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Free Office Software

  1. #1  Major Tom,  Mar 19, 2014
     Last edited by a moderator: Mar 19, 2015
    The open source movement means there's now more top quality, legit free software floating around the web than ever.
    We've cherrypicked some of the best free downloads for PCs and Macs (and a few for Linux), to help you completely kit out your computer for nowt.

    Free software falls into two categories: promotional freebies and software developed to help people fight back against big software providers. The latter category has grown hugely as more people have embraced open source projects, where the building blocks - big chunks of code - are free for everybody to adapt and improve.

    If you've ever typed "Microsoft Word, free download" or "Microsoft Powerpoint, free download" into Google and been baffled by the results, then this guide shows clearly where you'll get equivalents of both for zilch.

    Office Suite Alternatives - downloads

    Microsoft's Office 2010 office suite is a costly proposition, with the Pro version costing £190 even where you can get it cheaply. Yet you can furnish your machine with equivalents to most of its applications for nothing, thanks to open source alternatives.

    LibreOffice: Just like MS Office
    LibreOffice is an open source project which includes six word-processing programs. It's compatible with many Microsoft documents.

    The newest version, 4.2.2 is now out, and it looks and feel much more like its Microsoft counterparts. The programs included in LibreOffice are:

    Writer: A word processor, its equivalent of Microsoft Word.
    Calc: A spreadsheet program, its equivalent of Excel.
    Impress: Presentation software, its equivalent of Microsoft PowerPoint.
    Base: A database, its equivalent of Microsoft Access.
    Draw: A design program, especially useful for flowcharts.
    Math: A simple equation tool.

    Combined, they make for a powerful suite of programs. It also works with Microsoft's "docx" standard, which most free office software isn't compatible with.

    Download for Mac, Windows or Linux computers - LibreOffice Fresh | LibreOffice - Free Office Suite - Fun Project - Fantastic People

    Office Suite Alternatives - online

    The alternative to downloading an office suite is to use one of the many online options. With these, there's no installation to worry about, you can store your work online, and easily collaborate with others. The obvious flipside is you must be online for them to work.

    Here are the best:

    Microsoft Office Web Apps: Online MS programs
    In 2010 Microsoft launched some stripped down online versions of its usual office apps. Its selection of Office Web Apps includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, and is available to anyone with a free Windows Live account. The account also gets you 7GB of storage on the SkyDrive back-up service, which you can use to store documents.

    If you're used to the Microsoft packages this is worth a try, but bear in mind these are hobbled versions of the software; Microsoft doesn't want to cannibalise its profitable business of selling the full versions of Office.

    If you use hotmail, you'll be able to use word, excel and other programs online once you've logged in to check your emails.

    Try it - Free Microsoft Office Online, Word, Excel, Powerpoint

    ThinkFree: 100% compatible with MS Office
    ThinkFree is a free online suite which bears a striking resemblance to the official Microsoft software.

    It has received glowing reviews all round. It includes the equivalents of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, looks pretty, and most importantly for an online suite, is responsive and simple to navigate.

    It also holds a trump card in the way it hides your web browser window when in use, so you can use regular keyboard shortcuts to control it without upsetting your browser. Neat.

    You also get 1GB of cloud space free per account (if you need more, see our Free Online Storage Services guide).

    Try it - ThinkFree Cloud Office

    Zoho Office Suite: Ideal for simple tasks
    This basic-but-super-fast package is fine for simple tasks, but if you're going to need advanced features it's best to look elsewhere. It's largely aimed to help directors of small businesses who need to use various applications.

    While it offers a wider range of applications than ThinkFree, they aren't as detailed. Zoho stores all your documents in its free online storage space, and allows you to share them with (member) friends via email invitations.

    Try it - Software for every business need – Over 13 million users trust Zoho

    Google Docs: Good for file collaboration
    This service has more of an emphasis on collaboration than the other two. The idea here is you can select a few people to work with you on the same document, and they can all see it and make changes in real-time. You'll need to create a free account to use it.

    It includes plenty of useful document, spreadsheet, and presentation templates which you can use to get going. And you can even set-up offline access when using Chrome.

    It's also the most web-oriented, since if you publish one of your Google Docs, you can use all manner of Google's whizzy analytics tools to track its progress too. Google Docs also works in conjunction with Google Drive, so you'll have 15GB of free storage (if you need more, see our Free Online Storage Services guide).

    Try it - Redirecting...
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