Office Suites

There are many alternatives to Microsoft Office.
I’ve taught for many years advanced MS Office skills. I still teach Word, Excel, and Access. However, most of my students only want/need to know how to use Word – a word processor. They also find Excel fun, once they start to use it. And for the few still around once we start learning Access, they find that quite useful too. But as I said, that’s for the few who are still around by then. So when they ask me which office suite I’d recommend, what do I say?

First of all, if you already have MS Office, fine. It doesn’t matter which one. I still use Office 97 as that’s what I teach. But I also have Office 2000 (very nice) and I’ve used XP (but with any luck, never again!) Office 95 still works fine too. But whatever you do, certainly don’t buy MS Office. New, they’d cost from £400 upwards. That’s just plain crazy. So what can you get instead? Well most new computers these days seem to be coming with MS Works which again is fine – a stripped down, very simplistic version of Office – and you do get a database. But there are far better options.

Many computer magazines have offered over the past few years Lotus SmartSuite97. A very accomplished alternative to MS Office 97, and all for the price of a magazine, usually £4.99. I saw recently in a car boot sale Lotus SmartSuite Millenium Edition for £1. I nearly bought it even though I don’t need it. It’s a superb alternative to MS Office 97 or 2000. Okay, SmartSuite is a lot more expensive than that to buy new, but nowhere near as much as MS Office.

Alternatively you could have my one time favourite, Corel WordPerfect Suite. 6 was okay, 7 was better, 8 is superb. 2000 I haven’t tried. But you never see it on the front cover of magazines, so you’d have to pay full price, but again that’s likely to be less than half what you’d pay for MS Office.

Are there any others? Plenty. Why not try Ability Office? 99 and 2000 (full versions) have both been on the front cover of magazines. You get a word processor, spreadsheet and a database. All Microsoft Office compatible. Or you can pay £49.99 to buy it. This is the one I’ve loaded onto low powered systems for those who want, but can’t afford MS Office, or who are learning MS Office (eg in college) but haven’t got it at home. It looks almost identical. (

Why not try Polar Office? You can download it to try the shareware version (nag screen). Or pay just $19.00!! for it. What do you get? A word processor, spreadsheet, drawing application, calculator, and an extended version of the MS clipboard. (

I’m currently typing this on 602 Suite. Available for FREE download or on many magazine cover disks. You get a word processor, a spreadsheet (both Microsoft Office compatible), photo manipulation software, and on the 2001 version a photo album. (

But there are others too.
Or there’s OpenOffice. Another FREE download, or on coverdisks. Word processor, spreadsheet, presentation software (like MS PowerPoint), drawing software, etc
Or try SOT Office. Yet another FREE download. Based on OpenOffice, you get a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation software (like MS PowerPoint), drawing software, etc. (

Or there’s Sun StarOffice. Pay for the postage (after all, you are an educational establishment aren’t you? Do you have kids?) Based on OpenOffice (or should that be the other way around?) this has a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation package, plus the one thing OpenOffice doesn’t have, a database.

I’m sure I’ve missed one. There’s a German one too I have somewhere. I’ll have to add that later. It was also a free download.

Of course If it’s just a wordprocessor you want the range is almost endless. But hear are a few of my favourites:
Atlantis Nova, or Atlantis Ocean
AbiWord, CryptEdit, SunyNotepad, VistaWrite

If you want a spreadsheet try VistaCalc

I think that will do for now. As you can see theres a lot more than just Microsoft Office to choose from – and so many of them are FREE!!

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