Not everyone wants to use Microsoft Office. It could be the price that puts you off, which is a particularly tricky issue given Redmond’s new subscription model with Office 365. It could be that you’ve got a problem with Microsoft’s frequent jarring changes to the interface. Perhaps some people have other reasons to distrust the software giant. Whatever your reasons, there’s a vast selection of alternatives to Office 2016/365 on the market.
We’ve already looked at free Microsoft Office alternatives, a few of which you’ll find in this list, but this time around we’ve not restricted ourselves to penny-pinching: many of these applications are more stable and full-featured than their open source counterparts, and come with the added benefit of frequent updates and technical support.
And if you’re looking for something that feels like classic Office without the current Microsoft aesthetics, there are some great options here. Our key criteria: compatibility with standard MS document formats, so you won’t get left out in the cold where your files (and your clients’ files) are concerned. All of the paid software on our list offer free trial versions, too, so don’t be afraid to give them a go.
Open365 is more than just an office suite – it’s a full cloud desktop which drags in a selection of great open source (usually desktop-based) software and puts it right in your browser. It includes the key components of the LibreOffice suite (Writer, Calc and Impress) along with Photoshop-esque image editor Gimp, Linux email package Kontact, and cloud storage by Seafile. Everything the desktop versions of those packages do can be done here, and every format they support is supported.
There’s a desktop client to handle file transfers and mirroring your cloud storage to your hard drive, although you’ll still need to run the software itself in-browser. Being full-on desktop software it’s reasonably heavy both in terms of load times and the stress it puts on your system.
But get your whole team on board and its collaborative tools could make this an essential component of your workflow, particularly if you’re hotdesking or using a variety of hardware.
Google’s office suite covers documents, spreadsheets, presentations and more. The actual document creation side of it is most suited to sketching and collaborating – we wouldn’t trust its awkward formatting capabilities to create production-ready files, but its multi-user nature means many people can work on the same thing at one time. When you’re finished, you can export your files in standard formats, ready to tart them up properly in a suite more suited to such things.
The fact that all you need is a Google account to edit files makes bringing people in on collaborations a breeze – because basically everyone has a Gmail address or two – and its integration with Google Drive means you’ll always have your files accessible when you need them.
There’s even autosaving and a brilliant rollback function. If something goes catastrophically wrong with a document you can go back through the revision history, revert the changes, and see exactly who made the error.
While Google Docs is, thanks to the strength of its brand, probably more widely used, Zoho’s online office solution is very good in its own right. It’s certainly closer to a desktop office package, and it’s strong enough to have attracted businesses like the BBC and Nike as regular users.
Zoho’s new-look word processor (which ditches the classic Word-style interface in favour of a formatting sidebar) is very well-presented and capable of producing professional-looking docs, and it has a sterling spreadsheet and reasonable presentation package alongside it.
They’re just the tip of the iceberg, however – Zoho Office includes a powerful CRM package, business accounting tools for invoicing and bookkeeping, project management assistance, and many collaborative tools. Some are on the simplistic side, so they’ll likely not replace anything you might already have in place, but if you’re starting out as a small business Zoho is probably a good jumping-off point.
Softmaker Office Standard 2016
Price: £58 (around $77, AU$100)
Available for Windows, Linux
SoftMaker’s big sell for its office suite is speed, and SoftMaker Office certainly seemed zippy in our tests, opening quickly and rendering Word and Excel documents with ease. The suite itself – licensed for installation on up to three machines, so pretty good value – is reasonably well-equipped, with a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation package and, strangely, SoftMaker’s own take on Mozilla’s open source Thunderbird email program. We wouldn’t buy it for that particular bit of otherwise-free software, although the suite itself is worth a look.
SoftMaker also maintains a free version, FreeOffice, which is worth a try if you want to see if you’re comfortable in its environment, although FreeOffice misses out features of the full version like a tabbed document view, DOCX/XLSX/PPTX export, and many of its higher-end spreadsheet functions. Alternatively the Professional version (which is $20/€20 more) includes several Berlitz translation dictionaries.
Atlantis Word Processor
Price: $35 (around £26, AU$45)
Available for Windows
If you’re yearning for the days of the classic Microsoft Word interface, Atlantis has you covered. It’s about as close to a direct clone of the business-grey Word 2000 interface as you’re likely to find, and it’s tightly coded enough that it runs fast, hogs very little memory, and remains very stable in use. Machines rendered smoking wrecks by modern versions of Microsoft Office will cope well with this.
