9 Of The Best Free & Low-Cost Alternatives To Microsoft Office

shutterstock 98459153   9 Of The Best Free & Low Cost Alternatives To Microsoft OfficeMicrosoft 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. Sure, it’s a relatively good investment, but for one reason or another you choose to not pay for it. What do you do?

Thankfully, there are other options – and good ones. These range from web-based apps and local software to free and paid. Although some do cost, all have free options and the price you pay for the paid software is a fraction of what you would pay for Microsoft Office. Through this article I will touch upon any unique features such as mobile capability, cost, user interface and compatibility with Microsoft Office files.

Google Docs (AKA Google Drive)

googledrive   9 Of The Best Free & Low Cost Alternatives To Microsoft Office

Google Docs has practically become my unconsciously chosen alternative to Microsoft Office. Although I actually own Microsoft Office, I use Google Docs heavily primarily because of convenience. First off, I’m already logged into my Google account either to check my email, watch a video on YouTube, add an event to my Google Calendar and so on. I plain just use Google for everything.

Besides that, I have found the interface to be very nice, although I still think the interface of Microsoft Office 2010 wins hands down – it’s just beautiful.

Features

Probably my favorite feature in Google Docs is the ability to easily collaborate. Collaboration on most sites can be difficult. So often if you want to share a document with someone, they too must have an account. Google is similar to Facebook in this aspect in that (almost) everyone has a Google account. This makes collaboration very nice. But even if the user doesn’t have a Google account, you can still share the document with them.

But sharing a file is only one aspect of collaborating. Editing a document and seeing the changes live is a tremendous benefit to Google Docs – non-Google users can do this too. Now with Google Drive you can also access all your files right on your desktop.

Google Docs Example   9 Of The Best Free & Low Cost Alternatives To Microsoft Office

Other unique features are the research and dictionary tools to enable you to search certain topics or words right next to your paper. Since Google Docs is a web app, it’s also mobile and can be accessed from your tablet or smartphone.

Cost

Google Docs is completely free – plain and simple. There are options to upgrade space, but it’s hardly needed – I wouldn’t recommend doing it.

User Interface

Google Docs has seen some pretty major improvements in this area from the past interface. The interface is now even cleaner and simpler, without lacking essential features.

Compatibility

Google Docs’ compatibility with Microsoft Office is surprisingly good! When a Microsoft Office file is uploaded, it labels it differently than it’s own native files, but the editing process is all the same.

What about synchronization and sharing files? Well we already covered collaborating with others while using Google Docs in the cloud, but what about collaborating with others who are using Microsoft Office? Google offers a solution with a plugin for Microsoft Office called Google Cloud Connect, which has been covered thoroughly here on MakeUseOf.

Microsoft Web Apps

Office Web Apps logo   9 Of The Best Free & Low Cost Alternatives To Microsoft Office

Some may argue that Microsoft Web Apps is Microsoft Office. However, that is completely irrelevant. Unlike some articles, the purpose of this article is not to avoid Microsoft products, but to find cheaper alternatives. Microsoft Web Apps is free – you can’t get cheaper than that. The only thing that can make it better is if it’s a solid online office suite, which it is.

Not only is it available for Word, Excel and PowerPoint, but it also offers OneNote online, which was news to me. If you don’t know what OneNote is, it’s a note taking application similar to Evernote.

Features

Web Apps is combined with Skydrive, which gives you access to 25 free gigabytes of cloud storage. That is the best deal anywhere right now! Remember when I said I wouldn’t recommending paying for more storage on Google Docs? I’d be hard pressed to find one logical reason to pay for additional Google Docs storage when you have 25 free gigabytes at your disposal. If you have Skydrive installed on your computer, these files are synced there as well (similar to how Google Drive works, except you get 20 more gigabytes with Skydrive).

As far as other features compared to the official Microsoft Office software, Web Apps can’t really compete, but it’s not too shabby. It’s ideal that they’re used together – that’s how they were made. Can Web Apps be used by itself? Yes it can, but just like Google Docs, don’t expect it to be a full feature office suite. As far as mobile access, to my knowledge you cannot edit documents on your phone, but you can view them – which is still very nice.

Cost

Just like Google Docs, Microsoft Web Apps is entirely free of charge.

User Interface

Microsoft Web Apps Word   9 Of The Best Free & Low Cost Alternatives To Microsoft Office

Remember when I told you how beautiful I thought the interface was in Microsoft Office 2010? Well seeing that Web Apps is practically identical, I just want to reiterate that. Sure Google Docs is clean and simple and even what I use primarily, but Microsoft knows what they’re doing when it comes to creating an office suite user interface.

Compatibility

This is almost obvious, so I’ll keep it short – if there is going to be any “winner” in compatibility with Microsoft Office, I really hope it would be Microsoft Web Apps.

LibreOffice

LibreOffice   9 Of The Best Free & Low Cost Alternatives To Microsoft Office

LibreOffice is a full featured, open source office suite that “broke off” from OpenOffice. LibreOffice lives up to its name, as “Libre” stands for “free.” As you can see in the image above, LibreOffice has Text Document (Word alternative), Spreadsheet (Excel alternative), Presentation (Powerpoint alternative), Drawing (Publisher alternative), Database (Access alternative) and Formula, a math and equation program.

Features

Like I previously mentioned, LibreOffice is a full featured office suite meaning it has all the same functions and maybe even more than the competing office suites (free or not). Other software typically has alternatives for the “popular trio” as I call it – Word, Excel, PowerPoint. LibreOffice goes beyond that adding software for publishing and databases, as well as it’s own addition – a math-focused software.

One great feature about LibreOffice is that it’s portable. You can install it on your flash drive or portable hard drive, or even an SD card and take it with you wherever you go.

Cost

LibreOffice, like OpenOffice, is completely free. Although, donations are accepted.

User Interface

LibreOffice Text   9 Of The Best Free & Low Cost Alternatives To Microsoft Office

For a free, full featured software suite, LibreOffice looks surprisingly good. It doesn’t have Microsoft’s fancy ribbon-style menu, but it is still modern and easy to use.

