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Free Office Alternatives

Page history last edited by johny radio 11 years, 2 months ago

If you don't own a copy of Microsoft Office, you can still open and create Microsoft Office documents, with these free alternatives.


This information provided as a free service by Laptop Academy.


Quick Start - Click one of the following options:


You can open existing Microsoft Office documents with all of these.


  • Google Docs - Simple and easy to use. Web-based.
  • Zoho - Similar to Google Docs, but more powerful. Web-based.
  • ThinkFree - Looks and feels almost identical to Microsoft Office 2003. Web-based. 
  • Open Office - A deep application. Does not look like Microsoft. Download and install.



Detailed Descriptions


  • Web-based - Except for Open Office, these are all web-based softwares. With web-based software, there's nothing to install on your computer-- all you need is a web-browser. Your documents are stored on the web, not your hard-drive. Web-based software has the following advantages:
    • it consumes less of your hard-drive storage.
    • it works on any platform-- Windows, Mac, or Linux.
    • if your computer crashes, your documents will be safe.
  • Microsoft-compatible - These applications can open and edit existing documents created with Microsoft Office, and Microsoft Office can open documents created with these applications. So, you can share documents with your colleagues who use Microsoft Office. You can export your documents from these application to your local hard-drive anytime, formatted as standard Microsoft documents.
  • Documents plus - Most of these applications provide additional free and paid features and services, beyond what's described here.


Microsoft Compatibility Note: If you import existing Microsoft Office documents, some advanced Microsoft features or formatting may be lost in the translation. This may include macros, merges, dynamically-updated fields, special fonts, etc. If you think your document might include advanced features or formatting, you should perform the following test to ensure your document does not lose any critical formatting or features during import/export:

  1. Make a backup copy of your Microsoft Office document, and store it in a new folder. Call the new folder "Backups".
  2. Sign up for the application of your choice, below.
  3. Import your Microsoft Office document to the application.
  4. Perform some edits in the application.
  5. Save the document in the application.
  6. Download the document from the application to your computer.
  7. Open the downloaded document in Microsoft Office, look it over carefully. Check all advanced formatting and features. Print it. Examine the printout carefully.
  8. Always keep a backup of your original Microsoft documents, just in case.



Google Docs

The simplest, quickest way to create documents is to sign up for Google Docs. With Google Docs, you can create Word-like documents, Excel-like spreadsheets, and Powerpoint-like slideshows. Google Docs is not as powerful as the other products on this page, but for many people it will be adequate.



Google Docs Tips

  • Offline - Google Docs is a web-based software, requiring an internet connection. If you need to use Google Docs without an internet connection, log in, and click "Offline" on the upper-right corner of the Google Docs screen. Follow the instructions. 
  • Microsoft Compatibility - When you import documents created in Microsoft applications, you may lose formatting or features which Google Docs does not support. Test this using the compatability test, above.




ThinkFree was designed to look and function like Microsoft Office 2003. It is more powerful than Google Docs. It provides all but the most advanced of the Microsoft features-- enough for most uses. Like Google Docs, the ThinkFree editor is web-based. Your files are stored on the web, and can be downloaded anytime. If you need to edit documents without an internet connection, ThinkFree offers a free editor that installs and runs on your computer. Click the link below, or go to ThinkFree and click "ThinkFree Online" or "My Office".



ThinkFree Tips

  • Offline - To use ThinkFree without an internet connection, log in, and click "Download Desktop Office", or go here. Keep in mind that your locally-stored files will be uploaded to your online ThinkFree account automatically, when your computer re-connects to the internet. Recommended settings for the offline version:
    • Run thinkfree settings from your start menu
    • Check on 'enable smooth text' and click OK.
  • Microsoft Compatibility - ThinkFree supports more Microsoft features than Google Docs supports, but you may still lose advanced formatting or features which ThinkFree does not support, when you upload documents created in Microsoft applications. For example, ThinkFree does not support Visual Basic for Applications macros. Test this using the compatability test, above.
  • Private Edition - It's highly unlikely that your files stored on the free ThinkFree service are at risk of being hacked or viewed by anyone without your permission. However, if you need the extra peace-of-mind of preventing your local files from being uploaded to the internet, then you need to purchase ThinkFree Office, or try the free Open Office product, below.




Similar to Google Docs, but a more powerful editing interface. Zoho includes word processing, spreadsheets, and slide presentations, as well as numerous other powerful apps, such as a database, project planner, and CRM. All of their personal productivity apps are free for personal use. Zoho also provides an offline mode.




Open Office

Unlike the other products on this page, the free Open Office is NOT a web-based service. All of your documents are stored on your own hard-drive, not the web. It consists of a large download (150 MB) which is installed directly onto your hard-drive. Unlike the other products on this page, Open Office is "open source" software. It was built by Sun Microsystems (the creator of Java),with support from volunteer programmers around the world. It is distributed by a non-profit organization. A deep, powerful application It does not look like Microsoft Office, but it can do many things Microsoft Office can do. It also supports macros and numerous plugins.



Open Office Tips

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