5 Alternatives to Expensive Office Software


Ryan Ong



People should be more appreciative of Microsoft and Apple’s challenging word games. It takes a special kind of sadist to design levels that hard. “Uh, you’re using their word processor.” Hah, good one. Have you tried using “track changes”? That’s the most impossible boss fight since Shinobi. If software was unintentionally this hard to use, they’d never be able to charge money for it. And these free alternatives would rule the world:


1. Google Drive

This is a lifesaver for small start-ups. Without Google Drive, their only options are: Buy multiple copies of MS (Microsoft) Office, or use MS Home.

The former is expensive. And using the latter for office work has been described as “hell”, which is wrong. (No one in hell uses MS Home, because even Satan isn’t that cruel).

Google Drive is free, and has a range of utilities, like:

Google Documents – This online word processor works with almost anything: Files can be downloaded as Word, OpenOffice, RTF, PDF, and HTML.  Documents can be shared with select people, who can collaborate to edit and add comments.

There may not be as many functions as MS Word, but all the basics (font, spacing, revision history, etc.) are there.

Google Spreadsheets – Like MS Excel, but doesn’t require a manual that can anchor battleships.

Again, this works with almost anything (supports .xls, .csv, .txt., and .ods data). You get most of the basic spreadsheet functions, like automatic collation of numbers, formula editing, etc. You can’t run an accountancy firm with this, but it’s good  enough for small business ledgers.

Google Forms – These are for online surveys, notes, etc. that can be shared from a link. You can also embed said forms on your website or blog.

Google Presentations – A more basic version of MS PowerPoint. You lose the fancier, but there’s enough to make a basic slideshow. Files can be be downloaded as PDFs, PowerPoint files, and more.

To access this service, just click the “Drive” tab when you next open up Gmail.


2. Apache OpenOffice


Two people at laptop, with windows logo behind them
“Launch dates?! It’s called Windows 2,000 because that’s the number of people who actually need it”


Apache OpenOFfice is a free alternative to MS Office, and was around long before Google Drive. It’s an open source software suite, so think if it as a “by the people, for the people” product.

Like Google Drive, most of the software in Apache OpenOffice will work with MS Office. Some utilities are:

Writer – A counterpart to MS Word. This word processor saves files in 12 different formats, including HTML and Text. Almost any function you’ll find in MS Word can be found here.

Calc – Counterpart to MS Excel. It may take some getting used to, so your accountant won’t be overjoyed. But once you get the hang of it, this software will do anything Excel can.

Maths – Used for writing mathematical equations. You can also insert said equations as objects in Writer. This is mostly useful if you’re doing something finance related, and need to put up a formula for amortized loans or something.

You can download Apache OpenOffice here.



GIMP is a free alternative to image manipulation software, like Photoshop. So graphic designers and photographers, take note.

GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It lets you re-touch photos, convert image files, and even render. Oh, and it can also do the job of MS Paint (take up drive space and provide 5 minutes of entertainment). Other features include:

  • Dynamic brushes
  • Filters and special effects
  • Perspective clone
  • Layers and tabbed palettes

GIMP is great for freelance illustrators and photographers. Download it here.


4. Asana


String can telephone
Wait, the free software is an upgrade? What exactly’s your budget?


Usually, when I see software named after a yoga pose, I run. I’ve heard a lot about yoga, but it doesn’t seem to inspire words like “easy” or “painless”. So Asana was a surprise.

This is a team-based, task management software. It lets you set objectives for multiple team members, and then track everyone’s progress in real time. This makes sure team members have the big picture (they can easily see who’s doing what), and that the slackers get caught out.

Team members can not only see task progress, they can send new tasks to other members (if the one running the account agrees). So yeah, now we can tick off objectives almost as fast as we do colleagues.

Asana also caters to people with a passing interest, but aren’t directly involved in the project. There’s a follow button, which alerts them as objectives are met / changed.

If your team’s driving you nuts, download and try Asana here.


5. Ubuntu


Ubuntu screen
“Sure it’s smart. When you click on Internet Explorer, it swears at you and opens Chrome instead.”


Ubuntu is a free operating system, in case you’re tired of Windows or whatever cat species Apple is preaching. Besides, when the budget’s tight, who can afford $250+ for an OS?

Simplicity is a major benefit of Ubuntu: Just click on the logo, and it opens up the Dash. From here, you can search for (and run) almost any application. Way better than cluttering up a desktop, or manually hunting down files. And yes, Ubuntu can handle almost every program that Windows or OS-Whatever can.

Ubuntu also comes with access to Ubuntu One Cloud Storage. This gives you 5 GB of free storage space. And as a further bonus, some pundits insist viruses and Malware are less common when you use Ubuntu.

You can download and try Ubuntu here.

Image Credits: Dell’s Official Flickr Page, windowsau, garryknight, vijavinen

What free software do you use? Comment and let us know!


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Ryan Ong

I was a freelance writer for over a decade, and covered topics from music to super-contagious foot diseases. I took this job because I believe financial news should be accessible and fun to read. Also, because the assignments don't involve shouting teenagers and debilitating plagues.