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February 2, 2020 at 5:39 pm #85022Participant@oghenemarho
The Microsoft Office suite has been the preferred choice for productivity software for over 30 years now. Since its launch in the late 1980s, Microsoft Office has dominated the software market and made it near impossible for competitors to gain market share. Today, Microsoft makes billions of dollars in revenue from its office suite and related software products.
The reason why Microsoft Office is so dominant is because over the years since it was launched, it has managed to consistently add new features and iterate on existing ones based on feedback from its large userbase which consists of people from different walks of life and careers. This has helped it become a feature rich application suite that newcomers will be hard pressed to match up to.
Having said all of this, it seems like the obvious choice to make when you need to type up a document, design a presentation, calculate figures on a spreadsheet or organize your emails, is Microsoft Office but you may be wrong. There may be unique, niche cases where the Microsoft Office suite would not be the best choice for productivity tasks. Maybe you can’t afford the one time cost of buying the Office applications or the subscription cost of Office 365, or your computer system isn’t modern enough to run the applications smoothly. Or you run an operating system that is not compatible with Microsoft’s Office suite.
Whatever your reasons are, the good news is that Microsoft’s dominance in the software market did not kill off all the competition to Office. In fact, there are several alternatives that may prove to suit different use cases much better than the Microsoft juggernaut. Here are five of the best alternatives to Microsoft Office and while each of them has more than enough of the core features to serve as a substitute, they also come with their own share of quirks and limitations:
G Suite is Google’s collection of productivity and collaborative web applications and services. It consists of a number of applications, most of which are direct competitors to the apps that make up Microsoft Office such as Google Docs (Microsoft Word), Sheets (Excel) Slides (PowerPoint), Keep (OneNote), Drive (OneDrive) and Gmail (Outlook). They are also designed to support the popular file formats used by Microsoft Office applications.
G Suite first launched in 2006 though under a different name and was positioned as an online collaborative toolset to help businesses access high quality organizational application that will keep them focused on the needs of their customers. The main productivity components of G Suite (Docs, Slides and Sheets) were made available much later and eventually became free to use as long as you have a Google account.
The major advantage of Google’s suite of productivity applications is that because they started out as online tools, they are all lightweight web applications that run in your browser and can be used on almost any operating system. The focus on collaboration makes it easy for documents to be shared with other users and edited in real time over the internet. They also keep a record of edits and changes to the document and which editor made them. Although Microsoft Office has added some of these features, they are more closely integrated in Google’s productivity apps.
Access to the full list of G Suite applications and services requires a monthly fee but you can make use of the core productivity tools (Docs, Sheets, Slides, Calendar, Gmail, Keep & Drive) at no cost. One more advantage is that they now have plugins that allow you to use the applications offline and because they are tied to other Google services, you also get access to 15gb of cloud storage from Google Drive, free of charge.
Apache Open Office has a long history of ownerships, reinventions and name changes. In its earliest form it was known as Star Writer, a proprietary office suite owned and developed by German based Star Division in 1985. It became known as Star Office, then Oracle Open Office, OpenOffice.org before reaching its current moniker. During its time as OpenOffice.org the productivity suite became open source and free to use, and this made it one of the major competitors to the Microsoft Office suite in terms of the size of its user base, especially in the enterprise market.
Apache Open Office is made up of 6 applications that provide similar functionality to the Microsoft Office suite at no cost at all. The open source nature of Open Office also means that the addition of new features and handling of bugs/vulnerabilities is subject to the availability of volunteer developers who are willing to contribute to its codebase. As a result, updates are not too frequent, and its popularity has waned over the years due to lack of support for features like online collaboration and access to cloud storage. However, Open Office still possesses a strong feature set that makes it a capable performer for day to day productivity tasks.
Libre Office is from the same pedigree as Apache Open Office. It is also a free and open source productivity suite that was split off from OpenOffice.org and is currently being maintained by The Document Foundation.
Libre Office consists of the usual suite of tools for word processing, spreadsheet editing, presentation designing and database management, which sets it up as a full featured alternative for Microsoft Office for those who can’t afford it. It’s also a lightweight application suite which allows it to run on older hardware with minimal effects on performance. Though it is more popular with users of the Linux operating systems, Libre Office also has versions available for Windows and Mac operating systems. An online version of Libre Office also exists though it is not as fully featured as the offering from Google, nor is it publicly hosted by The Document Foundation.
Kingsoft WPS Office suite is one of the lighter productivity suites on this list when it comes to the number of applications bundled together (just three applications). However, it makes up for this with its ease of use and the similarity of the user interface in its applications to that of Microsoft’s own programs. This makes it easier to switch to their office suite than it is for the other productivity suites listed here simply because they all chose to make their interfaces markedly different from what is considered as the industry standard.
WPS Office has been an alternative to Microsoft Office as far back as 1997 but its popularity and userbase was limited to its home country, China. Though it started out as a Windows only application suite, it eventually grew to support Linux and the Android operating system which is where it found popularity outside of China at a time when Microsoft did not have any productivity applications for the android mobile operating system.
WPS Office is available for free on multiple platforms but the free version is ad supported, which means you will have to put up with ad banners interrupting your productivity. There’s also a premium version that comes with a subscription charge and cloud storage.
The iWork Office suite by Apple was designed to provide basic productivity tools for users of its MacOS and iOS operating systems. It consists of three applications: Pages for word processing, Keynote for presentations and Numbers for spreadsheets. iWork comes bundled with all iOS and MacOS devices and is also available to use for free through Apple’s iCloud online platform that can be accessed in a web browser.
The iWork suite of programs is not as fully featured as the rest of the office suites mentioned here but its intuitive design and layout makes it easy to use across various devices. It also boasts of modern features such as real time collaboration and cloud storage.
These are just a few of the numerous productivity suites available to users that possess a compelling mix of features to tempt even the most devoted Microsoft Office users. Regardless of which one you settle on, the important thing to note is that these options exist and each one is constantly evolving to offer even more benefits, which is a win in my books for the end user.
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