CHOICE membership

Freeware alternatives to Microsoft Office / Google Docs

I have just read the Choice article “Can you get by using only free apps and software?” and wonder if any other members of the Community have had experience with freeware alternatives to Microsoft Office or Google Docs?
I personally use Apache OpenOffice, and have done so for many years. However, it was not included in the suggested options. A recent review on the website digitaltrends compared OpenOffice with LibreOffice (which was amongst those recommended by Choice) and suggested that both are great options - see https://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/libreoffice-vs-openoffice/

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I personally used LibreOffice during my entire time at university. I adjusted to the change quite easily and the ability to use Microsoft Office extensions gave me no troubles when submitting any work. I’m more fond of the Google Suite now. Having everything stored online with realtime editing is great for me.

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We use WPS and it satisfies our needs.

https://www.wps.com/

It’s interface is also very similar to Microsoft Office so making the switch is easy. It also has the old style dropdown menus also available…like MS Office does if you are used to finding the function through the old menu framework.

It also saves to a range of different formats, including MS Office *.***X formats. There are free versions for almost all operating systems.

Downsides…sometimes specialised functions are not available or limited (such as multiple PDF document printing or PDF document editing)…but this is not unique to free Office suites and there are usually workarounds such as using separate online tools. There are popup advertisements using the windows notification function, which can be closed when they pop up. There is also no database available. Apart from that, it is worth looking at.

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I have used OpenOffice for years both for home use and also work use. Does the job.
But I think I may take a look at LibreOffice, as it looks to be evolving faster.

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OpenOffice had a change in the way the software is offered (licencing conditions). LibreOffice branched/forked out from that change and offers a true open licence. Many of the volunteer coders involved in OpenOffice moved to the open licence LibreOffice and still provide a great deal of the development.

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Just been trying out LibreOffice on Win10. Looks so much better than AOO. Goodbye to the old and in with the new. :grinning:

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I started with StarOffice some years back … LibreOffice is of age now. I guess it took nearly 4 decades, but when there’s no revenue things tend to take a little longer and why be impatient - IBM are still trying to work out what an OS is, oh, no, not AIX or anything else they have tried their hand at, pinstriped suits was all that got them this far one could suggest … At work MS Office still causes mayhem, so it’s not like revenue solves all :wink:

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Had to respond here @draughtrider, as an ex IBMer.
They certainly know about operating systems. Some great ones from the 1960s leading all the way up to today’s Z/OS, Z/VM and ISeries and their versions of Linux. And in the early days of PCs, PCDos and OS/2.
Sadly, they have had a mixed history when it comes to application software. Hmm…Lotus notes, Symphony.

I used Open Office, then moved to NeoOffice on Mac but have not followed its development, then switched to LibreOffice. Now I use no office. I only ever need a writing tool and find that there are many other options… and I don’t write much anymore, having realised I’ll never write the definitive [fill in the blank] novel :slight_smile:

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LibreOffice has had my vote for quite a few years now - can do anything OO or MSO can do and then some. I don’t think I’ve had to use commercial software for anything at all in the last 10 - 15 years. VS Code, BitBucket, Paint dot NET, Macrium Reflect, and half a dozen other freeware programs meant I could do pretty much anything I needed to get done, and since retiring my needs have shrunk a bit anyway.

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Another vote for LibreOffice. I tried some database back end processing using OpenOffice and it didn’t go well. I wanted to run a query on a database pulling selected information and insert it into emails (e.g. dear xxx you have not paid your dues for year ending yyy) but a little more complex as it involved a spread sheet. Maybe pushing the envelope a bit but hey, why not. Anyway, I downloaded LibreOffice, the documentation of what I was trying to do was better, a small tweak and it worked.
I like the document writer, I haven’t yet found a formatting problem that defeated it. Although sometimes not intuitive. I created a pdf facsimile of an old High School magazine (not a scan, a recreation from scratch) that when printed is hard to distinguish from the original (apart from no smudges or crooked letters). Positioning photos in the same place and getting the text right was a challenge but it was doable.
I’ve used the spreadsheet to do least squares line fitting and graphs, no problem.
I haven’t used the other packages except impress to view slide shows created by someone else.

