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Best Microsoft Office Alternatives

Though Microsoft Office is the 800-pound gorilla of productivity software, it's not the best choice for every home or business user. Some people find that the cost, which runs from $70 a year for a single-user home license to $8.25 per employee per month for a small business, is too high. Others just want a better collaboration and cloud experience or stronger desktop publishing features than Office offers.

Whatever your reason for ditching Office, you have several strong choices. All of these office suites are capable of reading and writing to Microsoft Office file formats, though some are more compatible than others.

To help you choose, we've evaluated the top five Microsoft Office alternatives, ranging from Google's low-cost, web-based apps to the attractive freemium WPS Office and Corel's pricey but powerful WordPerfect Office.

Best Overall: Google Apps

Rating: 4.5 Stars
Price: Free / $5 per user per month

Google's Apps for Work Suite is our favorite Office alternative, because it offers real-time collaboration and syncing capabilities that beat Microsoft at its own game. If you're working on documents with other people, you'll love being able to edit the same documents at the same time and watching their words appear as soon as they hit the keys, a capability Microsoft only offers to some Word 2016 subscribers.

As long as you are online when editing documents, your changes are saved to the cloud constantly and a complete revision history is available at all times, meaning that you should never lose your work.

Compatibility: Google Apps does a good job importing DOCX and PPTX files and converting those into documents inside Apps. Complex Word and PowerPoint files will need to be checked and perhaps tweaked, but the majority of your files should make the jump fairly easily.

Spreadsheet files are a different story. Google's Sheets app is behind Excel and competitors in the features and functions race. Be prepared to recreate any spreadsheets that use much more than arithmetic functions.

Familiarity: Apps offers a clean, functional interface stripped of the bloat that infects so many other programs and their menus. That means little or nothing will be familiar when word processing, making presentations or creating spreadsheets. Those already using Gmail (and there are millions of you) may have a slight advantage. But the Apps tend to be more minimalist than Gmail.

Intangibles: Google's Apps are free for individuals, and $5 or $10 per month per user for your company. You'll live in your browser, a different feeling than a typical office suite. And though you can cache them for offline editing, your files will be out there on Google's servers, rather than in your computer or your data center, which can take some getting used to.

Best Desktop Office Alternative: WPS Office 2016

Rating: 4 stars
Price: Free or $45 / year

WPS Office 2016 bills itself as the "World's most advanced free office suite for Windows PC." Even better, it runs on Macs, Linux and tablets as well. And it looks so much like Office at times you'll forget what you're using. Even better, the suite offers a few helpful features you won't find in Microsoft Office, including tabbed documents, the ability to change the color and style of the UI and a pleasant "Eye Protection Mode," which turns the background green to go easier on your peepers.

Compatibility: WPS doesn't just import Office files; it reads and writes the ones you have without a problem. We only noticed the smallest issues when using WPS on Office files, none of which took more than a moment to resolve.

Familiarity: The Ribbon menu looks better in many ways than the one you see in Microsoft Office. You'll think Office got a refresh. If you don't like the Ribbon, WPS takes but a single click to switch the interface back to the static menus so beloved by some they still clutch tightly to Office 2003.

Intangibles: WPS has a free version, which makes you view ads if you use some of its more advanced features such as Mail Merge or PDF exporting. To avoid the ads, you'll need to spend $45 per year per user, or $80 for a lifetime license. Those prices are far under Microsoft's, but that's still some bucks. Maybe getting free versions for all your mobile devices will help ease the pain.

Most Powerful: WordPerfect Office X8

Rating: 4 stars
Price: $195

Your gray hairs tingle at the mention of WordPerfect, right? Once the undisputed leader in word processing, multiple corporate mistakes slid this program slowly out of sight. But WordPerfect has forged a path apart from Microsoft Office by focusing on the legal market, and added some nice features that Office has yet to produce.

Compatibility: Do not buy WordPerfect if Office file format compatibility is important. Buy WordPerfect because you need a workhorse that doesn't care it looks different and acts different than the market leader. If your files stay inside your company, WordPerfect can improve your office suite production in several ways.

Familiarity: Not much, since it makes no effort to feel or act like Microsoft Office. And there have been so many improvements that users from the past who loved WordPerfect won't recognize it.

Intangibles: Unapologetically different, but powerful and complete. In several ways, Office lags behind WordPerfect. In market share, WordPerfect is in the same scrum as LibreOffice and OpenOffice. Unlike the free Open Source Software options, WordPerfect is just as expensive as Office, but it might be a bit better.

LibreOffice 5

Rating: 3.5 stars
Price: Free

This OpenOffice sibling, split by a corporate divorce, may be gaining in popularity, but it's a close race. Not much separates the two. Updates come faster, it's a bit more colorful, and most Linux distributions now include LibreOffice in place of OpenOffice.

Compatibility: LibreOffice may be very slightly better able to handle some Office documents that OpenOffice struggles to embrace. This isn't a big problem: basic and moderately involved documents will be no problem, either, and LibreOffice may handle a small percentage of complicated Office files slightly better.

Familiarity: The look of Office 2003 lives on with a makeover. Menus are where you expect and do what you expect. All the nostalgic goodies described with OpenOffice are here, a bit more colorfully.

Intangibles: The other major Free and Open Source Software headliner, LibreOffice, seems just a bit more polished than OpenOffice. And there is at least one big feature added: Remote Files. This makes it easier to store and retrieve files on remote services like Google Drive and SharePoint servers. Not a huge deal, but handy for SharePoint users and a few others.

Cool other feature? Auto-word completion in LibreOffice can really save some typing time once you get used to it. This handy feature, along with the Remote Files capability, should persuade you to check out LibreOffice before OpenOffice.

Apache OpenOffice 4.1.2

Rating: 3.5 stars
Price: Free

One of the two major free and fully featured Office alternatives, OpenOffice 4.1 looks like Microsoft just forgot to upgrade after Office 2003. No Ribbon interface, no collaboration beyond comments and track changes, and few compatibility issues.

Compatibility: OpenOffice will read and write Office files just as they are. Not quite as compatible as WPS Office, OpenOffice does a good job on the majority of Office files. Only the most complex will cause problems.

Familiarity: The interface is totally compatible with Office 2003 – if you liked that menu structure, you'll love OpenOffice. All the keystroke shortcuts you remember will work. Features are where you expect to find them.

Intangibles: Free and Open Source Software means just that: free. Linux versions of OpenOffice make it easy for Linux and Windows PC users to coexist in the same office working on the same files. That can be a nice situation. But LibreOffice, its software sibling, looks fresher and has a couple of small advantages.