Still Using Microsoft Office… Why?

Category: Software

For many decades, Microsoft Office has been the gold standard for productivity suites. But it can cost a lot of gold. Today's prices range from $249 for Office Home & Business, up to $439 for Office Professional 2019. The subscription-based Microsoft 365 Family product costs $100/year. Fortunately, there are plenty of good, compatible alternatives to Microsoft Office; many are free, and even those that are not cost much less than Microsoft Office. Here are some of the best alternative office suites…

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!" The good news is 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 2019. They want you to "rent" the same software as a Microsoft 365 (formerly known as Office 365) subscription. That means you're paying for your word processor and spreadsheet software monthly or annually, forever, 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.

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.

WPS Office was formerly known as Kingsoft Office. It now 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, Linux, and Apple iOS.

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 comes with the Thunderbird email client. With SoftMaker Office, you can switch at any time between modern ribbons and the classic user interface with menus. The full version for Windows, Mac or Linux costs $29.90; a 30-day trial version can be downloaded free of charge.

And for those who still remember the days when Microsoft Word and WordPerfect were battling for supremacy, I'll mention the Corel WordPerfect Office X9 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.

Do you use Microsoft Office, or one of these alternative office suites to get things done? Do you work in an office that has moved away from Microsoft to a free option? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below…

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Most recent comments on "Still Using Microsoft Office… Why?"

(See all 46 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

22 Oct 2020

SoftMaker also has a completely free version of its Office application called SoftMaker FreeOffice. It's essentially the same as their paid program but with a few less extras. You can learn more about it and download it here:

Posted by:

22 Oct 2020

Why am I using Microsoft Word. I tried one of those "beware of scam" ebay ads that offered 2019 Word Pro for $7 last year and I received a valid key and I am still using it over a year later. Lucky you say? I suppose, but it sure paid to do a little research on the vendor and to use ebay and Paypal.

Posted by:

22 Oct 2020

I have used both LibreOffice and MSOffice. For three months I forced myself to only use LibreOff just to work at finding the MSOff like features. It worked.
It only hit a couple of snags. [1] MSWord provides an easier way to do 'search and replace' with formatting (eg search for paragraph marking and replace with the same marking plus a tab is ^p^t for the latter insert) LibreOff doesn't have it yet but will eventually I'm sure. [2] Macro constructing with LibreOff wasn't as versatile when I tried it, maybe better now.
Oh, and I found it best to always load an MSWord document into LibreOff and do as 'saveas' immediately to assure one does't have glitches in the other. Do the same gong the other way. With that all came off perfectly well on an ongoing basis - even sending the document to others.
So, I'm with you go to the free Apache or LibreOffice (even though I still have MSOffice [mainly for the re-formatting advantage])

Posted by:

22 Oct 2020

I used to use Libre, but it's a HUGE set of programs, I really don't need, my company had an arrangement with Microsoft to allow us to use the full suite on home computer for $10. I'm retired and don't need most of Office at all, so when I retired two years ago, I bought a new machine and since I was losing access to Office (I don't use Outlook, did at work but never at home) I called and talked to them about it. I ended up buying Office Home and Student, for around $120. It's a stripped down version, but there's no annual charge, it updates regularly and is what I'm used to. I'll never do Office 365, though every time I open Word, I am encouraged to. I think Home and Student a good replacement, can update it to newer versions but haven't needed to. Suits my limited needs just fine.

Posted by:

23 Oct 2020

Last year when my computer died while overseas, I picked up a laptop that had Thunderbird for email. It was pleasant to use and seemed straight forward. i did miss (probably due to unfamiliarity) the familiar Outlook contacts interface, but otherwise was happy with it. Now I'd like to know which non-MS/BS office will work with it, since many of those you mentioned don't seem to include an email client. I many years ago loved the Perfect suite and would have kept it forever, but it is a little steep now. Due any of the suites you recommend also offer a robust email program? I don't do much work on spreadsheets, but do need to open an Ecxel file on occasion. My greatest need is for email, word processing and contacts management. Or is there any way to get a discount on the WP suite?

Posted by:

23 Oct 2020

Bob, excellent article, but I have to nit-pick. You mention the Word and Excel file extensions in the paragraph about Libre Office. The correct file extension for Excel files is XLSX (vs. XLXS).

