Microsoft Office no longer has an unquestioned stranglehold on the world of productivity suites and programs. Though Office has expanded to other platforms, like Chrome OS, there are plenty of capable alternatives out there for Windows and Mac OS X.
With that in mind, here are our picks for the best Microsoft Office alternatives. Also, feel free to check out our selection of the best free image-editing tools, and our guides on how to use document templates in Microsoft Word, and how to convert a PDF into a Word file.
FreeOffice (Windows/Linux) — Free
SoftMaker’s FreeOffice is a feature-rich office suite essentially functioning as a light version of the company’s more robust, commercial suite. You can easily obtain the necessary serial key from the company’s website, allowing you to access software such as TextMaker, PlanMaker, and Presentations with little hassle. Regardless of the application, the lightweight software showcases the quickest loading times and one of the best interfaces of any freemium offering on our roundup, sporting a traditional and streamlined design that’s easy on the eyes.
Moreover, the software’s innate compatibility with other programs’ proprietary document types — such as Microsoft Word 6.0 — renders it as industrious as it is attractive. Other bundled software, like PlanMaker and Presentations, bring striking tools for creating PowerPoint-esque visuals and diagrams. The software also supports systems dating back to Windows 2000, and can be conveniently housed on a flash drive for greater portability.
OpenOffice (Windows/Mac OS X/Linux) — Free
OpenOffice is one of the more renowned pieces of open source software on the market and has been so for nearly 15 years. The bundle contains tools for creating word documents, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases, and a slew of other commonplace file types. The software stores your data in an international open standard format, and like most offerings on our list, it can also read and save Microsoft Word documents.
Though the software isn’t as advanced in terms of collaboration and lacks PowerPoint’s extensive selection of templates and transitions, developer Apache is constantly adding new features such as annotation capabilities and interactive crop utilities, while additionally bolstering your level of control and increasing file compatibility with laudable extensions and basic tools. The mailing list, community forums, user guides, installation tutorials, and issue trackers only further your level of engagement and understanding of the freemium software’s merits. Also, cell-dependent calculations and spell checking come standard.
LibreOffice (Windows/Mac OS X/Linux) — Free
Essentially an open office suite that parted ways with Apache OpenOffice back in 2010, LibreOffice uses the same underlying source code under the hood and features the same basic productivity tools as OpenOffice. It works in a similar manner, allowing you to create and edit documents compatible with Microsoft Word and Publisher, but it also showcases a few more advanced features and functionality given the sheer amount of available extensions and customization. For instance, the software even touts a Wiki publisher and simple template changer.
Still, the major difference between LibreOffice and OpenOffice is the increased amount of development the Document Foundation has poured into the LibreOffice software over the years. The lightweight programs even fit on a portable hard drive or standard flash drive, allowing you to tote the functionality of Writer, Calc, and Impress wherever you might go. It remains fairly intuitive, simple to use, and dons a modern design that comes up just short of Microsoft Office.
Kingsoft Office Free (Windows/Linux) — Free
If Kingsoft Office often seems like a Chinese knock-off of Microsoft Office, that’s because it essentially is. The software, developed out of Hong Kong, runs like a stripped version of Microsoft’s program and houses the three basic Microsoft Office counterparts for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint (aptly dubbed Writer, Spreadsheets, and Presentation). Although its features and three attractive interface options almost seem to directly reflect Microsoft Office at times, there are enough variations and customization options for it to stand on its own. Furthermore, the software is quick, compact, and compatible with a laundry list of file formats including DOC and XLS. Aside from the basic features and phenomenal support for first-time users, Kingsoft Office Free also includes the ability to create multi-page ebooks, convert PDF files, add watermarks, and manage tabs among a bevy of other notable tasks. Plus, few other freemium office suits provide integrated file backups and complimentary mobile apps for Android and iOS.
NeoOffice (Mac OS X) — $30
NeoOffice is, more or less, a fully-functioning OpenOffice for Mac that rivals the likes of Microsoft Office and Apple iWork. Though it is similar to different to offerings on our list, NeoOffice offers an assortment of welcome features design to lure would-be Microsoft users away from the company’s premium offering. The shareware software provides fullscreen and trackpack support, allowing you to view documents without outside distractions while making use of a variety of finger gestures, and you can additionally make annotations in a manner nearly identical to Apple’s Safari and TextEdit software. Moreover, the autosave and revision components provide options for restoring previous document versions. Though the interface is fairly lackluster — adorned with traditional floating windows and toolbars — the simplicity and familiarity render it easy to navigate and utilize. It does also offer a plethora of language options, but unfortunately, it also currently lacks iWork support.