Compatibility

When I opened my resume, a heavily formatted document originally created in Word, in LibreOffice, everything was in place. There were no lines pushed over, or any fonts, styles or settings changed. The only thing that was a little different was the spacing – somehow the last couple lines didn’t make it onto the second page and got pushed onto a third. I’m sure that this could be fixed with spacing settings within LibreOffice. I use LibreOffice as my primary portable office suite on my portable hard drive so that I can open up my files where ever I may be without worrying about having software that is incompatible with my Microsoft Office documents.

SoftMaker Office

SoftMaker Office Suite 2012   9 Of The Best Free & Low Cost Alternatives To Microsoft Office

SoftMaker is a company that creates a very good alternative to Microsoft Office. They offer two different paid versions of their software, as well as a free version. Another thing they do, which is unique, is they allow free downloads of their previous versions of software. Their free office suite is named no other than FreeOffice.

The benefit to downloading this as opposed to other office suites they’ve created and sold, but are not free, is that FreeOffice is in and will continue to be in constant development, whereas older suites are, in their words, “frozen.”

SoftMaker TextMaker   9 Of The Best Free & Low Cost Alternatives To Microsoft Office

The screenshot above displays the SoftMaker Office Professional 2012 version of TextMaker.

Below is FreeOffice TextMaker:

SoftMaker FreeOffice TextMaker   9 Of The Best Free & Low Cost Alternatives To Microsoft Office

Features

I found while using SoftMaker, that it is very similar in features to Microsoft Office and other office suites. There wasn’t anything feature-wise that necessarily made it stand out apart from other suites. That said, it has a lot of features and options within each program. There are two versions, other than FreeOffice, of SoftMaker Office Suites. The professional version includes TextMaker, PlanMaker, SoftMaker Presentations, BasicMaker, SoftMaker eM Client Professional and 4 Berlitz Basic Dictionaries. The standard version only excludes eM Client Professional and the 4 Berlitz Basic Dictionaries.

TextMaker, as it implies is a Microsoft Word alternative. PlanMaker is the spreadsheet software. SoftMaker Presentations is the PowerPoint alternative. BasicMaker is the macro language that lets you automate TextMaker and PlanMaker. The SoftMaker eM Client Professional is actually an all-in-one email, task, calendar and contact client. This would be similar to Outlook.

Cost

It is obvious that FreeOffice is free, so I’ll jump right into the prices of the Standard and Professional versions. Office Standard 2012 is € 69.95 and $ 79.95. Office Professional 2012 is € 89.95 and $ 99.95. If you’re looking for an all-in-one email client alternative to Outlook included with your office suite, this is a pretty affordable option. Of course, there is Thunderbird however. Another thing to consider with SoftMaker is that if you want to upgrade, you don’t have to rebuy everything again, but instead just pay a fraction of the cost.

FreeOffice Logo   9 Of The Best Free & Low Cost Alternatives To Microsoft Office

I feel the true value of SoftMaker Office resides in FreeOffice, and not just because it’s free, but for what you get in comparison to what you pay for in their other suites. It truly is a bargain and is a great new rival to LibreOffice. Yes, FreeOffice is new. SoftMaker hasn’t officially announced it’s arrival, but we have been given permission to introduce it to you.

User Interface

SoftMaker Office 2012 isn’t bad, but it isn’t superb either. I definitely think that LibreOffice has it beat in this area. I will give it credit though in that it allows you to add and remove icons from the toolbars so that you can customize it to your liking – that’s nice and often a forgotten feature with many office suites.

Compatibility

When opening up different Microsoft Office files with SoftMaker Office, I didn’t notice any changes in them. In fact, the problem I mentioned about an additional page being added in LibreOffice, did not occur in this case. I was quite happy with the overall performance of the program. Again, the only drawback is that the interface seems a little backdated and could be overwhelming to someone who isn’t very tech savvy.

Kingsoft Office

Kingsoft office logo   9 Of The Best Free & Low Cost Alternatives To Microsoft Office

Kingsoft is a software company based out of Hong Kong that should worry Microsoft. They have a pretty good product here. However, the product only includes the “popular trio” as I’ve previously called it: Word alternative, Excel alternative and PowerPoint alternative. If that is all you need then this will suit you just fine. If you need a software for publishing or databases or note taking, you will need to look elsewhere or get “supplemental software” along with Kingsoft Office.

Although Kingsoft hasn’t been covered on MakeUseOf (to my knowledge), it has been mentioned by a reader in response to a question on MakeUseOf Answers. To read his opinion about it, scroll all the way to the end of the page.

Features

Aside from only having three programs, Kingsoft Office still excels (no pun intended). One feature that I really liked was the mobile app for Android, which is full functioning – you can view and edit your files, right from your phone or tablet. Not too many office suites offer that. Unfortunately my lack of owning an android device inhibited me from testing this personally, but I would be happy to hear any reviews in the comments below.

Cost

Like SoftMaker Office, Kingsoft Office has three versions as well: Free, Standard and Professional. The standard version costs $49.95. The professional version costs $69.95. In my opinion, this is a great deal. Also note that you don’t have to have the entire suite if you don’t want everything. Each piece of software (free and paid) is available individually too.

User Interface

As I was writing this review, I had to continue to hold back my praises on the interface until this section – believe me, it was hard to do. My first impression of Kingsoft Office happened like this, “Wow! That is nice!”

Kingsoft Writer Professional   9 Of The Best Free & Low Cost Alternatives To Microsoft Office

Kingsoft Writer Free   9 Of The Best Free & Low Cost Alternatives To Microsoft Office

Of course that faded a little once I realized that the ribbon style was only for the professional office suite and not the free one, but that said, the free version looks pretty nice too. With the ribbon style and full featured software combined with an affordable price, I would say that Kingsoft Office is probably the biggest contender to Microsoft Office. Sure, LibreOffice is free, and it does offer more programs – which in no doubt is a plus, but Kingsoft Office comes in at a super close second place.

