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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.
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 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 or LibreOffice.
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 to OpenOffice.
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 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.
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)
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, 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.
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, 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. if you were using OpenOffice as a way to get away from Microsoft Office, then first try replacing it with WPS Office.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.