While we wholly support Microsoft Office and the various programs in it like Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access it is no secret that this is a very expensive option. Microsoft is also pushing its subscription-based Office 365 instead of the onetime purchase of Office Suite, so that means a monthly subscription in US Dollars forever. A. Great system of income for Microsoft but is that good value for you?
So, if we cannot afford the premium product that Microsoft offers, are there any free alternatives that we can look at that will give us a good quality product with roughly the same functionality?
The short answer is yes, there are certainly some very good alternatives.
We will list the alternative in the order in which we prefer them, which may differ from your own experience. In fact, it is very difficult to separate the following three Office alternatives, as all three are great in their own way.
Our criteria are firstly, it must be free and secondly ease of use. Please note that most of these programs do not include an alternative for the email program, Outlook, and we will have to look external to the suites to find a suitable and comparable alternative. We will leave that for a later article.
First on our list is a suite that typifies everything that is good about free open-ware programs, designed for and by the computer community:
LibreOffice is a powerful and free office suite, used by millions of people around the world. It has a clean interface and feature-rich tools to help you unlock your creativity and improve your productivity.
LibreOffice includes numerous applications that make it one of the most useful Free and Open Source office suite available. The following are included: Writer (for word processing), Calc (full function spreadsheets), Impress (easy to create presentations), Draw (vector graphics and flowcharts), Base (create databases much like Microsoft Access ), and Math (formula editing).
It will deliver documents that will look professional and clean, regardless of their purpose: a letter, a master thesis, a brochure, financial reports, marketing presentations, technical drawings and diagrams. LibreOffice makes it easy to make your work look great while you can focus on the content.
LibreOffice use documents of all kinds
LibreOffice is compatible with a wide range of document formats such as Microsoft® Word (.doc, .docx), Excel (.xls, .xlsx), PowerPoint (.ppt, .pptx) and Publisher. But LibreOffice goes much further with its native support for a modern and open standard, the Open Document Format (ODF). With LibreOffice, you have maximum control over your data and content – and you can export your work in many different formats including PDF.
You can get more features with extensions for LibreOffice
Second choice on our list is an Office suite that offers a very Microsoft Office like appearance and functionality.
Kingsoft’s offers the WPS Office 2016. It delivers the most Office-like experience of all the suites. WPS is constructed with its own varieties of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, WPS has outstanding compatibility with all the Microsoft Office formats and it has a customizable interface that can be personalized to your own preference for either the newer modern version of Office ribbon toolbar look or the older static menus of Office 2003. WPS also the only office suite in our list that includes a combined cloud storage facility for sharing and collaborating with your files. (Read PC formats’ s full review of the suite here.)
Third but at no means least is Google documents. Once again, it is very difficult to separate the three Office alternatives, as all three are great in their own way.
Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides
Price: Free, recommended even for small business, (or $5-$25 per user per year as part of GSuite for businesses.)
Once regarded as a lightweight web-based alternative to Microsoft Office, Google’s threesome of office apps has grown into a meaningful productivity suite. Though its capabilities still aren’t quite as great as most office suites, its tight ties to other Google products and extend-ability through Chrome extensions combine to make it a powerful, cost-effective option for students and employees.
Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides are free to use by anyone with a web browser, a Google account, and a reliable internet connection.
Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides maintains a consistent look across its three constituent apps. Though simply deigned, the interface has clearly labeled menus with intuitive toolbar icons. All three apps also have a good set of hotkeys—accessible by typing Ctrl+/
Google Docs’ strong point is that its collaborative editing features are way above all other suites mentioned here, including Microsoft Office.
Any files that you work on in the Google Suite must be stored in Google Drive, the search giant’s easy to use and free cloud storage. All new Docs, Sheets, and Slides files are automatically created in your Drive account, and you can also upload your Microsoft Office files for editing in Google Docs, sheets and slides. Any changes are saved to Drive if you’re online; you can also install a Chrome browser extension to edit your files offline, but it will require some configuring and only works with native Docs, Sheets, and Slides files.
The corresponding apps do an admirable job of importing Word and PowerPoint files, though you will sometimes have to adjust elements in the PowerPoint files. Importing Excel files to Sheets is more of a mixed bag, with spreadsheets containing basic functions translating easier than larger, more complex ones which can get lost in translation.
The suite is still best as a collaborative tool for written documents, thanks to features like real-time commenting, revision tracking, and deep integration with Google Drive cloud storage. It’s also intimately connected to Google search, allowing you to search for information relative to what you’re working on from within the apps.
Road warriors, collaborative teams, and anyone else who needs the flexibility to work from many different locations will get the most out of Google’s office suite. If your needs are to create large, complicated documents; mail merges; or serious number crunching, you’ll likely find the suite’s abilities limited and should look at one of the other suites above.
Author: Marius Lubbe
Copyright Cyber-Minds (PTY) Ltd