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The ‘Write’ Stuff: Free Alternatives to Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office is as ubiquitous as it is expensive. Microsoft Office Home and Student 2010 (contains Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote) is priced at $119.99. Microsoft Home and Business 2010 (contains Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook) is more expensive at $199.99. When shopping for a new computer last month, I asked myself whether Microsoft Office was worth the hefty price tag. The answer: not really. I found these alternatives to Microsoft Office:

 Open Office

Apache’s OpenOffice is the world’s most popular open-source office software suite. It works on all common computers and can be downloaded and used for free for any purpose. I’ve been using OpenOffice for years and often forget that I’m not using Microsoft Office.

OpenOffice contains programs for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, and databases that perform essentially all the same functions as their Microsoft Office counterparts.

There’s no need to worry about compatibility: OpenOffice stores all your data in an international open standard format and can also read and write files from other common office software packages.

To download your free copy of OpenOffice, click here.

Google Docs

Google Docs is not as similar to Microsoft Office as OpenOffice, but it is still a good, viable free alternative to Microsoft Office.

Create word processing documents, spreadsheets, presentations and more with Google Docs. And since the suite is supported by cloud storage (meaning your documents are saved on the Web), you can access your documents from any computer at any location at any time. What’s more, Google Docs makes it easy for users to share and collaborate on documents.

To use Google Docs, you must first create a free Google account here.

Save on Microsoft Office

If you decide that you are more comfortable using Microsoft Office rather than a free alternative program, here are some ways to save:

  •  If you use Microsoft Office at work, ask your IT department if they can install Microsoft Office on your home computer. In some cases, your employer’s licensing agreement may allow it.
  • If you are a college student, check out the Microsoft Student Store which offers special discounts exclusively for college students:  Microsoft Office University 2010, $99.99, and Microsoft Office for Mac University, $99.99.
  • Microsoft Office is available in multiple editions. Pick the edition that has only the features you need—you probably don’t need every feature and program in the top edition.
  • If you need Microsoft Office on more than one computer in your home,  buy the “family pack” version of Microsoft Office. Microsoft Office Home and Student 2010 is $149.99 for installation and use on up to three computers. That’s just $49.99 per computer.
  • Purchase an older edition of Microsoft Office for much less than the current edition. At Amazon.com you can purchase Microsoft Office for Mac Home & Student 2008 for only $42.09. Microsoft Office for Mac Home and Student 2011 is just $119.99 — that’s a savings of 65 percent!

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9 thoughts on “The ‘Write’ Stuff: Free Alternatives to Microsoft Office”

  1. Sounds great, but I have to share data on Word and Excel with other businesses. They have to be able to open the files and I don’t want to ask any of them to download anything to be able to do it. I’m the beggar of business. All have “Office.”

    Also, I question the privacy of “Google” docs. No, I’ve not had privacy problems with it — yet, but it’s only used for volunteer work because other vols can’t afford Word. 

    Business info is very sensitive. 

  2. Anonymous says:

    Note that Google takes a pretty hefty chunk of your rights when you use Google Docs. I use it for things like contact lists and school assignments, but I wouldn’t use it for anything I wanted to publish or for private information.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I was using Open Office in college back in 2000 and many of my professors said they could not open my attachments.

    • Anonymous says:

      That’s probably because you were saving them as Open Office documents. You can do Save As… and select Word format (.doc), and they should be able to be opened in Office.

  4. guest says:

    Be aware that if you go with MS Home & Student edition, you will NOT be able to by just the upgrade to the newer version.  You will have to buy that new edition’s H&S all over again.  I found out the hard way after a computer crash.  FYI

  5. A. S. says:

    Open Office, FTW :)

  6. LauraD says:

    Google Docs is my primary suite.  I keep my coupon lists, shopping lists and “watch for” list in a spreadsheet which I sync an offline copy to my android tablet to take with me when I’m on the hunt (LOL).  I can search or browse to see what Qs I have for a given product if I see a sale/clearance.  And I can keep my binder and wallet in a back-sack (which I got for $1.99) and take them out when I’m ready to prepare for checkout.

    I also uploaded a PDF of the digital Qs I have on cards for each store and of each store’s coupon policy so I have them at the ready :)

    And with Google Docs, I can access and update this info from just about any device that has internet access.

  7. Womanwitharose says:

    I’ve been using Apache Open Office for almost a year and enjoy it very much!…So far I’ve not had any problems with it whatsoever and look forward to other programs that is offered.