Microsoft Office was once the go-to source and industry standard for office productivity applications. As the office suite landscape continues to change and evolve, we’re seeing more and more open source software springing up that lack little in the way of features and provide free alternatives to the productivity king that dominated the market for years on end.
Whether you’re at home or on the road with your mobile device, word processing, spreadsheets, presentation software, and more are now all accessible anywhere you have an Internet connection. It’s been a long time coming, but the reign of Microsoft Office is drawing to a close.
While you could use Microsoft’s free Office Web Apps, we’ve rounded up six of our top picks for some of the best Microsoft-free alternatives so you can carry out basic office tasks without paying a cent. These resources will make it easy to continue hammering out those word docs, spreadsheets, and presentations while keeping your wallet at bay.
Google Docs is 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 has all the basic perks of Microsoft Office — word processor, spreadsheets, and presentation capabilities — but it’s completely free and accessible online through Google’s cloud-based storage service, Google Drive. It provides a nice, central hub for all your documents, and the sheer potential for collaboration makes the software a stand out among the rest. You can create, share, and edit documents with anyone, regardless of whether they have a Google account. Also, the ability to view document changes in real time – even those made by several people at once in the same document – has its advantages.
From Microsoft Word documents to PDFs, Google Docs supports a wide array of file types, all of which can be downloaded for offline use. Added perks include image editor Google Drawings, and online form creator Google Forms. Plus, Google Docs works well with other Google services like Google+, Gmail, and Google Calendar for greater integration capabilities and convenience. Although the program is free, you can upgrade from the allotted 5GB of space for a mere $2.50 a month. Be sure to download the Google Drive app for Android and Apple devices to access your files on your mobile device.
SoftMaker’s FreeOffice is yet another feature-rich office suite and is essentially a light version of SoftMaker’s more robust, commercial office suite. Although you have to obtain a serial key in order to use the product, you can snag one completely free of charge, allowing you to access the company’s flagship software TextMaker, PlanMaker and Presentations with little to no hassle. The interface is one of the best we’ve seen on a freemium program, sporting a clean design that’s easier on the eyes than some of the other programs on our roundup, and its innate compatibility with any version of Microsoft Word beyond 6.0 is enough to cater to most file types you throw at it. Other bundled software, like PlanMaker and Presentations, bring striking tools for creating PowerPoint-esque visuals and diagrams while retaining a light footprint on your system for quick loading times.
The current version of FreeOffice supports Windows 8, Windows 7, Vista, Windows XP, and Windows 2000 as well as all PC-based Linux systems using glibc 2.2.5 or higher. The software can even be installed on a flash drive for greater greater portable and convenience. A mobile app for Android and Apple devices is also in the works.
OpenOffice is one of the more renowned pieces of open source software on the market and has been so for more than 10 years. The bundle contains tools for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases, and a slew of other capabilities. The software can be downloaded and used completely free of any licensing fees and stores your data in an international open standard format. It can also read and save Microsoft Word documents so you don’t have to sweat over any compatibility issues.
The current version of OpenOffice offers a treasure trove of developer extensions and supports most common operating systems, including Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, and GNU/Linux. It’s not as advanced for collaboration as Google Docs, but the package offers a solid line of productivity tools that are frequently updated with new features.
LibreOffice is essentially an open office suite that parted ways with Apache OpenOffice back in 2010. It uses the same underlying source code under the hood, features the same basic productivity tools as OpenOffice, and even works in a similar manner. The major difference between the two is the increased amount of development the Document Foundation has poured into the LibreOffice software over the years. LibreOffice showcases a few more advanced features, such as a Wiki publisher, and offers greater functionality given the available extensions and customization options. It’s fairly intuitive, simple to use, and dons a modern design that comes up just short of Microsoft Office.
The current version of LibreOffice supports most common operating systems, including Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X and GNU/Linux. The software can even be installed on a portable drive or SD card so you can throw it in your pocket before you head out. A mobile app for Android and Apple devices is also in the works.
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. Although its features and interface almost seem to directly reflect Microsoft Office at times, there are enough variations and customization options for it to stand on its own. The software is quick, compact, and compatible with a laundry list of file formats. Aside from the basic features, it also includes a PDF converter and tools for adding watermarks to documents. However, you will have to look elsewhere for some of the more robust features such as note taking and publishing.
Zoho Docs is another Web-based office suit that follows in the footsteps of Google Docs. Its basic package offers 1GB of free online storage, a word processor, and tools for creating spreadsheets and presentations. Secure sharing and real-time editing between users and groups is a plus, but the software often feels a bit cumbersome and not as user-friendly as it boasts. However, it serves as another great cloud-based storage opportunity should you decide to bypass Google Docs or somehow manage to utilize all 5GB of space.
The Web-based suite can be accessed from any common browser including Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome, but you will need to sign up for the software before you can use it. There is also a mobile app for both Android and Apple devices.
What do you think of our list of the best Microsoft Office alternatives? Did we miss a great alternative? Let us know in the comments below.