Skip to main content

Free and Open Source Software Alternatives

Office and Email

Office software, which typically includes a word processor, spreadsheet editor, and email client, is probably one of your must-haves. Microsoft Office and Works aren’t the only office suites though. There are also free alternatives, great if you have a computer that didn’t come with office software or only free trial.

The most popular alternative is OpenOffice.org (OOo), a free and open source office suite. It includes Writer for the word processor, Calc for spreadsheets, Impress for presentations, Draw for graphics and diagrams, and Base for databases.

OOo might not look as slick as Microsoft Office, but it includes most of the same core features. The look, feel, and features of OOo resembles older versions of Microsoft Office (2003 and earlier), so there's no trace of the Ribbon interface that Microsoft has moved to in Office 2007 and 2010.

Though OOo uses different document formats (such as .odt for Writer), it’s compatible with Microsoft Office formats. You can open, create, edit, and save to the older Microsoft formats (such as .doc for Word). But you can currently only open and edit the newer formats (such as .docx for Word), and then save as the OOo format. Most formatting in the documents convert between the two formats, but some advanced formatting could be lost.

OOo supports saving documents as a PDF, which only recently became supported in Microsoft Office 2010 and 2007 with an add-in.

OOo doesn’t include an email and calendaring program like Microsoft Outlook, but there are free options here as well. Consider Thunderbird for emailing and Sunbird for a calendar and scheduler. Both of these programs come from Mozilla, the same company behind the ever-popular web browser Firefox.

If you want to keep everything in the cloud, the best suite currently available is from Google. Gmail, Google Docs and Google Calendar keep all of your documents, appointments and emails in the cloud, but Docs still maintains compatibillity with Microsoft Office, Microsoft Works and OpenOffice. You can also sync your local calendar with Google Calendar as well as your phone (iPhone and BlackBerry included).

  • army_ant7
    You forgot to mention Microsoft Security Essentials. It's worth mentioning because it's actually supported by Microsoft and it's free (as long as you have a genuine OS). :-D
    Reply
  • army_ant7
    LibreOffice would've probably been more welcome here than OpenOffice (because it's actually open source). :-)
    Reply
  • army_ant7
    I was wondering that to, but I'm really not familiar with Glary. It didn't even show up when I Googled for a free optimization utility before. I use CCleaner now though.

    Also, in the backup section, the Windows bacup tools aren't mentioned.
    Reply
  • army_ant7
    I'm glad to see that last line of this article. It's very refreshing to read it and know that there are actually people out there who care. :-)
    Reply
  • The author of this articles confuses open source and free software.
    try wikipedia for the definitions
    True most open source is free (not all opens source is free). In this article I see mostly closed source free software.
    Change the article title cause it is misleading (or change job)
    Reply
  • Three tools missing,

    Ccleaner.
    Libre Office.
    Microsoft Security essentials.
    Reply
  • ubercake
    Avast is a great product.
    Reply
  • egeier
    Yes Ccleaner, Libre Office, and Microsoft Security essentials are good options too. Just didn’t want this to be a laundry list of software. I wanted to give some details about each and couldn’t do multiple alternatives for each category.

    Only gripes I have about Microsoft Security Essentials is that it lacks sandboxing and password protection. But I do like they offer it to small businesses for free as well, on up to 10 PCs.

    Does CCleaner support batch uninstall? I love that in Glary Utilities. Also Glary offers the simple 1-Click Maintenance and seems to include a bit more additional tools than CCleaner: file shredder, undelete file recovery, file encryption, disk analysis, duplicate file finder, and file splitter and joiner.
    Reply
  • Tomsguiderachel
    nobody123456The author of this articles confuses open source and free software.try wikipedia for the definitionsTrue most open source is free (not all opens source is free). In this article I see mostly closed source free software. Change the article title cause it is misleading (or change job)Nobody--
    Thanks for your comment. Your point is a good one and we are looking in to a more appropriate descriptor for the applications discussed in this article. Some of these apps do not meet the criteria for the literal definition of "open source" which we would do well to adhere to. Keep an eye out for the headline change and our editor's update/correction.

    Luckily, we're glad to take your advice about the definition of open source, but not insecure enough to change careers on your suggestion that we do so.

    Thanks for reading.

    Rachel Rosmarin
    Managing Editor, Tom's Guide
    Reply
  • phate
    LibreOffice >>> OpenOffice

    http://arstechnica.com/open-source/news/2011/04/oracle-gives-up-on-ooo-after-community-forks-the-project.ars

    Open Office is dead.
    Reply