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Nobody can deny that Microsoft Office is the most advanced and full-featured office suite Which Office Suite Is Best for You? Which Office Suite Is Best for You? You'll be pressed to find an occupation that doesn't require word or number processing of some sort. And you may wonder, is Microsoft Office really the best solution? Here are your options. Read More on the planet, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right one for you. Why fork over cash when you can use a free alternative that still offers all you need?

For the past few years, LibreOffice has been Microsoft’s biggest office suite competitor Is the New LibreOffice a Better Microsoft Office Alternative? Is the New LibreOffice a Better Microsoft Office Alternative? LibreOffice, a long-time contender of Microsoft Office, just received a makeover and important updates. After being held back by niggling bugs over the years, has LibreOffice finally found the winning formula? Read More . Not only is it free and open source, but its feature set is rapidly expanding, so much so that LibreOffice is just as good as Microsoft Office in many ways Is LibreOffice Worthy of the Office Crown? Is LibreOffice Worthy of the Office Crown? LibreOffice is the king of free office suites. It's unlikely to replace Microsoft Office in a business environment, but it's an excellent alternative for casual users. Here's what's new in LibreOffice 5.1. Read More .

Now we have a third contender in the ring. It’s called FreeOffice 2016 and it’s surprisingly good. But is it good enough to make the switch? Here’s what you need to know.

What’s Included in FreeOffice 2016?

FreeOffice is the free lightweight version of Softmaker Office, which is a proprietary suite that costs $70 for the standard version and $90 for the professional version. Even so, FreeOffice still offers enough to be interesting.

  • TextMaker: A word processor that aims to be the most accurate when displaying Microsoft Word documents. It can open both DOC and DOCX formats, and export to formats like PDF, EPUB, etc.
  • PlanMaker: A spreadsheet application that aims to be the most accurate when displaying Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. It can open both XLS and XLSX formats, and export to formats like DBF, SLK, etc.
  • Presentations: A presentation application that aims to be the most accurate when displaying Microsoft PowerPoint presentations. It can open both PPT and PPTX formats.

You probably noticed a pattern: “most accurate when displaying”. That’s one of the key selling points of FreeOffice, the ability to deal with Microsoft’s proprietary formats without running into formatting errors and data loss. It’s as close to true as you can get for free.

At the moment, FreeOffice 2016 is only available for Windows and Linux. It’s unclear whether Softmaker has plans to include OS X at any point.

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Download Now: Windows (Free), Linux (Free)

It’s Easy to Use and Navigate

Before diving into FreeOffice’s feature set, let’s first explore how it looks and feels to use. After all, even the best applications aren’t worth using if they’re ugly, clunky, and lacking in finesse (too many free options have this problem).

freeoffice-interface-textmaker

What impresses me most about this office suite is its speed — it’s faster than any other office suite I’ve ever used. Microsoft Word or LibreOffice Writer both take several seconds to launch and load, but FreeOffice is ready in under a second. No exaggeration.

And it’s not just launch speed. Office applications tend to slow down when you’re dealing with large documents, but FreeOffice holds up well — even with complex spreadsheets that involve dozens of pages and thousands of calculations.

freeoffice-interface-planmaker

The other thing I love about FreeOffice is the familiar interface. Most office suites look pretty much the same, but there’s something about FreeOffice that feels cleaner and snappier. The toolbars are compact, the menus are organized well, and nothing gets in your way.

In short, it’s a delight to use, as long as you’re okay without a Ribbon interface. If you prefer the Ribbon look, your only options are Microsoft Office and WPS Office. Personally, I’m very satisfied with FreeOffice.

freeoffice-interface-presentations

Fonts, layouts, and graphics are all displayed to near perfection. This is a big problem that I’ve had with other cross-platform applications, including LibreOffice, but FreeOffice seems to have dodged the issue altogether. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.

I only have one complaint as far as appearances are concerned: the icons used throughout the suite — namely in the toolbars and menus — are reminiscent of the 2000s era. Updating to a modern flat motif would be a simple change to bring the software’s character up to date.

Useful & Notable Features

Now for the part that matters the most. Is FreeOffice actually worth using? Are there any important features missing that I’d need? Does it live up to its promise as the best free office suite? I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised.

