Don't Want to Shell Out for MS Office? Get a Free Alternative

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?