Microsoft Office has been the go-to productivity suite for individuals and businesses for decades. It remains one of the most widely-used solutions today, thanks to its features and offerings. However, despite its dominance, Microsoft’s suite of productivity apps is not for everyone.
If you’re looking for a Microsoft Office alternative to cut down on costs, find better solutions that fit your needs, or just avoid Microsoft products altogether, you’re in luck! These days, there are many Microsoft Office competitors that can give the longtime leader a run for its money
In this article, we look at 5 of the best Office alternatives and guide you through how to pick the right one to help you through grad school. Let’s get started!
Our Top 5 MS Office Alternatives
- Google Workspace – Best Microsoft Office Alternative Overall
- Office Online (Microsoft) – Best Cloud-Based Solution for Microsoft Users
- iWork (Apple) – Best for macOS and iOS Users
- OpenOffice – Best Free Microsoft Office Alternative Overall
- WPS Office – An Ad-Supported Multi-Platform MS Office Alternative
Why Use a Microsoft Office Alternative?
There are a few reasons why you might prefer to use an MS Office alternative instead, such as:
- Cost – Microsoft Office isn’t cheap, with one-time purchases of perpetual licenses costing $149.99 for a single PC or Mac. Microsoft 365 subscriptions start at $6.99/month for the personal plan and $9.99/month for the family plan. Learn more about MS Office pricing here.
- Performance – An easy reason to seek an alternative is that you aren’t pleased with MS Office’s performance. Perhaps you keep getting errors, or things are running too slow too often.
- User-friendliness – MS Office is relatively easy to pick up, but learning some of the more advanced features of each of its apps can be a confusing endeavor.
- Lack of features – Although MS Office apps are stuffed to the brim with features, there’s always a chance you can find a feature missing.
- For easier collaboration – Some productivity suites make it much easier to seamlessly collaborate with others on the same file.
Is a Microsoft Office Substitute Worth the Cost?
Often, it can be! After all, how can you beat the price of free? On this list, we’ve included a few options, all competing for the title of best freeware Microsoft Office alternative. Of course, not every alternative is available for free. In some cases, you may find you can pay about as much as you would for Microsoft Office itself. Generally, alternatives are worth it if they provide the features you need. However, it still falls to you to decide whether a particular substitute is worth it or not.
5 Best Alternatives to Microsoft Office
1. Google Workspace – Best Microsoft Office Alternative Overall
Our Rating: 4.25/5
- Any computer with a modern browser and an internet connection
- iOS, iPadOS, Android
- Free forever plan allows use of any Google Workspace app and comes with 15GB of free storage
- Business Starter plan – $4.20 per user/month for new accounts and $6 per user/month for previous customers
- Business Standard plan – $9.60 per user/month for new accounts and $6 per user/month for previous customers
- Business Plus plan – $18 per user/month
- Enterprise — contact sales
- More information here
Google Workspace, known formerly as G Suite, is our choice for the best Microsoft Office Alternative Overall. This productivity suite includes Gmail, Google Meet/Chat, Google Docs, Google Slides, Google Sheets, and Google Forms, with all of them connected to your Google Drive cloud storage solution. The cloud-based Google Workspace allows you to use the suite anytime, anywhere, provided you have a modern browser and an internet connection. It does have an offline mode, but it isn’t the most reliable. Google Workspace also offers easy and instant collaboration.
Perhaps the only thing you’d notice switching to this suite from MS Office is the lack of a MS Access equivalent and the fact that Google Sheets can’t do everything MS Excel can. But the fact that you can use pretty much everything for free (unless you want more storage or want a business account) pretty much has us sold.
On Spammers and Google’s Inaction
Quite honestly, we would’ve happily given Google Workspace as close to five stars as we could, save for one annoying and unacceptable thing: the spam.
If spammers get ahold of the email address you use for Google Drive, they get free rein to send you pretty much whatever they wish. Some users (including this editor) complain about receiving anywhere from one to five shared files or folders each and every day. The shared files could be explicit photos, phishing attempts, links to illicit websites, and more. These shared files and folders get added right to your Google Drive or Photos — and you can’t do anything about it.
