You don’t need Microsoft Office

This article was originally printed in my ‘Ask a Geek’ column in our local Mount Vernon Register-News. Please feel free to email me at askageek [at] register-news [dot] com if you have suggestions, criticism, thanks, hate mail, or whatever. Thanks for your time.

I should really say you probably don’t need Office. Some businesses need Office because it is the only suite that will work with some programs. So, other than those rare exceptions, let’s move on.

Most everyone has used Microsoft Word and Excel. They are great programs that can help get work done easily and efficiently. What most people don’t realize is that there are several free options to both of these programs to help you get work and homework done without wasting money. is my personal favorite productivity suite. It is free for public use and includes replacements of Word, Excel, Access, and PowerPoint. I have not had any issues in my two-plus years of using OpenOffice as my choice for replacement of Microsoft Office. OpenOffice will even open MS Office documents and save as MS Office files. OpenOffice can recover documents from a crash similarly to Office if needed. I am pretty sure I’m not the only user who has had Word and Excel crash for no reason. OpenOffice has not done that once to me (yet).

An online option to avoid buying Office would be to use Google Docs. Docs is free to use as well, and should meet an average user’s needs quite easily. Google also allows you to share your creations with friends or coworkers by simply sending them a link to the document.

To use Docs you should have a fast internet connection, it requires a lot of traffic between your computer and Google. Docs will automatically save your document every few minutes, so all is not lost if you lose your internet connection. Google Docs is quite good at being a replacement unless you require access to documents when you are not online.

Abiword is a completely free word processing program that is similar to Microsoft’s Word. This program will work with Word files and save as Word files as well. It is a great program for making documents. I find the interface simple and intuitive. If you are just looking to make text documents, you should give Abiword a look. It doesn’t cost a thing, and could be a great find for you as it was me.

Those are a few suggestions for replacing or just not buying Microsoft’s Office suite. The replacements aren’t always perfect, but neither is Office.