Alternatives to Microsoft Office

Category: Software

Microsoft Office is the gold standard for business productivity suites. But it can cost a lot of gold, even at today's low street prices. The Office Home and Business edition costs $219, and the Professional edition goes for $399. Fortunately, there are plenty of good alternatives to Microsoft Office; many are free, and even those that are not cost much less than Office. Here are some of the best alternative office suites...

Alternatives to Office: Free and Paid

Libre Office is a free, open source office suite for Windows, Macintosh and Linux, that gives you six applications: Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, Math and Base. Libre Office's native format is the Open Document Format (ODF), but it supports a staggering variety of other formats, including MS Office. Versions are available for Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, and many Unix flavors. If it sounds very similar to OpenOffice, that's because it's a fork from that project. As I understand it, when Oracle took over the OpenOffice project, some of the key developers left and started work on LibreOffice. Some copyright restrictions are removed in LibreOffice, it has a few features that OpenOffice lacks, and will run well on older machines that have limited RAM memory.
MS Office Alternatives

Softmaker Office 2012 costs $80, but it is widely acclaimed as one of the best Office replacements. Its modules include the TextMaker word processor, PlanMaker spreadsheet, Presentations (like PowerPoint), and the BasicMaker macro language enables automation of many tasks. For $20 more, the Professional version includes eM Client (equivalent to Outlook, with calendar and contacts) and four Berlitz dictionaries. Notably missing is a database module akin to MS Access, and a desktop publishing module like MS Publisher. SoftMaker Office is compatible with all Microsoft Office document formats, an important consideration if you share files with Office users. Versions are available for Windows, Linux, Android, Windows Mobile, and Windows CE.

The Kingsoft Office Suite is another worthy office suite contender, which includes Kingsoft Writer, Kingsoft Presentation, and Kingsoft Spreadsheets. All modules are fully compatible with Office file formats. Two versions are available: Free, and Professional ($70). The Free version has a user interface similar to Office 2003, while the Professional version offers the Ribbon-style interface that will be familiar to users of more recent MS Office editions. A few notable features include PDF creation, macros, and a tab bar that allows you to switch between open documents.

IBM Lotus Symphony is a freeware productivity suite based upon Symphony's main appeal is its simplicity. It includes only word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation modules. It fully supports ODF and MS Office files. It can import MS Office Open XML files (e. g., docx) and export PDF files. Uniquely, Symphony can display files of different types in tabs within a single window. It also includes a Web browser.

Abiword is a free word processor that started out as a commercial product developed by SourceGear Corp. When SourceGear threw in the towel against Microsoft, the open source community adopted Abiword and continues its development today. Abiword is a small program that consumes few system resources, making it ideal for older, less powerful computers. It is partially compatible with MS Word and a host of other word processor formats. It is one of few word processors that writes left-to-right or right-to-left, making it useful for Hebrew and Arabic documents. Abiword runs on Windows, Mac OS X 10.2 or later, Linux, and other operating systems.

Jarte is unique because it relies upon the WordPad engine built into Microsoft Windows. This gives Jarte the advantage of full compatibility with MS Word formats including DOCX. Jarte is a lightweight word processor app designed for students and others who simply want to write, without learning advanced formatting, image editing, and other power tricks. The Jarte website compares the cumbersome MS Office suite to ocean liner in a yacht race.

And for those who still remember the days when Microsoft Word and WordPerfect were battling for supremacy, I'll mention the Corel WordPerfect Office suite. At $199, it's not cheap, but there are still many who prefer the Word Perfect way of doing documents.

Office Software in the Cloud

Online productivity tools appeal to individuals, road warriors and IT administrators who want someone else to worry about maintenance and upgrades of software.

The free Google Docs is the best-known name in cloud-based office software. It includes word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations. Multiple users can collaborate on the same document simultaneously. Mobile options enable editing (in English only) of word processor documents and spreadsheets on devices running Android or iOS. Google Docs supports ODF, MS Office, Office Open XML, and PDF formats. Google Docs is noted for its collaborative capabilities, but it's not as easy to use as some other office suites.

The free Google Docs is well suited for individuals, but businesses should consider Google Apps for business ($50/user per year); it includes the Outlook-like capabilities of Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Contacts. There's also a free Google Apps for Education.

Microsoft is going full-bore on cloud services as well. Office Online (formerly known as Office Web Apps) is the replacement for Office Starter Edition. It's a free web-based service that offers word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation modules very similar to Office. And then there's Office 365, Microsoft's paid Office-in-the-cloud service, which offers all of the features in the desktop Office software, for $100/year, or $10/month. is another cloud-based business software service. Zoho Docs includes word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation tools that are considerably easier to use than Google Docs. The word processor even has an offline mode, allowing you to keep working until you can get connected to the Internet again. Mobile access is possible via iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, and Nokia (S60 platform) devices. Zoho is free for personal use.

What's your favorite office software solution? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Alternatives to Microsoft Office"

(See all 27 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

27 Aug 2013

I still use WordPerfect from time to time, but not very often.

Posted by:

Steve Shearer
27 Aug 2013

So which one do you think is the best mimic? I use OpenOffice, but cannot convert well to MSO.

Posted by:

27 Aug 2013

What... no OpenOffice? It does the 'not responding' thing here and there, but it's still my #1 (Kingsoft is a reasonably close second).

