For small businesses, every red cent counts. Sometimes, that means getting creative with your tech decisions. There's no doubt that Microsoft Office is the most widely used office productivity suite, but if you're purchasing new computers or replacing old software, buying new copies is going to cost you. Before you pony up for new software, these free Microsoft Office alternatives might be the money-saving solutions you're looking for.
Free office suites
You can download these free office suites to a wide range of devices. Some offer full suite alternatives to Microsoft Office, while others offer core programs with their own versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
The popular open-source software Apache OpenOffice provides everything a small business owner needs in an office suite: Writer, a word processor; Calc, a full-featured spreadsheet editor; Impress, for creating slides and presentations; Draw, for graphics and illustrations; Math, for creating equations; and Base, for modifying databases, tables, forms and more. OpenOffice is compatible with devices running on Windows, OS X and Linux operating systems. [How to Share Ridiculously Large Files]
LibreOffice is another free, open-source office suite. It runs with the same underlying source code as OpenOffice and also offers a full-featured office suite comprised of Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, Math and Base. LibreOffice differs in having a more-active community of dedicated volunteers all over the world who continue to develop the software. You can download LibreOffice for Windows, OS X and GNU/Linux computers. LibreOffice also comes in a portable version, so you can work on LibreOffice files from a USB, cloud or local drive.
NeoOffice is essentially the OpenOffice of the Mac world. It caters to Mac users' needs and sensibilities, and offers features not available on the Mac version of OpenOffice. This includes the inherent look and feel of Mac software, Versions (a Mac OS X feature that automatically saves copies of documents before any changes are made), the ability to choose which or if any program opens at launch, native Mac OS X highlighting, full-screen mode, extended support and more. You can download NeoOffice from the Mac App Store.
Kingsoft Office is the closest you'll get to Microsoft Office. Although it offers limited services — it includes only the three core products, in Writer, Presentation and Spreadsheets — these products offer the same familiar look and robust features as their Microsoft Office counterparts. And given the replicated layout and design, those users already accustomed to Word, PowerPoint and Excel will find Kingsoft Office easy to use. You can download Kingsoft Office for Windows, Linux and Android devices. An iOS app is coming soon.
The office suite SoftMaker FreeOffice also resembles Microsoft Office — in style, speed and capabilities. The package includes TextMaker, PlanMaker and Presentations — all of which are compatible with Word, Excel and PowerPoint, respectively. You can download FreeOffice for Windows and Linux computers. It is the free version of the popular Microsoft Office alternative SoftMaker Office, which starts at $79.95 for Windows and Linux, and $29.99 for Android.
The more-comprehensive SSuite Office includes everything from office programs to financial and communications software. Its wide range of products consists of the WordGraph word processor, Accel Spreadsheet, MonoBase database creator, FaceCom videoconferencing and more. You can download Ssuite Office as an entire software package (there are many options based on user needs and machines), as individual programs or as portable apps. Although it is only available for Windows, instructions are available on how to run the suite or its programs on Mac and Linux computers.
Free cloud-based office suites
Cloud-based office suites are accessible from any device connected to the Internet. They can be run using any web browser, eliminating the need to download and install them on your computer. Files are stored in the cloud and can be accessed anytime, anywhere. Users can also share files or invite others to collaborate. Here are the most popular cloud-based office suites available:
Google Drive'sproductivity and cloud storage platform lets users create, edit and collaborate on all types of files. It includes the Google Docs word processor, Sheets spreadsheet editor, Slides presentation maker, Forms form maker and other products. Users can also connect additional apps, such as the PicMonkey photo editor, WeVideo video editor, Convert to PDF, RingCentral CloudFax, DocuSign and more. Google Drive requires a Google account and comes with 15GB of free storage. You can also get a paid version, Google Apps for Business, which has more features and costs $5 a month per user.
Office Online (formerly Office Web Apps), offers Web-based versions of Microsoft Office's most widely used programs. Users can save, edit and store files, as well as collaborate in real-time using a Web browser. The service also features sharing capabilities, with which users can either create unique links to files or directly insert documents, spreadsheets and presentations into their websites or blogs. The free version of Office Online comes with 7 GB of free online storage and online versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. Paid plans start at $9.99 a month and come with 20 GB of extra storage, mobile access and a full online version of Microsoft Office that includes Outlook, Publisher and Access.
iWork for iCloud
Apple's iWork for iCloud offers a suite of productivity apps that includes the Pages word processor, Numbers spreadsheet editor and Keynote presentation creator. It is accessible to anyone with an iCloud ID, and can run on both Mac and PC browsers and mobile devices. Users can also share documents with non-iCloud members via unique links for real-time collaboration and presentations, regardless of the devices everyone is using. With iWork for iCloud, you get 5GB of free storage, and you can purchase additional storage starting at 10 GB (for a total of 15 GB) for $20 a year.
The Zoho Docs all-in-one productivity solution offers both an online productivity suite and a file storage, sharing and management platform. First, users can create, manage, share and publish files using Zoho's Word Processor, Spreadsheet and Presentation programs. Then, they can invite other users to collaborate, as well as assign tasks to keep track of progress. Although Zoho is limited to those three office programs, users can store documents and files in any format and share them with anyone using dedicated links. Zoho Docs is available on the Web and on iOS and Android devices. Free plans come with 5 GB of free storage, while paid plans start at $5 a month and come with 250 GB of storage and advanced features.