If you have ever shopped for office software your more than likely to have come across Microsoft Office™ and probably thought hey that does what I need. Then you happen to glance at the price tag and almost choked. On average the student and home edition is over $100, the small business over $200, the full versions over $400. This would be more reasonable if this were a one time cost and lasted for at least 5-10 years but considering almost yearly or bi-yearly a new version is released you likely couldn't afford it if you wanted to. Sure now they also offer a lease version of their 365 version but to me the name just implies great I get to pay 365 days a year for this. I highly doubt you are working so hard to make your own business or even just the business you work for as profitable as can be managed just to waste it all on software expenses.
So now to dive into more of the options available. I have noticed that most users will never even use some of the most advanced features of that office suite making its cost even worse. So if you cannot afford the $100-$400 and up costs for office suite software you are not the only one. But you are in luck as the open source communities have brought us not only one but several complete office suites and they are offering it for free. All it will cost you is some time to make sure the features you use are included and possibly a bit of your employees time to get used to the software. Though its rather straight forward and uses lots of familiar icons and names for things to make it easy to pick up and use.
Now there is bound to be some who may be unable to accomplish every office based task they have using it. But then its really only if you use highly advanced formulas, some of the vb script, etc. And in many of these cases there are extensions that add the missing features in for free. However I find for most small businesses and individuals these advanced features are probably not being used in the first place, if they are even known about at all. The advantage is even if one employee, such as your accountant, must have a feature only in Microsoft Office™ then you would only have to buy one copy verses one for each employee. Then you would only be paying that $200+ for one license, which is a large cost savings if you have over 5 employees. Then it would have been close to $1,000 but now its only $200 or so which could be saving you 90% or $800.
Below I will dive into a basic feature comparison of two open source office suites and compare them to some of the Microsoft Office™ features that most people are familiar with. Rather then writing multiple large paragraphs detailing the features and why you want them I am going to assume you are somewhat familiar with some form of office software and do a quick comparison chart between Microsoft Office™, Apache Open Office™, and The Document Foundation Libre Office™. This will let you see the main features side by side for quick and easy comparison. If you want additional information most the items on the comparison chart links to the official pages so you can find out more. If you notice any major features I missed please contact me and bring it to my attention.
Math Notation Editor
Free Major Versions Updates
Open & Save Old MS Office File Formats
Open New MS Office Formats (.docx, .xlsx, etc)
Save New MS Office Formats (.docx, .xlsx, etc)
Graphical Interface Style
New Features Added
Hopefully the comparison table helps you decide which will best fill your needs. However from looking at it you may realize that Apache Open Office and Libre Office are nearly identical. The reason for this is both are a fork of the original Open Office that got bought out by Oracle and then discontinued years after. The main differences between the two is: Libre Office gets updated more, has a more optimized and cleaned up code, can save in the newer Microsoft Office™ .docx, .xlsx and other file formats, doesn't show specialized user features by default (such as macros, which can be enabled in settings), can embed fonts into the document itself to easily share with multiple people, and a few other mostly minor differences. So most people that like more features added quicker will prefer Libre Office and anyone who must be able to save in .docx, .xlsx, etc. However businesses that may be used to slower release cycles that are supported for longer time periods may like Open Office better. Click on the items on the chart above to see what the official sites mention for each to help you narrow it down further if you still are not quite sure.
Thanks for reading this article and I hope it helps you narrow down an Office Suite to choose.