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OpenOffice vs. iWork: Free Microsoft Office Alternatives for Business

OpenOffice vs. iWork: Free Microsoft Office Alternatives for Business
OpenOffice and iWork offer free alternatives to Word, Excel and PowerPoint. / Credit: iWork image courtesy of Apple

Need an alternative to Microsoft Office? OpenOffice and iWork are two free productivity suites for two different kinds of business users. 

Although Microsoft Office is the most popular office productivity suite, OpenOffice and iWork give users robust, fully functional alternatives to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other business productivity tools — absolutely free.

Here is a comparison between OpenOffice and iWork, and an overview of what they offer for business users. Which is right for your business? 

[The Best Small Business Productivity Apps]

OpenOffice is Apache's popular open-source suite of office software for Windows, Mac and Linux computers. It comprises of the word processor Writer, spreadsheet application Calc, presentation maker Impress, vector graphics editor Draw, mathematical formula creator Math and database management program Base.

iWork is Apple's suite of productivity applications for Mac and iOS devices. It contains the word processor Pages, spreadsheet editor Numbers and presentation creator Keynote.

OpenOffice is designed for users who need a comprehensive business productivity suite. It is especially ideal for those who are used to or heavily reliant on Microsoft Office to conduct business.  

This is because OpenOffice is compatible with most Microsoft Office applications. Not only does OpenOffice save data in an international open-standard format, but it also can read and write Microsoft Office files. For instance, the word processor Writer saves documents as .odt files — an XML-based OpenDocument format that can be opened in any OpenDocument-compatible software, such as Microsoft Word — but it is also capable of saving documents as Microsoft Word .doc files, as well as open Microsoft Word-written .doc files.

Other compatibility formats include saving as HTML for web publishing, PDF conversion and MediaWiki exporting for wiki publishing. 

As an Apple-developed suite of applications, iWork is for users who primarily use Mac and iOS devices, especially those who do work on more than one type of device and those who require team collaboration. 

One of iWork's standout features is iCloud integration, which seamlessly syncs iWork files across a user's Mac and iOS devices. For instance, if you are working on a Numbers spreadsheet on your iMac in the office, iCloud will also keep the file up-to-date on your iPad or iPhone for on-the-go editing anytime, anywhere.

Additionally, iWork for iCloud enables real-time iWork collaboration over the Web. This browser-based version of iWork has the benefit of bringing iWork capabilities to non-Apple devices, allowing PC users to also work on iWork files without needing to use a Mac or iOS device to install iWork apps. 

The OpenOffice productivity suite is available as a free download for Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems at OpenOffice.org

The iWork suite of productivity apps can be downloaded for free from the Mac App Store and the App Store for iOS devices. Mac users who previously purchased iWork from the Mac App Store are also eligible for a free upgrade to the newest version.