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Summary:

Among free productivity application suites that can save you from shelling out money for Microsoft’s Office suite, GoogleDocs and OpenOffice tend to get all the attention. Lately, though, I’ve been experimenting with some alternatives, and they’re more than good enough to use in place of Microsoft’s […]

Among free productivity application suites that can save you from shelling out money for Microsoft’s Office suite, GoogleDocs and OpenOffice tend to get all the attention. Lately, though, I’ve been experimenting with some alternatives, and they’re more than good enough to use in place of Microsoft’s applications. ThinkFree Office, in particular, is worth a look.

ThinkFree Office’s applications are usable online and offline, and you can use them on Windows, Mac or Linux machines, or even thin-client and mobile devices. The core applications are a word processor, a spreadsheet, and a presentation graphics program. However, there’s more to the suite than that.


One of the great features of ThinkFree Office is that it makes it easy to collaborate on documents online with others. You can publish your documents online, search through them online, and choose to share them with others. You also get 1GB of online storage for your documents for free.

The applications in ThinkFree Office have interfaces that are very closely tied to the interfaces in Microsoft’s productivity applications. That means that if you’re used to products such as Word and Excel, you won’t face a big learning curve. Even if you already own and use Microsoft Office, you may appreciate the collaboration features that ThinkFree offers.

If you’re willing to pay a modest amount for a suite of software applications that can compete with Microsoft Office, Software 602 PC Suite is a great choice. It has emerged as the winner in numerous comparisons of alternative suites. You can try it for free and if you like it it’s $39.95. I’ve used it extensively and have also used the Microsoft Office suite extensively.

It’s remarkable how true to the standard interfaces in products like Word and Excel the applications in Software 602’s PC Suite stay. Files you produce are also completely compatible with the Microsoft productivity applications, although if you attempt to do things like import spreadsheets with lots of graphics in to Software 602’s spreadsheet, the graphics can get mucked up.

Software 602’s suite used to be completely free, and I wish that model had been sustainable. The fact that it’s forty bucks now, though, points to the fact that the folks at Software 602 have a suite that became good enough to charge for.

Do you have any good tips on alternatives to Microsoft Office?

By Samuel Dean

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  1. Since you bring up free, if you don’t want to pay for Windows, check out a version of Linux like PCLinuxOS or Ubuntu. These are free operating systems that run on just about every computer or electronic imaginable. They require less from your hardware, so you don’t have to buy the latest and fastest hardware to run them. They also have their programs in repositories and there’s tons of great freeware there.

    Free your business from expensive software licenses. Do something useful with your money from your small business (like buying health insurance or advertising).

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  2. These are some interesting alternatives. I wrote an article on MS Office and it’s new competitors on my blog VitaminCM.com.

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  3. I recently found a new writing tool on the web called springnote.com
    It is free and it works like magic. Every time I write something on the web (google docs, thinkfee, zoho) my content is often gone due to the tool is not stable. But with this springnote, I feel very comfortable writing online.

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  4. I’ve been using Google Docs for schoolwork and personal files for several months now and have never lost anything.

    Zoho is another suite of office tools that’s worth a look. For a small company, or for a business that’s on the road a lot, Zoho is a virtual office. Besides word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations, it includes chat, whiteboard, database, wiki, and and project management tools.

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  5. I use OpenOffice at work for most of my word processing situations. However, when it comes to writing blog posts or about anything that can take more then one sitting I will use ZoHo writer.

    It is extremely handy and easy to use, I like the auto-save feature the most I think. It has a pretty intuitive naming and organization system that makes it easy to recall anything that I had started previously.

    I actually don’t like Word and have used OpenOffice for several years now. Word is bulky and poorly designed in my opinion.

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  6. Softmaker (http://www.softmaker.com/english/) makes a very nice office suite as well. Fast, sensible feature-set and much cheaper than MS office.

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  7. [...] Don’t Want to Shell Out for MS Office? Get a Free Alternative [...]

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  8. Great blog, have you checked out Projity ? There are SaaS and desktop replacements of Microsoft Project. It turns out Microsoft Project is part of the Office family of products and is installed on 7% of all Office desktops. Project has a retail price of $1,000 which makes it the highest profit margin product for Microsoft and drives over $1 billion in revenue for Redmond.

    Projity has a SaaS solution called Project-ON-Demand that is $19.99/month. It is complete replacement of Project and available in a browser anytime/anyplace on Linux, Unix, Mac or Windows. This is a tremendous benefit over Project which is constrained and only on Windows. Project-ON-Demand even opens native Microsoft file formats so migrating is immediate. There are free trials that take under a minute to set-up.

    There is also a desktop product called OpenProj. This has been downloaded over 150,000 times in the two months since release. OpenProj is also available on Linux, Unix, Mac or Windows. It is completely free and commoditizes the Microsoft Project business on the desktop. OpenProj is available in English, French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Swedish, Russian or Chinese.

    If you have not checked out the Projity site it is recommended. The forecast is 7-11 million users will be using OpenProj instead of Microsoft.

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