From free to pro-grade, find the tools you need.
A good office suite with its three core applications — a word processor, a spreadsheet and a presentation program — is essential for handling school assignments and personal finances and for getting the most from your home computer in general. But which suite should you choose?
- LibreOffice is free — the result of years of development by a worldwide community of hundreds of programmers — and is almost as feature-rich and polished as any paid application. Along with word processing, spreadsheets and presentations, the suite also includes database and graphics programs. It works well with Microsoft Office files and can save to popular formats, including PDF. It’s available for Windows, Mac and Linux, but there is no mobile version or an option to work online. It’s free at www.libreoffice.org.
- WordPerfect Office is only available for Windows and has no online version, and its spreadsheet and presentation applications are not particularly impressive. And yet, many people swear by its powerful word processor. It’s one of the few options for those who want a program that doesn’t try to copy Microsoft. Its ability to show a document’s formatting codes allows for the kind of fine tuning and changes to the way a document looks that can still frustrate many Word users. The Standard Edition is $249.99 from www.wordperfect.com.
- Google has its own office suite that’s especially attractive for those who want an easy way to work collaboratively across a variety of platforms. Through Google Docs, Sheets and Slides, the search engine giant offers free word processing, spreadsheets and presentation applications that run in any browser and integrate into Google Drive. For basic use, Google’s office suite is tough to beat, especially when it lets you start writing on your home PC, keep working on your phone while waiting at a coffee shop and finish the job on your friend’s MacBook. Get it free at google.com.
- iWork is what Apple calls its supergroup of free productivity apps: Pages for word processing, Numbers for spreadsheets and Keynote for presentations. As with most things Apple, the apps are elegant and user-friendly, but they don’t always play well with others in their native format. You can export to Microsoft Office, but opening an iWork document on a non-Apple machine is cumbersome. The apps are free on Apple computers and mobile devices through the App Store.
- Microsoft Office is the gold standard for a reason, offering the best productivity software on the market. Most users don’t need the many advanced features included in Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Feeling competition from Google, Microsoft offers a free version of its basic applications online, which work with cloud storage OneDrive. If you find you need more advanced functionality, you can always subscribe to Microsoft 365. Review your options at office.com.