Alternatives to Microsoft Office

By Sandra Clitter  

Microsoft Office is an intrinsic part of my business. I use Outlook almost every minute of the day. Excel is open on my computer most of the time. Word is used daily. I develop all kinds of systems (and access to systems) using Access (no pun intended). I don’t know how I could run my business without these tools, but maybe that’s because I’m just so used to them. They are familiar. I’m comfortable with them. I know, almost without thinking, where to go to find something and do whatever task needs to be done.

That’s all wonderful until I need to upgrade. I’ll admit it, I’m still on Office 2003 (yes, really). Why? Well, besides being resistant to the new ‘ribbon’ features in Office 2007/2010 (why, oh why, did they move everything around, so that novices can find things, but experienced users get lost?), there is the $500 price tag (well, $499.99 to be accurate) to upgrade from something which is working perfectly well to something I’m going to have to re-learn (NOTE: There are versions of Office which run $279.99, but I have to have Access to do the work I need to do for my clients, and that comes in the $499.99 version). I’ll certainly upgrade, probably when I upgrade my computer, but in the meantime, I’m stretching my software dollars. If I amortize the cost of Office over the number of years I’ve used this version and the amount of time I’ve spent on the various programs, I’ve got nothing to complain about! For under $100/year, I’ve got an incredible tool.

…but I use Office ALL THE TIME! I get my ‘money’s worth’. That’s not true for everyone…

For a lot of people – business people and home users alike, there is just no way they can justify the investment. If you’re a more ‘casual’ desktop user and don’t need to be locked into the Office world, there are now a myriad of FREE alternatives available to you. I would strongly advise downloading and trying out the following FREE, FREE, FREE or low-cost software. Pick the one which suits you best. Depending upon whether you use more spreadsheet ‘stuff’ or document ‘stuff’ or presentation ‘stuff’, may determine which you prefer. It might also depend upon which software makes the most sense to you from a general navigation perspective.

So what are these ‘savior’ alternatives? Check them out below:

Open Office – – Free
Google Docs – – Free
Libre Office – – Free
SoftMaker Office – – $80
Zoho – – Free for individuals

Google Docs and Zoho are both web-based. That’s great if you want to access your information anywhere, but there are two drawbacks to consider to web-based software:

First, your data is stored completely on someone else’s server…make sure you back it up to your local machine regularly. Even the ‘big guys’ have accidentally deleted user data! Being in the ‘cloud’ does NOT mean ignoring backup procedures.
Second, if you don’t have a good internet connection, or you don’t have one at all, working on web-based software can be difficult to impossible.

Each of the softwares listed above has its own ‘character’ (although LibreOffice and OpenOffice are remarkably alike since LibreOffice grew out of a defection by OpenOffice users). All of the alternatives have free trial periods (or remain free), so feel free to try them all out. You decide which one might be better than the other for your particular uses!

What are your favorites…or do you stick with the familiar Microsoft Office environment?


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  11. Posted June 7, 2011 at 9:13 am | Permalink | Reply


    From 1982 (when I purchased my first PC… hey, it had an 8088 processor and DOUBLE floppy drives – I was the envy of all my friends!) until 2010, I was a dedicated Microsoft user.

    I, too, used Word, Excel, Outlook and didn’t know how I’d exist without them.

    Even my phone had to be Outlook and Windows accessible.

    But that changed.

    In 2010 when I partnered with Dr. Marc Kossmann and he produced some really great-looking videos by editing on a LAPTOP (well… not just ANY laptop – a MacBook Pro), I switched. I now carry my whole publishing ’empire’ with me wherever I go.

    And I don’t use Word or Excel any more. I use Pages and Numbers, and both are compatible with Microsoft.

    And as for Outlook (I was always tied to my computer for my emails, appointments, and contacts), I’ve left it behind with my Droid X and use lots of Google products. Hey… I was REALLY nervous about changing – YEARS of info in my Outlook would be lost… but it wasn’t.

    I exported all of contacts and all of my repeating appointments (I keep special anniversaries in my calendar – like blue-ribbon days for my kids, special birthdays, dates of theater openings for my directing days) to Excel and sent myself an email with these files attached. I keep those files here on my MacBook Pro, so any time I have to look up a long-time contact, it’s right here (remember: Excel opens in Numbers in Mac). And when I want the contact added to my current files, I copy and paste the info into Google and keep those I currently stay in touch with as contacts “in the cloud.”

    Now I have my emails wherever I go. All my appointments remind me by buzzing on my smart phone. All my contacts are in my phone for when I need to call someone. And everything is accessible by my computer, too… wherever I am.

    Life DOES go on after Microsoft… and I’m a happy camper in the cloud.

    Charlie Seymour Jr

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  1. […] like. I’ve talked about a number of ways to utilize and access Google Docs in other posts (“Alternative to Microsoft Office” or “Is there an easier way to access my cloud storage” or “Simple, free way to […]

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