When you think of office software, Microsoft Office is probably the first one that springs to mind. This is hardly surprising as so many computer come with a copy of it pre-installed, but the bad news is that in many cases it is just a trial and you'll need to fork out for an Office 365 subscription to continue using it.
Few people can get by without a word processor, spreadsheet app, presentation tool or even all three, but what if you don’t fancy the idea of coughing up for your office software?
Thankfully, there's now a superb selection of free office software available, and here we've rounded up the very best you can download today. The quality of these apps is truly impressive; you'll never pay for office software again!
1. WPS Office Free
Well crafted, powerful and flexible, WPS Office is the best free office software
WPS Office Free may not be the most famous office suite, but after a recent overhaul we believe it's the best.
In terms of looks (not that we're entirely shallow, you understand), WPS Office Free is second to none. If you've used any recent version of Microsoft Office, you will feel immediately at home.
At its heart are the three main tools for words, presentations and spreadsheets (hence the name). WPS Office Free also offers some beautiful extra touches, particularly concerning PDFs. Not only is it possible to save documents created in WPS Office as PDFs, you can also convert from PDF to Word. Compatibility is a major feature of the suite, with each of the component program able to save in native Office formats, and the suite is available not only for Windows but also Linux and Android
There are lots of templates available to help you to get started with document creation, and just about the only annoyance with the suite are occasional ads for the premium version of the program. WPS Office Personal and Home adds tools for splitting and merging PDFs, and provides quick email support, but the free edition of the suite is brilliant and will be more than enough for most users.
Review and where to download: WPS Office Free
A comprehensive free office suite with support for cloud storage services
If LibreOffice looks more than a little familiar, it's because it is virtually identical to Apache OpenOffice (below). In many ways it OpenOffice on steroids: it uses the same basic codebase, but it benefits from faster development and more frequent update. If getting bugs squashed and new features added is high on your priority list, LibreOffice should be near the top of your list.
Like OpenOffice, this free office suite has something of a retro look (but not quite to the same extent) and comprises more programs than you'd normally expect to find in an office suite – Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, Math, and Base.
Anyone who has shifted their life to the cloud will appreciate the support for cloud services such as Google Drive which can be accessed through the Remote Files feature, and there are scores of extensions available to add new capabilities to the suite. A highly recommended piece of software that puts Microsoft Office to the test.
Review and where to download: LibreOffice
3. Apache OpenOffice
This well established suite is a solid choice, with six programs rolled into one
Apache OpenOffice goes further than many other suites by providing more than just the three main tools you would expect to find – in fact, there are no fewer than six programs: Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, Math and Base.
As an open source free office suite, Apache OpenOffice receives frequent updates, and in this regard it trumps Microsoft Office. It's not only free of charge. It can, unlike some free software, be used for business as well as personal use.
The interface does look a little dated, so if using software that bears more than a passing resemblance to something from the 90s, Apache OpenOffice may not be for you. But, of course, looks are not everything.
What's particularly impressive is the inclusion of a database in addition to a drawing tool and even a formula creation program – just about every possibility is covered by this impressive suite.
Review and where to download: Apache OpenOffice
4. SoftMaker FreeOffice
A great-looking free office suite with ebook creation as a welcome extra
While SoftMaker FreeOffice is available completely free of charge, you do have to jump through the hoop of requesting a product key in order to complete the installation and unlock the software.
When you're up and running you'll find that SoftMaker FreeOffice includes the more familiar three office programs – PlanMaker is the spreadsheet, TextMaker the word processor, and Presentations is the slideshow tool.
Things are great aesthetically, and there are some very neat touches such as the ability to not only save documents as PDFs, but also to export them as ebooks in ePub format.
In addition to the traditional, installable version of the software for Windows and Linux, there's also a portable version available ready to pop onto a USB drive and move from computer to computer – and mobile users have an Android app too. Highly, highly recommended.
Download here: SoftMaker FreeOffice
5. SSuite Office Premium HD+
A free suite with cross-platform support and a well curated selection of tools
Despite being billed as optimized for high definition displays, SSuite Office Premium HD+ looks a little unappealing. But if you can turn a blind eye to its less than perfect looks, you have a capable office suite on your hands .
If you happen to work with more than one operating system, there's the added advantage that SSuite Office Premium HD+ is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. All three are pretty much identical, so you can flit between them easily.
The developer of this free office software suite has recognized that what most people are interested in is a word processor and a spreadsheet, so gone is the presentation tool you never use!
Plenty of other things have been wheeled in to fill the gap, including an image editor, video conferencing tool, a calendar and personal information manager, a web browser and even an envelope printer. All of the tools are pretty basic, and SSuite Office Premium HD+ isn't going to win any awards, but it's still worth taking a look if you're after something a little different.
Download here: SSuite Office Premium HD+
What makes great free office software?
When you're choosing a free office suite, one of the most important factors to consider is file compatibility. You're likely to be sharing files with people using other tools – both free and paid – so you need programs that are compatible with as many formats as possible, including the most recent Microsoft Office file types.
It's also important to think about the office software you use now, and how long it will take to adapt to a new interface. The idea of learning a new system might not bother you, but changing from ribbon-based Microsoft Office apps to a menu-heavy design might seem like a step backwards, and cause you to waste valuable time tracking down essential tools.