By Anoop Verma
For years, Microsoft Office has been the de facto office suite. Even users who can’t to afford to buy the original MS Office, which is quite costly, go for the pirated copies. But pirated copies have a big drawback – they are prone to bugs, and they don’t get automatic updates from Microsoft. It might come as a surprise to many, that there exist a slew of efficient and free alternatives to the MS Office. Perhaps you should give some of these free alternatives a try.
Available for free, the OpenOffice is a multi-lingual and multi-platform (Windows, Mac, Linux) office suite. As the office suite is created through an open development process, anyone can report bugs, request new features, and come up with ideas for enhancing the scope of the software. Over the years an impressive amount of efficiency has come into OpenOffice; its performance, in many ways, is comparable to that of MS Office. OpenOffice is easy to use, and it includes Writer (word processing), Impress (presentation), Math, Draw, Calc (spreadsheet), and Base applications. Currently OpenOffice 3.3.0 is available for download. The documents that you create using OpenOffice are compatible with MS Office. (Available at: http://www.openoffice.org)
IBM Lotus Symphony
The Lotus Symphony is based on technology developed by http://www.openoffice.org/ and it supports the ODF format, which is really nice as it allows you freedom from propriety file formats. Its richly featured set of productivity tools consist of word processor (Lotus Symphony Documents), spreadsheet application (Lotus Symphony Spreadsheets), and presentation software (Lotus Symphony Presentations). Currently Lotus Symphony 3 is available for download. The software is available for both Windows and Linux operating systems. Support for Mac OS is expected to arrive in near future. Best thing is that the Lotus Symphony software can open and read the documents that you create with MS Word. (Available at: http://www-03.ibm.com/software/lotus/symphony/home.nsf/products)
LibreOffice enjoys a small but dedicated fan following. Currently LibreOffice 3.4 is available for download. Capable of running on Windows, Linux and Mac OS, this open-source office application suite comes packed with features and power. It can open and save files in almost every popular format. Six applications are part of the LibreOffice package. These include – Writer (Word Processor), Calc (Spreadsheet), Impress (Presentation), Draw, Math and Base. As LibreOffice is pre-configured with a PDF file creator, you can distribute documents that can be opened and read by users of almost any computing device or operating system. You can download, install and distribute LibreOffice without fear of copyright infringement.(Available at: http://www.libreoffice.org/download)
The main advantage of the Office Suite from SSuite is the relatively small size of the software. It can run independently of any third party software, and can operate on any Windows platform. The latest version of the software, which is available for download, is the SSuite Office – Personal Edition 4.1. The range of offerings in this suite is really large. Along with the must-have word processor, spreadsheet, and e-mail client, you also get access to a lightweight Web browser, a PDF creator, a sorting utility, an envelope printer, and even some games. The word processor and the spreadsheet applications are incorporated with an intuitive interface and the documents created can be saved in MS Word format. The lightweight web browser seems to be built on the IE. If you don’t need the web browser, or any other application that is part of the package, you can manually uninstall them. (Available at: http://www.ssuitesoft.com/software.htm#36278701)
Office suites in the cloud
Many users have already shifted their allegiance to the plethora of efficient office suites found in the cloud. Google docs (www.docs.google.com) automatically come to the mind. This suite is marked by Google’s well-known inclination for speed and integration. The cloud suite at Zoho (http://www.zoho.com) is also very popular with users. The company’s bouquet of applications includes options for just about every conceivable productivity task. Microsoft’s office suite in the cloud can be found at http://www.officelive.com. As OfficeLive is integrated with Microsoft’s SkyDrive and there is ample storage space for all your documents, spreadsheets and much else.