15 Nov 2012

Top 5 Free Suites to Replace Microsoft Office

Rarely do small business and home users need all of the features that are included in the powerful Microsoft Office suite of products. Microsoft Office is the industry leader in office productivity software, but many free alternatives exist that will satisfy the needs of most small business and home users. This gives cost-conscious business owners a way to save money while maintaining productivity.

Open source office products will include many of the features of costly programs and support all of the major file type, including Microsoft file types. The free suites will include the word processor, spreadsheet and presentation software that businesses need. Many also include other programs like drawing applications and database tools.

If you need to cut costs, here are five feature rich office programs that you might try.

Google Docs

Google Docs (part of Google Drive) is an online productivity suite that allows any user with a Google account to create spreadsheets, documents, presentation, drawings and forms. All documents are located on the cloud-based Google Drive. Users can share and collaborate on documents with users anywhere.

Google Docs also integrates other Google products into their office suite. Things like Gmail and Google Calendar are all built in. The Google Docs applications are available to anyone with a browser and internet connection.


LibreOffice uses the same source code as the OpenOffice suite, but the development of the applications have taken a new direction. It was released by the Document Foundation in 2010.
Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, Base and Math are all included in LibreOffice.

It's the same six programs that come in the OpenOffice suite. What sets LibreOffice apart is the usability of the programs and the community support. It includes additional features like a PDF importer.

Apache OpenOffice

One of the better known open source office suites, Apache OpenOffice includes the standard suite of word processor, spreadsheet, presentations, graphics and databases. It supports the Open Document format and will also allow you to open and save Word documents.

It's released under the Apache license and can be downloaded and used by anyone free of charge.

KOffice / Calligra Suite

KOffice offers the basic tools of an office suite: word processor, spreadsheet and presentation. It is open source and released under the LGPL 2.0 license.

Calligra Suite has recently come to change KOffice, which development is currently stalling.


NeoOffice is a derivative of the OpenOffice suite that was developed specifically for the MacOS. The program shared the same base as other OpenOffice suites but every aspect of the program has been specifically tailored to blend into Mac OS interface. Mac fonts and higher resolution drawings are for Retina displays are included.  NeoOffice is released under the GNU license.

You may also be interested in another article: Where 3 times 3 is 8.

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About the writer: Serge is the founder and now the head of product at Edictive, a cloud software solution for a creative management professional.


  1. The article lists "free" suites, so that precludes Softmaker, which is neither opensource nor free-as-in-beer. But its ability to read and write Microsoft documents is far better than any of the alternatives listed here.

    1. I think you precisely stated the reason why the author did not include Softmaker in the list.

  2. Google Docs is deprecated... It's now part of Google Drive.

  3. Thanks for correction, Nanni. I edited the text.

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  5. I think you are confusing "open source" and "free". The article starts with "free", switches briefly to "open source" and then back to free... If your point was to cover "open source" then google docs should not be in there (it uses open formats, just like MS Office, but is not open source, just like MS Office)... OTOH if the point was to cover "free" software then maybe R Woods suggestion is valid.

    Please either remove the reference to "open source" or remove Google docs from the list as the article is misleading at the moment.

    1. The article title is "Top 5 Free Suites to Replace Microsoft Office". It sometimes mentioned open source, and most of the applications listed here are open source. But it by no means says that Google Docs is free open source.
      Please read attentively and do not make assumptions where you shouldn't.
      Softmaker is neither free nor open source, that's why it should not be here. Please check yourself before making suggestions.

  6. If you mention google docs (or google drive). I think is fair to include Microsoft's Office WebApps.


  7. If you put Google Docs on the list then Zoho Docs (or Suite) should be added as well

  8. What a disservice to Calligra Suite - although it is mentioned. It's super-powerful and under heavy development. Worth a look!

  9. Google Docs is good. I use it quite often for writing quick letters or to help my son with presentations for school. LibreOffice is obviously better when doing more in depth things though. I find the whole OpenOffice/LibreOffice thing bizarre. OpenOffice gets sold and then a load of developers fork and go again and call it LibreOffice and everyone is seemingly happy. Imagine if Apple worked in a world like this.

  10. I also recommend uberwriter for certain word processing tasks -- it's employing pandoc for markdown conversion etc.