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Microsoft Office remains the gold standard in office applications. Sure, Office alternatives exist 9 of the Best Free & Low-Cost Alternatives to Microsoft Office 9 of the Best Free & Low-Cost Alternatives to Microsoft Office Microsoft Office has dominated the market of text documents, spreadsheets and slide shows for years, and for good reason – it’s one of the very best. However, there’s one drawback and that is the price.... Read More , but Microsoft’s file formats dominate. People with access to Office tend to have an easier time than those who lack it, because while alternatives like LibreOffice  LibreOffice - A Free Office Suite For Windows, Linux & Mac LibreOffice - A Free Office Suite For Windows, Linux & Mac Read More can export to .doc or .xls, the formatting isn’t 100% compatible.

Still, many people flinch at buying Office because it’s expensive. A home version is $99, which is significant to most consumers. There are a few ways to dodge to the retail price and use Office for free, however – within limits.

Use Office Online

Microsoft itself offers a collection of free Office utilities formerly known as Office Web Apps Use Microsoft Office for Free with Microsoft Web Apps Use Microsoft Office for Free with Microsoft Web Apps Read More and now called Office Online. They are essentially browser-based versions of the latest Office suite. You can use Word, Excel, and PowerPoint without paying a dime.


Restrictions apply, of course. The online versions only provide the most basic features of each respective application. Word Online, for example, does not include text boxes, WordArt, equations, charts and more. You can still write a term paper, but you won’t be able to compile a company report.

Still, the web versions can open, save to and print Microsoft’s popular file formats with accuracy, which is what most will probably use them for. Users who only need Office to print or send documents once every few months, yet still need reliable formatting, finally have a solution.


Use Office Mobile

Office Mobile is basically the mobile version of Office Online. Originally available for Windows Phone, the suite can now be used on Android and iPad as well. The same core apps of Word, Excel and Powerpoint are represented, along with OneNote and OneDrive, which aren’t bound to Office, but complete the package.


Most of these apps are available to download and use for free and have restrictions similar to their Office Online counterparts. Basic tasks can be completed with ease but more advanced formatting options are not present. However, the iPad version requires a Microsoft Office 365 subscription to edit documents.

Sign Up For The Office 365 Trial

Microsoft has made many changes to Office in its latest edition, Office 365, so you may want to give it a spin before buying/subscribing. Microsoft provides that opportunity with a free one-month trial.

Like most trials of subscription services, you’ll need to enter payment information and you will be charged if you continue beyond your free month. With that said, though, this 30-day trial is the easiest way to try the current version of Office and the quickest way to obtain full access if you need it in a pinch.

Then Sign Up For The Office Professional Plus Trial

Done with your Office 365 trial, but not ready to pay up just yet? There’s one more place you can turn. Microsoft offers a trial of Office Professional Plus 2013 that lasts 60 days. The package is aimed at business users, but offers everything a home user would expect.


Unlike the other trial, this one does not require payment information. You do have to provide some information about your “business” but don’t worry – Microsoft isn’t going to check up on you. Speaking of checks, be sure to un-check the boxes that give Microsoft permission to contact you regarding promotions.

Buy Hardware With Office Bundled


Office is not bundled with desktop computers but there are a few other devices that provide a free version of office. Here are your options.

Windows RT hardware: All Windows RT devices What's The Difference Between Windows 8 & Windows RT? [MakeUseOf Explains] What's The Difference Between Windows 8 & Windows RT? [MakeUseOf Explains] With the Surface tablet announcement a few weeks ago and the final release of Windows 8 looming ever closer, some people are understandably going to be confused about the various versions available. I'm here to... Read More come with a free copy of Office for RT installed.

Windows 8.1 tablets 8 inches or smaller: Most come with a free copy of Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013. Good luck using it on an 8-inch screen, though!

Select convertibles: A few small convertibles, like the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 10 and Asus Transformer Book T100, come with Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013 installed.

Select laptops: Microsoft sometimes runs a limited-time offer that bundles Office with a select laptop. The current offer provides a free version of Office University to students who buy a certain Toshiba touchscreen laptop at Staples.

