If you need decent office software but don’t want to pay a premium for branded products, you are probably on the lookout for a decent free alternative. In this guide, we will highlight the top seven free office software suites on the market right now and tell you what they have to offer.
With more and more of us working remotely due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, many people have suddenly realized they need access to high-quality office software on their own devices.
Microsoft Office is the go-to office suite and its tools like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are household names. But an Office suite does not come cheap and in their straightened times, a lot of people would prefer a cheaper alternative.
Well, how would a free alternative suit you? Yes, that’s right, there are in fact a number of high-quality office software packages out there that are available to download for nothing.
You might think that anything for free must be limited and lacking and features, but that is not necessarily the case. In this guide, we will take a look at the top seven options on the market right now. All are free, all are compatible with Microsoft Office, and all offer excellent user-friendly experiences.
At a glance: the top free office software suites
We will review each of the seven top free office software suites in more detail below, but if you are in a hurry, here is a brief rundown of our favorites:
- Microsoft Office Online
- Zoho Workplace
- Polaris Office
- WPS Office Free
- Google Docs
What should an office software suite contain?
Microsoft Office suite has set the benchmark for office software and the majority of its competitors are seeking to challenge its dominance. This is why most office software is built in its image too and the best suites are generally expected to offer alternatives to Microsoft Office’s main tools as well. These are:
- Word – a word processor tool that lets you create and edit written documents
- Excel – A spreadsheet tool that lets you log, store, and process data
- PowerPoint – A tool to let you create presentations using a mix of written and visual content.
- Outlook – An email, calendar, and personal management tool.
- OneDrive – A cloud storage and file management tool
- Teams – A chat and videoconferencing tool.
It should be noted at this point that, as one of the biggest IT software companies in the world, Microsoft has something of a head start in this area. This means that while some office suites in this guide, do tick all of these boxes, some may not have versions of every tool listed here.
Microsoft Teams in particular is a recent addition and timely addition to the Office suite. It offers Microsoft users an alternative to Zoom and other videoconferences tools that have become massively popular this year as so many people have found themselves working remotely.
Not all free office suites have an alternative to Teams available. But with plenty of free videoconferences tools on the market, that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.
Best Free Office Software 2020
In this section, we will review the seven best free office software suites on the market right now. They all have their advantages and disadvantages, similarities and differences, and some may be better suited to your needs than others.
For that reason, we would advise you to read through each of them and see which offers the best combination of tools for you, rather than just opt for our number one recommendation without considering the rest.
1. Microsoft Office Online
- Fully compatible with Microsoft Office 365
- Works with OneDrive and other Microsoft tools
- Familiar interface
- Lacks some of the features of the full Office suite
If you are a fan of Microsoft Office and comfortable with its layout and interface, but reluctant to cough up the hefty monthly subscription fees for an Office 365 account, Microsoft Office Online might be the answer for you.
In response to Google’s decision to make a suite of office tools available for free, Microsoft has also decided to launch Office Online to compete.
It features a pared-back version of the main office suite so all of the tools will look familiar to you. Unlike Google, you don’t need to do any file conversion, you can log in using an existing Microsoft account, and you can share documents using all the normal Microsoft tools.
The main downside to Office Online is that it lacks some of the advanced features in most of its tools. However, the vast majority of these are features that the other free software suites don’t have either and the majority of users can manage quite easily without them.
There are also Mobile Office Online apps available for iOS and Android devices as well as an Office Online for Chrome. This means you can access and work on all your documents on your commute or wherever you are.
Office Online is a great option for faithful Microsoft users and only the most advanced users are likely to notice any difference from the full Office suite.
- Totally free
- 100% Microsoft Office compatible
- 7 Great tools
- No official mobile apps yet
Libre Office is such a good free office suite that it is almost indistinguishable from Microsoft Office in terms of both features and documents produced.
LibreOffice is an offshoot of the better known OpenOffice suite and in most ways, it is quite a bit better. It offers its own named tools including Writer (word processor), Calc (spreadsheet tool), Impress (PowerPoint equivalent), Base (database tool), Draw (diagrams), and Math (formula editor).
As far as we know, LibreOffice is the only free office suite to offer tools like Base, Draw, and Math, which offer the same features as Microsoft Access.
All of these tools are fully compatible with their Microsoft equivalents and as it is a 100% open source project which means it has robust coding and is regularly updated. The latest version (version 7) comes with a whole host of extra features.
LibraOffice really is a superb office suite and it is 100% free so there is no upselling as you use it either. The only downside is the lack of mobile apps but one of their certified developers, Collabora, has recently published LibreOffice-based apps for both iOS and Android devices.
