We should really title this productivity suites – we think it goes a bit beyond your average ‘office suite’. Productivity suites are collections of productivity software such as word processors, spreadsheets, presentation programs, etc. Here I provide open-source or affordable alternatives to complete office suites such as Microsoft Office or iWork, as well as individual kinds of software. Always worth confirming documents and presentations you make when you open them with this software, some parts of the files have a tendency to move around so might not be exactly as originally intended. Over the years I’ve seen this change from version to version. And remember, perhaps the best way to learn more, if you have doubts or interest in learning something new, is to go to the site itself, read more, and try it out!
Description: OpenOffice is a free and open source productivity suite. OpenOffice includes individual word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, diagram, database, and mathematical applications.
Benefits: OpenOffice is fully functional and broadly compatible with other major office suites. OpenOffice supports the OpenDocument Format which is the new international standard for office documents based in XML. The OpenOffice interface also offers multiple languages and native language support.
Platforms: Available on Windows, Mac, Linux, and more.
Description: LibreOffice is a free and open source productivity suite. LibreOffice includes individual word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, drawing and flowcharting, database, and mathematical applications.
Benefits: LibreOffice is compatible with many document formats, including Microsoft Office formats, and supports the new standard OpenDocument Format as well. Easily extensible through powerful extensions mechanisms, LibreOffice can expand to include more features and templates. The LibreOffice interface also offers multiple languages and native language support.
Platforms: Available on Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Google Drive Apps
Description: Google offers a variety of free, cloud-based productivity apps through Google Drive, including Google Docs (word processor), Google Sheets (spreadsheet), Google Slides (presentation), and Google Drawings (drawing and flowcharting).
Benefits: The Google Drive productivity apps offer cloud-based storage, multi-platform support, and real-time multi-user editing and sharing. The apps are comprehensive and include many if not most of the same functions as their comparable proprietary applications (such as Microsoft Word). Google Drive offers large amounts of storage to individuals for free with their Google account. Documents created in Google Drive productivity apps can be exported to a range of formats.
Platforms: Available on most operating systems and many mobile devices; requires a web-browser and an internet connection unless desktop sync is enabled.
Description: AbiWord is a free word processing programme similar to Microsoft Word.
Benefits: AbiWord is suitable for a wide variety of word processing tasks and is available for a number of languages and operating systems.
Platforms: Available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Ubuntu.
The open source and free office suites mentioned above all come with comprehensive presentation software packages. The list below contains some free and affordable alternatives to software such as Microsoft PowerPoint and KeyNote.
Description: Prezi is presentation software that moves away from the traditional slide-based approach to a more dynamic, visual style of presentation.
Benefits: A free Prezi membership allows users to create presentations in their web-browser and on a variety of apps for desktop and mobile devices. Presentations made with free membership are always public. Prezi provides ready-made templates, allows the import of media such as videos and images, cloud storage, and supports collaboration.
Platforms: Available on Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. Free membership requires internet access.
Flowcharting and diagramming
Flowcharting and diagramming software allows users to create process flow diagrams and other similar images. The list here below contains stand-alone open source alternatives to proprietary flowcharting packages such as Microsoft Visio. Some of the office suites listed above also contain flowcharting and diagramming software.
Description: Office software packages can be prohibitively expensive, open source can provide an alternative. Dia is a free, dedicated diagram creation programme for Linux, Mac, Unix, and Windows.
Benefits: Dia can be used to draw many different kinds of diagrams. It offers a range of tools such as special objects to help draw entity relationship diagrams, flowcharts, network diagrams, and many others. New shapes can be added. Dia supports export to EPS, SVG, XFIG, WMF, and PNG files and can also print diagrams, including those that span multiple pages.
Platforms: Available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Unix.
Description: Cacoo is an online collaborative diagram drawing tool.
Benefits: Cacoo offers three levels of membership plan, Free, Plus and Business. The Free plan allows users to create up to twenty-five sheets and to share each diagram up to 15 times. Free members can export their diagrams to PNG.
Platforms: Available on most platforms. Requires a modern web browser and internet connection.