Techsperts Talks About is where you’ll find our favorite technology tips, tricks, and information. In this, our fourth post of the series, we’ll talk about the major players in the business software game—and which suite is right for you.
Whether you’re running a business or a school bake sale, chances are you need productivity software. Also known as office suites, these programs combine word processing applications with spreadsheets, presentation software, and (usually, although not always) database programs. Can you buy these items separately? Absolutely. But for reasons of convenience and compatibility, most users opt to have them as a package deal.
The undisputed heavyweight champ of the productivity software ring is Microsoft Office. Ubiquitous, sleek, and almost universally used as a standard suite, Office is familiar, easy to navigate, and extensively supported. It’s also expensive—at the time of this writing, a single license for Office 2013 Home and Business went for $166-$219 at Amazon. (Note: Microsoft strictly limits the cheaper Home and Student version to non-commercial use, making it a no-go for businesses of all sizes.) The pro version of MS Office had a whopping $289-$399 price tag.
Fortunately, there are a number of worthy competitors that offer similar functionality with a greatly reduced price tag, including, as it turns out, Microsoft itself.
Budget-Friendly Office Alternatives
Let’s start with a viable alternative to shelling out north of $200 for a standard MS Office License: Office 365. This is Microsoft’s cloud-based version of Office, used on a subscription basis. With prices for Home and Business starting at $5 to $15 per user, per month, it’s an attractive option for small businesses that don’t want to invest (and keep investing) in a high-priced office suite. (Note: Although the software is described as cloud-based, it installs on your PC, and you don’t need an Internet connection to run it.)
Another contender with similar pricing in the cloud software service is Google Apps for Business. We’ve completed an in-depth look at this program in our blog; check it out to see if Google Apps will work for you.
If cloud-based isn’t your thing, Corel’s WordPerfect Office X7 is a fully functional, fast alternative. It’s easier on your computer’s resources than MS Office, so if you’re running an older system, WordPerfect Office is a good starting point. You can download a free, 30-day trial to check it out.
WordPerfect Office X7 is compatible with MS Office, but not fully. It will open files and save them in docx and other MS Office formats, but saving files in these formats can result in some funky formatting. Still, unless you’re into design, it’s a small bother. Some commands, especially in the spreadsheet program, are different than Excel users are used to, but there’s a handy help guide to get users over the rough spots.
WordPerfect, while not cheap, is still less expensive than MS Office. On Amazon, the standard edition runs from $137 to $226, and the professional edition will make a $220 to $340 hole in your IT budget.
Free Office Alternatives
And then there are the freebies. While you’ll trade in some features and slick design, you can get a solid, working productivity suite for free—even if you’re using it for your business. LibreOffice and Apache OpenOffice are two of the best free office software programs available to businesses. (Kingsoft Office, another excellent program, is free only for personal use, but the business edition comes with an affordable $30-$70 price tag.) While these programs don’t have all the bells and whistles of Microsoft, they do have enough power to get you organized. You may also face compatibility problems with MS Office’s files, but a free converter program, like NCH Software’s Doxillion, can help you around them.
We hope you’ve enjoyed the Techsperts Talks About Series, but it’s not over yet! Our fifth and final post will show you where you can find reliable help when battling pesky minor PC issues.