Microsoft Office once had an unquestioned stranglehold on the world of productivity suites and programs. However, recent software developments have given rise to a slew of office suites that fall outside Microsoft’s banner, many of which offer convenient functionality designed to go beyond the basic editing and formatting afforded by company’s premium suite and free-for-all offering (aka Office Online). For instance, the latter still lacks advanced tools such as Mail Merge and Pivot Tables, despite touting many of the same features that comprise Microsoft’s more expansive package.
Fortunately, there’s a multitude of capable alternatives available for Windows and MacOS, whether you’re looking for a quick means to spell check the copy on your resume or string together complex formulas prior to giving an important business presentation. Below are five of our favorites!
Best overall: FreeOffice 2016
The latest version of SoftMaker’s FreeOffice 2016 comes with full compatibility for DOC, DOX, XLS, XLSX, PPT, and PPT formats with a lot of work going into making them “loss free” – in other words, you won’t find any unexpected surprises when transferring these files into real Word programs. This compatibility is great if you want a free alternative to Word but still need to work regularly with Word software.
The software is also easy on the eyes and very, very familiar to Word users. The toolbars and document creation options are very similar to the Office suite, and the latest updates to the software ensure that it’s extra-fast, with slim-to-no loading times. Even PlanMaker, the Excel alternative, offers features like conditional formatting and pivot tables that past Excel users will be able to jump into without needing a new tutorial.
FreeOffice is also an excellent choice for professional projects. Not only does it provide compatibility with password-protected files, but it can also help you create PDF files or ePUB files, track changes in the document history to check up on editing, and switching to different languages on the fly. More common features like spellcheck and smart typing also wait in the wings to make sure you’re not missing anything Office related.
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Best features: LibreOffice
The creators of open source LibreOffice took a look at Microsoft Office and said, “Let’s make sure we can do everything Office can’t.” There’s even a useful (and lengthy) graph that displays all the differences and extra compatibility that LibreOffice has compared to Microsoft’s version. This includes support for a vast number of imports and exports for multiple graphic and document formats on both Mac and Windows systems. If you are using more distinctive software and are worried that Office won’t be able to handle your industry-specific formats, then LibreOffice is more than happy to step in.
The open source community behind LibreOffice remains active and supports a vast number of extensions that allow you to equip your apps with any features you need. In the latest updates, that includes the ability to classify docs into different security categories, more minimalistic toolbars, extra spreadsheet functions, and time-saving tools. With “Fresh” and Bug Hunting Beta modes available, you’re also guaranteed to see regular improvements with LibreOffice.
Ultimately, if you like Office but are looking for a highly customizable alternative that can expand on the tools Microsoft provides with solid compatibility, LibreOffice is waiting for you. Of course, learning and building LibreOffice into the software you want may take a little work, so give yourself plenty of time to learn your options.
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