Atlantis Word Processor isn’t a full office package – the clue is in the name – but frequent document creators will enjoy some of its more advanced features. Powertype, for example, is like an advanced autocomplete, while the Safeguard feature automatically saves copies of your documents to a backup drive while you’re working.
Unlike many tools, Atlantis is also completely portable – you can install it, along with all your settings, to a USB flash drive, so your working environment will be ready for you wherever you are and whatever machine you’re using
Price: Free/$80 (around £60, AU$105)
Available for Windows, Linux, iOS, Android
WPS Office – once Kingsoft Office – comes in fully competent free varieties for iOS and Android devices as well as Windows and Linux. The company previously restricted a number of features like printing and saving to PDF behind the $80 (around £60, AU$105) Windows Business edition, but has now switched to a sponsor program.
This means that in order to use premium features without paying up, you’ll need to wait out a short advertisement instead – once you’ve done so, you’re free to use those features for half an hour before having to sit through another ad. A bit of a no-no in a business context, but otherwise you may well be willing to forgo the fee.
The suite itself is very well-presented, and apes Microsoft’s ribbon interface nicely. It’s probably the only sort-of-free option that’s a genuine competitor to Microsoft in terms of its modernity and slick presentation.
Price: Free (Amazon Underground)
Available for Android
It’s not the only office suite on Android – Google’s mobile implementations of its Docs suite are probably the most familiar – and perhaps not something you’d want to use on a day-to-day basis, but OfficeSuite Professional (which is free on Amazon Underground) is a great tool to have around in a pinch. Pair it with a Bluetooth keyboard or a USB OTG adapter and you’ve got yourself a portable office with no need to drag around a laptop.
We’d argue it suits a tablet screen more than it does a phone screen, given the limited real estate afforded by a 5-inch device, but the functionality is the same on either platform. There’s a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation package on board, all compatible with the relevant Microsoft Office file formats, and OfficeSuite will also export your stuff directly to PDF. It plays very nicely with just about every cloud storage solution too, so your files will always be accessible on your main machine when you need them.
Microsoft Office Mobile
Available for Windows Phone, iOS, Android
Can Microsoft Office be an alternative for Microsoft Office? In terms of a usage case, we think it can. Microsoft Office Mobile, available for every significant mobile platform, naturally offers the best compatibility with Microsoft’s document formats that you’ll find on a tablet or smartphone.
But don’t think of it simply as a tool you’ll use to edit existing docs on-the-fly, although this is perhaps its key feature. There’s enough power on board to create full Word, Excel or PowerPoint documents from scratch, though you obviously won’t get the full gamut of desktop features.
A note for prospective users here: if you’re on an older handset, pick up the Microsoft Office Mobile package. If you’re running something newer, download the individual applications, as the combined package has been left available mainly for legacy reasons.
Check out the mobile version of OneNote, too. It’s one of the best note-taking applications going.
WordPerfect Office X8 Standard
Price: £280 (around $370, AU$490)
Available for Windows
The name might be a blast from the past for many readers given WordPerfect’s long history, but Corel (another classic name) has been nurturing this suite for 37 years. The latest release, Office X8, came out only this year, and includes a word processor, spreadsheet software, a presentations package, and an eBook creator which is perfect if you’re self-publishing for devices like the Kindle.
WordPerfect’s coolest feature, aside from its streamlined interface and compatibility with every major document format, is the ability to dig right down to the raw basics of your documents. Switch on Reveal Codes and you can see every element and make small changes without messing with the actual layout. We also like the Make It Fit feature, a great way to compress text into a specified number of pages with minimal formatting changes.
If you need to work with databases, look at the Professional edition (£449 – around $595, AU$785) which includes the powerful Paradox database management system.
iWork for iCloud
Apple’s once paid-for office suite (the components of which now come preinstalled on new Macs, and can be downloaded for free on all post-2013 Macs) has made its way online in the form of iWork for iCloud. It’s perhaps not the most traditional office suite, packed as it is with Apple’s standard array of ‘innovations’ – so often simplifications that are more a detriment than an improvement – but it’s absolutely free for anyone with an Apple ID, not just Apple customers.
The web interfaces ape those of their desktop counterparts rather well; Pages, Numbers and the brilliant Keynote are all present and correct. Naturally your files will all end up on iCloud itself when you’re done, meaning they’ll be accessible anywhere you have internet access, and all three key apps can export in Microsoft Office-compatible or PDF formats. This is one to try, at least, to see if it’s to your taste.