Purchasing a new PC or laptop in itself can be very costly, but even once the system has been bought, purchasing a suitable office suite to open word documents and spreadsheets can add another chunk of money to an already-pricey transaction. Given how dominant Microsoft Office is in the computing world, it’s very easy to believe that Microsoft Office is the only solution when it comes to opening documents and files.

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The truth is, there’s a lot of cheap and free office suites out there that you can try. While they’re easy to install and use, the problem comes when interacting with a mostly Microsoft Office-dominated world. If a free word processor accepts .odt and .rtf files, but doesn’t know what to do with .doc files, you’ll need to ask others to send files in a format the free processor can read.

Over the past few months, I’ve been on the look-out for an office suite that’s both free and compatible with Microsoft Office files and various Office features, such as Word’s ‘track changes’. There were several strong competitors, including OpenOffice and its sister branch LibreOffice. The suite I eventually settled on, however, was WPS Office, once known as Kingsoft Office.

WPS Office can be downloaded for free, with an upgraded Business edition purchasable either on a yearly or lifetime license. It comes with a word processor, spreadsheet creator, and slideshow presenter. One thing you’ll notice very quickly when using WPS Office is that each element of the suite is inspired heavily by Microsoft Office, down to the presentation of the interface. This means that if you’re more familiar with Microsoft’s handling of menus and buttons, you should be able to get comfortable with it very easily.

One of the more important aspects of WPS Office is that it does, in fact, come equipped to open, read, edit, and save in the tricky newer formats that Microsoft Office uses, such as .docx. This means that you can download and use WPS Office with files you’ve already saved, as well as files other people send you created in Microsoft Office.

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I’ve been using WPS Writer as the main workhorse for my day-to-day work, and I’ve yet to come across a grievance with it. My line of work means that people often send me documents labeled using Microsoft Word’s ‘track changes’ feature, which means it’s very important that a word processor can display the changes without a problem. WPS Office does better than any free word processor I’ve seen.

Sending and receiving .docx files performs flawlessly, with no compatibility issues or weird cross-software bugs coming out of the woodwork. Some bonus features WPS Writer has that I never saw in Microsoft Word includes the ability to ‘jump’ to the last place I was writing or editing, allowing me to skip ahead to where I left off from at startup.

One aspect of WPS Office Suite that may appeal to certain demographics is its OS compatibility. At the time of writing, WPS supports Windows, iOS (Apple), Linux and even Android. This means that, regardless of what system you’re using, you can take advantage of a powerful office suite for completely free; which is always great!

If you’re purchasing a new computer and don’t feel great about putting down money for an expensive software package, give WPS a shot for yourself and see if it does the job just as well for you!

~ Simon