Ask Your School Or Employer

Everything I’ve covered so far allows you to grab Office for free, but also comes with limitations, such as availability, functionality or a need to buy new hardware. There may, however, be a way to grab Office for free with no strings attached.

This chance may come from your employer or, if you’re a student, the school you attend. Many companies offer a low-cost or no-cost version of Office for a fairly obvious reason; the people working or studying there need it. Academic institutions often participate in Microsoft’s DreamSpark program (formerly MSDNAA), allowing them to offer professional software to their students and employees for free.

Not every employer or college provides this chance, of course, but it’s worth looking into before you go elsewhere. You may find Office is readily available for free or, if not free, at a very drastic discount.


Grabbing a full version of Office for free may not be possible for some, but at the least you can expect to use it for 90 days by checking out the Office 365 and Office Professional Plus trials. Throw Office Online into the mix and you’ve got a nice selection of options. Users not worried about document formatting and printing may never need to buy the full edition.

Do you know a way to use Office for free, or at a significant discount? Share your secret in a comment!

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  1. Vinay
    February 14, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    thanks for great advice. keep up the good work.

  2. John
    August 20, 2016 at 12:09 am

    Great ways to use Documents, Spreadsheets, & Presentations for free:

    1: Preloaded Office: PC/Laptop/Tablet
    2: Borrowed Office: School/work/library/friend's PC
    3: Linux Office: Install Linux Mint, Xubuntu, or Ubuntu
    4: Free Office: Download Open Office or Libre Office
    5: Online Office: Use Google Docs
    6: Online Office: Use MS Docs
    7: Old Office: Use old version that doesn't require subscription


    1: People with Publisher can use it as a PrintShop alternative
    2: Abiword is a great free word processor

  3. knowledgepowerit
    February 27, 2015 at 5:04 am

    Office remains an overpriced necessity for anybody involved with business or school. While there are some free alternatives, I prefer the actual program. I was able to buy office 2010 for my entire office for a pretty darn good price at and might I add I actually own the licenses instead of borrowing peemission to use office for a year or whatever. Paid around $50 per license

  4. gavin galen
    February 1, 2015 at 2:59 pm

    Dude ,if you could not active by the activator ,here i want to share one easy way , you could search "ms key offer office" by Yahoo to get the official retail key.

  5. Raja Mukherjee
    January 20, 2015 at 7:57 am

    I took the trial version of office 365 on behalf of a company but they are not very convinced. So i dont think that they will buy it for me. In the mean time I did not have any office version in my laptop but the trial version still opens and works.

    Sir, do you think i can use the word, excel and power point for long? I shall be much benefited if the answer is in the affirmative as I am not buying office 365 business, as the company wont buy it for me.

  6. Kareem Shahbandar
    January 4, 2015 at 11:13 pm

    You can get something called Kingsoft. It is a free version of microsoft office with many new features. You could probably find it on google; plus, they have the same filetypes so u don't have to worry about that.

  7. Kaysee
    August 30, 2014 at 12:50 am

    OpenOffice has been working for me for the last five years or so........

    • Byron
      July 28, 2016 at 5:50 pm

      Have you had good luck with Open Office and using windows 10? I have not!

  8. John
    June 20, 2014 at 7:54 pm

    Microsoft also has free document viewers that LibreOffice does not read correctly.

  9. Ron MVP
    June 15, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    Good list, and good comments

    Susan B: Office 365 Home Premium is something you may want to consider. It allows you to install on up to 5 computers at the same time "in your home", explicitly meaning your teenagers. It costs US$100 EVERY year. But if you have 4 or 5 computers in the house it can be a good deal.

    If you have an Office 365 license, it includes "free" Office Mobile installations. NOTE: although the license says you are limited to 1 / 2 / 5 (depending on your specific 365 license) MS currently does NOT actually count how many mobile devices you have it active on. So you can install it on many more than the official limit, up into a low 2 digits count!

    Personally I'd split point #6 into 2 separate points, but that is just me. The employer program is known as the HUP, the "Home Use Program".

    There is also a "Military" equivalent to the HUP available in the US and Canada (I know for sure) and probably other countries too. It is available to members of the military and some police type forces.

