Software

Five alternatives to Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office is not the only game in town; Brien Posey suggests some suitable alternatives.

Although Microsoft Office is one of the most popular productivity suites available, it is far from being the only choice available. Here are five alternatives to Microsoft Office that you might consider the next time you are looking to purchase an office suite.

This blog post is also available as a TechRepublic Photo Gallery.

Five Apps

1. Google Docs

Google Docs is a cloud based productivity suite that lets you create word processing documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and drawings. Because Google Docs is a browser based application, it isn't quite as full featured as some of the other productivity suites. Even so, Google Docs is free, and there is nothing to install on your computer. The interface is completely intuitive and Google Docs can be used to create and edit Microsoft Office documents.

2. LibreOffice

LibreOffice is a free productivity suite that is designed to act as an alternative to Microsoft Office.  Like Apache Open Office, Libre Office offers a word processor, a spreadsheet, a presentation application, a drawing tool, and a database application. In fact, the launch screen is nearly identical to that of Apache Open Office. The reason for this is that in 2010 some of the OpenOffice developers broke away from OpenOffice and created LibreOffice. As such, there are a lot of similarities between the two suites. LibreOffice even supports the use of OpenOffice documents.

3. Kingsoft Office Suite Free 2012

Kingsoft Office Suite Free 2012 is, as the name implies, a free office suite. The free version includes a word processor, a spreadsheet, and a presentation application. These applications look and feel like Office 2010 applications, and the software fully supports the use of Office documents in addition to its own native file format. Also supported are standard file types such as RTF, TXT, and HTML.

4. Apache Open Office

Apache Open Office is a free office suite that can trace its roots back for well over a decade. This open source suite contains utilities for creating text documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings, and formulas. Open Office should be easy to use for anyone who is familiar with Office 2010. The word processor and spreadsheet look a lot like Word and Excel. The presentation application looks different than PowerPoint, but contains familiar controls. The suite is capable of opening (and saving) Microsoft Office documents and other common file formats.

5. Office Web App

The Microsoft Office Web Apps are an alternative to an on-premise Microsoft Office deployment. This free suite of cloud apps includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. Furthermore, you get 7GB of free storage space on SkyDrive, which is useful for storing your Office Web App documents. Office Web App isn't quite as full featured as Office 2010 or Office 2013, but Microsoft does have the basics covered. Besides, it is hard to argue with the price, which is free.

Also read:

About

Brien Posey is a seven-time Microsoft MVP. He has written thousands of articles and written or contributed to dozens of books on a variety of IT subjects.

41 comments
Condemned
Condemned

Regarding compatibility to MSO formats, no other alternate office suite can challenge with SoftMaker Office. It's the only one to open, edit, and save MSO formats seamlessly. All others (and I tested a lot of them) create a lot of weird stuff. By the way, SoftMaker Ofice is faster and more reliable than others, especially Libre Office, that is pretty slow and has too many bugs. SoftMaker Office Professional comes with word processor TextMaker, spreadsheet PlanMaker, presentation software SoftMaker Presentations, BasicMaker, Berlitz dictionaries, and eM Client 5 Professional for just $99 for three licenses. This is the best competitor to MSO, but much cheaper. Btw, support is totally free.

Accessible Info
Accessible Info

We work hard to make all of our documents accessible to people using screen readers and assistive technology. It would be nice to know which of these alternatives match (or exceed) MS Office's accessibility features.

Robynsveil
Robynsveil

not only does that, *but* supports more than just BASIC: BasicMaker automates SoftMaker Office: it lets you write BASIC macros that complete recurring tasks in TextMaker and PlanMaker. From the standpoint of syntax, BasicMaker is modeled after Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), and its OLE Automation object model is a subset of Microsoft Office's. If you already have experience in macro writing with Microsoft Office, you'll be up to speed with SoftMaker Office macros in no time at all. If you wish to create scripts for SoftMaker Office in languages other than BASIC, you can! TextMaker and PlanMaker can be scripted in many programming languages, including as Python, Perl, Ruby, C++, and Delphi.

ag691234
ag691234

MS Office is by far has the best features of all office suites. I'll use OpenOffice on my Linux machine, it does the job, but even Office 2002 has more features than any of the alternatives. Features like VBA scripting, better forms controls, drawing controls, larger set of Excel formulas, etc etc etc. There is a reason back way during Office wars of the 1980s Microsoft prevailed, it was the feature set of Office. The alternatives are with us for one reason only, they cost nothing to license. I've tested OpenOffice with business users, it cannot do the job. That said, its nice to have alternatives for the simple user who has no use of full features of Office. Until they have that need, which with time they will.

anil_g
anil_g

Libre Office "even" supports the Open Office document format? The Open Document Format IS both the Libre Office AND Open Office primary / native document format, and both programs should support Microsoft Office formats equally well. The Open Document Format is NOT just a Libre Office or Open Office format, it is the most prominent global open standard for these kind of documents. In 2010 Sun was bought by Oracle and since Sun owned Open Office Oracle now had control. As expected Oracle's early moves were not appreciated by the open source community and Libre Office was forked (in other words Open Office was dumped). In a move that certainly surprised me (I don't know if I'm the only one), Oracle donated Open Office to Apache Foundation in 2011. This move seems to have rescued Open Office from oblivion. Now we have both Open Office and Libre Office, both originally the same, and I presume, unless someone can clarify, they are now both still fundamentally the same but presumably with growing differences.

