If you thought OpenOffice and LibreOffice were the epitome of free office suites, think again. Kingsoft Office is a truly underrated product that deserves a good look.

System requirements

  • Operating systems: Windows XP, Vista, and 7
  • Cost: $0 for Free Version, $49.95 for Standard, $69.95 for Professional
  • Acquisition: Downloadable
  • More Info: http://kingsoftstore.com

Comparison chart — courtesy of Kingsoft Office

Over in the Microsoft Office Blog on TechRepublic, we are asking a simple poll question: How many are still using Office 2003? Take the poll and share your thoughts.

Who’s it for?

Kingsoft Office is for anyone who wants to write documents, generate spreadsheets, and create presentations without spending exorbitant amounts of money for expensive office suite applications.

What problem does it solve?

Unlike most free office programs, Kingsoft Office is designed to cater to the Microsoft Office crowd with its familiar-looking user interface and improved Microsoft Office format support.

Standout features

  • The free version packs a punch: Despite the lack of support for some advanced features like VBA and macros, Kingsoft Office performs surprisingly well against the competition, yet it isn’t a memory or CPU hog.
  • Excellent Microsoft Office format support: Kingsoft Office is able to create document files compatible with MS Office 2003. It can even pull off read-only support for reading MS Office 2007 and 2010 files without a hitch.
  • Familiar user interface: Anyone who remembers MS Office 2003 will feel right at home and will instantly come to recognize the strikingly similar attributes to the window layout. (See the images on page 2)
  • Smaller install size: At least with the free version, the installation clocked in at roughly 100MB, which is considerably compact, compared to its heftier counterparts.

What’s wrong?

  • No real compelling reason to get a paid version: Since most folks aren’t going to use a macro system or any kind of scripting, paying for the Standard or Professional editions of Kingsoft Office might be a bit overkill.
  • Cannot save documents in Microsoft Office 2007 or 2010 format: For many casual users, not being able to save files in the 2007 or 2010 formats is a nonissue. But if you need to not only read but edit and save the latest formats as well, it would be best to consider buying the Microsoft product.

Competitive products

The bottom line

If you are looking for the ultimate free office suite for Windows, look no further. Experience document creation and manipulation as it was intended, without breaking the bank in the process.

(See the images on page 2)