Software

Comparing office suites: What features are vital to your workflow?

In the past, Microsoft Office was considered the king of office suites. Now, multi-platform compatibility, cloud access, and differing feature sets could make alternatives more appealing.

dekdoyjaideeistock-905878876.jpg

Image: iStock/Dekdoyjaidee

Microsoft Office is not the behemoth it once was. While it retains a great deal of support in enterprises where it has been entrenched for decades, startups and small businesses are comparing the features of other office suites to find a solution that fits their needs and budgets.

SEE: Comparison chart: Office suites (Tech Pro Research)

LibreOffice: The premier open source office suite

For a decade, OpenOffice.org was the default choice for users and organizations in need of a free office suite. While Sun Microsystems was at best a halfhearted steward of the platform, developer discomfort following Oracle's acquisition of Sun led to the creation of the LibreOffice fork. As a result, contributing developers and major Linux distributions abandoned development and packaging of OpenOffice in favor of the new fork. Shortly thereafter, Oracle fired the remaining developers and transferred trademark ownership to the Apache Foundation.

Because of this schism, and the resulting shift in development, LibreOffice is the new standard for open source office suites. For comparison, the current 4.1.x branch of Apache OpenOffice is effectively a series of bug fixes and security patches applied to what is effectively version 4.1 of LibreOffice—a release that dates back to July 2013. While maintenance releases continue, public discussion of formally discontinuing OpenOffice began in September 2016. Since then, LibreOffice has made strides in file format compatibility with iWork and legacy office suites, such as AppleWorks and ClarisWorks, along with developing a web-based interface and hundreds of other new features.

SEE: 50 time-saving tips to speed your work in Microsoft Office (free TechRepublic PDF)

In addition, IBM Lotus Symphony was a closed fork of OpenOffice.org, which was actively developed from 2007 to 2012 under license from Sun. When it was discontinued by IBM, the source code was donated to the Apache Foundation, from which features have been pulled in to OpenOffice and LibreOffice.

WordPerfect: The choice of lawyers (yes, still)

The DOS heritage of WordPerfect naturally lent itself to an extensive set of keyboard shortcuts. Combined with a robust macro system and reveal codes, and led by managers who were responsive to customer feedback, WordPerfect gained an early following in law and government markets. Because of this, it has a somewhat entrenched position today. That said, WordPerfect lacks proper Unicode support, making it entirely unsuitable for Asian writing systems.

G Suite vs. Office 365

In the Google vs. Microsoft competition, the recent focus has been on adding more ancillary features for specific businesses. Microsoft has taken great interest in adding business culture and career-focused features following its purchase of LinkedIn. Google has aggressively targeted the education market, with G Suite for Education and Google Classroom, both of which seamlessly integrate with Chromebooks.

SEE: Cost comparison calculator: G Suite vs. Office 365 (Tech Pro Research)

Your take

Has your organization been evaluating the best office suite for your business needs? Share your opinions and advice with fellow TechRepublic members.

Also read...

About James Sanders

James Sanders is a Java programmer specializing in software as a service and thin client design, and virtualizing legacy programs for modern hardware.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox