Two free online alternatives to Microsoft Office

Not many of us know about web apps. Web apps are sometimes as powerful as their desktop counterparts and are much more simple to use. Read on to find how you can improve your productivity through these free MS Office alternatives.

Every PC/Mac user has always used Microsoft’s celebrated office suite of applications on their desktop. It works flawlessly and is one of the best around. Desktop apps are extremely powerful and can be used to get work quickly done. But it does come at a cost. It costs a whopping $ 600 for the full fledged office suite. The basic version costs $200. Plus, these suite of apps take up a lot of disk space. And don’t forget the hours you have to spend downloading them from the web.
There exists an alternative to MS Office for desktop which is completely free: Openoffice. There are quite a few free desktop office suites available in the market these days. But this post isnt about desktop apps at all. This post is about online alternatives; aka web apps. Lets analyse a few advantages of web apps before I provide the list.

Web apps can be accessed anywhere. The internet is like god. its omnipresent and whatever work you do is saved in your online account.

    • They don’t eat up hard disk space.
    • You can share your work easily with others and collaborate. A great advantage if you are doing a project and a group is working on the same file.
    • Never hit the save button again. All of your work is auto-saved.
    • Best of all, its Free.

1. Google Docs

My personal favorite. Over the years, Google docs has matured and can do almost everything MS office does and a little more. It contains the following apps:

    • Documents- used to create .doc and .docx files.

Its a very good document editor. An added advantage: go to file->download as and you have got the option to save the file as not only .doc but as pdf, html, odt, rtf ,etc. And no, MS office cannot do that.

    • Spreadsheets- Create spreadsheets.
    • Forms – used to create forms, publish them online, collect data. This is a very useful feature and is good for those who want to collect information from a group of online users. Data collected is stored in a spreadsheet.
    • Presentation – create slideshows.
    • Drawings- very useful tool if you want to do wire-frames and simple drawings.
    • Collections- create a collection of documents in a folder and share it with others.

One more major feature in Google docs- Discussions and comments. What it does is that it allows you to comment on a document or on selected words. This works wonders when working as a team.

2. Microsoft Office Live

No, I am not kidding. There exists a free,legal version of MS office on the web. It can be accessed using your hotmail/windows live account. Sign in to Windows Live and the  options for office live is present under the SkyDrive tab.

MS office live has four apps:
Word, powerpoint, excel and oneNote(it is a productivity app).

Even though well implemented, there are a few caveats in microsoft’s online suite. There are no multiple file formats available for documents and the above stated discussions feature which is there in Google Docs. But people who have always used MS office and want a familiar interface, can try this out. Again, since its a web app, documents are auto-saved and accessible anywhere. Talking about oneNote, its a very good productivity app. But its for power users only.
If you want a simple app for tasks management, then this is not the one for you. Use Google tasks instead as a simple task manager inside gmail.
So if you love MS office’s interface and use a hotmail/live account, then MS office live is a good option.
MS office live is a part of Microsoft’s Skydrive service and there are a lot of things you can do with it.  But I will write about skydrive on another day.

There are tons of amazing web apps. We will try to cover many more in the posts to come. Thanks for reading!

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