Best Free and Open Source Alternatives to Microsoft

Best Free and Open Source Alternatives to Microsoft Office

Microsoft’s stance for decades was that community creation and sharing of communal code (later to be known as free and open source software) represented a direct attack on their business. Their battle with Linux stretches back many years. Back in 2001, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer famously tarnished Linux “a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches”. Microsoft also initiated its “Get the Facts” marketing campaign from mid-2003, which specifically criticized Linux server usage, total cost of ownership, security, indemnification and reliability. The campaign was widely criticized for spreading misinformation.

However, in recent years, there has been a partial shift by Microsoft to embrace the open source software paradigm. For example, some of their code is open sourced. Examples include Visual Studio Code, .NET Framework, Atom, and PowerShell. They have also made investments in Linux development, server technology and organizations including the Linux Foundation and Open Source Initiative. They have made acquisitions such as Xamarin to help mobile app development, and GitHub a hugely popular code repository for open source developers. And they have partnered with Canonical, the developers of the popular Ubuntu distro. But many developers remain hugely sceptical about Microsoft and their apparent shift to embrace open source.

This series looks at the best free and open source alternatives to products and services offered by Microsoft. This article focuses on the best free and open source alternatives to Microsoft Office.

Microsoft Office Microsoft Office, or simply Office, is a family of client software, server software, and services developed by Microsoft.

Microsoft has promoted Office 365 as the primary means of obtaining Microsoft Office. This is a subscription service.

What are the best open source alternatives to Office 365? This article focuses on replacements for only some of the components of Office 365. We’ll explore other components in later articles in this series.


1. LibreOffice

When it comes to open source open source office suites our strongest recommendation goes to LibreOffice. It provides Writer (word processing), Calc (spreadsheets), Impress (presentations), Draw (vector graphics and flowcharts), Base (databases), and Math (formula editing).

Users who’ve used Microsoft Office for years will appreciate that LibreOffice has made enorrmous strides in offering better compatibility with DOCX, XLSX, and PPTX files. For example, LibreOffice’s DOCX is saved in native 2013/2016/2019 mode.

Linux for Starters - LibreOffice Writer
Click image for full size

LibreOffice has native support for a modern and open standard, the Open Document Format (ODF). ODF 1.3’s most important new features are document digital signatures and OpenPGP-based XML document encryption. The new ODF also boasts improvements in change tracking, and elements first pages, text, numbers, and charts.

LibreOffice is available on all major desktop operating systems. Besides Linux, it runs under macOS, ChromeOS, and Windows.


2. OpenOffice

An alternative to LibreOffice is Apache OpenOffice. It’s also an open source software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more.

OpenOffice provides most features that Office provides but without any subscription charges. In addition, it runs on all platforms, not only on Windows.


All articles in this series:

Alternatives to Microsoft's Products and Services
GitHubDistributed version control and source code management functionality of Git
OneNoteNote-taking program for free-form information gathering and collaboration
ProjectDevelop schedules, assign resource, track progress, manage budget +
YammerSocial-networking platform for organizations
BingSearch services, including web, video, image and map search products
OneDriveFile hosting service and synchronization service
OutlookPersonal information manager that's primarily an email client.
OfficeFamily of client software, server software, and services

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