23 Sept 2020

SoftMaker FreeOffice: A cross-platform Office suite that’s fully compatible to MS Office

Most Linux users are well-acquainted with LibreOffice – many distributions have it pre-installed. Fewer know its powerful alternative: FreeOffice is a full-fledged office solution with full support for Microsoft Office file formats. It consists of a word processor, a spreadsheet and a presentation program. True to its name, FreeOffice is fully free and available for Linux in 32-bit and 64-bit versions.

FreeOffice is far from a LibreOffice clone. The software is being developed by a German software company with a history going all the way back to 1987. Due to its background, FreeOffice has far more in common with Microsoft Office than with LibreOffice.

FreeOffice's crucial advantage over Microsoft Office is its cross-platform availability. The suite is available for Linux, macOS and Windows.

Instead of packing all its functionality into a single application à la LibreOffice, FreeOffice is split up into three applications: TextMaker, PlanMaker and Presentations. This has the advantage of faster start-up times and that each application already launches with an empty document of the proper type: a text document, a spreadsheet or a presentation.

The most salient feature is full Microsoft Office format compatibility. FreeOffice opens and saves Microsoft Word documents (doc, docx), Excel spreadsheets (xls, xlsx) and PowerPoint presentations (ppt, pptx). FreeOffice will process even the most intricately-formatted Microsoft documents and save them without loss of formatting.

FreeOffice users can choose between a classic, menu-based interface and a ribbon in the style of current Microsoft products. The application can be used either with a dark or light theme. The optional ribbon follows Microsoft's lead far closer than LibreOffice's Notebookbar. Users trying out the ribbon interface can always access the traditional menu structure through a hamburger menu button just below the ribbon.

TextMaker is a full-fledged word processor. Its interface can be enhanced with an optional sidebar which displays either a WYSIWYG overview of all paragraph styles and character styles or helpful usage tips. The sidebar is used to select styles as well as to manage and update them. For spelling and hyphenation, FreeOffice relies on the trusted open-source Hunspell dictionaries.

Apart from Microsoft Office files, TextMaker also opens and saves OpenDocument files and handles RTF, HTML and text documents. The change tracking feature is fully compatible with Microsoft Word - notes and changes created in Word can be processed in TextMaker and vice versa.

PlanMaker is the suite's spreadsheet. Here, the sidebar provides options to manage pivot tables. File format support includes Symbolic Link (SYLK), RTF, HTML, dBASE, DIF and CSV - and, of course, all Excel formats.

The presentations application is appropriately called Presentations. Its sidebar provides direct access to slide layouts, designs, color schemes, backgrounds, transitions and animations. Animations and transitions are OpenGL-based. Aside from supporting PowerPoint formats, slides can also be saved in RTF documents and exported as PDFs or images.

FreeOffice can be downloaded through several repositories – an online guide explains how to install the suite in Ubuntu, Debian, openSUSE, Linux Mint, Fedora and other distributions. Permanent use requires a product key which is requested from within the application – the key arrives instantly by e-mail.

SoftMaker's main product SoftMaker Office is an expanded version of FreeOffice. The commercial version expands on FreeOffice's robust basic toolset with a number of productivity features. SoftMaker maintains a comprehensive comparison of the differences between the free and commercial versions of its applications.

SoftMaker Office offers additional features such as customizable ribbons, high-quality commercial dictionaries and thesauri as well as advanced file backup with version management. The commercial version of TextMaker includes additional tools to manage large documents, such as an outliner mode and options for cross-references and bibliographies. A style manager can be used to transfer paragraph styles and character styles from one document to another.

The commercial version of PlanMaker includes input validation, data transposition and consolidation and interactive forms. The version of Presentations included in SoftMaker Office features a presenter view, photo albums, summary slides and charts. Users who upgrade to SoftMaker Office using the in-app purchase button in the upper right corner are offered a significant discount to the regular price.

FreeOffice is a free download for Linux, Mac and Windows at https://www.freeoffice.com.


Post a Comment