    At educational institutions the program you alluded to is called "Student Advantage:

    The software giant on Tuesday announced a new program called Student Advantage, whereby students worldwide can sign up for subscriptions to Office 365 ProPlus through their institutions at no cost to themselves.
    The only stipulation is that the schools must have already licensed either Office 365 ProPlus or Office Professional Plus for their entire workforces, including faculty and staff.

    So talk to your Help desk to find out if this applies to your school

    Get Office 365 ProPlus for students at no extra cost when you purchase Office for faculty and staff

    When you license Office 365 ProPlus or Office Professional Plus institution-wide for all your faculty/staff, your students get access to Office 365 ProPlus at no extra cost. Starts Dec. 1, 2013.

    My institution is already paying for students to use Office 365 ProPlus. When can we move to offering it to students at no additional cost?
    Your institution can order and deploy Office 365 ProPlus to students starting December 1, 2013, provided that it meets all the conditions required for this Enrollment for Education Solutions, Open Value Subscription-Education Solutions, or school contract benefit. At the anniversary or renewal date for your contract, please contact your Volume Licensing reseller to address additional questions related to the software provided to students.

    What happens when a student graduates?
    When students graduate, their Office 365 subscription through the institution ends. They can enroll in other consumer or commercial offers.


    Beginning Dec. 1, any academic institution that licenses Office for staff and faculty can provide Office 365 ProPlus for students at no additional cost. Student Advantage makes it easy for qualifying institutions to provide students with the latest version of full Office at school and at home. Combined with Office 365 for Education plan A2, which is free for schools, Student Advantage gives students access to the same set of world-class productivity tools and services used by Fortune 500 companies all over the world.


    Starting on December 1st, Universities that license Office Education for their faculty and staff can offer students Office 365 ProPlus for free thanks to a new program called Student Advantage.

    There is also the discounted "Office 365 University" which costs US$80 for up to 4 years, while you are registered at a post secondary school. Note: the license terms say it expires when you graduate and that MS checks your enrollment status annually on the date you activated it. But I have not seen confirmation that graduates have had it cancelled.

    Note: you also have the option of renewing one time only (for another US$80) if you are a slow learner.

    Note: Office 365 University has a 3 month free trial period which can be extended to 6 months

    Office 365 University: Six-Month Free Trial Now Available
    Get a 3 month extension on the initial 3 month trial by posting on Facebook.

    Office 365 University 3 month trial

    Other than Office 365 University, all of other Office 2013/365 trials are limited to 30 days. One of the comments said that the trial is feature limited. That is not correct as far as I know. If they can show examples of features that are limited I would appreciate learning specifically which ones they had problems with.

    ALSO, for all of the free trials there is an Official MS "Trial Extender" tool, that they don't talk about, but it is a real, legal, MS tool.

    Office 2013 Pro Plus 180 trial activation tool

    This page uses an “official” published MS technique to give you a 180 day trial. They simply automate it for you.

    How to Extend Your Office 2013/365 Trial to 180 Days

    Before uninstalling your trial, take a look at this link:!272&authkey=!AL9wd-73_ol41Ss

    Office Trial Extender V1.0.0.6

  10. Chinmoy Mitra
    June 14, 2014 at 11:24 am

    No doubt this is how you can "use" MS Office free of cost for "some" time, but they are not "free versions". It does not make any sense to install a software for the sole purpose of using it for a free trial period, and then happily uninstall it and forget about it! This article is more like a promotion for the trial versions for Microsoft products. If finally you have to buy the product, what's the great idea in a trial version? Out of the six suggestions, only the web apps are truly free applications, but highly handicapped and restricted in features. So frankly speaking, we can not use Microsoft Office without paying Bill Gates his due share of dollars!

  11. Tina Montgomery
    June 5, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    You can go to your local library. Most libraries now have a computer area and will have MS Office loaded on them for their patrons to use. You can do your work and then save to a disk or flash drive. All you need is a library card which you can get for free.

  12. AJ Warren
    June 4, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    The "Ask your Employer" is great tip... also ask your spouse's employer.