Compatibility

Compatibility with Microsoft Office for Kingsoft Office isn’t even an issue. When I opened the files they all looked uniform and I noticed that the program’s own interface actually plays a roll in the look and “feel” of the file you’re viewing. Even in the free version, Kingsoft Office worked awesome.

Honorable Mention

ThinkFree

ThinkFree logo   9 Of The Best Free & Low Cost Alternatives To Microsoft Office

ThinkFree has web based and mobile apps as well as one for download. Don’t get the online and local versions confused. Contrary to what the name may imply, and although it’s a reputable company, the version for download is not as free as you may think.

Zoho Office

web office zoho   9 Of The Best Free & Low Cost Alternatives To Microsoft Office

Zoho has been around quite a while and has long been Google’s contender for the calendar and office web apps. If you prefer to not use Microsoft Web Apps or Google Docs, Zoho is the next best choice. They do have a free plan as well as two monthly paid plans.

KOffice

KOffice Logo   9 Of The Best Free & Low Cost Alternatives To Microsoft Office

KOffice is a free office suite with Word, Excel and PowerPoint alternatives, as well as diagram and flowchart, and vector graphics software. If you are looking for something that is free and diversified, you may want to check out KOffice to see what it has to offer. The interface isn’t bad and the updates are current as well.

Calligra Suite Logo   9 Of The Best Free & Low Cost Alternatives To Microsoft Office

Note: KOffice is the older version of Calligra Suite, which was covered on MakeUseOf for popular Linux office suites. Both are fantastic and Calligra Suite does have some differences. If you are interested in one of these two, I recommend you try them both out to see which one you like better.

IBM Lotus Symphony

symphony logo   9 Of The Best Free & Low Cost Alternatives To Microsoft Office

Lotus Symphony is another one of the “popular trio” desktop applications. It has been around for a while and seemed to be popular among Linux users for a while until OpenOffice came about. It still is a decent alternative if you enjoy trying out different software, but it isn’t my favorite by any means.

Conclusion

I hope that these recommendations have been helpful in deciding what you should use as your primary office suite. Some are much better than others. To sum up my thoughts, I feel the best to consider would be Kingsoft Office and LibreOffice for desktop apps and either Google Docs or Microsoft Web Apps for online files. To me, these have the best user interfaces, the most affordable prices (or are just plain free) and are the most full featured. If you have already tried some of these, I would like to hear your feedback. Which one do you prefer? I’m curious if there are others out there that may not be as popular, but are just as good or better. Let me know!

Also, if you use Microsoft Office, be sure to check out our guide on the best tips and tricks in Office 2010!

Image Credit: Blue Document via Shutterstock

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139 Comments -

0 votes

Lee

I have Kingsoft Office on my android tablet and I guess it works fine, although I honestly don’t use it too much.
One thing to note though, if you have an Asus Transformer tablet (like the Transformer Prime) it probably comes with Polaris Office. If you need to depend on an office suit for really important documents, DO NOT use Polaris Office. There are many reports of it corrupting larger files and they become non-recoverable. Kingsoft Office doesn’t have this problem and can do everything Polaris can do (and probably more).

0 votes

Aaron Couch

Lee,

Thanks for this tip! Hopefully all those who read this article, will also read this comment.

Thanks for reading.

0 votes

Yang Yang Li

Thanks for the heads up in case I ever get a Transformer. My next tablet will probably be the Surface though. On Android, I have used QuickOffice, DocToGo, and OfficeSuite. My favorite is QuickOffice.

0 votes

Belltowernews

I switched to Libre Office from OpenOffice from Microsoft Office from Winword, etc. I don’t limit Libre Office to portable use. It is my only on-board office suite. I recommend it to all of my students. When they turn in a document in ODF format or: .doc -.docx; Libre Office handles it fine. And, yes you can easily change the line spacing in FORMAT: PARAGRAPH – tab Indents & spacing.

1 votes

Aaron Couch

That’s awesome that you recommend it to your students! All too often students feel that Microsoft Office is the only way and don’t even consider looking for an alternative, which is sad.

And I figured there would be a setting for it. I was just wanting to look at things from the stand point of “when you first open up a document, how does it look?”

Thanks for the advice and thanks for reading! Keep educating your students about ways they can save. From the perspective of a recent graduate (in May), it is a tremendous help!

0 votes

Yang Yang Li

When ever I need a document to look consitent regardless of the platform or software, I convert it to PDF. That is what the PDF was originally developed for. With different versions of Microsoft documents showing up differently depending on the year, I never trust that format. Converting to PDF is quick and easy with NitroPDF Reader. That piece of software has been extremely helpful to me.

0 votes

ted

Thats great Belltowernews.

As a computer guy for 20 years many may not know the headaches of trying to get to a PC with Word on it just to type a resume or read a document someone else sent you.

I’m not MS bashing but ignorance among computer users has fueled the misconception that MS Office was the only real game in town; and MS has profited greatly from it. It’s hard to see all the beautiful grassy hills beyond when you have a mountain parked right in front of you.

If more teachers were computer savvy like Belltowernews [ should actually be a requirement ], then we would finally get to break this Monopoly MS Office has had on our lives.

Many of these Free Office Suites are Top of The line and its just nice to know “You have a Choice”; thats what Freedom is all about.

Hopefully you’ll also share all the really cool Linux Distro’s out there: Im sure many would blow your students away. http://distrowatch.com/ . Many come with a full Office Suite already on the disc.

The Live Disc allowing you to load and try without even having to do a install is just awesome.

All the freeware programs included still blow me away, but thats another topic for another post.

0 votes

Yang Yang Li

It is called clever marketing. I would call it having a superior product but that might just be because I am influenced by the marketing. ;-)

0 votes

AK

LOL

0 votes
0 votes

Sameer N

Thanks for the article Aaron. Very useful. I had OpenOffice installed on my home computer. It is not compatible with MS Office, that it is a pain when I need to edit it in my work computer. Got many options here. Thanks.

Thanks Lee for that tip. My smartphone has by default Polaris viewer. Will install any other office suite.

