Ever since its debut, MS Office has been the de facto office suite companion for nearly every individual and company. Being the leader of the market, MS has made its position clear by providing plentiful features that no other rival offers.
But does being the leader of the market justify the price an average Joe has to pay for MS Office?
Let’s be honest, most of the people don’t use all the extraordinary features provided by MS Office and other proprietary software. Sometimes, all you need is a simple document creating software that gets the job done without emptying your wallet.
Upon exploring the realm of ‘freeware’, I came across three names that provides a complete productivity package for no charge: LibreOffice, Apache OfficeSuite and Calligra Suite.
So how do these alternatives stack up against the highly-popular behemoth MS Office? Let’s find out.
All three suites endorse the idea of ‘freeware’ and ‘liberty’, thus providing a completely free package for those who can’t afford to fork out for MS Office or any other proprietary software. Though none of them can match MS Office in terms of bells and whistles, each software has features that sets it apart from the competition.
LibreOffice – Compatibility
Probably the best part about LibreOffice is its compatibility, something at which the other two aren’t very good. It uses the international ISO/IEC standard OpenDocument file format (ODF) as its native format to save documents and the feature rich import/export filter virtually supports every document format, whether it be an obsolete version of Word or any other antediluvian software. It even supports PDF files, thus making it the champion in that regard.
OpenOffice – Extensions
Extension is a small software program/plug-in that extends the functionality of the software. Users can add emoticon support or a QR code to the document or add a multilingual dictionary. It acts like a cornerstone in most of the recent software; luckily, all three software support extensions.
It is worth to mention here that Calligra has very limited support for extensions compared to the other two. So if you’re a guy who loves to enhance your experience through extensions, Calligra isn’t the right choice for you.
Since both Apache and LibreOffice are the result of ‘OpenOffice’ before the split occurred, both the software have inherited the extension repository from OpenOffice.org. The repository is filled with over 742 extensions. Apache isn’t lacking that much in compatibility but LibreOffice is just one step ahead. It doesn’t support writing Microsoft’s newer XML format files like DOCX – only read.
Calligra – Feature Richness
While the other two excel in compatibility and extensions, Calligra suite compensates by offering applications that none of them offers, not even Microsoft Office. Besides providing an alternative to OneNote and Project, Calligra offers ‘Krita’ and ‘Author’ – a digital painting program with some image editing features and an e-book authoring application with EPUB support – all for no additional charge.
One of the most notable trade-off is the lack of cloud support. Unlike Office 365 and iWork, none of them have any cloud-based version yet. Using any of these software may evoke nostalgia as the interface (on all of them) reminds us of the XP days. Besides that, all of them can’t compete against Outlook – Microsoft’s solution for managing emails and schedules.
Which One to Choose?
While all of these are great alternatives if you aren’t a power user, we still lean towards LibreOffice as the best out of the 3. It ticks all the boxes for an average Joe. It’s fast and most importantly, it has wide support for file formats and the ever growing extension repository makes it even better. The interface may not win any UI contests but it ‘gets the job done’. With time, it’ll only get better.
So what’s your choice for the office suite? How’s your experience with it? Let us know in the comments below.