Microsoft Office Alternative: (free and handles/creates MS Office files)

Be sure check out our previous Microsoft Office Alternative post (Google Docs).

Microsoft Office is a compelling software suite which offers a lot of industry-standard tools for document, spreadsheet, and presentation creation (as well as a few others.) And while MS Office is very useful, it is also priced significantly (starting at $150). Wouldn’t it be nice if you could get a similar set of tools (that could read and create MS Office files) for a better price? Free is a better price, wouldn’t you agree? Enter, the free and open-source office suite.

open office is a great alternative to Microsoft Office, not only because it is completely free, but unlike Google Docs, this is a bonafide piece of software that installs directly to your computer (despite the name, which makes it sound like an online tool) no messing around in the browser. Additionally, and perhaps one of its most compelling features, is the ability to read and create native Microsoft Office files.

Tools offers the following tools (with MS Office analogs in parentheses)

  • Writer (Word)
  • Calc (Excel)
  • Impress (PowerPoint)
  • Draw (Publisher)
  • Base (Access)
  • Math (Microsoft Equation Editor)

Supported Files Types

One of the best parts about is compatibility.

Writer can open:

.odt, .ott, .oth, .odm, .sxw, .stw, .sxg formats
.doc and .dot MS Word 6.0/95/97/2000/XP
.wpd WordPerfect Document
.xml MS Word 2003 XML
.wps WPS 2000/Office 1.0
.doc Microsoft WinWord 5
.xml DocBook
.sdw, .sgl, and .vor StarWriter formats
.jtd and .jtt Ichitaro 8/9/10/11
.pdb AportisDoc (Palm)
.hwp Hangul WP 97
.psw Pocket Word
.rtf, .txt, and .csv Rich Text, Comma Separated Value, and Text

Calc can open:

.ods, .ots, .sxc, and .stc Formats
.xls, .xlw, and .xlt Microsoft Excel 97/2000/XP
.xls, .xlw, and .xlt Microsoft Excel 4.x 5.0/95
.csv and .txt Text CSV
.xml Microsoft Excel 2003 XML
.wk1, .wks, and .123 Lotus 1-2-3
.dif Data Interchange Format
.sdc and .vor StarCalc formats
.dbf dBase
.slk SYLK
.pxl Pocket Excel
.wb2 Quattro Pro 6.0
.rtf Rich Text Format
.htm and .html

And the list goes on and on for the various tools included in For a full list of what Open Office can open and what formats it can save, see page 21 on this PDF.


While an MS Office alternative like Google Docs might be a decent replacement for the casual user, it may not be complex enough to replace MS Office for someone who uses the tools in depth., however, recreates many of the detail-oriented tools that one might be used to using in MS Office. Things such as advanced margin control and special formatting are all handled well in Open Office. Have a look at the suite of tools:

writer-big calc-big

impress-big draw-big


Making the Switch

If you are looking for an alternative to Microsoft Office, you should give a thorough once-over. Switching is simple because it is completely free to download, available on multiple-platforms (Windows, Mac, and Linux), and is highly compatible with a number formats from similar office suites.

To download, simple head over to and click the I want to download” button right on the front page!

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