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Alternatives to Microsoft Office Suite

written by: KateG•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 11/17/2009

So, you don't want to pay for Microsoft Office. Well, I don't want you to either. Let's get a look at some of your choices.

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    These days you will encounter more and more people who are straying away from the Microsoft Office suite in favor of a variety of other options. This of course, begs the question, why would users stray from an established standard? Well to be honest, it is not one reason, but a mix of many factors, that is causing this migration.

    -Cost: A copy of the Microsoft Office Suite can run you more than 200 dollars, which is a significant drain on the wallet. When compared with many low cost or no cost options, shelling out for Office just seems unnecessary.

    -More variation in operating systems: As computers sporting the Apple and Linux operating systems go into use, users are more and more likely to want to have programs that are native to their systems.

    -Changes to where people make and read their documents: When this all started people were only making documents on their desktop computers but now as our technology has grown more mobile our options have increased. You could be working on a laptop, a PDA or even your cell phone. This has opened up a need for more portable, smaller file sized Office suites.

    -More prevalent web access: When being online meant being charged by the 15 minute increment working on a document online would have been a very cost efficient way to get things done. Now with flat rate Wifi and free access in a variety of places, using the web more is actually cheaper than the software.

    Now that you know why, and let's be honest, are secretly considering it yourself, we can take a good look at your options. When you want to get a new office suite, first you have to decide on the type of suite you want- which isn't as easy as it sounds. Your two main categories are web based suites and download-able software suites.

    A download-able software suite is a program that you download and install on your computer. Using it is a lot like using MS office. You click an icon to open the program and when you are done save the document to your hard drive. A web based suite can only be used when you are online but it has the advantage of portability. You can access it anywhere you have a connection. Also, your files will be stored online and not take up your hard drive space.

    Some shopping tips for picking an alternative office suite:

    1. Make sure it is compatible with your operating system. Some of the download-able suits are only for Windows and some are exclusively in Mac or Linux's domains so be sure you are getting what you need.

    2. Make sure it has the features you need. A suite without a database won't be a major stumbling block for most users but for some it is going to be a deal breaker. Figure out if it supports the file types you need to use in order to get your work done. As a minimum the word processor should support RTF so you can share documents across platforms.