Google only recently added their report and block feature that allows you to report spam and then block the sender. This works great if you’re getting spam from one account, but in most cases, spam comes from different email addresses every time. It is unacceptable that in 2022, Google has yet to implement a basic and necessary privacy feature that lets you limit who can share files with you.
Nevertheless, if you don’t mind the potential daily spam, Google Workspace truly does offer a productivity suite that almost completely rivals Microsoft’s.
- 15GB free storage with a free plan
- All Google Workspace apps are available entirely for free
- Works on any computer with a modern browser
- Has apps on iOS and Android for on-the-go productivity
- You can’t do anything about the spam if you start getting it
- Offline features are limited and at times unreliable
- Paying for higher-tiered plans can get quite price
2. Office Online (Microsoft) – Best Cloud-Based Solution for Microsoft Users
Our Rating: 4.5/5
Platforms: Any computer with a modern browser and an internet connection
Pricing: FREE; For more features you can subscribe to Microsoft 365
Microsoft’s Office Online is more like a competitor to Google Workspace in that it offers a cloud-based productivity suite alongside some storage. You get 7GB of cloud storage for free, as well as a fully-online version of MS Word, MS Excel, MS Powerpoint, and of course, OneNote.
Office Online is an excellent free Office alternative for anyone who needs a simple solution, as the freeware Microsoft Office alternative’s apps are limited in features.
- 100% free
- Works perfectly on any computer with a browser and internet
- Available for free on Android/iOS devices with screens smaller than 10.1”
- Limited features
3. iWork (Apple) – Best for macOS and iOS Users
Our Rating: 4.3/5
Platforms: macOS, iOS, iPadOS
If you’re deeply entrenched in the Apple ecosystem, you’ve probably already heard of iWork, Apple’s Microsoft Office equivalent. There are only three apps — Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. However, all three work on all compatible computers and devices (more information here). You can sync your files over iCloud and continue working on any device. Perhaps our main complaint about iWork is the apps feel somewhat limited.
- Syncs via iCloud so you can continue working on any device
- 100% free
- Cleaner and simpler interface is more user-friendly
- Works with MS Office file types
- Only three apps available
- Limited features
Download Pages | Numbers | Keynote on MacOS
4. OpenOffice – Best Free Microsoft Office Alternative Overall
Our Rating: 4.5/5
Platforms: Official apps on Windows and macOS; third-party ports on Android and iOS
OpenOffice is another 100% free Microsoft Office alternative. It’s easily the leading open-source alternative, and dedicated volunteers continue to support OO’s apps to keep them up to date. Apache OpenOffice offers alternatives like Writer, Impress, Calc, Draw, Math, and Base.
Apache OpenOffice does not have official iOS or Android apps. However, there are some third-party ports developed by other volunteers that allow you to use OpenOffice on your mobile devices. You can see the third-party ports here.
- 100% free
- Tools in the OpenOffice suite get regular support and updates from dedicated volunteer contributors
- Does work with the majority of Microsoft’s file types
- Can sometimes feel unpolished
- Not as full-featured as some alternatives on this list
5. WPS Office – An Ad-Supported Multi-Platform MS Office Alternative
Platforms: Windows, Linux, macOS, web, iOS, Android
- Free but ad-supported, 1GB cloud storage only
- WPS Premium (ad-free and more features)
- $18.99 for six months
- $29.99 for one year
- Contact sales for WPS Business pricing
WPS Office is a somewhat new MS Office alternative from Kingsoft, a developer based in China. It’s well-designed, organized, and intuitive, allowing for easy use even for the less tech-savvy.
You can use WPS Office entirely for free if you don’t mind the limited 1GB cloud storage and the occasional ads. If you’d like to remove the ads, you can pay for a six-month or year-long subscription, which also adds features like 20GB of cloud storage, OCR (optical character recognition), and a PDF editor.
WPS Office will work on just about any operating system, as there are native apps for Windows, Linux, macOS, iOS, and Android. However, you can also use WPS Office on any computer with a modern browser and an internet connection.