Again, file integrity is great. I tried opening as many Microsoft Office files as I could using FreeOffice and they all worked without any quirks in formatting or layout. Other office suites aren’t as accurate.

When people send you DOCX, XLSX, and PPTX files, rest assured that you’ll be able to see them as they were intended to be seen (i.e. as they would appear in Microsoft Office 2016).

how-it-looks-in-word-2016

But there is one huge downside to FreeOffice: it can’t actually save in DOCX, XLSX, or PPTX formats. So if you’re working in a team and everyone insists on using the newer Microsoft formats, that could be problematic.

It has all of the necessary standard features. Paragraph formatting, drawing tools, layout templates, data tables and graphics, spelling and grammar checkers, formulas in spreadsheets, animations in presentations, and all of that good stuff.

But it also has a number of advanced features that a lot of other office suites simply don’t have. Let’s look at each application separately.

freeoffice-features-textmaker

Notable TextMaker features:

  • SmartText expands any shortcut phrase into a full phrase, such as “asap” into “as soon as possible”.
  • Track changes made to document, which you can later accept or reject without any hassle.
  • Margin comments for annotating edited documents.
  • Create PDF forms and documents.
  • Export to EPUB format for ebooks.

Without a doubt, this is one of the best free word processors currently available What Is the Best Word Processor for Linux? What Is the Best Word Processor for Linux? Unless you use emulation or virtualization software, there's no way to run Word on Linux. Which leaves us with a tough question: what's the best word processor to use on Linux? Read More . My only regret is that I didn’t discover it earlier.

freeoffice-features-planmaker

Notable PlanMaker features:

So whether you’re building or importing spreadsheets for tracking your finances 10 Helpful Spreadsheet Templates To Help Manage Your Finances 10 Helpful Spreadsheet Templates To Help Manage Your Finances Wouldn't it be great if you knew where your money was, at all times? Read More , organizing your life 10 Amazingly Useful Spreadsheet Templates to Organize Your Life 10 Amazingly Useful Spreadsheet Templates to Organize Your Life Is your life a hotch-potch of missed deadlines, forgotten shopping and reneged commitments? Sounds like you need to get organized. Read More , or managing your projects 15 Useful Excel Templates for Project Management & Tracking 15 Useful Excel Templates for Project Management & Tracking Read More , you can be sure that PlanMaker is powerful enough to handle it all.

freeoffice-features-presentations

Notable Presentations features:

  • Insert graphics, videos, and sounds.
  • Design and draw using AutoShapes that are fully compatible with Microsoft PowerPoint.
  • Interactive presentations using a virtual pen or highlighter.
  • Export presentations as a collection of images.
  • Flexible slide designs and templates.
  • Support for 4K UltraHD displays.

And yes, you can import templates intended for Microsoft PowerPoint Where to Find Free PowerPoint Themes & Templates Where to Find Free PowerPoint Themes & Templates A default template can be drab and lifeless. Fortunately, with plenty of free resources available, there is no need to settle. We have compiled some of the best PowerPoint themes & templates. Read More and use them to make your slides more pleasing to the eye.

It Even Comes With Mobile Apps

But only for Android devices. Sorry, iOS users.

Mobile apps are becoming standard fare for office suites these days. Microsoft Office has them, Google has them, and even WPS and Polaris have them. And the surprising thing is that these mobile office suites are quite productive The 8 Best Office Suites On Android For Getting Work Done The 8 Best Office Suites On Android For Getting Work Done It is possible to get real work done on Android, but you've got a lot of options now when it comes to office suites. Let's examine the best of them. Read More .

FreeOffice comes with its own set of apps and they’re really good. The aesthetics could use a bit of work — again, they feel slightly outdated — but the interface is designed well enough that you won’t feel frustrated or cramped, even on a smaller screen.

freeoffice-mobile-apps

You can work on your files using a desktop or laptop and seamlessly switch to your smartphone or tablet without losing anything, especially if you use cloud storage services like Dropbox or OneDrive to keep everything in sync.

The mobile apps are feature complete. You can edit, format, track changes, add comments, insert formulas, alter presentations, play slideshows, display any font, and more. Nothing is missing here.

In fact, the best thing about this mobile suite is the ability to save in DOCX, XSLX, and PPTX formats. We don’t know why this feature isn’t in the desktop versions, but at least you can do so using the mobile alternatives without having to pay anything.

