5 Free Open Source Alternatives to Microsoft Office

Small businesses don't always need Microsoft Office software for word processing, spreadsheets, email, database and publishing tools. We look at five free, open source alternatives to Microsoft Office.

By Vangie Beal
Mon, September 17, 2012

CIO — While Microsoft Office is the industry standard in terms of , integrated applications for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, database management, email and desktop publishing. However, it's important for small business owners to know that these types of office applications are also available in free and open source office productivity applications.

Open source office software has come a long way in recent years, so choosing free software over expensive proprietary software doesn't mean you'll lose features and support. Today's open source office productivity software is feature-rich and provides ample access to online documentation and large communities of users and developers.

You'll also find that open source products support the common document file types—including Microsoft file formats. Best of all, when you choose open source office software, you can forget about the hefty purchase price and per-user licensing fees that can eat up a small office's budget in no time.

Most free or open source alternatives to Microsoft Office have the basics applications for office productivity: word processing, spreadsheets and presentations. Several of the alternatives provide more, including drawing applications, database tools and storage options.

More: 3 Sleek Social Networking Alternatives to Microsoft SharePoint

If you're looking to retire Microsoft Office, here are the details on five full-featured alternatives worth a try.

Apache OpenOffice: The Free, Open Productivity Suite

Apache OpenOffice is one of the better-known open source office software suites available. It provides tools for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics and databases. Apache OpenOffice lets you save documents in the OpenDocument format, read Microsoft Word documents and save your work in Microsoft Word format.

The full Apache OpenOffice suite includes six tools for managing office tasks:

  • Writer, the word processor, can handle anything from writing a quick letter to producing a book. Features include design wizards, autocorrect, formatting, styles, HTML and MediaWiki export, tables and desktop publishing tasks.
  • Calc, the spreadsheet application, will calculate, analyze and present data in numerical reports or graphics. Features include options to pull in raw data from databases, natural language formulas, a quick sum button, wizards, styles and a Scenario Manager for "what if" analysis.
  • When creating multimedia presentations, Impress supports multiple monitors and a complete range of views. including draw, outline, slides and notes. Drawing and diagramming tools, slideshow animation and effects are also available.
  • Draw is an image application that can produce everything from simple diagrams to 3D illustrations.
  • The database tool,Base, can create and modify tables, forms, queries and reports within Apache OpenOffice.
  • Finally, Math can create mathematical equations through either a graphic user interface or by directly typing formulas into the equation editor.

Continue Reading

Our Commenting Policies