5 Free Alternatives to Microsoft Office

by Stephanie Faris on January 10, 2013
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Think Microsoft has a lock on office productivity suites? Think again. Several free apps and services are poised to give Microsoft Office a run for its money in 2013.

We aren’t suggesting that Office, which claims 95 percent of the market, is going to disappear anytime soon. However, with its software suite selling for $220 to $400 a pop (or $6 a month per user for Office 365), small-business owners have good reason to explore budget-saving options — especially with conversion tools making it so easy to open Microsoft files in third-party applications.

Here are a five free alternatives to Microsoft Office:

  1. Google Docs (pictured) — If anyone can unseat Microsoft as king of office-productivity suites, Google can. The search-engine giant has managed to attract millions of business and home users to its suite of office-friendly apps, all of which are compatible with their Microsoft equivalents and are stored conveniently online via its Google Drive service. Try Google Docs here.
  2. Apache OpenOffice OpenOffice is well-known for its ability to convert files created by other software programs. Because the suite can be downloaded from a variety of sources, its installed base is hard to track, but it has been estimated to hold a hefty share of the alternative office suite market. OpenOffice is available for free download here.
  3. Microsoft Office Web Apps Who would imagine that Microsoft itself provides a free alternative to Office? It does. Small businesses with very basic word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation needs can use Microsoft Office Web Apps to create, edit, share, and view files in the cloud. Although it’s intended as a supplement vs. a replacement to Office, if one of your staffers uses these apps primarily to view and lightly edit docs, this could be a way to eliminate some of your software costs.
  4. LibreOffice LibreOffice hit the market in 2010 for use on the Linux operating system. Today it’s the third-largest free app for desktops, behind only Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. LibreOffice is also now available for Linux, Windows, and Mac, providing word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, vector graphics (Visio), database management, and even an app that helps create and edit math formulas. To download LibreOffice, click here.
  5. Calligra Suite Calligra Suite handles the usual office apps and also offers digital painting tools. Calligra bills its suite as office software for those who aren’t tied to the traditional definition of “office”: It specializes in creativity and the creation of graphics — and it’s important to note that people who have used it for traditional office functions have expressed frustration with its interface. To check out Calligra’s software, click here
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