Posted by:

28 Aug 2013

I prefer OpenOffice.

Posted by:

28 Aug 2013

I like Libre and Open Office. However, they are not as compatible with MS Office as some are to believe. Complex spread sheets and Word documents with lots of formatting seem to blow up. And I hate to say, PowerPoint is the superior presentation program. I do use Libre as my primary office suite.

Posted by:

Sandy Papavasiliou
28 Aug 2013

My Microsoft Office was an older version and it got the SHUDDERS. Just dieing a sad death. I downloaded Kingsoft Suite (free) and it is great. Compatible with other similar programs. It asked to be the default and I said YES. No complaints at all.

Posted by:

Old Man
28 Aug 2013

I noticed you mentioned OpenOffice, but you didn't comment on it. Why is that?

I've been using OpenOffice for years - along with Microsoft Office - for many years. So far I've been quite happy with it. Do you know of any problems it has that I may have missed?

Posted by:

28 Aug 2013


You can get all those accented letters in any application using the 'United States - International' keyboard layout. There are five 'dead keys' (`~^'") which have no visible effect until you press another key. yields the symbols shown above but a suitable letter key yields an 'accented' letter: ñàÊóÿç. I think they cover most western European languages.

Posted by:

28 Aug 2013

Hi Richard
Thanks for the tip. I found the acute, grave and umlaut. Not yet found the tilde and circumflex on the USA keyboard (clearly not in the same position as on the UK keyboard), but useful anyway :-)

Posted by:

28 Aug 2013

That should be: [space] yeilds the symbols shown...

Posted by:

30 Aug 2013

My favourite is Office '97. Nice, simple, logical program, with accented letters. I've been forced to use 2010 and hate its overwhelming complexity - and as it can be bought on eBay for a few quid, it is virtually free.

And you would think that with all those functions in MS Office 2010 that MS would by now have offered their Excel users a word count function

Open Office is OK, and I like to work in its simpler interface, but there are severe format problems when converting files into my clients' preferred MS Word format.

Posted by:

Bruce Fraser
31 Aug 2013

SoftMaker Office has a free version:

Posted by:

02 Sep 2013

Bob, I'd like to add that SoftMaker not only offers a pay-for office suite (which, btw., is IMHO by far the best alternative to Microsoft Office because of its great interoperability, speed, reliability, and it's broad scope of features - and for its very fair price).

SoftMaker also gives a free, full-fledged office suite called FreeOffice, which has the same brilliant import and export filters as the commercial version,but a few less features.

You get it here for Windows and Linux:

Posted by:

14 Sep 2013

I'd like to throw in a word for Atlantis, an inexpensive and slim word processor. I found it by accident years ago, when I found MS Word and others much too cumbersome and too obese for my little 300 Dollar netbook. I do all my consultations and notes on a little net book that I carry around on rounds. Some I print out, some I load directly into the hospital's EMR. It has worked very well for me for years. It has great "Autotext" and templating features. (I have zero commercial connection)

Posted by:

15 Sep 2013

I notice that none of these supposed alternatives include a substitute for Outlook - the email part.

Posted by:

Glenn Kuring
16 Sep 2013

For years I was a Wordperfect user as it was (and possibly still is) way ahead of MS-Word in the usability stakes. Unfortunately, it was let down by the other products in the suite.

MSO's cheap 3-PC Student & Teacher versions also made it very attractive financially. On the computers at home that don't have MSO Student & Teacher I now install Libre Office, although I'm currently building a Win98SE PC (old Pioneer All-in-1) to play a bunch a games that will just not run under WinXP/7/8, even in VMs and I am installing Wordperfect 6.0 for DOS on this machine, just for "ol times sake", it being classed as the last great DOS program.

Posted by:

Roger Battis
16 Sep 2013

Speaking of the kind folks at MS office. On 9-11
(of course) MS did an automatic update on my 1 yr
old HP computer 7i 3rd gen. On 9-12 it activated
the 1-10 updates. I didn't pay any attention as I was just reading email. In the afternoon I needed to get into one of my files--MS killed my Excel
starter and replaced it with a "lock" and requires
me to purchase MS Office 365.($100/yr or $10/mo or
buy outright for $200 or $300. I get one free month and then must acquiesce or die. TY MS I hope y'all(SP?) get a bad case DS.

Posted by:

16 Sep 2013

I use MS Office at work and on my work laptop, but LibreOffice on my home desktop. So I constantly open my main spreadsheet in both. BUT LibreOffice has issues. I sometimes find that where I add fields or rows in the middle of a formula range, the formula does not extend the range. Very dodgy when it's financials and I don't spot it early. Can take quite a bit of work to fix too, if there are dependencies

Posted by:

17 Sep 2013

Thanks! Found your just-in-time article via PC Pitstop. I was just beginning to look for a "Free" MS Word compatible Word Processor... I've been using MS Works forever but... well... let's just say I'm having issues and it's time to move on. Keep Up The Great Work! ~ john b.

Posted by:

Steven Latus
29 Nov 2013

SoftMaker Office does include an email client, but only in the Professional version, not in the Free or even in the Standard version.

Crankcase: I notice that none of these supposed alternatives include a substitute for Outlook - the email part.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Thunderbird for desktop email, Gmail for webmail.

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