Free software Free office software
Free Office software
Most of us use our PCs for work or for to organise our households. Programs like Microsoft Excel and Word don't come for free, though.
But rather than shelling out for expensive office programs, it’s possible to set yourself up using nothing but free software.
What do you get with Microsoft Office?
Microsoft's Office suite largely sets the standard that free software has to compete against. It's the software that most of us are familiar with, but it isn't cheap to buy.
The Home & Student version of Office 2013 cost £109 for a license on just one machine - this gives you Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. Pay for an Office 365 subscription (£79 per year) and you'll get more tools, including Outlook, with a license for five devices.
Check out our full review of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2010.
Microsoft Office vs LibreOffice
LibreOffice is designed by the developers of OpenOffice (see below). It offers a host of tools to rival the Microsoft Office suite.
We take a look at how it stacks up against Microsoft Office Home & Student 2010 (more widely used than Office 2013), comparing word processing, spreadsheet and presentation programs.
|Head-to-head||Microsoft Office Home & Student 2010||LibreOffice 3.4.1|
|Word processing program|
|Ease of use|
|Creating professional looking documents|
There are more great alternatives to Microsoft Office that you can use completely free.
The most well-known free Office suite is OpenOffice - it has been downloaded millions of times by users happy to take a free alternative to Microsoft's own suite.
OpenOffice is comprised of six powerful applications that you can load on as many PCs as you like - Writer (equivalent of Microsoft Word), Calc (Excel), Impress (presentation program, similar to Powerpoint) and others.
These tools are straightforward to use and compatible with all common file formats.
Not to be outdone by Microsoft, Google has a suite of editing tools in the form of Google Docs, and they're free to use if you have a Google account.
These tools are based online - you don't have to buy installation discs or even install software to your PC. It's possible to use them entirely in a web browser.
You'll need a Google account to get started with Google Docs (if you have a Gmail or YouTube account, you can log on with these). Google Docs doesn't have all of the features of Office, but it's handy for collaborating with others on documents - sveral people can access an edit a document and track each other's changes.
Read our full review of Google Drive, Google's online storage and editing platform
Somewhat surprisingly, one of the best free alternatives to Microsoft Office comes from Microsoft itself.
SkyDrive is Microsoft's Cloud Storage service - it lets you store files, photos and documents online in the cloud. For smaller amounts of storage (up to 7GB), you don't have to pay a thing, though there are annual fees for higher storage allowances.
Best of all, Skydrive lets you create, save and edit Word and Excel files for free using its web apps. This means you don't even need to install a program to your computer, though you'll need a Hotmail, Outlook.com or Live.com
Read our full review of Microsoft Skydrive cloud storage