Download Now: TextMaker (Free), PlanMaker (Free), Presentations (Free)

Is FreeOffice 2016 Right for You?

For the most part, FreeOffice 2016 is a more-than-viable replacement for Microsoft Office, at least if all you need is word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations. The mobile apps are convenient, if you’re always on the go and need to edit away from home.

The only downside is the inability to save in DOCX, XLSX, or PPTX. Otherwise, it’s a fantastic office suite that could easily become a top-ranking alternative.

If you really need to save those files, then you can do so with the FreeOffice mobile apps, upgrade to Softmaker Office, switch to LibreOffice or Google Docs, or just look for a free copy of Microsoft Office Save on Microsoft Office! Get Cheap or Free Office Products Save on Microsoft Office! Get Cheap or Free Office Products Reluctant to spend a few hundred bucks on a glorified word processor? You can get Microsoft Office for cheap and alternatives for free. You've got many options and we offer a summary. Read More .

Other features you’ll find in the paid Softmaker Office, but not in FreeOffice 2016, are multi-language spell checking and synonyms using commercial dictionaries, an extended sidebar, macros, cross-references, figure captions, envelope and label printing, mailmerge How to Print Labels with Mail Merge in Microsoft Word and Excel How to Print Labels with Mail Merge in Microsoft Word and Excel Are you still using copy-and-paste to create labels, name badges, or other personalized mass communications? Mail Merge, a simple Microsoft Office automation tool, will let you print your labels in seconds. Read More , and displaying your documents in browser-like tabs.

Personally, FreeOffice 2016 has become my office suite of choice. That about sums it up, doesn’t it?

What do you think of FreeOffice? Does it offer enough to tempt you into switching? Or are the DOCX/XLSX/PPTX formats so important as to be deal breakers? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

  1. Jack
    August 13, 2016 at 10:41 am

    Dear Joel,

    Are you saying that you can not print letter envelopes in Free Office, or just not do Mail Merges? If you can't print envelopes in the free version, this could be a deal-breaker for me. I write letters very often.

    Jack

  2. Nimesh
    June 15, 2016 at 8:38 am

    Used LibreOffice once and it messed up my excel pivot tables. Since then I'm using Kingsoft office on Win, Linux and Android, fully compatible with MS Office and has some better features in free versions too.

    • Joel Lee
      June 19, 2016 at 3:44 am

      Ah, sorry to hear that, Nimesh! Great to have some corroboration on Kingsoft's compatibility with Microsoft though. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Sugi
    June 4, 2016 at 7:44 pm

    A great option for people who don't want to pay for MS Office. However, given the sheer amount of time I spend using office applications, I prefer something a little more powerful.

    • Joel Lee
      June 9, 2016 at 12:27 am

      Thanks for sharing, Sugi. Nothing wrong with needing something more powerful. It's just nice to have the option for more personal use I guess. :)

  4. Homer
    June 3, 2016 at 4:01 pm

    Without MACROS it is useless.

    • Joel Lee
      June 9, 2016 at 12:26 am

      That's a great point. I'm not a big macro user but I can see how that would be a dealbreaker. Thanks for mentioning that, Homer! Maybe Softmaker will implement that in the future.

  5. billgreg
    June 3, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    What about OpenOffice? I have been using it for several years and it does everything MS Office does INCLUDING open and save files in MS Office format.

    • Joel Lee
      June 9, 2016 at 12:25 am

      OpenOffice and LibreOffice are quite similar. And yes, OpenOffice is great! Between the two, I prefer LibreOffice because it's more community-driven and has more development activity. Think of FreeOffice as another option in the sea of word processors. Thanks billgreg!

  6. Howard A Pearce @HAPLibertarian
    June 3, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    I'd actually like to see more of a comparison against LibreOffice too - else I am less likely to switch given the install requirements and how little I use office documents.

    • Peter Buyze
      June 3, 2016 at 2:29 pm

      I second that. MS Office is the benchmark, but the decision for people who want to ditch MSO is which alternative to choose. That's when a comparison between FO & LO becomes interesting.

    • Joel Lee
      June 9, 2016 at 12:23 am

      Thanks for the suggestion Howard. You're right, a direct comparison between LibreOffice and FreeOffice would be great! Maybe we'll be able to do that in the future. :)

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