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Did you know that there are several free alternatives to the popular Microsoft Office suite of programs? While these free alternatives do not provide all of the features available in the latest versions of Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, they are similar enough to be quite useful for many common word processing, tabulation, or presentation needs. They are certainly quite helpful for viewing Microsoft Office files that one receives from others. They can also be used to create end products that are compatible with the full versions of the widely used Microsoft programs. You can actually save files with Microsoft's file name extensions, so they will easily open up when using authentic Microsoft programs. This can be quite helpful if you need to work from home but do not have the full Office suite on your home computer.
The following are some of most popular free Microsoft Office alternatives that can be utilized to create compatible files.
Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides
Google offers many of the same types of programs as Office, including a word processing program called Docs (Word), a spreadsheet program called Sheets (Excel), and a presentation program called Slides (PowerPoint). Additionally, Google has programs for creating maps, drawings, and forms. All of these programs operate in the cloud and are accessible via Google Drive. Google's programs essentially mimic the features provided in popular Office programs such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
One thing that makes Google's programs quite useful and powerful is the fact that they run in the Google cloud and are accessible through a web browser. This makes any files you are working on using Google Drive available anywhere you can obtain Internet access. You just need a Google login. This is a very useful feature for people who are on the go and are accustomed to working in remote locations away from their office. The downside is that, since your files are stored in the cloud, there are security concerns; however, there are ways of protecting files stored in the cloud.
If you'd rather have Microsoft Office compatible programs that run on your local computer, Apache OpenOffice is an excellent free alternative. The free OpenOffice suite of programs was developed and are maintained as open-source software by a cooperative of software developers under the auspices of the Apache Software Foundation. This non-profit organization is dedicated providing functional alternatives to Microsoft's Office programs.
The following programs are available in OpenOffice.
- Writer (Word)
- Calc (Excel)
- Impress (PowerPoint)
- Base (Access)
OpenOffice also provides a photo editing and drawing program called Draw, as well as a program called Math that allows for the creation of math formulas.
LibreOffice includes a free open-source suite of Office programs that are managed by an organization of software developers called The Document Foundation. LibreOffice is designed to be used on a computer or in the cloud. It includes a word processing program called Writer (Word), a spreadsheet program called Calc (Excel), and presentation program called Impress (PowerPoint).
LibreOffice offers additional useful free programs, including Draw, which is used to create diagrams using vector graphics that mimics Microsoft's Visio program; Math, which is used to create mathematical formulas; and Base, which is a database program that is similar to Microsoft's Access program.
The reason why Apache OpenOffice and LibreOffice have the same names for their programs is that they both originated from an organization called OpenOffice.org before they parted ways in 2010. LibreOffice has some advantages over Apache OpenOffice, including more software developer interest, more frequent updates, and an online version that is accessible via a web browser (an option Apache OpenOffice does not currently offer).
Microsoft Office Online
If you would rather stay within the Microsoft ecosystem, there is a free slimmed-down version of Office that the company has made available online, appropriately named Microsoft Office Online. It includes limited free versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint that are accessible via a web browser using a Microsoft account login. The downsides are the lack of intermediate and advanced features, as well as security concerns since the files created are hosted in the cloud. If you just need basic word processing, tabulation, or presentation features, the online versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint will likely provide what you need.
Security Concerns and Useful Updates
If you decide to use one of the free software alternatives outlined in this article, keep in mind that software is constantly being updated to address security concerns and to add useful features. Check from time to time to see if a new version of the free software is available. It may include both security patches and useful updates that provide a wider range of functionality.
Free Alternatives To Microsoft Office
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2018 John Coviello
John Coviello (author) from New Jersey on December 13, 2018:
Thanks for your input everyone. It's good to see that others are using alternatives to MS Office. The alternatives can be quirky at times, but given the cost savings, they are worth it unless they cause serious system problems. I agree that Google's products are much better suited for collaborative projects.
Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on December 10, 2018:
I've used google docs upon occasion when document sharing was necessary (like when editing my son's college papers), and I still do with my freelance editing. I had Apache's version of Excel recommended very highly to me by an accountant, but when I installed it on my networked computer a couple of years ago, it messed things up so badly that IT had to come in and uninstall it and make corrections. I'm retired now, and have an old version of Excel that I use at home.
Rex on December 09, 2018:
Good info! This is why I hate seeing remote job opportunity ads with "Must have Microsoft Office." Google makes way more sense for collaborative projects. I use both Google docs and OpenOffice. I generally write in Docs and copy and save what I know I want to keep within OpenOffice just in case it's lost in Docs.
Liz Westwood from UK on December 06, 2018:
This is a helpful article, especially when microsoft products get more expensive.
George Johnson from San Antonio, TX on December 05, 2018:
I like using Google Docs. Especially like the collaborative feature. Used it all the time in grad school