Office 2010: Not Your Only Choice

For small businesses looking to cut costs, Microsoft Office 2010 may not be the right choice. Here are several alternatives that are all more attractive in price (or even free) and in some cases, equally powerful.

Microsoft Office 2010 is an impressive, monumental suite of applications. But, let’s face it, with every new version Microsoft’s juggernaut gets bigger and pricier. And with every new release the question comes up again: does your business really need all this? Is it time to jettison Office altogether, and go to one of three main alternatives: a cloud-based application suite like Google Docs (or the less-famous Zoho), a free or low-priced Office workalike such as, or even a suite that works very differently from Office, such as Corel Word-Perfect Office X5? We’ve examined them all to help you decide.

Free; $50 per year per user for Google Apps. This cloud-based service is a terrific choice for editing simple Word documents from someone else’s computer, or when you’re carrying only a lightweight netbook without Office installed. As a complete replacement for Office, it’s only ideal for users with minimal needs for advanced formatting and long-document features, users who will never need to use endnotes or cross-references, and users who will never need to print an envelope or send out mass mailings. Google Docs automatically keeps track of your revisions— no need to turn on tracking, as in Office—but GoogleDocs won’t satisfy anyone who wants tight control over formatting or who needs to write anything more complex than a term paper. Also, are you really sure you want to leave your documents in the cloud, subject to Google’s occasional outages or those times when you can’t find a connection to the Internet? For most users, I recommend Google Docs as an adjunct to Office, not a replacement. Note: Cloud-computing fans who want to avoid Google can try Zoho, but they’re the only people I’d recommend it for; while Zoho has a richer feature set, it’s far harder to use.
Free. This suite is free, powerful, and compatible with almost all Office documents, but it’s clumsy to navigate, and it lacks dozens of conveniences that make Microsoft Office worth having. On the other hand, it doesn’t try to format your documents for you the way Word does, and if you’re comfortable with the old menu interface in Word 97 through Word 2003, you can still use it in Also, if you’re ideologically committed to open-source software, is the best choice. still looks and feels like a last-century application, and it contains import filters that let it open dozens of ancient document formats that Office can’t handle. If you even need to work with old documents that nothing else can open, is an essential feature in your toolbox. But the main reasons anyone would use it instead of Microsoft Office are price and open-source ideology.

Corel wordPerfect Office X5 standard Edition
$249 street. WordPerfect is the only surviving alternative of note to the Microsoft Word way of organizing documents, and the only word processor that gives you clear and simple control over the way your documents are formatted. With WordPerfect, all formatting is controlled by codes that (for example) turn on double-spacing and then turn it off again. When you move, modify, or delete one of these codes in WordPerfect’s Reveal Codes window, you control exactly where your document’s formatting will change, and exactly how. You won’t get the kind of surprises you get in Microsoft Word when you delete a specially formatted paragraph and other paragraphs suddenly change format. WordPerfect retains its last-century interface and overloaded menus, but it’s by far the best program for managing long documents, and it includes security features like redaction that Word still doesn’t offer. It isn’t for everyone, but plenty of legal and government offices rightly refuse to settle for anything else. Offices will appreciate Office X5, the best upgrade in years; for home and SOHO users, it’s probably not an essential upgrade from previous versions.

iwork ’09
$79 direct. Mac users, your best fully functional desktop suite is still the disappointing Microsoft Office for Mac 2008. But if you don’t need quite so much office power, you’d probably be far happier with iWork ’09—at least until Microsoft Office for Mac 2010 is released sometime later this year. iWork ’09 offers a terrific set of programs for light word processing and medium-to-heavy spreadsheet use. And the stellar Keynote presentation app, still the most dazzling presentation program on any platform, now offers spectacular slide transitions. The uniquely innovative Numbers spreadsheet (the sole such app to support multiple tables on a single page) continues to one-up Microsoft Excel in many ways. And, this time around, the table-organizing feature works. The Pages word processor adds to its already powerful graphics glitz and makes a start at supporting features for long documents by adding easy-to-use outlining. Apple has also put a toe into the online-document world by launching, a sparsely featured sharing and viewing service that lets iWork users share documents with users on any platform, including Windows and Linux.

Free. Zoho is an online Web service that lets you do almost anything online that you can do on a desktop computer—from creating documents to building a spreadsheet to managing a database, plus conferencing, project-management, chatting, and a dozen other functions listed on Zoho’s main page. I tested the three parts of the service that make up a standard office suite: the Zoho Writer word processor, Zoho Sheet spreadsheet, and Zoho Show presentations program, all of them based on the open-source AjAX framework for building feature-rich and graphics-rich browser-based applications. I liked the bright, up-to-date interface on all the Zoho services, and I liked Zoho’s ability to open most of my test documents with good fidelity to the originals. I didn’t expect Zoho—or any other online service— to be fast or powerful enough to deal with large and complex documents, and Zoho, as expected, bogged down when I worked with large files. The limited but well-chosen feature set seems just right for an online service, but it’s also guaranteed to make you impatient to get back to a desktop-based suite for anything more substantial than a quick report or simple spreadsheet.

Source of Information : PC Magazine July 2010


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