3. Zoho Workplace
- Great Interface
- Advanced suite of tools
- Site Creation Tool
- Some tools are a bit too simple
Zoho Workplace is, in our view, a far better all-round office software suite than Google has to offer. This view is reinforced by the fact that a number of big companies, such as the BBC and Nike, have chosen to use Zoho Workplace.
It comes with a total of nine different tools including an excellent and recently revamped word processing tool. This is done away with the Microsoft Word layout and introduced a formatting sidebar that has been extremely well received by users.
It is capable of producing high-quality and professional documents and the same can also be said for its spreadsheet and presentation tools too.
Zoho Workplace also includes an impressively powerful site creation tool, a file management solution and a number of collaboration tools including chat, social intranet, and online meeting tools.
Some of these tools are simpler than their Office equivalents but they are all capable of delivering a decent service for users. There are various paid-for plans available for Zoho Workplace. If you want the free package, you will need to seek out the forever free option on the pricing page, but you will need to go through a full signup process to access the suite.
4. Polaris Office
- Desktop and mobile apps available
- 1GB of cloud storage included
- Beware bundled software
Polaris Office is a free cross-platform office suite that you may already know if you have a Samsung smartphone as it comes preinstalled on some models.
It offers a whole suite of tools including a word processor, a spreadsheet, and a presentation tool as well as a web editor and much more. Polaris is fully compatible with Microsoft Office and you can connect it to Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, Microsoft OneDrive and Amazon Cloud Drive too.
There are excellent apps for iOS, Android, Mac, and Windows devices. But if you download the Windows version, beware the bundled software. This includes a browser extension from McAfee that goes by the name WebAdvisor, a market research tool called PremierOpinion, and an antivirus suite. You can decline all of these manually, but make sure you remember to do so.
Polaris Office will try and persuade you to upgrade to its premium plans but the free version is fine as long as you are only using it on a single device.
5. WPS Office Free
- Supports multiple file formats
- Impressive versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint
- Paired-back version of a premium suite
- Contains some adverts
WPS Office might be a paired-back version of a premium office program, but the free versions are more than a match for a lot of its paid-for competitors.
WPS Office Free just three programs, versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. But for many people that will be enough and when you give these versions a whirl, you will be very impressed.
They are jam-packed with features, support just about any file format, and have a fantastic and intuitive interface that anyone can get to grips with.
WPS Office Free has just added iOS or Mac apps to their stable alongside Android, Windows, and Linux versions. There is the odd advert that you will encounter along the way, but these are not overwhelming and don’t detract from a high-quality and user-friendly free service.
There are a variety of additional applications available from the same provider too including some superb PDF tools.
- Includes a PDF reader
- Optimized for touchscreens
- Supports all Microsoft formats
- Slightly dated interface
- Some feature limitations
- No mobile apps
FreeOffice is another free version of a premium office suite which is made by Softmaker. It consists of three tools, TextMaker, PlanMaker, and Presentations, which are equivalent programs for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint respectively.
All of these tools mimic the Microsoft design and offer both the classic and new ribbon interface. This works fine if you are used to Microsoft’s designs but can feel a bit dated when compared to other products.
There are some key features missing from the free version of this office suite, no doubt as an incentive for you to upgrade. The one we particularly missed was the thesaurus but there are other useful things lacking too.
FreeOffice also comes with a free PDF editor too and its apps for Windows, Macs, and Linux are functional. But the lack of mobile apps is a big miss and may put some users off.
7. Google Docs
- Cross-platform functionality
- Google Drive Integration
- File formatting issues
- Not very user-friendly
You might have been wondering where Google Docs was in this list, but we have put it at the bottom for a reason. While Google Docs does offer three main tools, Docs, Sheets, and Slides, it is lacking an awful lot of the key features you will find in other free office suites on this list.
The positives are that it works in just about every browser, integrates well with Google Drive, and has decent apps for mobile devices. If you are an existing Google user, it makes sense to use these tools and everything you do will be saved and backed up automatically on your system.
But if you aren’t a Google user, there are a number of issues that might cause you to look elsewhere. It uses different file formats to most other software tools and converting documents can have issues.
The Google tools offer very limited functionality and lack a lot of the advanced features that come with Microsoft Office and many of these free tools as well. The interface is not very intuitive and many users complain of it being hard to use.
Throw in the obvious issues that come with all Google products around privacy and security and there are a number of drawbacks to Google Docs. But Google fans wouldn’t use anything else.
There is no shortage of free office suites available on the market, which means that you don’t have to spend a fortune to get your remote working up to scratch.
In this guide, we have outlined what most people expect from their office software and highlighted the top seven office software suites that you can download for free today and which we are happy to recommend.
If you have any comments or questions about any of these office software suites, or if you use a free office software tool that you think is better than our recommendations, please do leave your thoughts for our readers in the comment box below.