FreeOffice 2016 review: Office essentials for the budget-minded

Most of what you want, but with a few important omissions.

Credit: Michael Ansaldo/IDG

Price: Free

Platform: Windows, Linux

If you believe less is more, SoftMaker’s FreeOffice may the Office alternative for you. FreeOffice is the no-charge version of SoftMaker Office 2016 and offers its versions of Microsoft’s big three productivity apps in TextMaker (Word), PlanMaker (Excel), and Presentations (PowerPoint). It contains most of the features of the commercial product, but omits some key ones you can only get by upgrading to either SoftMaker Office Standard 2016 for $69.95 or SoftMaker Office Professional 2016 for $99.95. It’s available for Windows and Linux and has an Android companion app.

This review is part of our roundup of best Microsoft Office alternatives. Go there for details on competing products and buying advice.

Hands on

FreeOffice employs a static-menu interface that should feel comfy to users who preferred the pre-ribbon Office look. Tools are intuitively organized and all three apps have a clean-and-light feeling about them. It’s more than cosmetic, too, as FreeOffice is exceptionally fast, even when working with data-dense spreadsheets.

FreeOffice provides excellent compatibility with Open Document format, as used by LibreOffice and OpenOffice, as well as the full spectrum of Microsoft Office formats, including password-protected files. However, newer Office formats including DOCX, XLSX, and PPTX can only be opened—not saved—in the free version of the suite.

freeoffice Michael Ansaldo/IDG

FreeOffice can read—but not save—files in DOCX, XLSX, and PPTX formats.

All three apps include advanced features similar to those of their Microsoft counterparts, including PDF creation, pivot tables, and interactive presentation capabilities, to name a few. Some other desirable features—tabbed documents, a thesaurus function, the ability to save modern Office formats—are reserved for the pay product, though.

As with most free desktop suites, collaboration is where FreeOffice falls short of Office. It includes track-changes and commenting features, but with no cloud support you can’t co-edit documents with others in real time.

Standout features

  • Clean, fast interface
  • Excellent compatibility with lots of Office formats
  • Pivot tables and conditional formatting (PlanMaker)
  • Animations and slide transitions (Presentations)

Missing features

  • Cloud support
  • The ability to save modern Office formats

Google OfficeFree is best for:

In terms of both format compatibility and features, FreeOffice is a fantastic Office alternative for anyone concerned with just the three core programs. But the inability to save files in DOCX, XLSX, or PPTX formats keeps it from being a truly viable Office replacement. If that’s a deal breaker, you can still purchase one of the paid versions for a full Office-like experience.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Michael Ansaldo

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?