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Back in the year 2002, we got a taste of what it would be like to not pay for Microsoft Office. Sun Microsystems released OpenOffice, a completely free office suite, which rivaled Microsoft Office’s offerings. But the sun might be setting on that legendary software.

OpenOffice was a trend setter. Users got a word processor, a spreadsheet, a presentation program, and a few other apps. It was a free download that worked on all platforms, including Linux, which Microsoft never supported. It was the best free office suite not made by Microsoft.

openoffice-writer

But now, Ars Technica is reporting that OpenOffice might be shutting down soon. Ever since Apache took over the software, it has been largely neglected. Most developers who helped with the open-source project moved to LibreOffice, a better Microsoft Office alternative 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 that rose from OpenOffice’s neglect.

According to Ars Technica, Dennis Hamilton, the head of the OpenOffice initiative in Apache recently started an email thread in which he said that retirement of the project is a serious possibility. He wrote:

It is my considered opinion that there is no ready supply of developers who have the capacity, capability, and will to supplement the roughly half-dozen volunteers holding the project together.

While developers and fans in the thread promised to stick by the software, it’s not looking good. Recently, OpenOffice was unable to plug a major security hole in a timely fashion, going so far as suggesting that users should switch to Microsoft Office (CA/UK) or LibreOffice.

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If OpenOffice itself is saying you should look elsewhere, maybe it’s time to drop it and adopt a new, free office suite. Here are the best free and low-cost alternatives 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 to OpenOffice.

1. LibreOffice

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux

LibreOffice grew from the team that used to work on OpenOffice, so you’ll be right at home when switching to this one. It has the same suite of applications as OpenOffice, and has a much more active developer community.

In fact, LibreOffice 5.1 added excellent new features 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 that make it the best free office suite around. One of those is the ability to open and save files to cloud services directly, such as Google Drive, OneDrive, etc. The 5.2 update even adds two-factor authentication support What Is Two-Factor Authentication, And Why You Should Use It What Is Two-Factor Authentication, And Why You Should Use It Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a security method that requires two different ways of proving your identity. It is commonly used in everyday life. For example paying with a credit card not only requires the card,... Read More .

The developer support matters because of LibreOffice extensions. It’s the same logic as using Chrome because more programmers make extensions for it. With the wide variety of extensions here, you’ll be able to do almost anything you want in LibreOffice.

Download: LibreOffice for Windows, Mac, or Linux (free)

2. SoftMaker FreeOffice

Platforms: Windows, Linux

SoftMaker has been gaining a loyal fan following for its new office suite, FreeOffice. It’s being touted as the best Microsoft Word and Office free alternative Need a Microsoft Word & Office Alternative? Try FreeOffice 2016 Need a Microsoft Word & Office Alternative? Try FreeOffice 2016 Microsoft Office is the most advanced office suite on the planet. But why fork over cash when you can use a free alternative that still offers all you need? FreeOffice 2016 could be right for... Read More , and there’s a reason for that. SoftMaker has made sure FreeOffice works fantastically with files made and formatted in Microsoft Office. It’s loss-free.

That’s the big seller behind FreeOffice — being able to open and work on DOCX, XLSX, and PPTX files without the formatting going haywire. That happens more often than you’d think with office suites. However, there is one issue: FreeOffice can’t save documents in those same formats.

More than anything, FreeOffice feels snappy and comfortable. If you’re coming from an older version of Microsoft, you’ll feel at home in FreeOffice. It doesn’t have the famed Microsoft Ribbon, but that’s not a big loss either.

freeoffice-interface-textmaker

There are other benefits to FreeOffice, like exporting in ePub format for ebook readers How To Make An ePub File For The iPad, Nook, Kobo & More How To Make An ePub File For The iPad, Nook, Kobo & More Read More , creating PDF forms, a built-in auto text expander for increased productivity 7 Awesome Uses For PhraseExpress Text Expander 7 Awesome Uses For PhraseExpress Text Expander In my never-ending quest to find new ways to automate my activities in front of the keyboard, and to shave precious seconds off of my work schedule, I always appreciate new and creative technologies that... Read More , and more. You’ll love it!

Download: SoftMaker FreeOffice for Windows or Linux (free)

3. WPS Office

Platforms: Windows, Linux

Many users love the Microsoft Office Ribbon menu and its customizability How to Optimize the Office 2016 Ribbon or Menu Interface How to Optimize the Office 2016 Ribbon or Menu Interface Do you often search for menu items in Microsoft Office? It's time to re-arrange and customize the Ribbon menu for your personal needs. You'll be surprised how flexible and easy it is! Read More , but free office suites haven’t managed to build that yet. All except one: WPS Office, made by Kingsoft.

Kingsoft’s WPS Office is gorgeous software. The WPS stands for Writer, Presentation, Spreadsheets — the three apps you get in the suite. They closely mimic Microsoft Office’s professional look and feel, and are actually much lighter on the system. More importantly, you can open, edit, and save files as DOCX, XLSX, and PPTX, keeping with Microsoft’s file formats.

WPS Office is more the perfect Microsoft Office alternative rather than the perfect OpenOffice alternative. You won’t get extensions or support for cloud saving, for example. But you need to figure out which office suite is best for you 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 . if you were using OpenOffice as a way to get away from Microsoft Office, then first try replacing it with WPS Office.

