The movement towards the paperless office continues, with countless digital formats, designs, and filing options.
While Microsoft Office remains the dominant player when it comes to document creating, editing, and publishing, there are plenty of alternatives. Some compete on pricing, but some offer additional features that are not available in Microsoft Office itself, and therefore serve to enhance that experience rather than replace it.
This is especially the case where multiple document formats need to be worked with or even merged, signed, or otherwise manipulated outside of the normal capabilities of Word. Additionally, some introduce extra layers for editing in design integrations that are innovative yet necessary for certain industries
Here are some of the leading options, alternatives, or add-ons to the digital office you might need to consider adopting in order to improve your document management capabilities.
- We've also highlighted the best free word processors
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Google’s collaborative word processor is still going strong
It’s highly likely you’ve ended up in a Google Doc at some point of your professional life, and if you’re one who likes to explore tools and features, you’ve probably noticed the steady expansion of capabilities within Docs over the years.
Smart editing and styling options are plentiful, allowing you to personalize your document more than ever. Over one hundred free fonts, plus the ability to throw in links, images and drawings make for further customization. If you find yourself staring a little blankly at your document on start-up, there is a good variety of templates on offer to get you going, suitable for reports, CVs, posters and more.
The real selling point of Docs, however, has been its accessibility factor, with multiple users able to edit, annotate and chat through a document wherever they are. The Docs app enables easy editing via mobile and tablet too, and you don’t even need a constant connection to work.
Another boon of the live-evolving nature of a Google Doc? All changes are saved automatically as you type, and a revision history tool shows you older versions of the doc, with who made what changes.
Finally, as an olive branch of peace in the war of the word processors, Google Docs is fully integrated with Word, so docs can easily be converted from one platform to another. Google Docs is free for personal use, but if you want it as part of the G Suite for business you'll have to pay.
King of the note taking
Scaling down the canvass a little, Evernote, as its name suggests, specializes in note taking, filing and sharing, and has been widely adopted in the work place (and by individuals) for a number of years.
Despite its digital makeup, it can process hand written notes as well as receipts and audio files and makes everything accessible on both desktop and mobile devices. It also has the collaboration factor, with users able to work on shared notebooks that update instantly on editing.
Evernote is available for businesses with basic, plus and premium models. This expands storage on the free offering, and makes it easy to share content, digitize important documents, capture image-centric brainstorms, and keep track of finances.
You may well be thinking that Evernote would work well in addition, rather than instead of, your current word processing and productivity tools. Such a demand has been noted – pun intended – and the service can be fully integrated with Google Drive, Outlook, Slack, Salesforce and others.
A powerful free mobile office suite
WPS Office is an all-in-one office productivity suite with a full range of document editing and management features.
Although it's available for download to Windows PCs, it has found particular success as a mobile office suite for iOS and Android.
While the PC version has a basic free version and a more advanced paid version, the mobile version of WPS Office is free and supported by non-intrusive ads though you can pay a subscription to remove them.
Where WPS Office comes into its own is the vast number of types of different files that can be edited or managed, from the wide range of document types to additional file formats such as PDF and XML, as well as a number of programming file types.
It's easy to convert office files between types, whether relating to documents, spreadsheets, or presentations, and there's a fully functional PDF editor and manager included for free.
Files can be automatically saved to the cloud via various services, not least Google Drive, DropBox, and OneDrive.
Document management to boost your bottom line
Sales-focused document manager PandaDoc describes itself as ‘the future of documents’, and it reports statistics that apparently show the difference it makes to your business’s bottom line. According to the service, clients report 50% less paperwork, 30% higher close rates, and 15% higher value per closed rate thanks to PandaDoc.
Your sales team is salivating, but what exactly does the program do? Well, features include a document editor that comes with themed templates for consistent branding, content and image libraries to store reusable assets, cost and margin calculators, document analytics to show how long people spend on each item, a configure, price and quote (CPQ) tool and many more.
While workspaces are available for collaboration, multiple users are not able to access and work on a document at the same time, which feel likes a drawback. Nevertheless, the business-focus of PandaDoc will appeal to those who want to specifically manage sales and finance via their document manager, something the other services we’ve covered don’t offer.
Live chat and collaboration in Office
We may all be familiar with Microsoft’s Office suite, but less well known is the Microsoft Teams platform which acts as a collaborative workspace for collaboration on items within the famous Office programs.
Teams allows users to view and edit documents directly within the application, participate in voice and video conference calls, view conversation histories in email-style conversation threads, and more. The service can be customized to suit each individual team in an organization by creating tabs for frequently accessed documents or regularly-used cloud services. Teams works with Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, SharePoint, Power BI, Delve, and Planner, allowing users to work together on a range of files.
Facilitating video communication in Teams is integration with Skype for Business, so users can jump on a call and discuss their project without leaving the program. Other third-party link-ups include Github and Twitter, further clearing the path for implementing Teams into your app roster. Nevertheless, the platform is naturally entrenched in the Office ecosystem, so if you’re not currently a user of Microsoft productivity programs, Teams may not be right for you.
Best of the rest
WebMerge has established something of a niche in the world of document editing, allowing users to set up a doc, integrate it with a third-party service to send data to that document, then receive a merged copy. The tedious transfer of data is taken care of, and WebMerge conveniently supports Office among other productivity platforms to smoothen the operation.
A certified key player in the world of document editing, Adobe Document Cloud lets users convert any kind of document into a PDF and then edit it, send it, sign it, and track it. Businesses can create a PDF from Office files, physical scans, emails, web pages, and even photos of documents taken with a camera.
Document overload in your business? eFileCabinet is here to help, by capturing, storing, managing and sharing files. It comes as a mobile app too, allowing users to click and upload pictures of documents then can then be processed and filed.
Microsoft wants to take care of your scribbles and shorter texts as well as your longer documents, with OneNote taking on Evernote in the world of note editing and management. Those already well embedded in the Office ecosystem may well opt for Microsoft’s version.
You may think we’ve covered everything you can do with a document by now, but no. Enter e-signature specialist DocuSign, which lets businesses’ and their clients quickly and easily sign a full range of documents and forms online without the hassle of training or extra software to install.