5 open source office suites to watch

The Microsoft Office productivity suite has risen to become the dominant application of its type for business IT management. But there are open source office productivity suites available that may provide a suitable alternative to Office, depending on your requirements.

Despite the scores of additional features found in products like Microsoft Office, most workers only need a simple word processor or spreadsheet to complete their day-to-day office tasks. If your staff are not “power users” then having a full-blown office suite on their desktop can be overkill.

In this edition of 5 open source things to watch, we take a look at office suites that can manage you business information without emptying the company coffers.

1. OpenOffice.org

Ever since Sun Microsystems release the code to StarOffice back in 2000, OpenOffice.org has been a popular “free alternative” to Microsoft Office.

OpenOffice.org offers a complete suite of office apps, including a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation manager. In terms of user experience, it is the closest thing the open source world has to rival Microsoft Office and is thus popular with many home users as well.

Good file compatibility with Office is also a compelling feature of OpenOffice.org. Late last year the project announced 100 million downloads since version 3.0 was announced a year earlier. The next release will be 3.2,which is due in the coming weeks.

URL: http://www.openoffice.org
Licence: LGPL

2. KOffice

Not as popular as OpenOffice, but providing a similar level of functionality is KOffice. KOffice began life as an office suite for the KDE open source project on Linux, but has since been ported Windows and Mac OS X.

In addition to the standard office applications, KOffice also features apps for project management, flowcharting and graphic design. Also part of the KOffice suite is Kexi -- an open source database alternative to Microsoft Access.

KOffice is in rapid development after a major release upgrade from the 1.x to 2.x series. The developers will release the 2.2 stable version this year, which is meant to be a “production” release suitable for everyday use.

Last year Nokia announced it will use KOffice as the basis of its mobile office suite for the N900 smartphone.

URL: http://www.koffice.org
Licence: LGPL GPL

3. GNOME Office

While not as tightly integrated as OpenOffice.org or KOffice, the GNOME office suite is a collection of productivity applications typically shipped with the GNOME desktop environment on Linux, but it can also run on Windows.

The word processor, AbiWord, reached version 2.8 last year and now supports annotations, smart quotes and scalable vector graphics. A collaboration tool also allows multiple people to work on one document at the same time. This can also be used with the AbiCollab.net online storage service.

Gnumeric, the spreadsheet, has support for Microsoft Excel documents and claims more calculation functions.

GNOME office also includes the Evolution e-mail and groupware client. Evolution has a number of enterprise features and has an extensive repository of plug-ins available to enhance its functionality.

URL: http://live.gnome.org/GnomeOffice
Licence: GPL

4. Feng Office

Formerly known as OpenGoo, Feng Office is not your typical open source office suite in that it is Web-based, like many of today's SaaS offerings.

Feng Office allows users to upload and share any type of document and certain files can be edited online as well. A spreadsheet component is under development.

In addition to document management, Feng Office has applications for notes, e-mail, contact management, calendaring, task management and time keeping.

A commercially supported version is available which can be hosted on-site or provided as SaaS.

URL: http://www.fengoffice.com
Licence: AGPL

5. Simple Groupware

As the name indicates, Simple Groupware was developed as an open source groupware suite, but we've included it here because of the increasing amount of office suite-like applications it contains, including an online spreadsheet.

Simple Groupware's Simple Spreadsheet features support for formulas, functions, JavaScript macros, charts, cell manipulation and integration of images from the Web. Open Office and Microsoft Office documents can be previewed in a Web-browser.

With modules for HTML and wiki documents, Simple Groupware is starting to look a lot like a basic online office productivity suite. What's more, the files module makes it possible to share files, track versions and manage folders.

URL: http://www.simple-groupware.de
Licence: GPL

For more articles in this series, be sure to check out:
5 open source security projects to watch
5 open source network management projects to watch
5 open source virtualisation technologies to watch
5 open source CRM systems to watch
5 open source VoIP softphones to watch
5 open source billing systems to watch
5 open source IP telephony projects to watch
5 open source help desk apps to watch
5 enterprise open source wiki apps to watch
5 open source project management apps to watch
5 free project management applications you must try


Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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