Indeed - I would concede that they once made an acceptable range of typewriters :wink:

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I second WPS Office as being a great suite, for which I have yet to find any downside … in fact at this stage I am supporting it via a year’s paid ‘premium’ subscription (which unlocks a lot more PDF handling capabilities). I’ve tried most if not all of the other, most common alternatives, and my personal experience has been -

  • As a long term MS Office user, I finally chucked in the towel with it after enduring over a year of consistent program lock-ups with my various Excel spreadsheets, which contain a variety of formulas, but are far from being particularly sophisticated or complex. After Googling and trying pretty much every suggested solution (and noting that the lock-ups are far from being a rare problem), I had to give up on it.
  • I’ve tried Libre Office, but again when it came to my Excel spreadsheets, it couldn’t cope, randomly converting areas of my spreadsheets to a graphic image (!!!), a glitch which then could not be reversed.

So far, WPS Office has simply worked, and worked well, with everything I have thrown at it. I also liked its tabbed interface, which enables one to have multiple documents open, including a mix of Word and Excel for instance, all in the same, tabbed window - just like multiple open tabs in a web browser.

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Hello, I’m not technically minded and I noticed your response and that you went to uni. I privately tutor students and I sometimes cannot get to my PC so I often manually make notations on a piece of paper(please don’t laugh) and then transfer when PC is available. Would I be able to do everything on the app you suggested? Thank you for your help.

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If you have a smart device (phone/tablet), there are apps which convert handwriting on the device using your finger into text. This may save retyping it later and the text can be imported into other programs (such as a freeware office suite) for formatting/filing/saving.

Edit: there are two main types…one scans handwritten text which is on paper and converts it to tect (OCR), and the other one writes on the smart device screen and this gets converted into text. I suspect the former one will need very neat handwriting).

Does which alternative works best in the circumstances depend on,

  • Complexity of the task at hand
  • Reliability on your chosen OS
  • Needs to exchange documents
  • Compatibility and conversion consistency
  • What you are most familiar with

For everyday home use the two packages we’ve used consistently include Open Office or Libre, (Windows versions). There was a period of time where I would dual boot into Linux (Ubuntu) which had a better desktop (more than one option in Linux) than Windows. The bundled office options seemed to perform more consistently with Linux.

The more ordinary tasks have been easy enough to complete which ever product was in use. How similar features are used varies between packages. For efficiency and minimising the learning curve it might suit to stick to the one product if it is doing what you need.

As an alternative the Apple device included Pages, Numbers and Keynote apps are also effective options for basic tasks. Although slow unless you have a keyboard (Bluetooth) attached.

Conflicted:
In the world of enterprise, post Word Perfect, Lotus 123 and dBase 5.x, Microsoft’s paid for product has come to dominate. (I found Quattro outshone both Lotus 123 and MS Word 5.0 for Dos more to my way of thinking than the DOS version of WP.)

Most non business users will never need to worry about the differences between any of the products. For those with a foot in each camp (free office products and MS Office) it might be a more vexed decision. For more complex tasks and sometime to exchange without conversion issues I revert to a legal copy MS Office. 30 years learning since first using Excel is hard to undo.

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It also depends where one is on the food chain :wink: :laughing:

(and how much one [ wants to | is willing to | is required to ] learn)

https://www.ariel.com.au/jokes/The_Evolution_of_a_Programmer.html

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Eon ago when I had a windows box I ran a freeware suit. Cannot recall the name and goggling it drew a blank. They probably stopped making it.

Unless you need to do complex work, google docs does just fine.

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Thanks so much. This will make my life easier :pray::pray:

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I have had expereince with both. My preference is for OpenOffice.
Diana