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5 Free Alternatives To Microsoft Office

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As its name suggests, Microsoft Office is a collection of software designed for various office tasks. Microsoft offers a complete set of programs, including word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, database software as well as an email processing program. 

Nevertheless, this software package comes at a price: it costs almost 10 euros per employee per month for companies. The Office suite currently costs 70 euros for a private user and the acquisition of a license for several users exceeds a hundred euros. For many people, these prices are too high. But what are the free alternatives to Microsoft Office?

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1. Microsoft Office Online

You can still use the online version of Microsoft Office, which is available to everyone as long as you have an Internet connection when you work. This allows you to access your work files from your desk, even if you’ve left your laptop at home. 

You can also work as a team on the same document online and see track changes in real-time. Also, you won’t need to carry out updates on the software: the online version is always up-to-date.

Microsoft Office Online Suite Home Screen
Microsoft Office Online Suite Home Screen

Of course, the online version of the Microsoft Office suite also has its drawbacks. It works a bit slower than the desktop installable version, and it depends on the speed and quality of your internet connection. 

Many users are also uncomfortable with the fact that jobs are stored on a server and therefore cannot control the security of their data. There is indeed a risk associated with the Internet connection: if Microsoft Office is accessed from a public WIFI, the data can easily be consulted by third parties. 

Finally, the Microsoft Office online offer also has fewer functions than the traditional Microsoft Office package. The programs are limited to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. If you need more functions, you should look at another Microsoft Office alternative.

BenefitsDisadvantages
Work from anywhereSlightly slower than the desktop program
Simple teamwork on the same documentPoor data security
Always up to dateFew functions

2. Apache OpenOffice

OpenOffice is probably the best-known Microsoft Office alternative. The software suite aligns with that of Microsoft Office and offers word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and database programs. OpenOffice also offers a program for processing mathematical formulas.

Apache OpenOffice
Blank page on Apache OpenOffice Source: Wikimedia Commons

The layout and use of OpenOffice are also similar to that of Microsoft Office, and the functions are for the most part almost identical. For some, it is decisive that OpenOffice abandons the traditional Microsoft Office layout. 

An important difference, however, is the fact that OpenOffice cannot save documents in .docx format for Word, .xslx for Excel, and .pptx for Powerpoint. For that, you have to be satisfied with the .doc, .xsl, and .ppt formats. 

This can lead to small offsets in the layout when switching between programs. It is recommended to always export an OpenOffice document in .pdf before printing. OpenOffice works on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X.

BenefitsDisadvantages
Distribution similar to Microsoft officeDoes not back up .docx, .xlsx and .pptx files
Scope of functions similar to that of Microsoft OfficeFew updates

3. LibreOffice

LibreOffice separated from OpenOffice in 2010, after being acquired by Oracle. The suite is similar to OpenOffice in many ways. Unlike OpenOffice, LibreOffice allows you to save documents in .docx, .xslx and .pptx formats. 

In practice, however, this sometimes results in small lags in the layout. Since the development of OpenOffice was neglected for a while, LibreOffice has a competitive advantage. LibreOffice is therefore considered the best alternative to Microsoft Office by many users.

LibreOffice
Screenshot of LibreOffice under Windows 10. Source: Wikimedia Commons

There are clearly more updates in LibreOffice than in OpenOffice, which makes this first more interesting for users who always want to work with the most current versions. However, the developers of LibreOffice have incorporated new functions into the program in the past which had some errors. These have of course been repaired in later versions. Like OpenOffice, LibreOffice works on Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X.

BenefitsDisadvantages
.docx, .xlsx, .pptx formats availableSometimes some shifts in the layout
Regular updatesFailed implementation of functions
 Player for Android

4. WPS Office Free

WPS Office Free is the free version of the WPS Office Business package. This Microsoft Office alternative is a word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation creation program. 

WPS Office Free is compatible with Microsoft Office formats, and the offering also uses the so-called “ribbon” interface instead of a traditional menu. The WPS Office suite is available on Windows and Linux, as well as iOS and Android mobile operating systems.

WPS Office Free
WPS Office Free presents a layout similar to Microsoft Office

WPS looks more like the latest versions of Microsoft Office than OpenOffice and LibreOffice. Users not wanting the ribbon interface can simply change the interface to get classic static menus

Among the advantages of WPS, there is the function of labels ( tabs ) to move easily from one document to another, and an intuitive function layout of paragraphs. The eye protection function and night mode are even more original. 

Nevertheless, some users criticize the software for the obligation to view an advertisement when using functions such as exporting a document in .pdf for example. If you don’t want to see these advertisements, you have to pay for the license of the program

The rules for these advertisements are in any case an improvement over previous WPS processes where all printed and exported materials were watermarked.

BenefitsDisadvantages
 Backup of documents.docx, .xlsx and .pptxAdvertisements on most functions
Paragraph layout toolExtended options in the paid version
 Flexible and adaptable interfaceNot available for Mac OS X
Eye protection mode and night mode
Mobile versions for iOS and Android

5. Calligra Office

Calligra is arguably the most special and talked about Office suite in our selection. Although it is available on Windows, Mac OS X, FreeBSD, and Linux, it is with the latter that it is most suitable. 

Calligra is especially attractive to users who use it for creative purposes. Like other alternatives to Microsoft Office, Calligra basically consists of a program for word processing (Words), creation of tables (Sheets), and presentations (Stage)

The three programs are in theory comparable with those of OpenOffice and LibreOffice but the scope of functions is more like that of Google Docs. Among other things, Microsoft Office files can be opened with Calligra, but not saved.

Calligra's presentation software
Stage is Calligra’s presentation software

The special feature of the Calligra Office is above all its creative dimension. The Krita drawing program participates in this, among others, by entering into competition with GIMP. He even received the “Artists Choice Award” from ImagineFX magazine in 2015.

Krita has since been transferred to a foundation but remains in the Caligra Office suite. All Krita developers are members of the KDE community, which also developed Calligra. Krita is particularly known for its different brush options and for an interface allowing rapid adaptation of the working window.

BenefitsDisadvantages
Very good drawing programsOptimal operation on Linux only
Developed by an active communityLimited functions on Words
Cannot save Microsoft Office files

Overview of all Office suites

Available for…Mobile versionIncludes the following programsOpen and save files in Microsoft Office formatsParticularitiesLanguages
Microsoft Office OnlineAll operating systems, computers connected to the InternetYesWord, Excel, Powerpoint, OneNote, Sway, Mail, People, Calendar, Onedrive, DocsOpening and savingAllows the processing of documents by several peopleMany languages ​​available
Open OfficeWindows, Linux, Mac OS XNoWriter, Base, Calc, Draw, Impress, MathOpening and saving of .doc, .xls and .ppt files; 
Open only for .docx, .xlsx and .pptx files
Many languages ​​available
LibreOfficeWindows, Linux, Mac OS XPlayer for AndroidWriter, Calc, Impress, Draw, Base, Math, DiagramOpening and savingMany updates availableMany languages ​​available
WPS Office FreeWindows and LinuxYes, for iOS and AndroidWriter, Spreadsheet, PresentationOpening and savingEye Protection Mode, Night ModeEnglish, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Russian
Calligra OfficeWindows, Mac OS X, FreeBSD, and LinuxYes, but little information is availableWords, Sheets, Stage, Plan, Kexi, Krita, Karbon, Flow, BraindumpOpening onlyGood drawing program26 languages ​​available
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