0 votes

Aaron Couch

Sameer,

You’re welcome! Glad that these are helpful for you. Good luck in using them. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

0 votes

Jatin Rungta

i still like the ms office who will buy,the crack is always there

0 votes

AK

Did u try others………Try them out …..n I bet U will get a GOOD and memory efficient versions

0 votes

Richard Borkovec

Personally I use LibreOffice, but if I absolutely have to have an Office 100% compatible document, I’ll use the Web Apps.

0 votes

Aaron Couch

That sounds like a good set up and plan for workflow Richard!

Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

0 votes

Aaron Couch

That sounds like a good set up and plan for workflow Richard!

Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

0 votes

Yang Yang Li

Web Apps are amazing. I love the integration with Microsoft Office. As I like to say, integration is integral.

0 votes

AK

what kind of compatibility issues are ther for using libreoffice????

do u need to hve hve ms office too?

I normally use just little documents and basic Excel and Powerpoint

Word pad is covering up documents ,

Pdf is covering ppt :)

0 votes

Greg

Why people still use Microsoft Office??? These all look so cool and easy to use!

0 votes

Aaron Couch

Greg,

I don’t know. It does have a nice interface, but for the cost I’m not sure it is worth it. There are so many free options alone that are available, it’s astonishing that MS Office still can compete!

0 votes

Mike Freeman

It competes because it’s got strong name recognition (MS Word is almost synonymous with “word processor” for the average dunce… I mean user) and a heavily advertising company behind it. Almost everyone I talk to say they use it because they have to for their business (even if the alternatives do just as good a job). They have to be assured client’s documents are properly formatted without the need to change any settings. That’s the story, anyway. I personally use LibreOffice and haven’t seen any problems, but no one ever believes me on that.

0 votes

Lieschen Müller

Totally agree with you, Mike.
Not much difference here in Germany, when it comes to an Office suite most people associate MS Office – no surprise as most computer seminars, no matter whether in school, university or business only cover this, hardly ever the alternatives. So, Belltowernews, great job ;-)

@ michel: reliable? Well, maybe nowadays, but I can well remember the days, years back, when I had to frequently help a desperate friend to fix her promotion paper she insisted on creating in MS Word, always messing up the whole doucument when she was just adding a paragraph or a table… Mind, she was a dentist, not a computer geek ;-)

I’m using Open Office, it does a good job for me on both Win and Mac. The Palm runs Documents To Go. I’ve not yet tested the Office app that came with my new Android tablet…

0 votes

Aaron Couch

Interesting conversation here guys! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for reading the article!

0 votes

AK

Hahaha…….thnx 4 tht>…………….I ws just planning to delete my ms word…..n looking for options thnx

0 votes

Charlie Player

still like it

0 votes

Joshua Todd Cowper

In Microsoft’s craziness, they actually recently REDUCED the SkyDrive limit to 7GB if you have only signed up recently. Luckily, I still have 25GB, however it is definitely unfortunate for new users.

0 votes

Aaron Couch

Joshua,

I remember hearing something about that now that you mention it! I am lucky enough to have snagged the 25GB too, but I’m pretty sure if existing users didn’t do it in time they lost the chance to upgrade.

Kinda stupid. Here Microsoft had the chance in raising the bar, and for a short time they did, and then they succumbed to lower standards.

Sad.

Thanks for reading and for the correction Joshua! Hope to hear from you in more comments!

0 votes

Yang Yang Li

That is why I created 7 or 8 accounts with Skydrive. I am smart enough to realize a good thing when it comes around. The problem is remembering all those usernames and passwords :-(

0 votes

AK

Why dont u go for Chrome Cloud storage for passwords and bookmarks…..It automatically sync’s for u

0 votes

Vampie C.

The problem is that at our company we use ms office, so at home, for compatability issues, I have to use that as well.

0 votes

Shakirah Faleh Lai

That was the same problem for university students, they must use ms office to write their thesis.

0 votes

Aaron Couch

That’s one thing that gets me is that colleges don’t look at MS Office alternatives and force students to use it.

Although, there was a reader who is a professor and he recommends LibreOffice to all of his students — which is awesome.

Thanks for sharing and reading!

0 votes

Shakirah Faleh Lai

Unfortunately he’s not my professor.

0 votes

Maria

Do not get me started on professors and universities! I am a part of the academia, and not the IT kind. Worst dinosaurs ever. You cannot teach old dog a trick, doesn’t it go like that? The dogs in the academia are mostly blind, death and aggressive!

0 votes

A

Beautiful. And arrogant as well.

But you can work in these free softwares and save the files in *.doc and *.xls.

0 votes

Tug

I was able to get Office 2010 Pro for free through my school. I’m not sure how they did it, but I’m glad they did. I don’t mind Libre Office, but MS Office is a bit more polished and intuitive for me to use.

0 votes

Shakirah Faleh Lai

Yeah, from my experience MO works better but LO is cool for a free software.

0 votes

Aaron Couch

That’s the way to do it Tug! Microsoft has agreements with colleges and I’ve seen that before.

However, in my experience, students weren’t really educated on their options so they usually end up buying it before starting classes.

Maybe this was different for you though.

0 votes

AK

So do u believe MS office is better than others???(I am not talking abt cost)

0 votes

Aaron Couch

Cost aside, yeah I would say it’s better. Some free alternatives are closer than others and what makes them better is the fact that they’re free, but if MS Office was free too it would likely be the most popular office suite still.

That said, it’s not and there are awesome alternatives!

0 votes

Aaron Couch

Vampie,

I understand your dilemma perfectly. What about trying a program such as KingSoft. I feel it has excellent compatibility with MS Office.

0 votes

Vampie C.

Yeah, maybe I’ll install it at home.

Thank you.

0 votes

Luke Brannon

haven’t tried microsoft web apps, tried libreoffice and it was ok but coming from microsoft office 2007 I just didn’t find it that user friendly. my favourite has got to be google docs! sweet, simple, and the fact it’s there when you need it especially as I’ve started performing a lot of my tasks on the cloud to stop my computer from slowing down.

