Office – Microsoft or something else?
Office. That application suite for documents, spreadsheets, presentations and drawings and/or databases.
The first office suite for PCs was Starburst which came out in the early 1980s and comprised of WordStar, CalcStar and DataStar. Corel’s WordPerfect overtook WordStar in popularity for document processing in the late 1980s, until Miscrosoft Office burst on the scene in 1990. Microsoft Office is now estimated to be used by over a billion people worldwide.
Over the years, office suites have gone from effectively being a glorified electronic typewriter to software platforms which run on multiple devices, emphasise group working and incorporate cloud storage and sharing. There are a number of competing suites, some paid, some free. But which one is good for you?
The Daddy of them all. Microsoft Office gives you Word for documents, Excel for spreadsheets, Powerpoint for presentations and Outlook for email. It’s stable, it’s the world’s most popular office suite, and it runs on anything, so it’ll be easy to share documents between family, friends and work. A couple of years back, Microsoft opted for a subscription model for Office. It’ll set you back a minimum of 69€ a year.
Note: Microsoft also offer a free cut-down version of Office online through their OneDrive online file storage (here).
OpenOffice is a suite from Apache. It runs on Linux, MacOS and Windows. It’s open source which means it’s free to use. You get a similar set of applications to those in Microsoft Office, but Apache also throw in a database programming app:
- Writer – word processor for documents
- Calc – a spreadsheet creator
- Impress – multimedia presentations
- Draw – diagram tool
- Base – databases
- Math – mathematical equations
It’s easy to save files as Microsoft-compatible documents so you can share them but be warned – some formatting may not convert correctly.
LibreOffice is also a free open source office suite from The Document Foundation. It also runs on Linux, MacOS and Windows. It was originally based on the predecessor to Apache OpenOffice and, as such, has many similarities. The following is included:
- Writer – a word processor
- Calc – spreadsheets
- Impress – presentations
- Draw – diagram creation
- Base – database programming
- Math – equations
- Charts – chart creation
LibreOffice is more popular than OpenOffice (due to it being included with many popular distributions of Linux) and in our experience, is better at converting Microsoft Office documents.
FreeOffice by Softmaker, is another free office suite (not open source). It runs on Windows, Linux and Android. Similar to the others but not as well known, it offers the following:
- TextMaker – word processor
- PlanMaker – spreadsheets
- Presentations – what it says
The one thing going for FreeOffice is the amount of work Softmaker have put in to making it compatible with Microsoft Office. Apparently the document conversions are very good.
Google Docs is an online-only free office suite. If you’re a gmail user you get automatic access along with Google Drive to store your documents. You get:
- Docs – word processor
- Sheets – spreadsheets
- Slides – presentations
- Forms – simple form-based databases which link into Sheets
Google Docs isn’t as comprehensive as the other suites listed on this page but it can be handy (as can the Microsoft online suite) as you don’t need to be at your PC (they both work on mobile devices too).
For Apple users there is iWork. It works on all Apple devices (Macs, iPads, iPhones, etc) and offers a free online version through iCloud, meaning it can be used on Windows and Linux too. The offline iWork office suite is free through the app store if you own an Apple device. You get:
- Pages – word processor
- Numbers – spreadsheet
- Keynote – presentations
It’s also fairly good at being compatible with Microsoft Office so you can easily share documents with others.
So there you have it. Which office suite will you use? For what it’s worth, we use LibreOffice and Google Docs here at FelizTech.