3 Free and Capable Alternatives to Microsoft Office

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.

overview-word-softwares

Whats different?

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.

Whats Lacking?

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.

Download Calligra

Download OpenOffice

Download LibreOffice

So what’s your choice for the office suite? How’s your experience with it? Let us know in the comments below.


  • Usama Ahmed

    What a dumb article, pro is definitely running out of content. You forgot to mention Google Docs.

    • Potato

      Google Docs, Sheets and Slides are web-based office suite that requires internet. Offline access is available for Google Chrome only and for that you need a Google Drive account.

      Next time, please educate yourself to save yourself from embarrassment.

      • Usama Ahmed

        Every thing requires internet. Isn’t that a fact. Shame if you don’t have internet you can’t reply on pro pakistani.

        • Potato

          No, everything doesn’t require internet Who told you? MS Office works OFFLINE. All the office suites mentioned above work WITHOUT internet. That’s exactly the point of this article.

          Google Docs and the similar ones requires internet. You failed to grasp this point. How can you even compare an offline software with a web-based application?
          Both are different things – though perform same actions (not to mention the limitations of Google Apps).

          • Usama Ahmed

            And you have missed the whole article. it’s not about offline vs online. it’s about Ms office alternatives.

            • Potato

              ….. and MS Office works offline – WITHOUT INTERNET. So…

              • Usama Ahmed

                “Next time, please educate yourself to save yourself from embarrassment.”

                This line was unnecessary. Hopefully you learned a lesson.

                • zubairw

                  Usama you need to understand the article. MS office is an app you can install and run anytime, online or offline. GDocs has very limited offline support. The alternatives given all are apps like MS Office. If it was a comparison of office 365 then you would have a leg to stand on. If you dont get it even now then i hope the bump you got in your head heals soon :p

    • Okay?

      Why on earth one tends to show himself SO MUCH PARHA LIKHA and BAAP OF OFFICE KNOW-HOW by criticizing an its article to its core. Just inquiring :s

  • Waqas

    MS office Macros works in LibreOffice or Calligra?

    • zubairw

      libreoffice has the best compatibility of any alternative, but things do go wrong. You will need to check.

  • zubairw

    To the Dev: I think it is prudent to mention that Libreoffice is working on an online suite like office365 or gdocs. you can read http://lifehacker.com/open365-is-an-open-source-alternative-to-microsoft-offi-1772845018 which explains it. Also the document foundation (parent of libreoffice) is working with owncloud.org to create a onedrive/dropbox alternative which also has a web office suite. So we should soon see a complete office365 alternative that is opensource.