Zoho Docs — Free
Zoho Docs is a Web-based office suite that follows in the footsteps of Google Docs. The free package offers 5GB of online storage, a word processor, and tools for creating spreadsheets and presentations. Secure sharing and real-time editing between up to three users is an added plus, but sadly, the software often feels a bit cumbersome and not as user-friendly as it boasts. Still, the software provides tools for commenting on documents and implementing mathematical formulas, as well as automatic two-way syncing with your desktop, a built-in task management system, and tools for bulk uploading files. Additionally, you can export files in a variety of formats, such as ODT and HTML, and even revisit previous version histories and tag documents for quick navigation and searching. The basic, gray interface is nothing to write home about, but there is a stripped-down mobile app available for Android and iOS, one featuring a far more attractive interface and many of the same tools for uploading, sharing, and commenting on documents.
Google Docs — Free
Google Docs has long been at the forefront of open office software for many reasons — just check out our piece on why Gmail is awesome if you have any qualms regarding the software. It touts a word processor, spreadsheets, presentation capabilities, and all the basic perks of Microsoft Office, but it’s completely free and accessible online through Google’s cloud-based storage service (Google Drive). The software provides a nice, central hub for all your documents, and the sheer potential for collaboration makes the software a standout among the rest. You can even create, share, and edit documents with anyone, regardless of whether they have a Google account. The ability to view document changes in real time — even those made by several people at once in the same document — has its advantages, as does the bundled image editor and online form creator Google Forms. Google Docs also supports a wide array of file types, from Microsoft Word documents to PDFs, not to mention incredible integration with services like Google+, Gmail, and Google Calendar. Though the program is free, you can upgrade from the allotted 15GB of space for as low as a mere $2 a month, and there’s even a free mobile app for Android and iOS devices.
iWork — Free for iOS and Mac users
iWork is essentially Apple’s beta answer to Google docs. Once logged in with your Apple username, you can create and edit documents in real-time, allowing you to engage cross-platform collaboration with up to 100 users. Whereas Pages provides tools and templates for crafting letters and reports in your browser, Numbers and Keynote present you with a smattering of tools for constructing formula-driven spreadsheets and transition-laden presentation akin to PowerPoint. Moreover, the software is innately compatible with Microsoft Office files — and as expected — all your documents are conveniently stored in the cloud for later access when using iWork apps on your iOS or Mac devices. Other noteworthy features include the ability to edit documents up to 1GB in size and convert files to ePub format, along with options for inserting and editing inline tables. The software isn’t know for its speed, but the interface is minimal and incredibly streamlined, providing quick access to customization and a central location for accessing various facets.
LucidChart — Free, with more industrious packages starting at $3.33 a month.
LucidChart isn’t so much an all-encompassing suite as it is a exhaustive piece of diagramming software. It relishes in a drag-and-drop interface and real-time collaboration among users, allowing you to easily create flowcharts, website, wireframes, organizational charts, mind maps, and other diagram-related content directly within your favorite browser. Furthermore, you can quickly communicate with peers and co-workers using the built-in chat functionality, comment on content directly within documents, and embed your visual diagrams in corporate websites and online wikis with the option to automatically update said content whenever you make changes to LucidChart. Revision components are also impressive, permitting you to view document development in regards to who made the changes and when. The free version of the software grants you up to 25MB of storage space and up to 60 objects per document, and as expected, the start-up software is primarily catered toward diagramming opposed to word processing. Hell, it even works with Microsoft Visio.
CollateBox — $10 a month
Simply put, CollateBox is the ultimate way to create and share business files and spreadsheets. The software functions as an organized and efficient way to collect and share data among co-workers, providing a simple solution to the obnoxious clutter that often accompanies a collaborate project. With CollateBox, you can track document changes in real time, viewing who made specific changes and when at your own digression. You can also hide and show columns and rows based on specific teammates, and if you prefer, you can set up the application to notify you when others open, edit, or forward your list to others. You can even lock columns to prevent others from editing and downloading content, or attach various files and comments on specific records prior to sharing them with your peers. Like the aforementioned Lucidchart, Collatebox is not designed as an all-inclusive suit. Nonetheless, the software’s data summaries are incredibly resourceful and informative, especially when combined with the software’s impeccable interface and simple navigation.
Update 11-24-14: This guide is continually updated to reflect recent releases. Last updated Nov. 11, 2014 to include an instructional video. DT writer Emily Schiola contributed to this article.