Download: WPS Office for Windows (free) or for Linux (free)

4. iWork

Platforms: Mac, Web

There’s no WPS Office or FreeOffice for Mac, but don’t worry, Mac users get Apple’s own iWork for free! If you have a Mac bought in or after 2013, you can download the official Apple office suite without paying a dime.

openoffice-alternative-iwork

Pages, Numbers, and Keynotes are the respect word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation apps. Of these, Keynotes is arguably even better than PowerPoint—heck, it’s what Steve Jobs used to make all those legendary presentations. And yes, it works flawlessly with Microsoft Office files, much like FreeOffice.

iWork is best used with iCloud How the New iWork for iCloud Works With Your Apple Devices How the New iWork for iCloud Works With Your Apple Devices iWork for iCloud is a suite of online office applications (consisting of Pages, Keynote, and Numbers) that sync with the Mac and iOS versions of the programs. The online versions of iWork mirror most of... Read More and other Apple devices, since it can store and sync your documents across your Mac, iPhone, and iPad. It’s yet another reason to buy the Apple ecosystem, not the gadgets Apple vs. Android: Buy the Ecosystem, Not the Gadget Apple vs. Android: Buy the Ecosystem, Not the Gadget You love your Android phone and want to buy a tablet. Everyone tells you the iPad is the best tablet, and it really is the best; but you should still buy an Android tablet. Read More .

Plus, unlike any of the other apps featured here, iWork works in a web browser too. Just fire up your iCloud and get to work.

Download: Pages for Mac (free), Numbers for Mac (free), Keynote for Mac (free)

Are You Still Using OpenOffice?

OpenOffice’s slow decline over the past few years has been well documented. Several users have shifted away to LibreOffice or other alternatives, but there are still some faithfully holding on.

Are you still an OpenOffice user? Do you believe it will shut down? If you switched, what do you use now and why? Let’s talk in the comments.

  1. GeorgeP
    November 23, 2016 at 10:12 pm

    I am sure most office suites are capable of doing what they are suppose to do, but the open source alternatives are very unstable and not constant in their document behavior, especially when opening documents created from other software e.g MS Office and the like .

    I personally enjoy using SSuite OmegaOffice HD. Much more simpler to use than the main stream resource hogs you mentioned above. Works perfect on my HD screen too. You really don't need all those functions and features that come stuffed into each application. Its running speed is incredible and almost doesn't use any resources either.

  2. Seamus
    November 6, 2016 at 8:49 am

    I prefer to use Google docs!

  3. Matt
    November 6, 2016 at 12:23 am

    The problems began for OpenOffice when it Oracle took over from Sun, that is what caused the split, with many developers unhappy with the dubious stewardship of Oracle, resulting in the LibreOffice fork, with the wedge deepened when Oracle would not allow allegiance to both projects.

    By the time OpenOffice was handed to the Apache foundation, the damage was done, and quite possibly irreparable. Due to licence compatibility issues, there were problems bringing things back from LO to OO.

    After the initial fork, the two were very similar, but since then, LibreOffice has pushed far ahead, maybe not the first time where the "fork" has achieved greater prominence than the original.

  4. Mikki
    October 4, 2016 at 9:36 am

    You should do a comparison table for us visual folks! :)

  5. Said Bakr
    September 6, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    On Windows, I had migrated from LibreOffice to OpenOffice due to performance issues. I think OpenOffice doing better on Windows, regarding performance.

    • Scott Hedrick
      September 11, 2016 at 7:37 pm

      I had an odd issue with LibreOffice when I installed it on my gaming computer (X99 motherboard, i7 processor, 32GB RAM- a top-notch computer) running Win 8 at the time. I'd run LibreOffice on an older, much less capable laptop without problem, but for some reason the same software on a much more powerful system consistently took two minute or more to open an Excel file that wasn't all that big and certainly not complicated. It took seconds on the laptop. I never did resolve the issue and finally bought a copy of MS Office, which zipped along. I don't believe it was a problem with LibreOffice specifically as just some weird combination that just didn't play well together. Other MS Office files also took longer to open on the gaming machine than on the laptop. I still recommend LibreOffice.

  6. Kev Quirk
    September 6, 2016 at 1:31 pm

    Personally, I've used LibreOffice ever since they took the reins from Open Office a few years back. The only thing that really bug me about Libre (and Open) is the lack of compatibility with MS Office formats.

    Like it not, MS Office is the king of productivity suites, and it's not going anywhere. So not being able to import MS Office documents into Libre without the formatting going crazy is a real problem.

    Some might say that it's Microsoft's fault because they choose to use closed formats. However, they're the kings, so they get to pick, unfortunately. Plus, if Google Docs can get it right so MS Office docs can be imported pretty much perfectly, there's no reason why Libre can't. Apart from that, I love Libre!

  7. Rene Baron
    September 6, 2016 at 11:56 am

    I am using OpenOffice for years now. I will continue to use it, till it will be dead (till then I enjoy the comfort not to have to install updates and to learn new things coming in). I trust that I will be able to switch to an alternative in a day or two. Let's cross the bridge when we get there.

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