The best free Microsoft Office alternatives of 2017

Battle of the free office suites.

Credit: Rob Schultz

Microsoft Office is the king of office productivity suites, but it doesn’t inspire warm, fuzzy feelings in all users. Parsing the ever-expanding list of features—many of which you’ll never use—can feel like stepping into a cockpit without a pilot’s license. The ribbon interface, introduced a decade ago, has many fans, but others pine for the static menus of the early aughts. And then there’s Office’s hefty price tag.

Fortunately, alternatives abound, ranging from web apps to freemium and open source desktop installations, many of which are compatible with Microsoft Office docs. We compared six of the most popular free office suites to see how well they replicate the most commonly used features of Microsoft Office.

Best overall Microsoft Office alternative: Kingsoft WPS Office 2016

Kingsoft’s WPS Office 2016 delivers the most Office-like experience of all the suites we tried. Built around its own versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, it offers excellent compatibility with all Microsoft Office formats and features a customizable interface that can be tailored to your preference for either the ribbon toolbar or the static menus of Office 2003. It’s also the only desktop suite in our roundup that included integrated cloud storage for easily sharing and collaborating on files. (Read our full review.)

Runner up: Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides

Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides simply can’t be beat for collaboration. Its document review features and integration with Google Drive make it our go-to solution for anyone who routinely needs to co-author documents with others in real time. It also has tight ties with other Google products, including, of course, search, giving it capabilities you won’t find in any other office suite. Its relatively spartan interface is a welcome respite from Office’s busy toolbars, too. (Read our full review.)

What to look for in a Microsoft Office alternative

When evaluating Office alternatives, don’t look to replicate every feature, just the ones you need and use most. Depending on your situation, that could be robust spreadsheet calculations and dynamic presentation design or the ability to access files from anywhere and share them with remote team members. At minimum, keep these considerations in mind:

  • The big three: Though Microsoft Office has expanded over the years to include programs like Outlook, Access, and Publisher, its bread and butter is still its original trio of programs: Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. That’s because nearly everyone uses these three apps regardless of the nature of their work. For many of us, they are the only three we need in a suite.
  • Office compatibility: Most of the working world will continue to use Microsoft Office long after you’ve jumped ship. That means you’ll still have to work with official Office files. Look for a suite that can cleanly read and write Microsoft Office formats, from the current DOCX, XLSX, and PPTX file types to legacy formats.
  • Interface: The way you access an office suite’s features matters as much as the features themselves. Polarized opinions about Office’s ribbon toolbar underscore this. Make sure you’re comfortable with the way a suite lays out its tools and that you don’t have to dig too deeply for those you’ll use a lot.
  • Collaboration capability: The irony that we still rely on “office” suites when many of us no longer work in physical offices means the ability to collaborate remotely with others is now a required feature. If you don’t want to have to email documents back and forth for editing—which can play havoc with version control —you’ll need an alternative that includes cloud support for easily sharing files and ideally the ability to co-author (i.e. make edits and comments on a document) in real time.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags microsoft officemicrosoft wordWord Processing

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

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?