- Chuck Gray
Microsoft Office maybe the go-to suite for businessy type things, but goodness gracious, it is expensive! And copy-protected! A single-PC license for the most stripped-down version of Office, the Home & Student edition which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, runs $139.99. That’s for ONE PC and lord help you if you need to reinstall it at any point - you’ll likely end up on the line with Microsoft tech support trying to re-activate your legitimately-purchased software. You’ve also got the option of paying $400 (or as I like to call it, my grocery budget) for the full Office experience with all its bells and whistles . . . again, for one PC. Please. Have some free software, on me!
A variant of the OpenOffice suite, LibreOffice is a community-driven and supported productivity suite that has everything you need. The design may be more reminiscent of MS Office 2003 than 2013, but many would argue that’s not a drawback, and it’s got just as many features as Microsoft’s $400 behemoth.
If you’re looking for a sleeker experience with just the essentials (word processor, slideshow, and spreadsheet programs) Kingsoft is for you. It’s not open source like LibreOffice is, but tell the truth, you don’t really care, do you? You have the option of paying $50 for a version with a more Office 2013 interface, but there’s really no need, the free version will do for all your everyday productivity needs.
Formerly known as Google Docs, Drive is a one-stop web app for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, forms, and even simple graphics. If you’re a heavy user of the Google ecosystem, by which I mean Gmail, Google Calendar, maybe an Android smartphone, you should consider looking into Drive. You can use it to create, edit anywhere, and share with ease. It’s not nearly as powerful as the above solutions, but if all you need is the basic formatting tools, it’s hard to go wrong with Google Drive.