Cyn Mackley

Tech Whisperer & Mystery Writer

MS Office Help, MS Word, OpenOffice, Software Reviews

Looking beyond Word

I’ve revisited this question again because it’s one that I receive again and again.

“I am thinking of acquiring a new computer but I don’t want to invest in still another MS Office program nor do I want to subscription service. I use it for a couple of things from time to time and I do need to be able to open those documents. So it just doesn’t make sense for the added cost. Is there still something out there that I can use?”

Fortunately, there are a lot of free alternatives to Word. I will say that Word is my absolute favorite of all office suites, even though sometimes it feels a bit too complicated. But it has options that the others don’t (or at least that I can’t figure out in other programs).  There are others that will tell you that LibreOffice and Open Office are the best thing since sliced bread. Let’s look over some options.

If you just need to look at and write the occasional document, the WordPad program included with Windows might meet all of your needs. To open, just search for WordPad in your search menu and click on the results.

The layout should seem pretty familiar to Word users.

If you’d like a more complete office suite, fortunately, you’ve got a lot of choices.

If you don’t mind going online when you work, you could use Microsoft’s free Office Online Service or Google Drive’s suite of office applications.

First, let’s check out your cloud-based options. Since these programs are online, you can use them with Windows, Mac, Linux, or Chromebook.

Microsoft Office Online

Office Online offers the ability to read, create and edit Word, Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote documents. Just log onto Outlook.com with a Microsoft account and start working. If you have an Outlook.com, HotMail, MSN or LiveMail address, you already have an account. If not, it only takes a few minutes to create one.

Your account also comes with 15GB of cloud storage in OneDrive. Of course, the downside is that it is cloud-based. So you will need an Internet connection to work. The up side is that since it’s cloud-based, you can open it on any computer. These are fully-functional Office documents that you can save to your computer and that will open in other versions of Office.

Google Drive

Google Drive is free for anyone with a Gmail address and offers the ability to create documents, presentations, spreadsheets, forms and also comes with a basic drawing program.

Google Drive also offers 15 GB of free cloud storage. Like Office Online, it is cloud-based. You’ll need an Internet connection to work, but you also have the flexibility to access your documents from other computers or devices.

Of the two online options above, I much prefer Office Online, but that’s a personal preference.

If you’d rather download your office suite, consider the following:

OpenOffice

OpenOffice is an open-source software suite that handles word processing spreadsheets, graphics, databases, and presentations. You can install it on as many computers as you like and you don’t need to be tied to a particular e-mail service to download. You are also free to use it for your business or home with no restrictions. It is created and supported by volunteers. Versions of OpenOffice are available for Windows, Linux and Mac OSX (x86-64 only).

LibreOffice

LibreOffice also offers the ability to create and edit documents, spreadsheets, and presentations as well as make basic graphics and charts. If is compatible with Microsoft products and is absolutely free.

You can install LibreOffice on as many computers as you wish. It is available in both a “Fresh” version with new features and a “Stable” version. You can run LibreOffice on Windows, Mac and Linux systems.

You can install LibreOffice on as many computers as you wish. It is available in both a “Fresh” version with new features and a “Stable” version. You can run LibreOffice on Windows, Mac and Linux systems.

WPS Office Suite

This freeware Office Suite offers a word processor, spreadsheets program, and a presentation program and supports saving files in the DOCx and XLSX formats for Windows compatibility. It is available for Windows, Android and Linux systems.

I’d like our readers to chime in here with suggestions. Which office option do you like best and why? Which do you not like at all? Please share your experiences in the comments.

10 thoughts on “Looking beyond Word

  1. I used to use WordPad all the time but haven’t for some time now as I can’t type a document without it double spacing. Never had that problem before. I tried changing it but it kept reverting back to double spacing. I looked into trying to resolve this, but with no success. What am I missing?

  2. I have MS Office only on my desktop. I have LibreOffice on my laptop and on other family computers I use only occasionally. I have also installed it on computers I have set up “out of box” for friends who don’t have software budgets, for whom I need to find good, free programs. I don’t use it a lot, but I have been happy with it. The user interface is similar to Word, so there’s not much by way of a learning curve. Transferring documents between Word and LibreOffice usually works out fine. (You can keep them in your cloud account or, if not too large, just email them back and forth to yourself.) In general (not to say without exception), formatting is preserved if you have the same fonts on the computers being used. This applies both to Word docs and Excel spreadsheets. I haven’t used any of the other programs in the suite. Also, if you have legacy docs from old computers that didn’t merit the expense of another copy of MSOffice, and ran MS Works, the discontinued free little office suite from MS, LibreOffice will run those as well.