- Available for free if you don’t mind ads
- Works on practically any platform
- Organized and intuitive user interface
- Ads on free version (many competing free alternatives have no ads
- Free version only offers 1GB storage
How We Chose Our Top 5
To put together this list of the top 5 best MS Office alternatives, we gave each option a try. We gave each suite a fair shake by downloading or using them in the cloud for a few days each, just to get a general feel of how they performed. We also considered a few factors, such as:
- A suite’s price and whether it was available entirely for free, ad-supported, or through a premium subscription or license purchase
- Platform compatibility and just how easy it would be to use the suite across various operating systems and devices
- Which file formats the alternative can work with, and whether it is capable of opening (and editing) Microsoft file extensions such as .doc and .docx
- How user-friendly the suite is, and how appealing and intuitive the user interface is
Of course, we also looked at how well each alternative performed and how easy or difficult it is to collaborate using the tools included.
How to Choose the Best Microsoft Office Alternative for You
There are a few things to look at as you select the right Microsoft Office alternative for your needs. Consider the criteria below:
- User-friendliness and ease of use – Not all productivity suites are built equally. Some are more intuitive and user-friendly, allowing even beginners and less tech-savvy users to get started and comfortable in no time. You may want to find an alternative that you can intuit or learn without much hassle, especially considering grad school is likely extremely busy.
- Collaboration capabilities – If you know you’ll need to work on files with others, you may want to look for an Office alternative with features for collaboration. Although the old-school way of sharing files can work, using a cloud-based solution can be much more convenient for all.
- Security – It’s always a good idea to look into productivity suites that offer built-in features for protecting your data and any sensitive information. Avoid alternatives that seem sketchy, and always make sure you download your apps only from the official channels.
- File compatibilities – There’s nothing more frustrating than sharing a file with someone only to have them tell you they can’t open it. As you consider the best MS Office alternative for you, look into which file types are supported by each option to ensure you’ll be able to send files and edit received files without issue.
- Operating system compatibilities – You may want to consider whether a productivity suite is compatible with your devices in particular. Make sure that you can download and install a suite onto your computer, whether you are using a Mac or Windows machine. Consider whether you also want to be able to install versions on your phone or tablet for use on the go. Some alternatives offer cross-compatibility and universal syncing, so you can work on any device and pick up where you left off on another device.
- Included tools – Not everyone will need all the apps offered with Microsoft Office, and the same applies when it comes to alternatives. If you know you’ll only really need one to three apps out of an entire suite, is there really any need to pay for all of the programs? Of course, this isn’t as much of a concern if you choose to use an Office open source alternative, as you won’t need to pay for anything anyway.
- Storage space – We’ve put this criterion last as it is generally only considered when it comes to cloud-based productivity suites. If you’re considering a cloud-based solution, it’s always a good idea to look into how much storage space you get for free. You might also want to look into whether storage space is scalable, so you can purchase more storage if need be.
Of course, one of the biggest things you may want to consider is an alternative’s cost. As a grad student, there’s a pretty good chance you might want to cut back on costs as much as possible. Set an amount you’re willing to spend, even if it’s zero, and stick to your budget!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best alternative for MS office?
The best alternative depends on your needs and whether you are looking for a personal solution or one to share with a team or business. Nevertheless, there are a few universally great options you can try, such as Google Workspace, Apple’s iWork, and LibreOffice.
What is a free substitute for Microsoft Office?
If you’re looking for a free Microsoft Office alternative, you can try Office Online, a fully cloud-based albeit rather limited alternative from Microsoft itself. There’s also Google Workspace, which includes famous Google apps like Google Docs, Sheets, and more. If you’re a Mac user, you can use the iWork suite that comes with your machine. Finally, if you want to download apps and work from your desktop, try LibreOffice.
Although MS Office will likely remain king of the hill when it comes to productivity suites for the foreseeable future, it is not the only solution available. If you don’t want to spend too much on a perpetual MS Office license or a yearly subscription, you can choose a Microsoft Office alternative instead. There are many options to choose from, including cloud-based and desktop app solutions available for free or for purchase.
We hope that our list of the 5 best alternatives to MS Office helps you find the right productivity suite for you. If you feel there are some alternatives we’ve missed, please feel free to tell us in a comment below!
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Chriselle has been a passionate writer for over 10 years, working with many publications worldwide. She currently writes for Productivity Spot, The Grad Cafe, and Hackr.io, among others.