modern, intuitive, open source productivity suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, and more. Installing the software adds a new menu entry to the Application Menu, as shown in the image on the right.
At the time of writing, the current stable release of LibreOffice is 6.3.3 (fresh version), and 6.2.8 (still version).
You get an older release with Raspbian, it’s version 184.108.40.206. That’s about 7 months old. I share my experience of using the suite on the RPI4.
Everyone uses a word processor at some stage. Students write their essays in the early hours to meet their submission deadlines, employees freshen their CV to try to escape the monotony of their current job, managers compose truly mind-numbingly boring reports, and so on.
Writer starts up promptly although it’s noticeably slower in usage than on my main desktop. But there’s no lag in typing text, and the software works well. With a simple document loaded, the software uses about 160MB of RAM.
Writer, like most modern word processors, is far more than a simple typewriter. It can be used for basic desktop publishing (DTP). It’s very useful for the design, layout, and printing of documents such as leaflets, brochures and newsletters. Writer has lots of DTP functionality such as the ability to create columns, text frames, multiple layouts in one document, create tidy body text, insert and professional align images, tracking objects, and much more.
How does RPI4 perform with DTP? Maybe not as sprightly as I would like, but perfectly adequate. And the 4GB RAM model was never short of memory even with editing some huge magazine-style copy.
Calc is another cornerstone of LibreOffice. Many workplaces use spreadsheets like a glorified calculator. But this application offers a comprehensive range of advanced functions too.
I performed a few tests to see how spreadsheets function with some heavy macros on the RPI4. On a core i7 machine, my macro test completes in about 8 seconds. The RPI4 completes the same task in slightly less than 20 seconds. A pretty good result. It’s not a scientific comparison of course, as the tests were completed on slightly different versions of LibreOffice Calc, but it gives an indication of real-world performance.
Draw is ideally suited for creating graphic documents. If you need to produce technical drawings, brochures, posters, and other documents, Draw is better suited than Writer.
I’ve spent some time this week preparing a 10 page brochure on the RPI4. It’s very graphic laden. Opening the completed brochure from the file manager takes 32 seconds (this includes opening LibreOffice Draw) to fully load and ready for editing. On my main desktop machine, the same file takes only 8 seconds to be ready to edit. And it’s not just opening the file where the speed differential is noticeable. Editing the document on my i7 machine is more pleasurable. Yes, I can make edits on the RPI4, and it’s reasonably comfortable to use, but a little too pedestrian on some elements. If you only make light work with Draw, you’ll be more than satisfied.
The brochure with Draw running takes 158MB of RAM on the RPI4, compared to 214MB on my main desktop. There are advantages in running a 32-bit operating system.
In the business world, presentations are a vital way to drum up business, present your findings to an audience, or educate your staff. LibreOffice has a dedicated application for presentations. It’s called Impress.
Impress is one of the applications I use only on an occasional basis. This week I created a few presentations using a variety of the templates. There’s a good variety of pre-supplied templates, 23 in total, although they’re fairly basic. Extra templates can be downloaded separately.
The application felt reasonably snappy. Common actions such as exporting a presentation to PDF, using the drawing modes, and inserting objects work fine on the RPI4.
Math is LibreOffice’s formula editor, and can be invoked in your text documents, spreadsheets, presentations and drawings, enabling you to insert formatted mathematical and scientific formulas.
When it comes to typesetting mathematical formula, I always gravitate to LaTeX, rather than an office suite. So I’m probably not best placed to comment much on the Math element of the LibreOffice suite. If you use Math on the RPI4, do share your experiences below.
I will check out TexMaths in a later blog. TexMaths is an addon designed to provide LaTeX support into LibreOffice. LaTeX equations can be inserted as images (SVG or PNG formats) and the LaTeX code is saved into the image attribute for further editing.
Base is a full-featured desktop database front end, designed to meet the needs of a broad array of users. When trying Base, the software complained that my system didn’t have a Java Runtime Environment installed. But OpenJDK Runtime Environment was present. I ran out of time this week to explore the issue further. But I’ll return to it later.
An office suite is the archetypal business software. For end users, it represents the cornerstone of their day, writing documents, updating spreadsheets, devising presentation pitches.
Using LibreOffice on the RPI4 is really good; better than my expectations. It’s not quite as snappy as I wish (particularly with Draw), but it’s more than competent for the majority of daily office activities. It holds its own surprisingly well.
Cold startup times for Writer and Draw are 9 seconds, with Calc and Impress taking 10 seconds. That’s the time taken for the program to be fully usable. And following a fresh reboot before starting each application. These results are with the 4GB RAM RPI4 using a Samsung EVO Plus 32GB microSDHC, a fairly bog standard memory card. With a Kingston SSD startup times are slightly better.
With warm startup, deduct a few seconds off these times.
And with my 4GB RPI4, I can have Writer, Calc, Impress, and Draw open at the same time together with a web browser, an email client, and more, and still not run into any memory issues. You don’t want to run into swap.
Read all my blog posts about the RPI4.
|Raspberry Pi 4 Blog
|Manage your personal collections on the RPI4
|Survey of terminal emulators
|Search the desktop with the latest version of Recoll
|Personal Information Managers on the RPI4
|Keep a diary with the RPI4
|Process complex mathematical functions, plot 2D and 3D graphs with calculators
|Internet radio on this tiny computer. A detailed survey of open source software
|Professionally manage your photo collection with digiKam
|Typeset beautifully with LyX
|Software that teaches young people how to learn basic computing skills and beyond
|Firefox revisited - Raspbian now offers a real alternative to Chromium
|Turn the Raspberry Pi 4 into a low power writing machine
|Keep the kids learning and having fun
|Lots of choices to view images
|Listening to podcasts on the RPI4
|File management on the RPI4
|Open Broadcaster Software (OBS Studio) on the RPI4
|Keep up-to-date with these news aggregators
|Web Browsers Again: Firefox
|Retro gaming on the RPI4
|Screen capturing with the RPI4
|Emulate the Amiga, ZX Spectrum, and the Atari ST on the RPI4
|Choose the right model of the RPI4 for your desktop needs
|Using the RPI4 as a screencaster
|Have fun reading comics on the RPI4 with YACReader, MComix, and more
|Turn the RPI4 into a complete home theater
|Watching locally stored video with VLC, OMXPlayer, and others
|PDF viewing on the RPI4
|Access the RPI4 remotely running GUI apps
|e-book tools are put under the microscope
|The office suite is the archetypal business software. LibreOffice is tested
|Managing your email box with the RPI4
|Web surfing on the RPI4 looking at Chromium, Vivaldi, Firefox, and Midori
|Video streaming with Chromium & omxplayerGUI as well as streamlink
|A survey of open source music players on the RPI4 including Tauon Music Box
|An introduction to the world of the RPI4 looking at musikcube and PiPackages
This blog is written on the RPI4.