Microsoft Office Alternatives: 10 Rockin' Word Processors

Microsoft Office may be the dominant suite for office productivity software, but it sure isn't the only option. We show you 10 word processing alternatives that just might be better suited for your business.

  • Adobe Buzzword: If you don't mind the depressing user interface (what is it with Adobe and black UIs anyway?), [[xref:|Buzzword]] is worth a look. Adobe bills it as the first Web-based word processor, but it's not. It's the first Flash-based word processor, and that brings some advantages over Google Docs, such as WYSIWYG printing, great image/text flow abilities and a smooth, fast 3-D interface. Other plusses include strong collaboration, online/offline synchronization and great PDF support ('natch).

  • ThinkFree Office: This is your office on Java. From a features/functionality standpoint, [[xref:|ThinkFree Office]] should be the leading contender for enterprise use. It's the only product in this roundup (besides Microsoft Office itself) that provides a Microsoft-compatible suite plus the multi-user backend collaboration, Web, mobile and enterprise services larger shops need. It also offers a rich API for developers to integrate document editing and viewing into the IT infrastructure, webmail, blogs, storage, groupware, ERP and CRM platforms.

  • Many users hate [[xref:|the new Ribbon user interface]], which is sending them running into the arms of alternatives. The classic "File | Edit | Options" menu structure you memorized is gone, and no "classic mode" can bring it back. The time knowledge workers and writers put into knocking out documents is now spent poking through the Ribbon in often futile efforts to find once-familiar commands.

  • gOffice: [[xref:|gOffice]] isn't really a replacement for Microsoft Office, but rather, a useful (and free) gap-filler. To take Microsoft Office on the road, you have to use a Windows Mobile phone. iPhone and BlackBerry users are out of luck. gOffice puts them back in the game with a simple yet functional mobile word processer. Tap out your document, e-mail it or send it via regular postal mail (for a fee).

  • OpenOffice 3.0: The leading contender. This new version is the most serious threat to Microsoft Office's dominance. Polished and professional, [[xref:|OpenOffice]] supports nearly all Microsoft Office's functionality, at an unbeatable price: $0.00. It retains the classic command structure, so anyone familiar with older Office versions feels at home. OpenOffice handles all Microsoft Office files, including Office 2007's "X" formats—with native Mac OS integration, workbook sharing and a spiffier user interface. Costs nothing, requires no training and does the job. What's not to like?

  • AbiWord 2.6: If all a team needs is world-class word processing (law firms, anyone?), the open-source [[xref:|AbiWord]] is the answer. It's free, it's compatible with Word, WordPerfect, and OpenOffice, it installs in seconds (just 6 megabytes) and it doesn't push any extras, such as spreadsheets, presentations, databases and startup apps. The cross-platform AbiWord has a killer mail merge, optional command-line for document automation and an open plug-in API to extend or integrate the software.

  • Corel WordPerfect Office X4: Were it free, [[xref:|WordPerfect X4]] would top OpenOffice as the leading contender. This just-upgraded classic remains cost-competitive and compatible with Microsoft Office, OpenOffice and Adobe PDF. It's the only application with a "Microsoft mode" to emulate Office menus and keyboard layouts, an e-mail client with Outlook-class power and a mountain of fonts and clip art. Macro fiends will prefer its automation features over OpenOffice. And it's still the dominant word processor in law firms.

  • Addintools Classic Menus for Office 2007: When Microsoft declared the Ribbon the future of the UI, third-party vendors rushed to fill the void. Most classic menu add-ins out there, however, are unstable and poorly supported. [[xref:|Addintools Classic Menus]] bucks this trend, with a polished installer, seamless integration, impeccable reproduction of the classic Office experience and great tech support. If corporate standards prevent alternatives to Office 2007, get the last laugh with Addintools' Classic Menus.

  • Zoho Office: [[xref:|Zoho]] takes the online suite concept to its logical extreme. Its rich feature set should satisfy demanding users, while providing stronger sharing and collaboration than does Google Docs. The cost for this additional capability is increased complexity, but this shouldn't be an issue if you're used to Microsoft Office. Like Google Docs, Zoho can use Google Gears to optionally install a local version that allows users to work offline.

  • Google Docs: Organizations with simple content development requirements, or those who need occasionally to collaborate on documents, should consider [[xref:|Google Docs]]. A free service that works through a Web browser, Google Docs provides a functional but minimalist approach to documents, spreadsheets, presentations and forms. Collaboration is its "suite spot," and there's probably no easier or more cost-effective way to share and work collaboratively. The caveat: Its file management capabilities don't scale well.

  • Atlantis Word Processor: Take one part Microsoft Office, one part OpenOffice, roll in the ability to load and run securely from a USB drive, and you have found [[xref:|Atlantis]]. This small, fast and innovative word processor looks and feels like a mash-up of Office 2003 and OpenOffice 3.0, but the similarities end there. Features like built-in 256-bit encryption, automated backup and portability make Atlantis a great choice for law enforcement, law firms and (ahem) politicians.

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