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The Free Alternatives to Microsoft Office: Stop Wasting Money!

Last updated by on 9 Comments

Is there a Free Microsoft Office Alternative?

This may be old news for some, but apparently not everyone has made the switch from Microsoft Office, as you will soon find out.

A few years ago, when I bought a new laptop, I was contemplating whether or not I should pony up the cash for Microsoft Office again. After a little research into ‘free microsoft office alternatives’, I was able to find a few. Those who make the switch are saving a bunch.

Cost of Microsoft Office

A recent scan of Amazon, yielded two common version of Microsoft Office, with decent discounts:

free microsoft officeOffice for Mac Home & Student 2011 – 1 Pack: $89.99, or 25% off the list price. It include Excel, Word, and Power Point.

Microsoft Office Professional 2010 – 2PC/1User (Disc Version): $384, or 23% off the list price. This edition only has Microsoft Outlook, in addition to the software suite that the home and student edition has. I don’t understand Microsoft’s pricing here.

And that, my friends, is why you should look for Microsoft Office alternatives.

Is Microsoft Office so good that you are willing to pay hundreds with each upgrade?

Open Office – The Free Microsoft Office Alternative

Open Office (a Sun Microsystems open source project) is the leading open source software suite, with over 100,000,000 downloads in the last year. Open Office, in my opinion, attempts to offer everything that Microsoft Office does and more. And it ‘excels’ in doing so (ah snap!). It even offers unlimited licensing use for business and commercial usage.

If you didn’t know any better, there are often times when it’s easy to forget that you’re using an Open Office application versus the Microsoft alternative. And don’t worry about compatibility, as Open Office files are easily converted to their Microsoft counterparts. Here’s what Open Office has to offer:

Open Office Calc – the Free Microsoft Excel Alternative

Offering up just about everything that Excel does, Open Office Calc also allows files to be saved as .odf (open document format) – the international standard for spreadsheet file formats.

Open Office Writer – the Free Microsoft Word Alternative

I don’t miss anything in Writer that was in Microsoft Word. Writer offers wizards to do faxes, minutes, resumes, letters, agendas, and more. Since Writer is open, it also extends and offers free downloads of user created templates, much like Firefox and WordPress do (we can save those for another day).

Open Office Impress – the Free Microsoft Power Point Alternative

With 2D and 3D clip art, downloadable templates, animation, and special effects, it’s hard to see how this presentation software is any bit of a downgrade from Microsoft Power Point.

Open Office Add-Ons

In addition to the MS Office basics, Open Office has a few other treats in store:

  • Open Office Draw – So feature rich that I’m much more inclined to compare the features in draw to Adobe’s Photoshop than Microsoft Paint. It even offers the ability to create flash files.
  • Open Office Base – A desktop database management system. Never used it, to be honest.
  • Open Office Math – You are able to create all kinds of math equations in this software and use them in Calc and Impress.

What About Google Drive?

Google offers its own software suite, Google Drive, fully supported by cloud storage, so all of your documents can be accessed anywhere and from any computer at any time. Whereas comparing Open Office to Microsoft Office is like comparing apples to apples, comparing Google Doc applications to Open Office or MS Office is like comparing apples to oranges.

The depth of Google’s applications is not as extensive as the other two, however, they do tend to be sufficient for most uses, they are easily shared with other collaborators for multiple user editing, and they are saved on the cloud (where they should be). It is now also ridiculously easy to upload MS Office and Open Office files into Google Doc format, and export Google Docs the other way as well.

Conclusion: I Will Never Purchase Office Software Again

Between Google Docs and Open Office, I see no reason to pay for Microsoft Office again. Software is moving towards freeware and cloud computing and Microsoft has not kept pace. I can’t come up with a legitimate reason why you should keep paying the money for MS Office.

Office Software Discussion:

  • Have you not made the switch from MS Office to Open Office and Google Docs yet? Why not?
  • What clever uses of Open Office and Google Docs have you come up with?
  • When is the last time you bought Microsoft Office software?

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9 Comments »
  • Paul says:

    You should always ask your IT department at work if they can install Office on your home PC. Often their license agreement with Microsoft allows them to do that (often, not always by any stretch of the imagination).

    After using Google Docs and Open Office for a couple years I ended up back at MS Office. Both are good, but the familiar nature of MS drew me back in. That said, if I would have had to pay for it, there would have been no chance I would have gone back.

  • Paul says:

    Also, I personally, am uncomfortable with this rapid movement to cloud computing. I think we are leaping before we are fully sure of what we are leaping into.

  • Greg says:

    I’ve tried on a couple of occasions to abandon MS Office, but I’ve always come back to using it for two reasons.

    1) Compatibility problems. As a scientist exchanging files on a regular basis, all the formatting needs to be correct and the conversions don’t always work perfectly. And with MS Office being the industry standard, people expect your files to work with theirs. For simple formatting, alternatives work, but for more complicated things, they don’t. Also, presentation files do not always come across correctly from one platform to another. Since I have to give talks using a host computer at times, I need the assurance the my file will show up the way I want it to on the host Powerpoint and the only guarantee of that is to make it in Powerpoint.

    2) Office is still a superior product. I use Google Docs a fair amount for my own stuff and to collaborate with friends, but for seamlessly making professional files, Office really is better. And it’s better than Open Office in my experience too, although it’s been about two years since I last gave it a spin. Integration with citation managers is better for cite-while-you-write kinds of things too. I’m a big fan of open source and occasionally run Linux, particularly when I have to write code, but in this case, the open source product simply isn’t as good. Hopefully it will catch up at some point.

    I’m currently using the Office 2010 Beta. It’s free until next October.

  • Robert says:

    Open office is definitely the way to go if you don’t want to shell out a small fortune for Microsoft Office.

  • youngandthrifty says:

    Oooh thanks for the tip! What about for macs? I am looking for Word software to put on the mac.

  • John says:

    lotus symphony
    Reads office 2007 format also
    (will not write it)
    Youngandthrifty, almost all the software listed runs on MAC too
    (and use virtualbox instead of VMWARE or Parells)

  • youngandthrifty says:

    Thanks John. I’ll have a gander. =)

  • Evgeniy says:

    I work with MS Office.I have got used to work with their programs.
    Tried to work with the program corel (similar to the office) but it seemed to me uncomfortabl

  • MediaFan says:

    Office Software Discussion:

    * Have you not made the switch from MS Office to Open Office and Google Docs yet? Why not?

    My father wishes to buy himself a copy of the Microsoft Office, and MUST have Outlook. This calls for the Office and Small Bussiness version and a shot in the head. I tried sticking into his brain Open Office, I even installed it and patiently showed him how easy it is. He can’t even get passed that Microsoft Excel = OpenOffice Calc, to him that was a huge boulder to dodge. If you guys think THAT is simple and easy now here comes the hardest part which is where he gave up on Open Office, he does not like the theme. He wants that ribbon theme from MS Office that has the Inser, Review… tabs. He does not want to learn “new” interface as he uses it for work and having the MS Office 2010 interface at work and having to deal with Open Office at home, he isn’t even used to the MS Office 2007 interface still struggling in it as he prefered the past MS Office 2003 interface.

    Is there any free alternative to MS Office that has that similar interface to MS Office? I know NitroPDF has that interesting same interface but is for PDFs.

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