Saturday, February 11, 2017

Microsoft Office Alternatives

Microsoft Office has been the king, at least in my world, for so many years. The first one that impressed me was Microsoft Office 97, and boy was it beautiful back then.

In that time though, I needed Office almost on a daily basis for school, now I only need it for the odd occasion every few months, since my work doesn’t rely on documents.. Thankfully we have so many options nowadays as Microsoft Office alternatives, which was rare or not as known back then.

Before I start listing my findings and the software I tested, I have to say that this in no way means that Microsoft Office is a bad option. If you need document manipulation and creation on a daily basis for school or work, I would highly recommend and consider Microsoft Office as a professional option, it has many bundles and depending on what you need, it will give you all the features you would want and even more.

While the list I have will include many of the features, it can be debatable that Microsoft Office still provides an overall better experience, but that’s the point, know your options and decide yourself.

LibreOffice:
 
Probably the first listing in most of the Microsoft Office alternative articles, and for good reason. It is a project by The Document Foundation which provides a full office suite bundled with almost all the features you can find in Microsoft Office.

It’s also a multi-platform software, compatible with Windows, Mac OS and Linux. In my opinion though, they won over so many users not just because they’re free, but also because they provide a stable and familiar user interface, in regards to document production and manipulation and they always work hard to make file compatibility as global as they can, for example, anything that you would do using Microsoft Office will be usable on LibreOffice as well.

They of course renamed some of their features, but reading the list, you’ll be able to tell which is which, compared with Microsoft Office.
  • Writer
  • Calc
  • Impress
  • Draw
  • Base
  • Math
I’m sure I probably didn’t list one or two, those were the parts that I experimented with and found them to be magnificent. LibreOffice is currently my choice, I have it installed on all my computers and laptops and for me at least, I never had a complaint.

Apache OpenOffice:
 
This is a tough one, because Apache OpenOffice and LibreOffice are basically identical, they’re both forks of the OpenOffice.org project that was discontinued.

Though a lot has changed since they adopted that project and I’m sure in the technical side there are a lot of differences, but to the average user, they both look identical, almost.

Here is how I see it, both are very powerful and feature rich office suites, the way for you to decide is maybe check their website. Both projects are highly respectable and offer multi-platform support, though their goals and methods are different, so if it matters to you just go with the one you agree with more, in their ideology, otherwise either of choices would be more than enough.

The Cloud Option:
 
This option has been getting really convincing lately, just because of the cloud, in its magic and wonder. Multi-platform support is awesome, but not having to do anything not even install to use an Office Suite.

Keep in mind though, there is a huge difference, production wise. However, for regular documents or even some professional grade charts, tables and math, Cloud options can be a good competitive.

Google Docs:
 
Of course it’s Google, it’s been taking over our lives slowly since its creation. Skynet (Terminator) theories and privacy advocates are fine, but for this user, keep on doing what you’re doing, Google. Take my information and make my life easier.

If you have a Google account then you already have access to this awesome product, free of charge. It offers you all you would need to write, make sheets, slides and create forms. The interface is user friendly and one of the great features it has is that you never, and I quote from their page “Never have to hit save again”.

Because the whole process is done through the magical cloud, everything you do is basically auto-saved every few seconds, so if you had to go immediately and switched off without hitting that save button, most likely Google would have predicted that and saved it for you. Though, “Auto-Drafts” has been a feature in many Office suites now, but it only saves your files locally.

The beautiful thing about this Office choice is that you can finish the work anywhere with internet access, even your smartphone, so you don’t have to worry about having a flash drive with you all the time.

You can also share access to one project, for example if there are multiple editors, you can all make adjustments and everyone is updated on that, automatically. It even saves old versions for comparisons if you want.

As I said though, while it’s not as feature rich as the Office Suites mentioned, it is still a really viable and awesome solution for average and some professional users out there. It can even offer you “Offline Editing” if for some reason you won’t have internet access for a while.

Everything you do on Google Docs will be saved on the Google Drive part of your account, which is a general cloud storage service provided by Google.

Office Online by Microsoft:
 
This is pretty much the same thing as Google Docs, but by Microsoft. It will even offer some of the unique features of Microsoft Office, and it offers you two cloud storage options in the time of writing this article, which is OneDrive by Microsoft, and Dropbox.

You’ll have access to the following:
  • Word Online
  • Excel Online
  • PowerPoint Online
  • OneNote Online
This is basically another choice like Google Docs, if you didn’t have a Google account and have a Microsoft one, then use it. Both of them are great and offering an awesome service.

Conclusion:
 
Before you buy any professional Office Suite product, know your options, you have many, and the ones listed above by the time of writing this article are free of charge. It wouldn’t hurt to check them out, if they fulfill your document production needs, then perfect, if not then look for a professional alternative.

My choice so far has always been LibreOffice, though what Google and Microsoft are offering through the cloud is becoming a temptation everyday because of the convenience behind it.
Know your options, and choose wisely.

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