Let’s face the truth. There’s no reason to spend another dime on purchasing licenses and software for Microsoft’s Office Suite of programs. School systems have too many much cheaper options (like free or almost free) rather than continuing to purchase the popular office suite that most often includes MS Word, MS PowerPoint, MS Excel, MS Access, MS Publisher, and MS Outlook. School systems can save bundles by using other open source solutions or even cloud-based solutions. Here’s my three favorite replacements for Microsoft Office.
Open Office: An Open Source Replacement for Microsoft Office
For a complete and comparable Office Suite, OpenOffice will do anything that Microsoft Office will do. Well, it will do everything most of us need to do. Best of all, it’s free. It has a word processing program called Writer, a spreadsheet program called Calc, a presentation program called Impress, a graphics program called Draw, and a database program called Base. And, you can add the open source desktop publishing program, Scribus to replace Microsoft Publisher. Administrators would do well to look at OpenOffice instead of paying money for an office suite. For more information check out the Open Office web site. For information about Scribus, an open source desktop publishing solution, check out the Scribus web site.
Cloud-Based Replacement for Microsoft Office: Google Apps
While some might not have quite bought into the idea of moving to using Google Apps, our system has made the full conversion. We have Gmail for email, along with all the other Google Apps, including Google Docs. Admittedly, Google Docs’ word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, and drawing software don’t have every single bell and whistle found in Microsoft Office, but these apps are fully functional, and the sharing and collaboration possibilities make it even better for our uses in education. Throw in the Forms app, which I think is so easy to use and powerful, who needs Microsoft Office any more? I might also add, a school system can save thousands of dollars by choosing to use Google Apps, which is a substantial savings. For more information about Google Apps, check out the Google Apps for Education web site.
Another Cloud-Based Replacement for Microsoft Office: Zoho
I really can’t entirely attest to how much this particular solution would work as a system-wide solution, but I have used many of the apps personally. Anyone can set up and use a free account, but Zoho boasts that it offers discounts to non-profit institutions. Zoho has productivity applications like a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation software, but it also has much more. It offers users collaboration apps for chatting and document collaboration. In addition, it offers several business applications which might be useful in education settings. Zoho’s productivity applications are as functional as Google Apps. They might not have all the features of Microsoft Office, but if you really examine what you do with an application, I bet it will do everything you need to do. For more information about Zoho, just visit the Zoho web site.
I know there are countless other applications that are excellent candidate as replacements for Microsoft Office, but these are three that I have had the most experience with. Open Office offers a desktop office suite with the same functionality as Microsoft Office without the license fees. Google Apps and Zoho Apps give schools a cloud-based solution without ever having to worry about purchasing upgrades every three or four years. As administrators when we look at getting the most for our technology money, we need to look at alternatives to software like Microsoft Office. Perhaps it’s time we quit purchasing those expensive Microsoft Office licenses and use free or close to free solutions instead.