Web design Stoke-on-Trent - Firecrest Computing Services Logo

Firecrest | Blog

Free alternatives to Microsoft Office

One thing that continually surprises many people is just how much Microsoft Office costs to purchase. This becomes particularly apparent to many of my customers when it comes time to buy a new laptop or PC that doesn’t come pre-installed with a copy of Microsoft Office. They then need to look at getting a copy of Office or they are not able to open, read, or write new Word documents (or Excel spreadsheets). It is at this point that they realise just how much it can cost for a copy of Microsoft Office!

At the time of writing, the cheapest option for the latest version of Office (2013) is to get the Microsoft Office Home and Student version for £100-£110. This gives you Microsoft’s word processing software (Word), the spreadsheet software (Excel) and the presentation software (PowerPoint), which should be enough for most people. If you want to install the software on more than one PC or laptop then you need to go for the Microsoft Office 365 package which allows you to install it on up to five devices. However, this is only available as a subscription of around £79.99 a year!

Therefore, obviously all of the options are fairly expensive. However, there are some fantastic alternatives that can provide you with a complete Office package (word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, databases) – for free! Two of the most well used and supported are Apache OpenOffice and LibreOffice. Both of these programs will provide you with everything that Microsoft Office provides, legally, for free. Importantly, they will always be free – so you can update/upgrade them as new versions are released and it will not cost you anything. There are fairly frequent Microsoft Office updates, as I’m sure anyone who uses it knows, but if you want to upgrade to the newer version you usually have to pay again. With OpenOffice or LibreOffice, all of the updates are free of charge so you can upgrade to the newest version at anytime without having to pay again. You can also install them on as many different devices as you wish (PC, laptop, etc) without having to pay for another licence to install it on your laptop as well as your desktop PC.

Both of the programs are compatible with Microsoft Office files, so they can open Microsoft Word files. For example, if someone sends you a Microsoft Word file in an email you can open it without any problems. I have installed OpenOffice for many of my customers and they are very happy with it (particularly with the fact that they don’t have to pay in order to read Word files!).

The only problem is that if you create a new document in its word processing program it will save it in a different format to Microsoft Word. Therefore, if you write a letter to someone in OpenOffice’s word processing program, save it, and email it to a friend, they will not be able to open it if they haven’t got OpenOffice (or LibreOffice) on their computer – which is not ideal. This is easily solved though by changing the default settings in the program so that it saves in a format compatible with Microsoft Word by default.

If you want to be able to write word processed documents but can’t afford the increasing cost of Microsoft Office, then try OpenOffice or LibreOffice. If in doubt about which one to try, I’d say try OpenOffice as it seems to use fewer resources than LibreOffice and so will work better on slightly older computers. If you have used Microsoft Office programs before, such as Word, then it will look very familiar and you won’t have a problem understanding how to use it. If you need a hand installing it or configuring it to work how you want it to (for example, to save in Microsoft Word format by default), then just contact me.

I’ve set these programs up for many customers and can help you to have a free alternative to Microsoft Office up and running in no time!

Be Sociable, Share!
This entry was posted in IT support. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.

Web design Stoke-on-Trent - Firecrest Computing Services Logo