  3. When I purchased my current laptop last May-the old one was quite literally falling apart-I read everything I could find on Office Compatible programs. I am not online at home but use libraries, so I didn’t check cloud resources. I downloaded all of the programs you mentioned to try. Libre Office is the one I stuck with for several reasons, not the least of which was that it was the only one that reliably copied illustrations, photos, charts and other artwork along with the documents I downloaded from various sources.. I’m a huge fan of “Brain Pickings” but can’t necessarily take the time to read it in its entirety at the library. Not losing the illustrations and photos was important to me.and not all the other programs retained them unless I wanted to copy and paste each graphic separately. Not

  4. Great comment on LibreOffice from Patricia. I really do like this program, I believe you were the one who introduced me to that in the first place, Cyn. I was looking for something that could convert my old Pagemaker files into readable and workable files, you recommended LibreOffice. That program has EVERYthing, including help! It’s all I’ll ever use now. For lists, letters, envelopes, anything that I need to print and save or to send! However, I did find something else to convert my old Pagemaker files. Word has the ability to print to PDF, and THIS has the ability to convert those files! Surprising! They need a little re-organization, but that will be done easily with LibreOffice! Thank you, for all your recommendations. I’m so thankful for you!

    Merry Christmas,
    Virginia

  5. I started with MS Office while working in the training department of a large petrochemical company. This was back in the day of the IBM PC with almost no memory and your main storage was on the 5 1/4″ floppy discs. Our plant, and a couple more in Texas all used MS Office and they eventually pushed in corporate wide. And, if you were a regular user at work, you were allowed to have your own copy at work.And a copy at home.
    I retired 1/1/1998, and was allowed to keep my home copy of MS Office. A few years passed and Office was becoming a bit outdated, but buying my own copy was a bit on the expensive side. So I started trying some of the free office programs. I came across Open Office, at about version 1.1…., and liked it very much. Had most everything I needed, except Outlook.
    I stayed with Open Office until the Apache group jumped in to take over further development. This is what brought about Libre Office. When Open Office started slowing down their work – probably because all of the good development people working on it moved to Libre Office – and Libre Office’s development was moving forward very quickly, I switched to Libre Office, and am now a very satisfied user of Libre Office. As you stated, they have a “Stable” version, and a “Fresh” Version, something that fairly recently got started. I have stuck with the “Stable” version, as there could be some things that turn out to be not completely “stable” in the “Fresh” version, which I am sure that folks that don’t mind finding the “bugs” in a program use all the time. “Fresh” usually has “new” things in it that they really want the “gurus” to use, so they can get them into the stable version as soon as possible.
    I haven’t run in to anything that I want to do with an office program that I can’t do with Libre Office, so I have no reason to pay the high price for MS Office. I save all my work in Microsoft formats so that if I send something to someone that uses MS Office will not have any problems opening the works. Have yet to run in to anyone that uses MS Office that has had any trouble opening anything I send them. So, unless Libre Office, and/or The Document Foundation comes apart for some reason, I will not leave Libre Office.

  6. I had forgotten that I replied back in November of 2017. I haven’t tried WordPad since, but I would imagine that it hasn’t changed — that is, double spacing is the default and it can’t be changed. Totally ridiculous since it never was that way back a few years.

  7. As I have replaced the computer I had when I purchased MS Office 10 Home and Student, I have carried my office forward onto the new computers. Somehow MS knows when office is removed from a “dead” computer and will honor the 25 digit code on the new one. If the new computer does not have a DVD drive, a little search through MS Support will help you fine your MS Office Suite and help you download it and install. You must have your 25 digit code handy as you will use it at least twice when downloading and installing.

  8. From DON G
    Hi Cyn,
    I have been using Open Office For Years and Have been mostly satisfied, but I have a file that keeps birth and death dates in and it wont let me calculate ages on anyone entered before 1899! for instance Jenny Lind was born in 1870 and died after the 1900 mark therefore my death age calculation gives me an error message. do you know of any workaround for that problem?
    Really liked you at world start and I continue to like you on your new site. I hope you continue for many years!!

  9. The article and the comments are all well done and useful. A hundred or so years ago I started with Word Perfect and found it an excellent product. My company later started using Word as the standard processor, so I made the switch, and over the years as Word got better I liked it.

    Lately I’ve gone on an economy kick that included switching to LibreOffice. I found the transition easy, the flexibility excellent…but occasionally, when I change a document from the .odt format LibreOffice uses to .docx format to distribute to others, the resulting document is not always the same. I should emphasize this is only occasionally. I also miss the drawing capability in Word, but am finding the LibreOffice Draw document works well.

    Thanks to all!

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