    My wife didn't know anything about it although I remember her bringing a paper home a few years ago but had a current Office lic. at the time. She couldn't be bothered to ask her IT or HR. I looked online here:

    You can click the link "Don't know your program code." type in your/her work email... it looks at the domain and if the company is enrolled you get an email link with the code in it. Just get them to forward it to you and you can install it on your home machine easily after that. For us it was $11 for all 9 Office Pro. apps.

    I've tried every vesion of open office and PowerPoint presentations just don't come through correctly the layout always needs adjsuting. A basic Word/Excel file seems to be okay with open office.

  13. Susan B
    June 4, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    I'm sharing this with my teenagers. I bought them each a laptop but didn't want to spend the extra $ for Microsoft Office. The online version will give them something to work with. Thanks for sharing this info.

  14. Fredrik Nyman
    June 4, 2014 at 11:40 am

    For home use, you can just go to to see if your employer participates, and if so, pay $10 for a home use license.

  15. Eli
    June 4, 2014 at 8:35 am

    I have a nexus 10 tablet and Nexus 5 smartphone.
    I tried to find Office Mobile in Google play - no luck. I looked for this application in my Win 7 based PC (running Chrome). I founf Microsoft Office mobile, BUT also "this app is incompatible with all of your devices.
    Any solution ?

  16. David Hicks
    June 4, 2014 at 4:19 am

    Of course this article (which, by the way, thank you for it) attracted all the "such and such is just as good" quips, as is to be expected, even though the author started with "Sure, Office alternatives exist ...", thus acknowledging that fact from the get-go. Those other two top alternatives have been my staunchly reliable allies and go-to suites for more than a decade. And the current versions of their word processors do indeed render .doc and .docx formats extremely well.

    Anyway, I just want to add that the reason I hate the MS Office trials is that they are incredibly huge resource hogs, not at all worth the 30-day or 60-day period for the Sasquatch footprint they put on your machine--even for a couple of days and even with today's tremendous-capacity drives and memory. But these options might indeed come in handy for the unenlightened.

  17. Michael Muldoon
    June 4, 2014 at 1:06 am

    Here we go. MS lost most everyone I work with when they changed from a recognized interface to the blankity ribbon where all your commands are there somewhere but good luck finding them. Open Office was ok until out went to Apache. Libre Office works great and is fully compatible with anything I've ruin across. Plus it works on multiple platforms. So when you move to any Linux distro because MS thinks everyone has a touch screen tablet and wouldn't miss a real desktop what changes on your office suite? Nothing!! Because the FREE Libre Office is cross platform. I'll stop here because of I start in on everything wrong with Outlook I'll prickly get lynched. Haven't used it in years. Thunderbird rules email. Ok all of you that disagree with me. I'm done so open fire!!!

  18. Uko
    June 3, 2014 at 10:43 pm

    Say goodbye to Microsoft.

    Say "Hello!" to Thinkfree.

    30 day trial download, then £40 (or US$67) and it's yours - no repeat annual fee.

    I believe its written in Java which some people say makes it better, and all the usual Microsoft keyboard shortcuts work.

    Their web-based offering has more functionality than the somewhat crippled online Microsoft Office.

    Dare I say it, but the Thinkfree web-based version is so good, I didn't go for their excellent download.

    I am sure you will be impressed.

  19. Dennis
    June 3, 2014 at 10:30 pm

    My employer allows us to buy Office for $10. That way we can get used it at home and spend less time learning new software at work.

  20. John
    June 3, 2014 at 9:13 pm

    What about people that want to use Outlook as their email program is there a free way round that?

    • Ron MVP
      June 15, 2014 at 12:56 pm

      Other than the ways mentioned in the article there is no 'free' way of getting the Outlook program.

      You can sign up for, which was originally called, but that is not the same as the Outlook program.

  21. Col. Panek
    June 3, 2014 at 7:55 pm

    I run Linux Mint in an engineering office/lab full of guys running Windows. We collaborate on spreadsheets, presentations and documents, and I edit photos, schematic diagrams, videos, and promotional material. Naturally, I use the office suite that came with Mint (which is Not To Be Named, because this article is about Microsoft). If I have to check to see whether my document conforms to "the standard (Microsoft)", I load it into Office 365. Better yet, I save it as a PDF. I can open and edit PDFs in that Unnamed Office Suite.

