Still Using Microsoft Office? Stop Now, Here’s Why…

Category: Software

Since the Dark Ages of personal computing, Microsoft Office has been the standard for home, school, and office productivity suites. But it's always been a rather expensive software package. Today's prices range from $249 for Office Home & Business, up to $439 for Microsoft Office Professional. The subscription-based Microsoft 365 Family product costs $100/year. Fortunately, there are plenty of good, compatible (even free) alternatives to Microsoft's word processor, spreadsheet, and related office tools. Here are some of the best free and low-cost office suites to replace Microsoft Office...

I'm Not Gonna Pay a Lot For This Word Processor!

Former heavyweight boxer George Foreman did commercials for Meineke Mufflers in the 1990s, and famously said "I'm NOT gonna pay a lot for this muffler!" Maybe I should make a Youtube video and spread the word that you don't need to buy an expensive office suite. Let's look at some of the best free and low-cost alternatives to Microsoft Office...

The word processor and spreadsheet are two of the most commonly used tools on any computer. Microsoft's Office suite has Word and Excel to fill those roles, and they dominate the landscape. Unfortunately, part of that domination is obfuscation. The truth is, Microsoft doesn't want you to buy Office Home & Business, or Office Professional. They want you to "rent" the same software, in the form of a Microsoft 365 subscription. That means you're paying for your Word, Excel, and Powerpoint software monthly or annually, continually, endlessly, and perpetually.

If that doesn't strike you as a great deal, you're not alone. Tens of millions of consumers have found that free alternatives to Microsoft's office products work just fine for them.

LibreOffice is a complete office suite, which includes free (and in some cases, superior) replacements for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher and Access. You can use LibreOffice Writer as your word processor, LibreOffice Calc for spreadsheets, LibreOffice Impress to create multimedia presentations, and LibreOffice Base to create and manage databases. The Charts module lets you create all manner of charts, and the Math module offers a powerful formula engine with a graphical user interface.

Free Office Suites

In most cases, LibreOffice can import and export Microsoft Office file formats with very little trouble. This comparison of the two office suites lists the differences in features and compatibility. LibreOffice is available for Windows, Mac OS, and Linux. Android and iOS versions of LibreOffice are available from Collabora, a LibreOffice certified developer and ecosystem member. There are about 200 million active LibreOffice users worldwide; about 10% are Linux users.

If you have heard about Apache OpenOffice, you may be wondering how it differs from LibreOffice. Most users will have difficulty finding differences between the two, as LibreOffice is a "fork" of the original OpenOffice project. LibreOffice has the edge when it comes to saving files in Microsoft proprietary formats such as DOCX and XLSX, and also has the ability to embed fonts in documents, thereby assuring that a document will look the same even if it’s displayed on a computer that lacks the fonts used by the document creator.

Both LibreOffice and OpenOffice have been downloaded hundreds of millions of times over the past 20 or so years. And both are "open source" projects, which means the software code is public and available for anyone to view. And because they are "open", it's much less likely that they will contain any malware or privacy issues.

WPS Office was formerly known as Kingsoft Office. The "All-in-One Office Suite for 2022" comes in free and paid subscription versions. WPS claims to be “the world’s most popular mobile office suite for Android,” and there are also mobile or desktop versions for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Apple iOS. The free (ad supported) WPS Standard includes Writer, Spreadsheet, Presentation, PDF Editor, and is compatible with 47 common document formats. WPS Pro ($36/year) eliminates ads, offers cloud collaboration, PDF editing, and can be used on up to 9 devices.

More Options for Desktop, Mobile and Cloud

Softmaker Office does writing, calculating, presenting, e-mail, tasks and appointments. It claims to be fully compatible with Microsoft Office documents, and is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS. With SoftMaker Office, you can switch at any time between modern ribbons and the classic user interface with menus. The full version of SoftMaker NX Home costs $29.90; a 30-day trial version can be downloaded free of charge. The paid versions of SoftMaker NX Universal and SoftMaker Office Pro mention "excellent German spell and grammar checking with Duden Korrektor."

And for those who still remember the days when Microsoft Word and WordPerfect were battling for supremacy, I'll mention the Corel's WordPerfect Office Standard suite which includes the WordPerfect word processor. But with a price tag of $249, and so many good alternatives, it just doesn't make sense to me.

Cloud computing has given us “office suites on demand” -- software that resides on vendors’ servers and is maintained by them. Users no longer have to worry about downloading, installing, or keeping software updated with security and bug-fixing patches. The latest version is always automatically available, and operates within your favorite web browser.

Google Docs is the best-known free example of the cloud-based office suite. It does word processing, presentations, and spreadsheets, storing documents on Google Drive. It can be used on mobile devices running Android or iOS. Google Docs lacks some of the advanced features of Microsoft Office, but for the majority of users, it handles everyday text processing just fine. One advantage of Docs is the ability to share documents online and collaborate with others who have permission to view or update.

Zoho started as an online office suite, but has morphed into a sales and customer relations management suite. Trial and paid versions are available for Windows, Linux and mobile devices.

Whether you need just a basic word processor or a complete business CRM system, there are alternatives to Microsoft productivity suites. Try the ones that seem to fit your needs. Even if you have to pay for your favorite, the price will be much lower than Microsoft Office.

One final factor to consider is Privacy. Have you heard the saying “You are the product?” So many companies are more interested in your data than extracting a one-time fee for the use of their software or service. When it comes to privacy, with Microsoft and other “closed source”office software vendors, you have to take their word for it, that they’re not “sharing” your data with third parties, or using it for their own advertising purposes.

At least with an open source product, you have some assurance that there’s no such funny business going on. That’s why I switched to Libre Office years ago. Aside from the price tag (free), and the privacy concerns (none), I much prefer the user interface over the confusing “ribbon” style used in Microsoft Office.

What about you? Will you stop using Microsoft Office, and switch to one of these alternative office suites to get things done? Have you already moved away from Microsoft to a free or open source option? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below…

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