I’m loving google products that much I’m considering getting a chromebook to experiment with! :)

0 votes

Aaron Couch

Luke,

I’m with you on Google. I feel like I just keep going back to Google Docs even though I know that Web Apps is right there too. I do like the 25 gigabytes offered by Microsoft and really wish Google would do the same because then I could use it for even more purposes.

I used Google Docs solely for all my college class notes and it worked great. I loved being able to get them from any computer as well.

Thanks for your thoughts and for reading! Looking forward to your comments in future articles!

0 votes

AK

Why ther is no like option

0 votes

On Wong

I’m using the Chinese version of Kingsoft Office, which is named WPS Office. The interface is almost identical to MS Office and it’s got tons of free templates created by fellow users. Highly recommended if you don’t need Access or Outlook.

0 votes

Aaron Couch

On Wong, I agree that it is an excellent replacement. Especially with it’s interface.

Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts and recommendations with other readers!

0 votes

Igor Rizvi?

Google drive is a very usefull thing

0 votes

Aaron Couch

I agree — with Docs, it’s a great program. However, I do feel they could have created something more original instead of just a Dropbox equivalent.

Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

0 votes

Muhammad Ahmad

I am using microsoft office since 2006. Specially I like Microsoft Office 2007.

0 votes

Aaron Couch

Muhammad,

If you like Office 2007, you’ll LOVE 2010! You should give it a try.

0 votes

Muhammad Ahmad

why not. Going to give a try to office 2010.

0 votes

Chris

The problem I have had is that I exchange documents with other Word users that have been redlined using the Track Changes feature. None of the alternatives I have tried can handle these documents.

0 votes

Oron

LibreOffice supports this. You’ll find the option in Edit=>Changes (turn “show” on to see existing changes, use “Record” to track changes).

0 votes

Oron

Thanks for an excellent article, Aaron. I use LibreOffice almost exclusively, though I like the KingSoft products very much and have installed them on clients’ computers, and I use GoogleDrive for collaboration (it really ROCKS!).
One small correction, Libre Office “Draw” is a object-oriented graphics package for diagrams and the like, not a Publisher alternative.

0 votes

Aaron Couch

Oron,

First off, thanks for answering Chris’s question quicker and better than I could have – greatly appreciated.

Second, may I just say that I agree with your ways of use of Google Drive and opinion of KingSoft. They are both very excellent programs, as is LibreOffice.

Also, thanks for the correction. I will make sure that change is made within the article. Since you seem very knowledgeable in LibreOffice, I am curious… is there a Publisher alternative within it? After doing some searches within Google, it doesn’t seem that there is.

Thanks again for your comments and for reading the article! Hope to see you in the comments again!

0 votes
0 votes

Aaron Couch

Hans,

Thanks for answering this. I suppose that it’s functionality in comparison to Publisher would be similar to Word’s features in comparison to Publisher.

0 votes

Oron

Publisher is something of a unique product. A page layout program which is driven entirely by templates. As far as I know, there’s no other DTP program like it, certainly not in LibreOffice. However, there are a couple of free page layout programs out there – Scribus (open source) and Serif PagePlus Starter Edition. The latter is relatively easy to use (for a DTP program) and comes with plenty of templates, so you could consider it a free alternative. However, it is crippled in some respects (for example, there’s a limit of something like 5 pages per document, I can’t remember the exact number) as the aim of the free version is to entice you to get the full version (which I have, and it’s not bad).

Certainly for relatively simple layouts you can use Libre Office. For one page documents, you can often use a drawing package such as LibreOffice Draw, InkScape etc, but the typographical control you get in these tools is limited and even simple things like bulleted paragraph are difficult to do.

0 votes

Aaron Couch

Oron,

Thanks again for your detailed reply! It was very helpful in understanding what’s available.

It’s also nice of you to share this with our readers!

0 votes

Fayz

I use LibreOffice because I find the ribbbon style menu of Microsoft Office very confusing. :p

0 votes

Aaron Couch

Fayz,

Thanks for sharing your opinion. Personally, I’m the complete opposite. Now, I would agree that Office 2007’s interface wasn’t nearly as nice, but I felt Office 2010 was excellent.

Have you tried Office 2013? Right now there’s a free beta. Or are you pretty settled with LibreOffice at this point? If so, that’s awesome – no need to change!

Thanks for your comment and for reading!

0 votes

michel

How in any way is Softmaker’s interface any more old fashioned than Libreoffice? What’s the difference?

There’s no mystery to why MS Office still sells and is still the standard: It’s just better. Faster, cleaner, more customizable, and most important, reliable. It’s the professional choice for a reason, the same reason professionals choose Photoshop over Gimp. If you do writing for a living that means you need infallible compatibility with the industry and that mean MS. The others are fine and good choices for many people.

0 votes

Aaron Couch

Michel,

You have a valid point. And I would have to say I agree with you, just like I do with BestGeek.

It really does come down to what you need in software — MS Office is often the “no brainer” choice for some. Others who need the occasional use of an office suite end up choosing something else. Then again, some have found a way to use software like LibreOffice solely for a business and make it!

As far as Softmaker’s interface, I suppose I was just expecting a little more from a premium product compared to what is given in LibreOffice. FreeOffice by SoftMaker, is very nice looking for the price point – free, but for a paid option, I’d like to see the interface upgraded a bit.

That’s what I was getting at. Thanks for your thoughts Michel! I hope you keep reading more articles here on MUO.

0 votes

BestGeeK

Honestly, nothing can beat Microsoft Office yet. It’s well thought of piece of software. Office web app is just a boon with Skydrive in place.
Currently, I’m on Office 13 (legally free, yay!), and will be using web app once the desktop app will no longer be free.
No other software/service come close in this field.

0 votes

Aaron Couch

BestGeek,

You know, I should have mentioned using MS Office betas in this article too. Oh well!

That is a great point and, honestly, I have Office 2013 (and 2010 before I installed 2013) and really like it because of it’s great interface. Like I said in the article, MS Office is beautiful and it’s developers definitely know how to make a great looking piece of software.

However, it’s not always the answer, especially for people on a tighter budget.

Thanks for your comment. Feel free to share more thoughts if you have any!