    If you want true compatibility, convert everyone in your office/home/school to That Other Office Suite, and use the true open document format. It also opens your old docs - usually better than MSOffice does.

  22. AJ Warren
    June 3, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    The "Ask your Employer" is great tip... also ask your spouse's employer.

    My wife didn't know anything about it although I remember her bringing a paper home a few years ago but had a current Office lic. at the time. She couldn't be bothered to ask her IT or HR. I looked online here:

    You can click the link "Don't know your program code." type in your/her work email... it looks at the domain and if the company is enrolled you get an email link with the code in it. Just get them to forward it to you and you can install it on your home machine easily after that. For us it was $11 for all 9 Office Pro. apps.

    I've tried every vesion of open office and PowerPoint presentations just don't come through correctly the layout always needs adjsuting. A basic Word/Excel file seems to be okay with open office.

  23. Bikar
    June 3, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    Employees of several companies are eligible for Microsoft home use program - where they can get the office for $10.

    • Danny
      January 17, 2015 at 1:03 am

      Again, to use the HUP program, you have to pay an annual HUP licensing fee (Actual annual HUP unit cost) = $540.78, and then you can purchse the MS program for $9.99.

  24. dbosley
    June 3, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    Had to switch to Linux when I could not upgrade from Windows 8 to 8.1. Loaded Libre Office and never looked back. I can do anything I need to with a file and still get it into MS format to share.

  25. lmcelhiney
    June 3, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    Libre Office is fine. The OpenOffice versions are very good as well. I have Apache OpenOffice installed on a new Windows 8 machine at home and find it very comparable to the MS Office 2010 suite that I use for work. Key thing is always to remember to save your document in an MS Office format (rather than the native or proprietary format) and you should have great interchangeability with other folks. Personally, I have a trust issue with cloud-based apps--they offer a lot, but when/if you are "off the grid" you can be dead in the water.

  26. Michael
    June 3, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    Libre Office.
    Das ist perfect !

  27. John W
    June 3, 2014 at 5:26 pm

    In my experience (750 students plus 250 staff) most word processor users use less than 10 percent of the "features" on the software. The MS Office "suite" is a mountain of code most people will never use. 60 percent of my users still hate the ribbon with deep loathing.

    If someone sends you a .DOCX tell them to resend it in a format that is universally readable, like a .pdf. Better still, tell them they have a virus on their PC called "MS Word"

    Over the years MS Office, much like Windows itself, has become monumental bloatware with many added widgets that no-one wants or needs. MS would have you believe that you can write a novel, a newspaper or a film script on Word - but nobody with any sense does that, they use specialist software designed for the job.

    Take a look at the code size of Word compared to any other standalone free word processor. Better still, put a page of text in to both programs - the Word file will be much bigger than the Open Office or other free version.

    Next time you send out a .DOCX, check out all the metadata sent with it - date stamped, time stamped, who was logged in, when you last changed your printer ink, which hand you use on the mouse ......

  28. themobmob
    June 3, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    There is no such thing as a free trial, you are just locking up your data, and Microsoft still own the key. Matt, I noted your response to Geo, so I will not mention LibreOffice. I will however suggest OpenOffice, now that it is supported by Apache and out of the hand of evil!

  29. JesMan
    June 3, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    Some Corporations have whats called a Hardware Upgrade Program aka HUP, that allows their employees to purchase MS Office 2013 Pro for $9.99. Yes you read correctly! the PRO version for $9.99. In particular, some cell phone carrier employees can enter their email and it allows them to purchase it from Microsoft. Now thats close to being free!

  30. George
    June 3, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    I have been using the Kingsoft Free office suite 2013 and have found it to be very 'MSlike'. It reads and writes in ms formats.

  31. Rick Stanley
    June 3, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    For the majority of users who do not have to share documents with other users, LibraOffice will more than fill their needs! Too many people transmit .doc or .xls files, and their newer versions instead of producing a .PDF file, which is only what the recipient usually needs. LibraOffice will produce the PDF with a one button click. That feature is a standard part of the application. The MS Office rendering in both directions is getting better with each new version. Since it is free in every sense of the word, there is no reason NOT to try it!

