Why pay for Microsoft Office when other programs can do the job?

Whether at home or in the office, most people now need a word processor on their computer. — Microsoft/dpa

Whether you're talking about texts, tables or presentations, Microsoft dominates the market with its Office suite and the programs Word, Excel and PowerPoint. But there are plenty of good alternatives out there, and often, unlike Microsoft's offering, they're free.

Microsoft is increasingly switching its sales model from a one-off purchase to a subscription. For the user, that means ongoing costs.

Like any subscription, US$8 (RM33.26) per month for the complete Office package doesn't sound like much, but after five years, that's over US$450 (RM1,870.65) – for applications that you might only use occasionally, points out Patrick Hannemann of the German industry magazine Chip.

Microsoft argues that its subscription-based Office suites, such as Microsoft 365 Personal or Microsoft 365 Family, bring added value.

"In Microsoft 365, we are further developing the known applications with cloud and AI technology, and adding solutions like Teams for video conferences or the task management Planner," says Microsoft's Bruno Daellenbach.

Hannemann isn't convinced: "As a private user or student, I don't need that. The free alternatives are completely sufficient for occasional office work."

More and more office work is happening in the cloud, and Microsoft has recognised that. Anyone who can live with using Office programmes only in their browser and not having them installed on their computer can use the company's Office Online, which is free and web-based.

In this market segment of cloud-based office services, there are also many other providers with free basic offers, such as Google Docs, Dropbox Paper or the data protection-focused Cryptpad.

Hannemann says that occasional users should be satisfied with Google Docs, which is well-connected with Google Drive for online storage and which also enables cooperative work.

If you use a Mac rather than a Windows machine, they come with the Pages text editor and the Numbers spreadsheet pre-installed. However, opinions differ when it comes to usability and compatibility.

The two best-known free Office suites are Open Office and Libre Office. Both are based on the same core software, look similar and are available for virtually all operating systems. Documents produced using them can be saved in the Microsoft Office formats, so it's generally no problem to move documents between the different suites.

Another option is FreeOffice from SoftMaker – the company promises the greatest possible compatibility with Microsoft programs.

FreeOffice is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux computers. – dpa

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