Microsoft Office is the best known and the best office suite software. It also is the most expensive. There are free alternatives to Microsoft Office that are compatible with Microsoft Office applications. The three main ones are Google Drive, Libre Office and Open Office. Each has their own features and you would need to determine which is best for you if you choose to go the free route.
Google Drive formerly Google Docs is web based and requires you to have a Google account. You can use it when you are not online but there are certain constraints that you need to follow. For one you need to be using the Google Chrome browser. This should not be an issue because many (myself included) view Google Chrome as the best browser out there for accessing the internet. It is great for sharing files whether it is with selected people or with everyone. You can choose whether people can only view the file or edit it as well. You can collaborate in real time with others who have editing privileges as they can change the file contents while you are also working on it.
Libre Office first launched in September 2010 is the new kid on the block. When Open Office was purchased by Sun there was concern that Open Office would take a different path and perhaps not be free. This led to Libre Office. While there are many similarities, you can edit files in a Portable Document Format (PDF) in Libre Office but not Open Office or even Microsoft Office. It is not the most user friendly interface to do so but it can be done. Libre Office and Open Office have components for spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, word procession and database. Google Drive does not currently support a data base application among its components.
Open Office is in essence the predecessor to Libre Office. As mentioned previous when Oracle purchased Open Office there was concern over the future direction of it. In 2011 Oracle donated Open Office to the Apache Software Foundation. There are many similarities between Open Office and Libre Office as noted above. Open Office is easier to download but you cannot edit PDF files using it. The interfaces for both are similar to Microsoft Office (MS Office). Open Office offers more Templates on its site than Libre Office but Libre Office offers more functionality by offering extensions. Per Wikipedia some notable users of Open Office are Singapore’s Ministry of Defense, and Banco do Brasil.
So do you continue to use Microsoft Office or do you switch and if so which do you use? From a personal standpoint being a power user who also uses Microsoft Office in my line of work as I now am also creating customized Excel spreadsheets I will continue using Microsoft Office. If you are not a power user of Microsoft Office and do not need to use it for work, using a free version is a viable alternative. The free versions offer approximately 75-90% of the features offered by MS Office. The features not offered in the free versions tend to be more advanced. I also find the three programs noted user friendly. The more expensive versions of MS Office include Outlook, Publisher, Access and OneNote. Access is a database program as Base in both Open Office and Libre Office are as well. Draw is an alternative to Publisher again in both Open Office and Libre Office. There are good free alternatives to OneNote and Outlook as well.
If you wish to know more about which Office Suite you should use or about saving time and even $$ from Microsoft Excel spreadsheets call me at (917) 572-3468 or email me at email@example.com