EDITOR'S NOTE: Thanks, typo fixed!

Posted by:

Gareth Ridout
23 Oct 2020

I'm retired now but when I was working I relied heavily on Excel macros, and for a time VBA in Word as well. That's the reason I never gravitated to the open office alternatives.

Posted by:

23 Oct 2020

Yes, I've no choice...I have technical spreadsheet progs that were written in MS Office Excel, and none of those shareware or free progs will work due to the macros. That's always been the issue with Excel, the darn macros!

Posted by:

23 Oct 2020

I read nothing in the comments on WPS (stands for Writer, Presentation, and Spreadsheets) Office formerly known as Kingsoft Office. I tried it in a trial version years ago, when Microsoft Office became price prohibitive/ridiculous! I found it to be SUPERIOR to Office! I purchased a Lifetime license years ago for $69 or thereabouts, as I recall. I have used it for years, and HIGHLY RECOMMEND it. Writer's module seamlessly handles Word docs without changing format, etc. One feature, just for instance - at no extra cost, Writer one-touch converts Word docs to PDFs, and vice versa!!!

Posted by:

24 Oct 2020

Trying to download LibreOffice but get the message:This installation package could not be opened. Verify that the package exists and that you can access it, or contact the applioation vendor to verify that this is a valid Windows installer package.

Posted by:

Dennis English
24 Oct 2020

I started with MS/OfficePro97 at work, and bought it for home. I love Outlook. I have progressed tho OfficePro2010, but it's gotten too expensive for me at home to update. I use all of the applications including Publisher, and Access, and I'm not sure there are alternatives for those. So I'm running Windows 10 and OfficePro2010 successfully so far.

Posted by:

24 Oct 2020

I may never catch up with the world. But I love Word Perfect and still use it for most of my word processing. Also, I cannot easily use the cloud on satellite internet.

Posted by:

24 Oct 2020

I still use Office 2013 because it has everything I need. Like many people I probably use almost none of the advanced features on My Windows 10 desktop, and since it works fine, why should I change? Maybe if Microsoft stops supporting Office 2013 then I might go for something like GoogleDocs or Libre. I loved WordPerfect, used it for many years, but everybody else went to Microsoft, so I did too.

Posted by:

David Baker
27 Oct 2020

I used Open Office for years and loved it. I use Google Docs now because it ties in well with whole Google package across my phone, tablets and Chromebooks. I still have it installed on my Windows 10 desktop.

Posted by:

Renaud Olgiati
28 Oct 2020

Of all the friends I have helped upgrade from MS Windows to Linux, and MS Office to LibreOffice, only one had problems, and that with Excel spreadsheets he used professionally that had Visual Basic macros that did not work correctly under LibreOffice.
So I also installed Oracle VM VirtualBox on his machine, with his MS Windows and MS Excel, and he uses that only for his spreadsheets.

Posted by:

John Quigley
11 Nov 2020

I have tried Libre Office, and Open Office, now Apache, have used Open Office now for about 5 years and love it. My one problem with it is I need excel to use the macro's to get my banking and securities accounts. excel updates my accounts every day and I don't have to use Quicken anymore, which is another VERY expensive program.

Posted by:

Norman Rosen
31 Dec 2020

I am still using MS Ofice 2007. Other than help is no longer available, the suite is more than adequate for my needs. May try Libre Office just to see what it is like.

Posted by:

jerry owen
31 Dec 2020

I have Office 2000, 2009, and 2013 which work just fine and do not require a subscription fee.

Posted by:

Marsha Papanek
09 Jan 2021

I cannot understand how to transfer a whole lot of MS docs to a free service-Libre? Textmaker? google docs? How do you do it? PLEASE??

Posted by:

06 Oct 2021

FWIW department: I have had three different computers since 18th June 2021, and I am now getting a hateful message that my Office 10 has been installed the maximum number of times. any workarounds to this?
unrelated to that, I would like to comment that I was a top-tier wizard with Lotus 1-2-3, and wrote macros which would throw a whirling dervish out of whirl. I rather find that excel macros don't work quite the same way, and being retired, I don't have anybody for resource or to cry to.

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