MS Office or Free Alternative

The age old question for modern computers, should I buy Microsoft Office or opt for a free alternative?  Coming from a long time open-source and free office suite advocate, both options have their alternatives.  For example, for pure compatibility there is no other choice than a Microsoft Office installation.  However, realistically there are not a lot of people that have $100 or more laying around waiting to be used on this suite of programs; so, what are some popular alternatives?

  • OpenOffice (can be used on any of the big three desktop OSes – Windows, OS X, or Linux)
  • LibreOffice (can be used on any of the big three desktop OSes – Windows, OS X, or Linux)
  • Google Docs (file editing via Google Drive)

Do not think that there are not options; however, where there are options there are potential shortcomings.  For example, when saving traditional text documents in Open-Office’s Writer application (or any alternative application), if you use heavy formatting within your document be prepared to potentially lose most of that when converting to an Office format.  In addition, there are simply some programs that have no suitable alternatives included in these popular suites such as:

  • OneNote
  • Visio
  • Lync
  • Sharepoint
  • Outlook

Bottom line:  In most cases a free alternative to Microsoft Office can suffice many users; however, when you step into that “power-user” realm Microsoft is where you need to be.