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 compromise Microsoft’s more expansive package.
Fortunately, there’s a multitude of capable alternatives available for Windows and Mac OS X, 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, from lesser-known applications such as WPS Office, to the web-based stalwart Google Drive. Eat your heart out, Microsoft.
SoftMaker’s FreeOffice is a feature-rich office suite essentially functioning as a light version of the company’s more robust, commercial suite. The free download includes Textmaker, Planmaker, and Presentations as replacements for Microsoft’s big three, and each is comparable to its Microsoft counterpart. Regardless of the application, however, 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 thanks to a familiar palette of resources and corresponding icons.
Moreover, the software features innate compatibility with other programs’ proprietary document types — more so than even Microsoft Office — which makes it useful for when switching back and forth between official Microsoft docs. The latest version of the software also handles password-protected files, too, while providing tools for creating PDF documents, tracking document changes, and spelling check your copy. Some of the latest features in the 2016 version of the software make use of smart typing and more language tools, while incorporating more export-import options and offering a ton of graphic support.
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OpenOffice remains one of the oldest open-source alternatives to Office. After 15 years, the software has developed into a full toolset for creating word documents, graphics, presentations, spreadsheets, 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 also supports Microsoft Word documents, handles cell-dependent calculations, and spell checks your work.
The developer, Apache, is constantly adding new features, too, such as annotation capabilities and interactive crop utilities. The company also continually strives to give you a greater level of control, and works to increase file compatibility with a host of laudable extensions and basic tools. The welcome templates repository provides users with a host of frameworks for developing commonplace documents, such as basic resumes and invoices, while embedded instructional wizards aim to curb the difficulty often associated with complex tasks such as mail merges. The community forums, mailing lists, user guides, and issue trackers only further your level of engagement and understanding of the freemium software’s merits. This is software you can really dig into, and a truly global product, but keep in mind that open-source software tends to have a higher learning curve than traditional office suites.
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Essentially an open office suite that parted ways with OpenOffice back in 2010, the cross-platform LibreOffice uses the same underlying source code and features the same basic productivity tools, but looks very different. While Apache has stayed with its spare open-source layout, LibreOffice has developed a more modern user interface that looks and feels far more professional relative to Microsoft Office itself. The core suite includes Writer, Calc (spreadsheets), Impress (presentations) and so on, each of which touts full Microsoft compatibility as well as support for ODF. The software also features a powerful and well managed list of extensions that allow you to further customize the program to your individual needs. The the fifth generation of the software sports a big speed boost, simplified menus and controls, more presentation transitions, and added support for Apple Keynote 6, VBA macro streams, and cloud storage. LibreOffice is updated at intervals.
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Google Docs has been at the forefront of open office software for many reasons — primarily because it’s free and accessible from virtually anywhere with a valid internet connection. The well-known office suite provides a word processor, spreadsheets, and presentation capabilities, all without a price tag or even a downloadable .exe. The software lets you create, share, and edit documents with anyone, in real time, regardless of whether they have a Google account. It also supports a wide array of file types, from Microsoft Word’s .doc format to PDFs, not to mention integration with services such as Google Plus, Gmail, and Google Calendar. All your documents are even stored in the cloud for quick access when using iWork apps on your iOS or Mac OS X devices. Other hallmarks include the ability to edit documents up to 1GB in size and convert files to ePub format, along with the options for inserting and editing inline tables. The software isn’t known for its speed, but the interface is minimal and slick — and if you use Chrome, you probably already have a feel for it.
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Atlantis is a more traditional word processor. It focuses on speed and features more than compatibility. Nova includes all the tools you need to write essays, resumes, letters, and other documents that don’t overly rely on graphics. There are a total of three available toolbars, each of which can be switched between two different sets of tools and results in a myriad of features for you to experiment with. This includes a grabbing tool that’s specifically designed to move content quickly, as well as a Hide mode that allows you to strip away all those tools.
While a little crowded, the interface will look very, very familiar to anyone who used Word back in the day. Most of the tools mimic Microsoft’s, so if this matches your style, you may prefer it to the modern Word layout. Keep in mind that Nova is the free version of the Atlantis Word Processor. The paid version costs $35, though there is a free month-long trial if you wish to try it out beforehand. The $35 price point is still pretty low when compared to other big name word processors, so you may want to consider it. The premium version of the software also comes with a better spellcheck, encryption, a host of document backup services, and other various advanced features aimed at more complex users.
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This article was originally published on June 9, 2015, and updated on May 10, 2016, by Tyler Lacoma to include Atlantis Nova.