The best free office software can provide an alternative platform to the more familiar Word, PowerPoint and Excel apps of Microsoft Office.
For most users, Microsoft 365 (formerly known as Office 365) remains the original and best office suite, and it takes matters further with an online version that offers cloud backups and mobile use as required. Microsoft Word(opens in new tab), Excel(opens in new tab), Publisher(opens in new tab), Access(opens in new tab), Powerpoint(opens in new tab), and Outlook(opens in new tab) still remain key office apps.
Microsoft have now extended their 365 brand to Windows, in the form of Windows 365, a way of accessing your files on a majority of devices from the cloud.
However, over the years other companies have released rival office suites to help with productivity(opens in new tab), some of which is paid-for and some of which is free – sometimes with the same company offering both.
All of these alternatives to Microsoft Office(opens in new tab) offer a similar range of software applications, mainly based on creating and editing documents, spreadsheets, and presentations(opens in new tab).
However, while most offer the ability to work with traditional Microsoft Office documents, do be aware that not all will preserve formatting when exporting from or into Microsoft Office, which can be a problem when sending documents between different programs.
Even still, for home users and new businesses, the idea of being able to create, edit, manage, and organize office documents without incurring costs can be very welcome.
Here then are the best free office software apps currently available.
Microsoft 365 online
Microsoft’s desktop software carries a subscription fee, but the company has noticed the threat posed by Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) and created its own set of free online apps.
Microsoft 365 online looks and works just like its desktop equivalent, and although advanced tools like pivot tables are out of reach, but aren’t offered by Google either.
If you generally use Microsoft document formats, Office Online is a brilliant choice. Unlike Google’s free office suite, it doesn’t need to convert your files before you can work on them, and you can share them easily through your Microsoft OneDrive account. Just log in using your Microsoft account (the same one you use to log into Windows 10) and you’re ready to go.
There’s a version of Office Online for Chrome, plus mobile editions of Office for iOS and Android. You can also get office 2016 free download by clicking on this.
While Google Docs is, thanks to the strength of its brand, probably more widely used, Zoho Workplace is very good in its own right. It’s certainly closer to a desktop office package, and it’s strong enough to have attracted businesses like the BBC and Nike as regular users.
Zoho’s new-look word processor (which ditches the classic Word-style interface in favour of a formatting sidebar) is very well-presented and capable of producing professional-looking docs, and it has a sterling spreadsheet and reasonable presentation package alongside it.
They’re just the tip of the iceberg, however – Zoho Workplace includes a powerful site creation tool, a file management solution and many collaborative tools. Some are on the simplistic side, so they’ll likely not replace anything you might already have in place, but if you’re starting out as a small business Zoho is probably a good jumping-off point.
If you want to signup for the free version of Zoho Workplace you need to search the pricing page for the “Forever free” plan. However, there’s no one-click set up or access, and instead you have to go through a sign up process that begins by providing details of an existing business domain.
If you own a Samsung phone, you might already be familiar with the mobile version of Polaris Office. This cross-platform free office software is available for Windows, macOS, Android and iOS, and comes pre-installed on some Samsung handsets. It’s compatible with all Microsoft document formats, and offers a slick ribbon-based interface with some basic customization options.
Take care if you choose to install Windows version, you’ll see various additional pieces of bundled software, which could potentially include a browser extension from McAfee called WebAdvisor, a market research tool called PremierOpinion, and antivirus software. You can decline all of these – just keep an eye out.
You’ll then need to sign in with Facebook or Google, or create an account. This is necessary because Polaris Office is a cloud-based service. Your free Polaris account comes with 60MB monthly data transfer, 1GB cloud storage, and can be used across three devices (one desktop and two mobile). If that’s not enough space, you can connect Polaris Office to Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, Microsoft OneDrive and Amazon Cloud Drive – or save work locally to your device.
Upgrading to a premium Polaris account gives you access to extra features including a PDF editor, removes ads, and the ability to search within a document.