Review Edward Mendelson The Best Office Suites Everyone knows Microsoft Office, but it’s not your only choice for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentation software. These office suites are tops, whether you want local or cloud-based office functionality. The Prime Productivity Microsoft office 2017 Once upon a time, an office suite was a cluster of rooms in a brick-and-mortar building in which people gathered on weekdays to type letters, hold meetings, calculate earnings, and design advertisements. Today, an office suite is a batch of productivity applications on your desktop, laptop, or mobile device where you do all those things, either alone or in collaboration with other people doing similar things on their own devices. You’re likely to do them at any hour of the day microsoft office 2017 night, wherever you happen to be.
Review Edward Mendelson The Best Office Suites Everyone knows Microsoft Office, but it’s not your only choice for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentation software. These office suites are tops, whether you want local or cloud-based office functionality. The Prime Productivity Tool Once upon a time, an office suite was a cluster of rooms in a brick-and-mortar building in which people gathered on weekdays to type letters, hold meetings, calculate earnings, and design advertisements.
Today, an office suite is a batch of productivity applications on your desktop, laptop, or mobile device where you do all those things, either alone or in collaboration with other people doing similar things on their own devices. You’re likely to do them at any hour of the day or night, wherever you happen to be. You’ve lost the water cooler, but, overall, you’ve probably gained in efficiency.
Microsoft Office, whether installed as a standalone set of apps or as part of the subscription-based Office service, is the colossus of office suites, one that much of the world uses by default. That doesn’t mean that Office is necessarily the best suite for your specific purposes, so PCMag. Some of these alternatives are free. Some, like Office itself, are more or less expensive depending on the version you choose. Some are resident only on your hard disk, others live partly or wholly in the cloud.
If you’re curious about alternatives to Microsoft Office, read on. Three apps remain the core of every office suite, whether it comes from Microsoft of not. At base, an office suite is made up of a word processor, a spreadsheet, and a presentation app. Depending on the suite, and in some cases depending on which version of a suite you choose, you also get a mail and calendar app, a database manager, PDF editing software, a note-taking app, website-creation tools , and any of a dozen miscellaneous apps and services ranging from web conferencing through form-building.
Some suites have morphed into online services, so Microsoft Office exists both as the familiar desktop Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps and as a subscription-based Office service that comes in variously priced plans that include web-based features like real-time collaboration, online storage, and video conferencing. What You Get in an Office Suite One thing that all of today’s suites have in common is that their core apps—the word processors, spreadsheets, and presentation apps —share a lot of their underlying code, so that, for example, the drawing tools in the presentation app are typically also available in reduced form in the word processor and spreadsheet.
Also, the core apps typically share a similar interface, so you can move from one to the other without having to learn where to find basic features. For better or worse—and I think, on the whole, it’s mostly for the better—Microsoft Office sets the standard for all other office suites, and all other suites let you save documents in Office’s file formats. Every other suite on the market offers special advantages that Office itself can’t provide. The Document Foundation’s LibreOffice, for example, is fully open-source, so security-conscious users can be confident that their office apps aren’t sharing data with Microsoft, Apple, or anyone else.
Google’s commercial G Suite and the free Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides keep all your documents in the cloud, which may be an advantage if you’re always on the road, but a disadvantage if you want the editing power of a desktop app like Word or Excel. You can download Google’s documents in standard formats like those used by Microsoft Office or LibreOffice, but the originals are always in the cloud and with some special exceptions can only be edited in Google’s browser-based and mobile-app interface.
Here are the basics of today’s major suites. With Microsoft Office and Office , you get Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, and miscellaneous other features; some versions include the Access database manager, the Publisher desktop-publishing package, and even flowchart and diagramming app Visio. When you buy Microsoft Office, for either Windows or the Mac, you get the version that’s current when you buy it, with occasional free updates to any future major version, and it only gets updated with security updates from Windows Update, not with new features.
When you subscribe to Office , your copies of the office apps are automatically updated with new features every three months, and you don’t have to pay extra when the current Office apps get replaced by an overhauled new version in the future.
By default—though it’s easy to change this—Microsoft’s apps save documents in Microsoft OneDrive, a cloud storage and syncing service that normally keeps copies of your documents on your hard disk and in the cloud, so you can edit them with your desktop-based apps even when you’re offline.
Microsoft—like Apple—makes it easy to edit and access your documents either online through a browser or locally through a desktop app, and it’s one of Office’s major advantages. Microsoft Office Alternatives If you’re ready to switch from Microsoft Office—or if you simply want an alternative—you’ll need to be prepared to deal with the inconvenience of using non-Microsoft document formats in an Office-centric world.
The only document formats that everyone can handle are Microsoft’s Word and Excel formats, and you can set up your non-Microsoft apps to save in those formats, but you’ll typically need to swat away message boxes and other warnings when you do. If you only share documents within an organization that has standardized on non-Microsoft formats, this won’t be an issue, but it will be an issue if you send documents to anyone outside.