0 votes

AK

And What about memory efficiency, Time efficiency……..I dont think MS office is fast enough, I have 2gb ram and I used open office in ubuntu tht ws better……

3 votes

Deekshith Allamaneni

I use Libre Office. I’ve left MS Office long ago. LibreOffice may not be as sophisticated as MS-Office but I feel it is ENOUGH for most uses.

0 votes

Dee101

They’ve been putting in upgrades on a consistent basis that really help. The update notifier they added recently really helps know when new toys are available.

1 votes

Aaron Couch

Dee,

I’ve noticed that they’ve really released some great updates as well. It certainly helps them to keep gaining more traction with getting new users and maintaining their current ones.

The way I see it is that MS Office users typically use it because they don’t know of any options, but those that use free or inexpensive alternatives to MS Office, try it to get away from the price point, but stay because their loyalty to the company has grown due to customer service and a solid product for a reasonable price.

1 votes

Aaron Couch

Deekshith,

You’re absolutely right!

Thanks for sharing and reading the article!

0 votes

AK

EXACTLY…….

0 votes

Matthew

I’ve been using Open Office for years now. No need to change to anything else. It covers all the tools I require for my daily WP use. I love this free stuff. I remember the days of WordPerfect and pricing. Thank goodness for free.

0 votes

Aaron Couch

Matthew,

I agree one hundred percent. And even though we may differ on the software we use, I do believe that if you have a system that is working perfectly for you, there isn’t any need to change it if you won’t gain much.

0 votes

ted

Heck I’ve got my WP Productivity Pack CD 2003 oem sitting right next to me while I read this.

I liked WP also and I like to have many alternatives on my PC just in case I need to do something special that I just cant do in another program; same reason I keep 4 web browsers.

I also use Open Office and will be trying Libre Office. MS Office only exist for last minute compatibility and just because I own that darn disc. Office 2000 Pro still resides on my pc.

0 votes

AK

Yeah absolutely correct……U cant just rely on One choice……
U mentioned abt 4 browsers

I generally LOVE to use Chrome (its the best) but it gives lots ofproblems ………….smtimes It stucks in the middle of session……

I now keep alternatives like firefox (but one cant print PDF from it)

and sometimes i land up @some of govt. sites which says Internet Explorer ONLY…..lol…..

so i have to use atleast 3 browsers :) :P

0 votes

ted

Oops Matthew, Sorry. I thought you were having a Word Perfect ” WP ” Flashback of the Good Ol Days. Or maybe I just was. My bad.

0 votes

Jason Mullins

very cool stuff

0 votes

Aaron Couch

Thanks Jason! I appreciate you taking the time to read.

0 votes

Sushil Kathpalia

Actually i use openoffice but their is promtion running by ashampoo office 2010 for free so you can grab here
http://www.softmaker.de/reg/ash10_en.htm

0 votes

Shakirah Faleh Lai

Never use ashampoo office, should give it a try.

0 votes

Aaron Couch

Sushil,

Thanks for sharing this! I wasn’t even aware that Ashampoo was in partnership with SoftMaker.

0 votes

Trevor

Used LibreOffice. Sucks. Messes up Word document format. Avoid at all cost :)

0 votes

Dee101

Did you use the current version? I’ve had excellent luck with it as long as there aren’t a lot of macros.

0 votes

Aaron Couch

Trevor,

Like Dee, I too have had great luck with it.

Not sure if you meant the pun there… but it IS free ;)

Anyways, what do you use as an alternative to LibreOffice then?

0 votes

Sam Wilson

I installed Linux Mint a few weeks ago (Cinnamon V13) and I’ve been helping my son create an assignment from scratch in Libre Office 3.5.4.2 … It’s been a harrowing experience – formatting is severly broken. If we pressed enter on a paragph, the document reformatted itself. We created a new document, pasted “special” with unformatted text and the same thing happened again. We had no fancy formatting, no pictures (at that stage) and were not trying to do anything particularly difficult.
I have found Libre Office to be worst than Open Office version 1.0 – I would not recommend the latest version of Libre Office to my worst enemy.

0 votes

Aaron Couch

That is interesting and good to hear. I seldom hear much negative about LibreOffice so in a way, I’m glad that you’ve pointed that out.

What do you use and propose as an alternative then? OpenOffice? Or is that too similar and you use something else?

Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

0 votes

dragonmouth

Sam,
Do you have Libre Office configured properly? It is also possible that the developers of Mint have “individualized” Libre Office. They have a habit of doing that to programs just to put a Mint branding on them.

0 votes

Rigoberto Garcia

Particularly use Google Drive and consider one of the best features for their collaborative work, allowing direct interaction in real time with my staff and customers. Additionally use Skydrive for the effects of cloud storage and support group activities of my company.

0 votes

Aaron Couch

Good choices! I like that you combine them and use them both in their different strengths. Wouldn’t it be nice if somehow these different services could work together too?

Thanks for your comment Rigoberto! I appreciate your thoughts.

0 votes

Lambvolution

im use Libre Office

0 votes

Gordon

+1 for LibreOffice. I have come across businesses that use it ENTIRELY, including my accountant, and I have personally been using OpenOffice and LibreOffice for at least 4yrs now. 90+ % of office users could get by with it. I like it so much but don’t have the time to help with development of it, so happily donate each year, as I do with some other software I use from Sourceforge.

0 votes

Aaron Couch

Gordon,

That is great that you donate! And even with those donations, it probably still costs less than MS Office (depending, of course, on how much you donate).

I really enjoy seeing software companies who have a powerful product, competitively compete against the bigger companies. Not that I’m against big companies at all, I just like that.

Thanks for reading Gordon! I appreciate your comment.

0 votes

AK

SUPER LIKE

0 votes

BenN

I am glad you included Zoho but I am surprised and disappointed it got such a tiny little mention at the very end. I think it is just as feature rich as Google or MS’s online offerings- perhaps even more so. Just one example – with Zoho you can write and run macros. As far as I know even Office Web Apps can’t do that and it is their own product and language.