  32. Scott M
    June 3, 2014 at 3:30 am

    MS Office Starter is available for Windows XP, Vista, and 7. It is limited in features, similar to Office Online, and only includes MS Word Starter and MS Excel Starter. It's available from different sources, but the version at Snapfiles worked for me.

    If someone only needs a viewer, Microsoft offers Word Viewer, Excel Viewer, PowerPoint Viewer, and Visio Viewer for free.

    The 60 day trial for MS Office 2010 is also available from the TechNet Evaluation Center.

    • Ron MVP
      June 15, 2014 at 12:53 pm

      Officially Office 2010 Starter is a "factory only" aka "OEM" only installation. They pay a trivial license fee for you to use it. It is NOT free for general use. MS takes links like that one down when they learn of them. So you may have to google for other similar links ...

  33. Javed
    June 3, 2014 at 2:11 am

    Just use Google docs!

  34. DieSse
    June 2, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    Oh for goodness sake, just use LibreOffice and be done with it.

  35. Jack S
    June 2, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    It would be better if you offered and seventh method - a license for the points on the MUO rewards.

    • Matt S
      June 3, 2014 at 2:24 am

      Hmm...that could be doable. Microsoft probably wouldn't partner with us, but we could offer it as a limited time Reward. Thanks for the idea!

  36. Maryon Jeane
    June 2, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    Some netbooks also come with a free and basic version of Office (for example the Asus Eee PC) and these you can work on, with or without peripherals such as an external keyboard and monitor. It's certainly enough to enable me to take my netbook and work outside during the Summer, away from my home office!

  37. Abhishek R
    June 2, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    OR just buy windows phone, OR Use torrents

  38. likefunbutnot
    June 2, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    If you're willing to drop back to Office 2007, it's entirely possible to find installation media + license for under $50. Most users will see almost no functional difference in the core Office applications for using an older version.

    • Imad.sawal
      June 2, 2014 at 1:48 pm

      You are right , but MS Office Online is much better than the 2007 version ( yeah , maybe the same ) . But the interface of the latest versions compared with the 2007 version do have a drastic change . Otherwise you hit the hammer on the head . ( The versions are inter-compatible , features almost same ; The only difference is that latest MS are more user-friendly but that's most of the game ) .

      I think the author didn't mentioned it because he focused on "without paying" options.

    • Ron MVP
      June 15, 2014 at 1:04 pm

      take another look. There is NO WAY Office 2013 "Online" is better than 2007. Office Online is EXTREMELY feature limited, compare the ribbon in Online and 2007. One of the major missing features online is macro support!

  39. Geo
    June 2, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    This makes sense? Fooling around with trial versions can lead to lots of fun if you enjoy troubleshooting. Trial versions are limited, why not try "Libre" or an equivalent and have a full working version? The small formatting problems that may exist, most users will never see.

    • Ryashini K
      June 2, 2014 at 1:09 pm

      How long trial versions last is inversely proportional to your morals on software piracy.

    • Gordonbp
      June 2, 2014 at 1:37 pm

      The only way trial versions are "crippled" is in the fact that they are time-limited. Otherwise they are as fully functional as the paid-for versions...

    • Matt S
      June 2, 2014 at 3:44 pm

      Well, the simple answer is that this isn't an article about LibreOffice ;)

      And also, as I mention a few times, some people (in fact, I'd wager the majority of consumers who buy Office) just need accurate handling of .doc/.docx, but not the fancy features. In which case the free options suffice.

    • likefunbutnot
      June 3, 2014 at 3:34 am


      Actually, there are plenty of places in the current trial (binary, not web) releases available from Microsoft where users get messages that indicate that some or other feature is only available in a paid version of the software.

      The OEM-provided trial versions made available with the purchase of many new PCs don't have that problem, but it's still a trial version that ceases to work after some period of time.

    • neil wood
      June 3, 2014 at 9:52 pm

      For professional developers who need to provide programmed functionality between office applications such as generating emails in MS ACCESS to MS OUTLOOK through the VBA programming language and library functions there is nothing to touch MS OFFICE.
      For the occasional user free KINGSOFT Office is an excellent alternative.