With that in mind, here are some details on the alternatives: Google’s apps include Docs, Sheets, Slides, all available from a menu that appears at the upper right of Google’s home page when you’re signed into any Google account. If you sign up for the commercial G Suite version you also get voice and video conferencing and a variety of account management services; higher-priced subscriptions include auditing and data-retention features.
All of Google’s offerings exist only in the cloud, accessible via a web browser or mobile apps, not via desktop-based programs, and you can only edit your Google documents when you’re online. The one partial exception is an offline browsing feature available through the Chrome browser, but only if you’ve already installed an offline-editing add-in for Chrome and only if you’ve already downloaded copies of the documents that you want to edit.
If you lose internet access without planning ahead, you’re out of luck. LibreOffice, on the other hand, is a only desktop application, composed of a word processor called Writer, a spreadsheet called Calc, a presentation app called Impress, a vector-graphics app called Draw, a separate math module called Math, a separate charting module called Charts, and a database manager called Base.
Unless your network administrator installs a special server-based version for users in your organization—not an easy task—you can only use LibreOffice by launching its desktop apps in Windows , macOS , or Linux. You can’t use it through a browser, and you can’t use it through a mobile app. These limitations come with security advantages, and LibreOffice is the only up-to-date open-source office suite, which means you don’t have to worry about what Google, Microsoft, or Apple might do with your data.
Another advantage is that LibreOffice looks and feels a lot like older versions of Microsoft Office, before Microsoft replaced the old menu-and-toolbar interface with the Ribbon interface introduced with Office An important niche player is Corel’s WordPerfect Office. Its loyalists include many law offices, government agencies, academics, and me.
WordPerfect Office exists only on the Windows platform, with no online version, and its Quattro Pro spreadsheet and Presentations graphics app are lackluster at best. But its heart is the powerful and unique WordPerfect word processor, the only current word-processing app that doesn’t try to look and feel like Microsoft Word.
Unlike Word, which hides its formatting codes, WordPerfect’s Reveal Codes feature makes it easy to see exactly why your document looks the way it does, making it easy to perform wholesale changes in formatting style that are almost impossible in Word. WordPerfect is also far more reliable than any other app in managing large documents and documents made up of smaller separate documents like chapters in a book. It opens almost any legacy format, and can be set to save in Microsoft Word by default.
You probably won’t want it unless you already use it, but if you need it, nothing else takes its place What About Apple iWork? Why isn’t iWork in the table above? Apple’s office apps are marketed on Apple’s website as iWork, but you won’t find a suite of that name for sale; instead all of the pieces are sold individually. You have to buy them all separately and assemble the suite yourself. That said, the Pages word processor , Numbers spreadsheets apps, and Keynote presentation app are, to my mind, the most elegant and visually impressive office apps ever made.
However, they’re not designed to play nice outside the Apple ecosystem. If you want to open an iWork document under Windows, Android, or Linux, you’ll need to access it through a browser—and if you had revision-tracking turned on in your Numbers document, you may be annoyed to find that you can only view it, not edit it, in the browser interface. Apple’s apps can export and import files in Microsoft’s and LibreOffice’s format, but there’s no Windows or Linux app that can open iWork documents in their own format.
Apple’s elegance and simplicity may be enough to make up for this if you never step outside Appleland, and Numbers has the distinction of being the only current spreadsheet app that breaks the Excel mold by letting you create multiple tables on the same sheet.
I admire Apple’s apps, but, except for the visually spectacular Keynote , I’m reluctant to use them. When you choose an office suite, are you choosing for yourself or your whole organization? If you’re choosing for yourself, use whatever feels most comfortable, but if you choose anything other than Microsoft Office, and you plan to send your files to anyone else, be prepared to set up your suite to export files in the standard Microsoft formats that almost everyone else expects.
If you’re choosing for a small business or a large organization, then matters get more complicated. Microsoft Office is the most effective and overall the most reliable and easiest to use of all the suites, but it has two disadvantages: If you insist on open-source software, then LibreOffice is your only serious choice, but LibreOffice suffers from a clunky interface with menus that can confuse even expert users.
If you want free software, and you only use a Mac, then you can use the free copies of Apple’s apps that come with your machine. If you’re content with cloud-only software, then Google’s apps are powerful and intuitive. If you’re in an industry or research field that uses WordPerfect, then Corel’s suite is the only choice.
Microsoft Office and its subscription-based version in Office clearly lead the field, but they’re not for everyone. Unfortunately, there’s no clear preference among the Office alternatives, but you can test all the alternatives—and Office itself—in free or trial versions.
All the Office apps are mature, widely used, and heavily tested, and whichever one you choose, you can’t go far wrong. Featured Office Suite Reviews:
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