Alternatives to Microsoft Office
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.
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 OpenOffice.org. 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.
Zoho.com 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...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 27 Aug 2013
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Alternatives to Microsoft Office (Posted: 27 Aug 2013)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved