While Microsoft Office is still the ubiquitous choice for word processing, slideshow presentations, spreadsheet calculations, and many more digital tasks, there are still plenty of free alternatives. Avoid freeware full of ads and check out these free productivity suites.
Microsoft Office is mainly composed of Microsoft Word for documents, Microsoft PowerPoint for presentations, and Microsoft Excel for spreadsheets. Microsoft Office is available through a subscription to Microsoft 365 that costs $69.99/year, or $6.99/month for a single account. Family accounts with up to six users run a bit higher at $99.99/year, or $9.99/month. Alternatively, you can just download one of these lovely suites for free and start being productive right away.
LibreOffice: Open-Source Desktop Apps
Like the best free software, LibreOffice is an open-source project from The Document Foundation that was originally part of another Office alternative, OpenOffice. You can download LibreOffice for free personal use on Windows, Mac, and Linux. Just keep in mind that, as an open-source application, LibreOffice does not provide its own support or assistance.
Larger companies that want to use this alternative may want to look into professional support from approved third-parties before engaging LibreOffice at the enterprise level. While businesses may save by paying for reliable solutions, many governments around the world are opting for LibreOffice to escape Microsoft’s costly enterprise agreements.
LibreOffice Writer, Calc, and Impress are the main offerings that correlate with Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, respectively. These tools are also available online through web-based versions called LibreOffice Online. As above, these tools are largely intended for personal use, although businesses can engage them with proper support. LibreOffice also offers open-source applications for image editing (Draw), formulas (Math), and database management (Base). You can get started by downloading the LibreOffice suite for free from its website.
Google Drive: Web-Based Work Apps From Google
Google Drive is one of the most popular free alternatives to Microsoft Office because it comes from one of Microsoft’s biggest competitors. Google offers completely free service and support for a wide range of applications that match those in Microsoft Office. Popular user-friendly apps like Google Docs, Slides, Sheets, and Drawings are all available for free.
All of these apps use Google’s cloud storage service, Google Drive. In addition to these primary G Suite apps, Google offers apps like Forms and Classroom that can cater to unique needs like those of teachers. A huge number of third-party tools like Zoho, LucidChart, Slack, and more provide native integration with Google’s many apps.
Having your productivity suite based entirely on the cloud offers additional security, as it’s more difficult to lose track of your files. While businesses may need to pay Google a modest sum for enterprise-level support, Google’s productivity suite is a great free choice for any personal endeavor. Get started today by creating a free Google account. If you want to upgrade your apps or use them professionally, you can explore Google’s G Suite service, which comes with more storage, features, and support.
iWork: Not Just for Mac Users Anymore
If you own a Mac, you might already be familiar with Apple’s own productivity suite, iWork. It features alternatives for the main Microsoft Office apps: Pages (Word), Numbers (Excel), and Keynote (PowerPoint).
While these apps were formerly exclusive to Macs, anyone can access them now for free through iCloud as well as on iPad and iPhone. If you’re most familiar with Microsoft Office, there might be a learning curve. However, frequent Mac users may find the interface to be more akin to other Apple apps. To get started, navigate any browser to the iCloud website and sign up for a free account.
Unlike other free Microsoft Office alternatives that try hard to emulate the experience, iWork won’t be immediately familiar if you’ve been using Microsoft’s productivity suite. iWork uses iCloud to securely share documents. All Microsoft file types are finally compatible with iWork as well.
WPS Office: Familiar Interfaces Across All Platforms
One of the more recently developed free productivity suites built to compete with Microsoft Office, WPS Office comes from Chinese developer Kingsoft and offers software that will be immediately familiar to most Microsoft Office users. WPS stands for Writer, Presentation, Spreadsheets, which are the names of the suite’s primary offerings. The suite is entirely compatible with all of Microsoft’s programs, file types, and even some extensions.
WPS Office also offers free versions of their apps for desktop as well as mobile devices. While not every app is available on every platform, the core WPS apps are available on Windows, Linux, Android, and all modern Apple devices. You’ll encounter some ads when using WPS, but they rarely interfere with productivity. Its features secure cloud support with a 200 MB upload limit and 1 GB of free space, alongside accessible web apps and user-friendly PDF tools.
FreeOffice: Versatile Productivity on Most Devices
Whether you’re on Windows, Mac, or Linux, FreeOffice from SoftMaker is exactly what its name suggests: a free Office alternative. Its layout will be immediately familiar to Microsoft Office users, especially with its ability to change between modern and classic layouts that will be useful to new users and veterans alike. These easily configured layouts also include a Touch mode that makes it easier to use on tablets and mobile devices.
FreeOffice is fully compatible with Microsoft Office files and features the same kinds of tools that you’d expect from a modern productivity suite. SoftMaker offers TextMaker (Word), PlanMaker (Excel), and Presentations (PowerPoint), as well as a programming environment and scripting language for developers called BasicMaker. There are also premium versions of these apps, with more features like file management and scripting support, for a one-time cost of $79.95 or a subscription service that starts at just $2.99/month. This is in addition to fully featured productivity apps for Android.
Microsoft Office Online: Fewer Features But No Cost
If none of these options appeal to your unique needs, or you just want or need to stay with Microsoft products, basic versions of the ubiquitous productivity apps are available for free through any web browser. From any desktop or mobile device, you can sign up for a free Microsoft account and start using slightly limited versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. You can get started by navigating any browser to Office.com, and signing into or up for a free Microsoft account.
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Countless other productivity apps exist out there, but these six are the best of the best when it comes to getting your work done quickly, reliably, and most importantly, for free.