When you think of Office Applications the first thing that will come to mind will be Microsoft Office. It’s been running on our desktops since 1990 and is now estimated as being used by over a billion people worldwide. It is a great office suite however over recent years Office has become more of a service and is pretty much subscription based.
I use MS Office at home on a £7.99 subscription, pretty cheap for 5 licenses, free skype calls, and cloud storage. The office package includes Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Publisher, Access and Outlook. The problem is that I only use 3 of those applications regularly. The cost for the year including local taxes is £95.88. That is pretty good value for money but the problem I have with it is that I will never really own the software and will be subject to Microsoft’s enforced updates which have already prevented me from using older versions of MS Visio which I had paid for outright.
The aim of this post is to document what I have found especially as I am in the process of moving platforms from Windows to Linux for my daily computing activities. My final selection does not have to be a like for like office suite, however, it would need to be a good alternative for the following core applications which for me are Outlook, Word, Excel and Powerpoint.
MS Outlook Alternatives
After doing a several google searches I found that there are at least 7 applications (including the likes of Thunderbird, inky and Mailbird which are all pretty decent email clients however, I need to be able to connect to an exchange server for some of my mail accounts and to achieve this I would need to purchase a separate plugin which eliminated them from my list. I did find two really competent applications which will run on windows (eM Client) or Linux (Evolution and Exchange Web Services).
eM Client (http://www.emclient.com) It works with MS Exchange. You get access to your mail, calendar, tasks and contacts. It’s very easy to setup in fact all I had to do was enter my email address and password and the configuration was done for me. Better still it’s free for personal use with up to 2 email accounts, however if you wish to purchase a professional license then its only £29.95 no annual subscription, lifetime licence.
Evolution (https://wiki.gnome.org/Apps/Evolution) If you are a Linux user then a good alternative is Gnome’s Evolution, you can also download the MS Exchange Webservices plugin at no cost and there are no restrictions on how many accounts you can have. Evolution is available via Linux and Solus repositaries.
Thunderbird (https://www.thunderbird.net/) Mozilla Thunderbird is a free open-source email, news and RSS client. There are many plugins available to enhance it’s features that provide the equivalent functionality that you would find on MS Outlook.
Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Access Alternatives
Now that email access is covered. Next challenge would be to find an office suite to replace the likes of MS Word, Excel and Powerpoint and I didn’t have to look too far with at least one which was LibreOffice however WPS Office is also very good but ther are some caveats to opting for the latter.
This is a full blown office productivity suite which ticks all the boxes regarding the basic requirements but it also offers a hell of a lot more.
Writer has all the features you need from a modern, full-featured word processing and desktop publishing tool.
Calc is the free spreadsheet program you’ve always needed. Newcomers find it intuitive and easy to learn, while professional data miners and number crunchers appreciate the comprehensive range of advanced functions.
Impress presentation software makes creating and editing slides very easy.
Draw lets you produce anything from a quick sketch to a complex plan, and gives you the means to communicate with graphics and diagrams.
Base is a full-featured desktop database front end, designed to meet the needs of a broad array of users. Base provides native-support drivers for some of the most widely employed multi-user database engines: MySQL/MariaDB, Adabas D, MS Access and PostgreSQL. In addition, the built-in support for JDBC- and ODBC-standard drivers allows you to connect to virtually any other existing database engine as well.
Math is a Formula editor which can be invoked in your text documents, spreadsheets, presentations and drawings.
Charts provides the ability to create and embed charts. Their style, color and size can be customized in a broad variety of ways – pie charts, square and round columns, trend graphs, dots, 2D and 3D charts
Quite an impressive alternative to MS Office. Compatibility between the likes of excel and word etc is very good. This software is also free with no catches. It is well supported to the extent that some local authorities are now using this instead of Office. LibreOffice is also part of the standard software bundle for all Linux Operating Systems.
If you are only looking for a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation software then WPS Office is a good alternative. It has the look and feel of MS Office. This software is not free though however it is very reasonably priced. There is a version which is subscription based costing around £22.69/year ($29.99/year) you also get free PDF to Word conversion software. You can install this software on up to 3 PCs and 6 Mobile devices.
You can also get a lifetime licence which will cost around £60.53 ($79.99) however you can only install it on 1 PC and you do not get PDF to Word Conversion
There is also an ad supported version which you can use for free but there will always be a push to subscribe. However there is a Linux version of this which is free so if you are a Linux user and you are looking for a lightweight office suite then this would fit the bill.
So there you go it is possible to get an entirely free alternative to MS Office obtained legally. My personal preference is eM Mail and LibreOffice for my Windows devices and Evolution with LibreOffice for my Linux devices and VM’s saving me £95.88 a year!