For personal use I stopped using local programs and only use web apps now. (Did you know Zoho can “install” in linux to be your default office editor? Edit local files with Zoho’s web suite!!!) I previously I used Open/Libre Office for home use but now only use them occasionally to fix Microsoft. At work users send corrupt office files that Office can’t open. Libre office opens them fine and then I can resave them in MS office format and it fixes it.

Weird that freeware can open, fix and save a MS product that MS broke and can’t open or fix.

0 votes

Aaron Couch

Ben,

Thanks for the comment and for reading! Perhaps I should have given Zoho more credit. I didn’t know that about the Linux integration? Is that online while online or is there a way to edit them offline too? That is a pretty unique feature!

It is interesting that third-party software works better than the “real thing.”

Just goes to show that just because you pay for it, doesn’t mean it’s better.

Thanks again for reading! Feel free to share any more thoughts and opinions that you have!

0 votes

AK

hahahaha

0 votes

Kelly Buchanan

Kingsoft is a decent MS Office alternative. Its mobile version works as well as any of the Android office suites I’ve tried. The free desktop version mimics the 2007 MS Office interface while the paid version uses the updated 2010 menu interface. I’ve had no difficulties with editing/converting older or newer MS Office documents.

0 votes

Aaron Couch

That’s great to know Kelly! Thanks for sharing. I wasn’t able to test the Android version since I don’t have an Android device at hand, but I’m glad that you’ve clarified it as being a great program… I kinda figured it was :P

Thanks for reading!

0 votes

tarzan2001

I’ve recently started using LibreOffice in my attempt to as “open source” as I can with my computer, and I’m actually finding it to be quite good! The only oddity I’ve noticed so far is the thickness of borders in some Excel documents I had created previously in MS Office. For some reason, LibreOffice draws them much thicker, but other than that, things are working just fine! :) Also, one other small complaint I have with LibreOffice is that it doesn’t support/utilize the Jumplists feature in Windows 7. It’s a neat feature, and I hope they utilize it soon! It’s a little annoying to have to open docs the “old way” once you’ve been using Jumplists for a while! :)

0 votes

Aaron Couch

Tarzan,

Maybe KingSoft might be a better alternative? I don’t know right off hand if it uses Jump Lists, but it could be something I could check into if you’d like.

Thanks for reading!

0 votes

tarzan2001

Ok, thanks for the suggestion, I’ll certainly check it out! At the moment my “office productivity” needs aren’t very extensive, so even smaller office suites should suffice. That’s why I’m not pursuing MS Office at the moment. KingSoft certainly looks appealing–small installation size and plenty of features! :)

0 votes

Suman Acharya

i am using OpenOffice.

0 votes

Aaron Couch

Suman,

OpenOffice is a great choice as well!

0 votes

Ashwin Ramesh

I use MS Office. Should give a try to a couple of alternatives. Thanks for the heads up, Aaron!

0 votes

Aaron Couch

You’re welcome Ashwin! Thanks for reading!

0 votes

Scott

So I’m reading this article and really enjoying it but I keep scrolling down looking for a write up of Open Office 4, get to the end and its not there. Huh? Writing an article about free MS Office alternatives and not including Open Office is like writing an article about ice cream flavors and leaving out vanilla. I was always under the impression that Open Office (along with Libre) was the most popular alternative to MS, and as I read in the comments I see that others use it also. So I’m totally surprised it was left out of this article. Aaron, I think you need to reopen Google Docs or whatever you used to write this article and revise it to include info about Open Office. You’re really doing readers a dis-service by not including it.

0 votes

Aaron Couch

Scott,

While I respect and understand your reasoning, my reasoning in not including OO was simply because it IS the most popular one, so I figured I’d show some other options that are equally as good, but maybe less heard of.

It was briefly mentioned in article under LibreOffice. And I felt that mentioning both in the same amount of detail that I did with LibreOffice, Google Docs, and others would have been quite redundant since OpenOffice and LibreOffice are so very similar. They’re not the SAME, but still quite similar.

Granted, I may have been able to mention it along with some of the other office suites toward the end of the article, but in the end I decided not to.

There are tons of great articles on OpenOffice throughout MakeUseOf though, and that also may have played a part in me not mentioning it.

Thanks for reading and for sharing your opinions and thoughts. I appreciate feedback, even if it’s constructive criticism. Hope to hear from you in the comments again.

0 votes

Rizwan Saudagar

Thanks for the article, Aaron.

0 votes

Aaron Couch

You’re welcome Rizwan! Glad to have helped.

Thanks for reading!

0 votes

VS Vishnu

good article..

0 votes

Yang Yang Li

Some of the options mentioned above are more expensive than Microsoft Office. Microsoft Office is not expensive at all if you know where to get it. In fact, all Microsoft products are dirt cheap compared to other software. This may seem like an outlandish claim but it is true. At first, I thought Microsoft software was expensive as well.

Purchasing MS products through institutions is the way to go. I purchased my copy of MS Office Professional Plus for only $10. On the market, it retails for $300-400. I also grabbed a copy of Windows Ultimate for $20. There were also a bunch of other corporate Microsoft software I had never heard of before for cheap.

The point is, Microsoft Office is affordable to people who really need it.

0 votes

Aaron Couch

I realize that there are some great deals that Microsoft provides – As a student at the time I got Windows 7 for $30, however, I’ve never seen MS Office for less than $80 (student discount which now has been raised to $100).

Besides corporate and student discounts, I’m unaware of any discounts for the average user… especially discounts that cheap.

Care to explain how you managed those?

0 votes

Christopher Harlan

My two all time favorite Office alternatives are Libre Office, because of the clean looks and ease of use, and Google Documents, because I can sync it to the web and get it from anywhere without third party involvement. It’s amazing what types of alternatives can be out there for those everyday programs that you use ;)

0 votes

Aaron Couch

You’re absolutely right Christopher! Good choices, and thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

0 votes

Donna Shaw

I have turned my students onto both google docs and microsoft web apps on skydrive. Both are a godsend for teachers. No longer do I have to hear, “I couldn’t print my paper.” Now I just have them share the doc with me or deposit it to a common source such as turnitin.com. It’s not your mama’s classroom anymore :)

0 votes

Aaron Couch

Good thinking Donna! Glad to know that this whole “cloud thing” is catching on. It’s about time!

