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Best free office software 2018: Create documents and spreadsheets that sparkle, free of charge

For most of us, there's really no need to pay for office software anymore. Here are the best free and open source alternatives to use

The days of being forced to pay for office software are, thankfully, long gone. There’s a new era of free office software which can do everything the Microsoft packages can do – and some would say better, too. Some are web-based, such as Google Docs, and also have mobile apps you can use on your phone or tablet, and others can be downloaded onto your Mac or PC for offline use.

Whichever type of application suits you best, the array of online apps and open source software means that there are now plenty of programs that are able to compete with the likes of the pricey Microsoft Office, whether you’re writing documents or formatting a giant spreadsheet. And best of all, while many of them look almost identical to Microsoft’s suite – so you won’t find yourself lost or confused – you can use the ones here without paying a single penny. 

We’ve taken the time to ask all of the writers here at Expert Reviews, and our sister site Alphr, to decide on the best free Office replacements. Read on, and you’ll find our quick, bite-size roundup of the best ones out there.  

The best free office software to use

1. Microsoft Office for Students and Teachers: The best free Office software for education

Link: Download from Microsoft here

Hey, if it’s free, why not take advantage of the Office you know and love? There is a way to get the gold standard suite of office programs. If you’re a student or have access to a university institution email address, chances are you can get Microsoft Office free of charge. Microsoft maintains that 99.9% of universities are able to take advantage of the program and gain access to Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, OneNote, Publisher and Access on up to five PCs/Macs. Enter your academic email on the Office website and you will be asked to sign in using your institution’s portal. If eligible, you should be redirected to a page allowing you to download the software for free.

Key specs – Platforms: Mac, PC; Mobile apps: iOS, Android, Windows Phone

2. Google Docs/Sheets/Slides/Forms: The best web-based suite of office applications

Link: Access Google Docs/Sheets/Slides/Forms here

Google has the whole suite of office tools with a huge emphasis on online collaboration with peers, making it a solid choice for people who need to work on documents, spreadsheets, forms or presentations with other colleagues. Changes can be made and seen in real time and offline access can be set up within Chrome. Like Microsoft Office, Google’s suite has a range of templates for you to choose from and also has a pretty good set of apps to boot.

Key specs – Platforms: Web-based; Mobile apps: iOS, Android

3. LibreOffice: The best open source office suite for Mac, PC and Linux

Link: Download LibreOffice here

Once deemed to be fairly poor with regards to usability and ease of access, the open-source suite of programs has gone through some major improvements and the latest version of LibreOffice feels much more like Microsoft Office. Featuring a range of its own word processing, spreadsheet and presentation counterparts, Libre can definitely compete with the paid software from Microsoft. The programs included in LibreOffice are: Writer, Calc, Impress, Base, Draw, Math and Charts. Featuring some office software that you can’t find with Microsoft Office.

It also can handle, open and create documents with the Microsoft extensions, like .doc.

Key specs – Platforms: Linux, Mac, PC; Mobile apps: Android (LibreOffice Viewer)

4. Microsoft Office Online: The best free web-based office suite for Microsoft Office fans

Link: Sign up to Microsoft Office Online

If you’re not a student or if you don’t work for a university, you won’t be able to take advantage of Microsoft Office for Students. In response to Google’s attempt to take over the Office of the online world, Microsoft has released a slim-down version of their paid-for subscription version of Microsoft Office. Obviously, there are some advanced features missing but it’s got all of the basics to get you writing and crunching numbers.

The major benefit is the great ability to have all the regular .doc and .xls type formats streamlined across the online versions easily. Still not as good as Google’s suite but it does the trick if you’re used to the way Microsoft Office looks.

Key specs – Platforms: Linux, Mac, PC; Mobile apps: Android (LibreOffice Viewer)

5. WPS Office Free: A truly brilliant Microsoft Office clone

Link: Download WPS Office Free

Squint a little and it’d be easy to mistake WPS Office Free from one of Microsoft’s own. It might be a very-slightly slimmed down version of what you’d get with paid-for Microsoft Office, but WPS is a great alternative that supports Office formats and is perfecly happy knocking up documents, presentations, spreadsheets and more. It also comes with a great free PDF reader – something that you won’t get from the premium Microsoft Office suite.

The drawback though is that it does have the occasional ad popping up but not enough to warrant an omission from this list. Give it a go if you don’t find the other four on the list to your liking.

Key specs – Platforms: Linux, PC; Mobile apps: iOS, Android

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