janitorman
janitorman

I meant to say the full version, not the online thing. NO ONE is going to use an online server or application, nor store their data online. If you do you're just asking for trouble.

janitorman
janitorman

needed in large corporations, or maybe not. The home user or small business has no need for it, as the free alternatives serve fine. Outlook has always been full of holes and impossible to use (for me anyway) and I just use web-based mail. A large corporation probably has their own server that has nothing to do with Outlook. A small company doesn't need it, and the home user certainly doesn't. It's too complicated to use, and is too integrated with the ms Office suites to be of any use to anyone who doesn't use them. Office itself got much harder to use with the "ribbon" and I refuse to have any version newer than 2003, even with the "search" function. I heard somewhere that in 2013 you can turn off the stupid ribbon. IF that's true and I had any use for it, I might reconsider, IF ms would make it available for free, as are most other office applications. Why pay for something you won't use?

jeffery.dixon
jeffery.dixon

Are any of the alternative spreadsheets able to handle large files better than MS 2010 Office Professional? Up to 295,000 rows, 30 colums with calculations being performed and able to have macros to perform some of the calculations/producing files? How about 64 bit versions to run on 64 bit OS systems to take advantage more ram? JD

Desert__Rat
Desert__Rat

For all the advances in the last 20 years I'm reminded of the student job I had at the univerisity I attended back in the 80's. MS O365 reminds me strongly of the network shared version of Wordperfect on Banyan Vines on a 10 meg network that I supported in the Law school except now the slow leg is the Internet and they want me to send 500 users on to an uncontrolled network (Our office internet pipe happens to be 10 meg) and expect decent performance with everything else that requires inet access. I'm thinking probably not.

Regulus
Regulus

Yes, just like mounting a secondary Operating System, a secondary Office Suite is a necessary part of your basic backup and recovery plan. A simple, but very effective plan is to mount UBUNTU Linux in a separate partition on your Hard Drive. This OS includes Libre Office (Suite). I use both OS's and Office Suite's interchangeably.

aboba0
aboba0

LibreOffice and OpenOffice both use The Document Foundation's document formats. The document formats aren't OpenOffice or LibreOffice formats. Other programs also support the The Document Foundation's document formats. The idea is the content of the document is your IP, the document format is open source, you don't need to rely on a particular vendor providing an app to maintain access to your IP and if you don't have an app you can always read the document directly.

Starry997
Starry997

I like LibreOffice, but there are things you just can't do. Like, in one portion of a Word document, I have something from Visio. That works great in Office. When I try to open that Office document in LibreOffice, the Visio portion is just empty space. I'm sure there are many other specialized things that are incompatible with LibreOffice. I also use Access at home extensively and know it well...I never really got anywhere with the OpenOffice database. Perhaps it is wonderful, but it isn't intuitive for me. Office is still really the best. But for occasional use...especially on a budget, it's hard to beat the price and capability of LibreOffice. If I didn't already have Office at home, I wouldn't buy it now. And although many of our users at work could probably get by with LibreOffice, there is always the problem of receiving Office documents from larger companies. They do things with some of those spreadsheets that make it impossible not to have Excel. I do think that home use is a great niche for LibreOffice.

carola
carola

We use Google docs here along with MS Office 2010 and while Google docs is getting more robust and adding more features, etc, nothing comes close to Office 2010 yet in terms of user friendliness and full services. It's sad but true. I think Microsoft has been humbled enough in the last few years to know that and are quietly making amends to win back users and get a better public opinion.

Gisabun
Gisabun

SEems that on a quiet news week, TR digs out some old articles, changes the title and a few line and some of the article and sends it out again.

doug.montgomery
doug.montgomery

If you already own Office 2007, why would you switch to any of these alternatives? If you want to do the same thing you did yesterday, stay with the software you bought yesterday. I have sharepoint and 100 users. I have people who want to work on the same file, at the same time. Some of my users are on campus, and some are in the field. My Exchange server is also 5 years old. The last time I licensed Office, it was $96k, I have an Exchange project thats $16k. I have Trend Micro for Exchange thats $1k/yr. Symantec backup for exhchange, power, air conditioning.. another $2k/yr. My SAN is also full, so add in another $15k for storage. Its $24k/year to license my 100 users for Office Pro, Exchange, Lync, and 1.5TB of space. How is this not saving me money? Plus, specing, ordering, installing or managing servers doesn't add to your companies bottom line. One of the cool benifits of the new Office is that I get it at home for free.