Thanks for reading :D

0 votes

Edgar Meixueiro

I’ve used some of these alternatives. They are all OK. But there are always problems specially with compatibility. I still recomend LibreOffice though.

0 votes

Aaron Couch

Edgar,

Have you personally had compatibility issues recently with LibreOffice? I thought the majority of those issues had been fixed. I’d definitely like to hear your feedback.

Thanks for reading and sharing this!

0 votes

Edgar Meixueiro

Indeed I have. I am actually writing some documents for school but I still have my word documents looking weird on LibreOffice. That happens when I use some special format, tables, images, and that kind of stuff.

Also when I use excel files, I’ve had problems when printing. Everything seems to be OK but when I select the print preview, LibreOffice calc just crashes. That does not happen with all my documents but it has happened with an important one. As for the reason for LibreOffice doing that I really don’t know.

In few words, the more complex the documents are, the worst the problems become.

0 votes

Khash

Isn’t kingsoft office too similar to Microsoft office they practically look exactly the same I think if they get too big patent infringement shouldn’t be too hard to prove

0 votes

Aaron Couch

I honestly don’t know. I’m not very educated in that department. I’ll be honest, the thought occurred to me too, but it seems like it hasn’t been an issue yet. Perhaps if they become more popular and a larger company, MS will go after them.

Thanks for your thoughts Khash!

0 votes

rafay

Aaron
Great job mate. Almost got tired this article is very comprehensive. A user while going all this will get confuse. So what ever you learn from this article can you make a grid or comparison chart ??? if you are looking for this feature ..go for this product… for example i am in a school and want to install office product …looking for easy interface, ease of use and opening and saving Microsoft office documents … which one do u recommend ????

0 votes

Simeon

I use LibreOffice only. I’ve used Microsoft Office, Ashampoo Office before. Libre has come a long way and as a Graphic Designer, I find it easier to design Letterheads and such. It boasts better compatibility than most office apps and had pdf export way before ms office had it.
I give LibreOffice 10/10

0 votes

Aaron Couch

Thanks for your feedback on this Simeon!

0 votes

Edmar Diego

i personally use libreoffice’s base rather than microsoft access.

0 votes

bonioloff

I think “Pages” also a good alternatives for mac user :D

0 votes

Holden Alpern

I use google docs and the google drive app for mac, so far so good

0 votes

Kirby

I’ve bee using Kingsoft Office since I saw a post here on MUO a few weeks ago. The only thing I missed from using Microsoft Office is the ability to find synonyms for words since my vocabulary needs more work.

Besides this, Kingsoft Office does the job.

1 votes

Rajaa Chowdhury

0 votes

Douglas Mutay

Thank you very much for this article. I was TOTALLY suprised to discover all these alternative to MS Office. And I will definitevely select one of them to use for free. I am particularly interested by SoftMaker Office. I have used IBM Lotus Symphony for free as it was installed with my Lotus Note account but I really didn’t like it. Thank you again for writting this. Double thumbs up! Bravo!!!

0 votes

Douglas Mutay

Thank you very much for this article. I was TOTALLY suprised to discover all these alternative to MS Office. And I will definitevely select one of them to use for free. I am particularly interested by SoftMaker Office. I have used IBM Lotus Symphony for free as it was installed with my Lotus Note account but I really didn’t like it. Thank you again for writting this. Double thumbs up! Bravo!!!

0 votes

Rita

Lotus Symphony is a tad worse than Libre Office, and suffers from the same problems. I downloaded it two or three weeks ago, and was familiar with the ‘old’ style, which the new one preserves. But it like Libre, enforces the stupid dysfunctional need to use a mouse when you hit the F5 ‘goto’ key, and it can’t read Lotus wk1 spreadsheets, which are still a mainstay in business and government operations.

But SmartSuite CAN read them, and still preserves the F5 +type named range/cellname facility. See my first comment here above.

http://www.haineonlinetari.com/

0 votes

hawk

Hi Aaron,
Thanks for all the good tips.. but, I hate MS office ribbon tops,,to hard to find what u need and they don’t care. I am switching to Libre and so far all the free office suites are compatible with MS office except for their data bases, if they have one. My question is, can you open Base in MS Access? also, is there a database out there that can be opened in Access? Another question, I just need a simple data base for my students info. MS Word had a simple one, but I couldn’t find a way to search it when I opened it in Libre Writer. It transferred but I couldn’t find a search window to edit and add info. Is there a small database in any of the free office suites thats transfers to Access?
Thanks
Hawk

0 votes

Anonymous

Do any of those alternatives have grammar and style proofing tools like MSWord has?

0 votes

Michael McCrae

I just stumbled upon this and realize I’m late to the party, but if you’re looking to round out your list to 10 alternatives, you might consider Ashamboo Office 2012. It’s just the big three, but only $60.00. I’ll be honest, I haven’t extensively used their office suite, but I do like the Ashampoo products I’ve had experience with.

Thanks for the article! It has introduced me to some new products.

0 votes

Tony M.

One of my reasons for preferring the alternatives to Microsoft Office: New releases of the Office alternatives are less likely to include revolutionary — meaning drastic — changes in their interfaces. Microsoft has a tendency to get too “gimmicky” to suit me. I’m certainly not opposed to introducing improvements. However, Microsoft, in their quest to stir interest, has shown a preference for revolutionary interface changes vice gentle, evolutionary enhancements. The result: With new releases of many Microsoft products, experienced users instantly become novices yet again. Whatever productivity gains you might eventually realize are likely to be dwarfed by the frustration you’ll feel and sharp learning curve users are forced to cope with. In other words, if you subtract the time consumed by adjusting to the new interface from the amount of time you might save by using Office’s productivity enhancements, chances are your answer will be a negative value. Just my opinion.

0 votes

Daniel Horne

I have been using MS Office since Office (AKA Office 92) and currently use Office 2010. It is hard to break old habits and I feel at home with Office but this article shows me there are alternatives out there with good compatibility.