Microsoft has released Office 365 and for those that like the idea of having an on-line office suite, but don’t want to have to pay the cost of the Microsoft solution, where do you turn? Are they comparable alternatives? I am happy to answer with an emphatic ‘yes’. Some of the available alternatives offer a feature-for-feature alternative, whereas some go a few extra miles and offer additional features that make them superior to the Microsoft offering.

But what are these alternatives? Outside of Google Docs, most of the alternatives live on the fringes. That doesn’t mean they aren’t worth giving a try. In fact these alternatives should very easily fill all of your on-line office suite needs.

Let’s dig into the list of applications so you can see if one (or more) of them can serve as an alternative for you and/or your company.

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Five Apps

1. Zoho

Zoho is quickly becoming my go-to on-line office suite tool. Not only does it offer the standard office tools, it has a host of features and services that can be included. One of my favorite additions is the Campaigns tool. With this you can create email and social campaigns for up-coming services and products. If you are a small business owner, you would certainly stand to gain quite a lot of addition efficiency and functionality by migrating to Zoho. You can start a free account (which is ideal for single users), or you can upgrade different products, in an a la carte fashion, to perfectly fit your needs.

2. OX

OX is the new kid on the block. Though it’s not one hundred percent production ready, it’s already showing incredible promise. OX offers files, email, address book, calendar, tasks, and even a social portal where you can easily keep up with your Facebook and Twitter accounts from within the OX Portal. OX is also one of the few fully open source tools of its kind, which should make many of the Google Docs opponents happy. Even though OX isn’t quite ready for everyday use, you should sign up and check it out – make sure the developers are looking at plenty of interest and support. Once complete, OX will be able to seamlessly work with both Microsoft Office and LibreOffice files/formats.

3. Google Apps

Google Apps is the de facto standard by which everyone measures on-line office suites. With tons of features, millions of users, and an incredibly simple to use interface, it’s hard to go wrong with the Mac Daddy of cloud-based tools. Word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, forms, drawings, tasks, and lucid art diagrams are all at your fingertips. And, of course, we cannot forget email. For the single user, Google Drive is suitable. If you are a business owner, give Google Apps for Business a try. Five million businesses are already taking advantage of this powerhouse on-line suite of tools.

4. Think Free Office

Think Free Office is one of the only Java-based on-line office suites. The biggest downfall to this is that you have to install Java. The upside to that is Think Free Office will make many users feel like they are using a more standard client-based app. It is, however, all web-based. Think Free Office does allow you to create documents (text, spreadsheet, presentation, and HTML notes), but requires the Java Runtime Environment to do so. Think Free also offers the Think Free Power Tool which enables you to automatically sync your Think Free Office with your PC and also has a Mobile Site to make it easy to interact with your Think Free Office from your mobile device.

5. Live Documents

Live Documents is driven by Flash and offers an interesting take for the on-line office interface. Instead of the standard menu or tab-driven applications, Live Documents presents itself as a full-blown virtual desktop. Along with the standard tools (word processor, spreadsheets, presentations) it also offers Google Docs imports, a quick-launch dock, and a host of formatting tools (from within each tool). You can adjust text kerning, add footnotes, share documents with other users, and more. Imported documents (from Google, Microsoft Office, or LibreOffice) do not lose formatting or data).

Bottom line

For anyone who thinks Microsoft Office 365 is the only game in town, you now have five options in front of you. Although one option (OX) is not quite ready for prime time (though it shows amazing potential and daily progress), each of these tools promise to break you free of the Microsoft on-line office suite model.

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