Of all the software applications considered as “must-haves” for any PC, an office suite is arguably one of the most important. From students needing to submit their homework, to office-goers who have to create business presentations, everyone needs an office suite. And there’s hardly doubting the fact that when it comes to office suites, Microsoft Office is not only the market leader, but also the gold standard.
But as impressive and feature rich as MS Office is, there are people who’d prefer to use something else, for numerous reasons. If you’re among the lot, this article is for you. So let’s begin by briefly outlining the reasons users might want Microsoft Office alternatives, and then move on to the listing of the best office suites that you can use in its place.
Why would you need a Microsoft Office alternative?
There can be many reasons for wanting alternatives to MS Office. Here are a few of them:
- High pricing of the licensed version of Microsoft Office
- MS Office being too resource intensive, thus leading to slower performance on low end PCs.
- Overwhelmingly large number of features, most of which are overkill, especially for those who require only basic functionality.
- Non-availability on the OS platform (e.g. Linux) you primarily use.
Best Microsoft Office Alternatives
1. Apache OpenOffice
Probably the most popular alternative to MS Office out there, Apache OpenOffice is loaded with features. It’s completely free and open-source, and includes the standard trio of office applications (word processor, spreadsheet program, presentation software), in addition to a graphics editor and a DBMS application. Apart from being compatible with MS Office file formats, OpenOffice also supports a huge number of other formats (e.g. SWF, PPT). It can also be extended with a variety of downloadable extensions, and its constituent sub-modules include all standard features like diagramming tools, auto complete, and natural language formulae.
Platform Availability: Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista and XP, Mac OS X 10.4 – 10.8, Linux
Although it’s essentially a fork of the previously discussed OpenOffice, LibreOffice has enough features to hold its own as one of the best MS Office alternatives you can find. It includes applications for everything from editing documents to creating presentations, and aside from UI differences, has a feature set identical to OpenOffice. However, what gives LibreOffice the edge is that its code is much better optimized, thus making it a bit faster. Also, LibreOffice is more actively developed, and is the default office suite included with majority of Linux distros. It even lets you embed fonts in your documents, and has a file viewer app (in beta) for Android.
Platform Availability: Windows 10, 8, 7, and Vista, Mac OS X 10.8 and later, Linux
3. WPS Office
If your requirements are basic and you don’t need a full office suite, WPS Office is exactly what you need. Packing just the three standard applications (word processor, presentation software, and spreadsheet program), it’s lightweight (under 100 MB) yet feature-rich. In addition to having all the essential document creation/editing abilities, WPS Office includes hundreds of free templates and fonts. The free version lets you create and edit documents in MS Office compatible formats. However, for saving in MS Office formats, you need to upgrade to the paid version, which also adds in other features like VBA/Macro support.
Platform Availability: Windows, Linux (Desktop); iOS, Android (Mobile)
Price: Free (some features restricted), Paid business version costs $44.99 (billed annually)
4. Softmaker FreeOffice
It may not be the best looking thing out there, but as a lightweight MS Office alternative, Softmaker FreeOffice works surprisingly well. It includes the three standard office programs, and among themselves, these provide a host of features such as smart text replacement, granular cell formatting, and automated presentations. Softmaker FreeOffice has robust support for MS Office file formats, and better Office XML compatibility. That said, there’s also a paid version that includes extras such as multiple languages dictionaries for more efficient spellchecking.
Platform Availability: Windows, Linux (Desktop); Android (Mobile)
Price: Free, Paid versions start from $69.95
If you’re looking for a solid Microsoft Office alternative specifically for your Mac, NeoOffice is going to serve you just fine. It’s a commercial fork of the previously mentioned OpenOffice, although the source code is still available for free. As such, NeoOffice packs in all standard features of OpenOffice, and comes with a word processor, spreadsheet program, and presentation software, along with a graphics program. Other than that, it also adds some Mac OS X native extras, such as grammar checking, text highlighting, and integration with OS X’s drag and drop functions, to the mix. However, it’s not compatible with newer MS Office formats, which is a bit of a bummer.
Platform Availability: Mac OS X 10.8 and later
Price: Paid versions start from $10
Online Alternative Office Suites (Bonus)
If your productivity needs are fairly basic and you don’t really want to bother downloading heavy office suite applications for the occasional usage, you don’t have to. That’s because there are many online office suites that you can use for working with documents, spreadsheets, presentations and more, straight from your web browser. All you need is an Internet connection, and you’ve got a MS Office alternative. Here are a few of them:
- Office Online: It’s the closest you can get to a free version of the industry standard Microsoft Office. Office Online lets you create and edit documents, presentations, and spreadsheets easily. There’s full support for PDF files, real-time collaboration, and all your documents are auto saved to your OneDrive account.
- Google Docs: If you routinely use Google’s services (e.g. Gmail) as part of your daily workflow, Google Docs is a no-brainer. Fully integrated with other Google services, Google Docs has robust support for MS Office format files. The constituent web-apps can be used for working with the documents offline, and the changes are synchronized later to your Google account.
- iWork (via iCloud): Coming from Apple, the web-based version of iWork suite is perfect for working with light documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, having native applications (complete with templates) for the same. All you need is a free iCloud account, and all the changes are saved to it in real-time.
- Zoho Office Suite: For something that runs in the browser, Zoho Office Suite packs in a lot of punch. Simply create a free account, and you are given 5 GB of storage for creating/editing everything from documents to presentations to spreadsheets. MS Office formats are fully supported.
Advantages of using Online Office Suites
- Perfect for creating and editing lightweight documents, with inter-compatibility.
- Real-time sharing and collaboration on documents.
- All the documents are automatically saved to respective cloud storage services.
- Work on all platforms, as only a browser and Internet connection are required.
Microsoft Office isn’t the only choice
There’s little doubting the fact that Microsoft Office is the standard bearer of office productivity suites, having a truckload of impressive features. But as discussed above, if your needs are limited and you don’t really want to spend a ton of cash, there are quite a few Microsoft Office alternatives (both desktop and web-based) that you can use. So try them all, and let us know your favorites in the comments below.