joseph_mcmanus
joseph_mcmanus

I posed this question on the discussion for Office licensing and someone suggested Thunderbird, then a couple of others said that were some serious show stoppers with it. My question to the moderator (and everyone else for that matter) is this: Is there ANY FOSS PIM's out there (other than T-Bird) since none of these "Suites" have a PIM as a part there of, that's as easy to use as Outlook, and can import (and export emails with ease? Could the moderator (or any one else) please respond, and maybe do an article if there happens to be a few of them? Thanks very much and have a wonderful day :-)

dogknees
dogknees

It would be great if the authors of articles on this topic told us whether the products are able to work with ALL Excel and Word files. Specifically, do they run VBA code in Office files? This is a show stopper for me and I suspect a lot of others. Just a thought. Maybe a feature comparison would be good.

carlsf
carlsf

Our choice is... 1) Google Docs 2) Libra Office Depending where we are and what O/S we are using..... Google Docs if we are accessing from a windows 7 machine Libra Office if we are accessing from a Linix machine (we use ZORIN 6 Ult) Company users were asked if they want WIN8 and Office 2013 ( we trailed for one month) ANSWER NO No no....... So Microsoft you have your answer sorry we will NOT be using WIN8 and/or Office 2013.

hometoy
hometoy

Microsoft Office online is way behind Google Docs in the sense of feel, responsiveness and stability. Microsoft Office does, however, provide an option of opening the file for editing in the browser or in a local installed Office 2007 or better. Handy for those times you need the more powerful features not available over the web.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

The past few weeks we have been discussing Office 2013, the licensing scheme implemented by Microsoft, and its impact on decision makers. Are you actively testing alternatives to Office?

asuserid9
asuserid9

Open Office is more complex and annoying than MSO - does Softmaker Office handle images simply like MSO? Can it be run in XP also, to try it out? I haven't converted to Linux yet - still researching.

asuserid9
asuserid9

I would be happy with Open Office except for the way it handles pasting and moving images. I do a lot of clipping and pasting and with MS Office I just paste the image or click the image and move it. In Open Office, if I tried to move an image, it was confusing and complicated and aggravating. If Open Office could handle cut-paste-move of images like MS Office, I would be quite happy with it. Any chance this will ever be fixed?

dogknees
dogknees

Given there are people using the online versions right now, SOMEONE is using it.

droidTURK182
droidTURK182

I heard this all before about the office "Ribbon" and if don't make the change soon that Office 2003 will stop getting support. You know you can turn the ribbon off on Office 2010 right and make it look like your precious 2003. I bet you don't like to do updates or install service packs because it just "messes stuff up." Embrace change not be afraid of it.

digilante
digilante

the ribbon may be "stupid" and it took me a while to get my head around where MS have hidden various tools/utilities/functions within Office, but after long term use with it I haven't had many complaints about it since. I bet you were of the same opinion with the UI change between Win 3.11 and Win95

dogknees
dogknees

I use Office apps at home for all sorts of things. That includes automation using VBA. The idea that a "home user" is somehow less interested in these things is crazy. Not all home users, but certainly some of us. Stop putting people in boxes!

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I haven't thought of that NOS since before the millennium rolled over.

Slayer_
Slayer_

That's what happens when you dump your most popular blog.

jsbeam
jsbeam

we are looking for this exact thing. Will post what we com up with...

mike.gordon
mike.gordon

If you tie yourself to VBA your'e a hostage to fortune.......or Microsoft. Iv'e been there and done that and in the end had to bite the bullet and manage a way out of it.

aboba0
aboba0

I'll second your request. Also add that knowing the degree of interoperability would be helpful. Not everything needs to work, just enough to get the job done. I've used LibreOffice/OpenOffice for years and have created solutions in their native format then, when done, saved as Excel to provide the solution to the final user. So far I've been able to provide solutions to all the problems I've been asked to solve. A few times I've had to find other functions than the ones I started with because they didn't produce the same result in Excel. Now that's just formulas not VBA but the same applies. LibreOffice is supposed to run VBA macros but, of course, not supporting all features. Would be nice to have a resource that identifies what does and doesn't translate.

AssemblerRookie
AssemblerRookie

We have about 5000 desktops and are actively testing MS Office alternatives. MS have priced themselves out of the market. As far as the cloud is concerned, in Australia you are not always afforded a fast and reliable internet connection. Makes working "on the road" sum what impossible.

digilante
digilante

the insinuation here is that only the larger businesses would run in-house mailservers, whereas home users certainly wouldn't. And, to a point, I'll agree but add that every rule has its exceptions (I know of a fair few larger businesses in the local area here that use google apps for email, and I run a mailserver at home for the sole purpose of development with it)

Gisabun
Gisabun

In infrastructure and training costs to switch! That and plenty of users who will grumbled because of the change. I know plenty of people who live by Outlook - akin to an Apple fanboi loving his new iPhone.

mike.gordon
mike.gordon

The cost of retraining staff in using the latest versions of office is the same as changing. Microsoft have made so many changes to the office UI that retraining is compulsory and not an option. If you accept that, then it's the perfect time to consider changing. Users always grumble but you all work for the same company and it's they who should decide .

Slayer_
Slayer_

It's management you have to convince.

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