Thursday, January 6, 2011

Who Needs Microsoft Office Anymore? Another Way to Pare Technology Budgets

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.


  1. Great list, I would also take it a step further and say eliminate the need of Windows Operating System and use Linux, or cloud-based OS such as Google Chrome OS or JoliCloud.

  2. I thought about that too. I am not familiar with Linux, so I was not sure about it's user-friendliness. As far as Google Chrome, I think it will be a good operating system, but I'm not sure it's there yet. I do agree with you. There needs to be a PC operating system that is cheaper and could replace Windows.

  3. if you are talking about administrative staff then I agree completely. when you start talking about the students realistically 99% of workplaces use Microsoft Office and the Windows operating system. To train students to use software that there future employers will just have to spend time and money retraining them on is counterproductive. Keep an eye on the business trends and when business begins to be more open to Open Source begin the transition

  4. We transitioned into a Google Apps solution last year and have abandoned MS Office as the licencing costs were becoming prohibitive.

    Most of our team is not quite ready (in their minds!) to transition to a Google Docs etc so we currently use the latest iteration of Open Office. This seems to work well for us although the presentation and DTP components are not really up to scratch for my liking.

    At some point I would like us to move into a Linux-based OS scenario but I'm not sure our team is quite ready for as big a change as that quite yet!

  5. I agree to a point that there is merit in the argument that students need training in the software most often used in the business world. However, perhaps it is much more beneficial for students to have training instead in word-processing environments or spreadsheet environments. It might be more beneficial to have students who can adapt to a variety of software environments, after all, Office may not be around in 20 years, or at least it may not look and function like it does now.

  6. I think there is a great deal of merit to migrating to an open source operating system environment. The money savings would be extensive. I think before we do that, we are going to need a product that is user-friendly and one that would make migration seamless. Linux is certainly one option. I think the Chrome operating system might be another candidate when it gets established.

  7. John,
    You are always publish great stuff. Whenever you wish to talk NCVPS, give me shout and I will come and share with you or conduct presentations or talk time with Staff. Just live up interstate in Statesville. I would also love to meet you. We have a new STEM Blended Course Initiative rolling out pretty soon to districts across the state.

  8. Thank you. I would love to have you come and work with our staff. I have the privilege of working with one of the most Tech-savvy faculties I have ever worked with. You are more than welcome to visit with us any time. We are preparing to re-partner to join with the North Carolina New Schools Project to become one of nine STEM Health and Life Science high schools across the state. so the staff might very much be interested in hearing what you are doing in that area.

  9. What is interesting to me about this conversation is that my students are abandoning Office in favor of Google Docs. If they work on a project for me, they choose Google Docs so they can work on it at school, in all classrooms and then at home. No more struggling with jump drives or such.

    Then when one or two groups use Google and the others don't, they want to learn how. The biggest trick is informing parents so they can allow students to have gmail accounts. If the district would allow middle school kids to have these (since they just implemented Google for HS students only), we'd be all set.

    Makes total sense to me.

  10. You are exactly right. Students have no qualms about using cloud apps like Google Docs. Let's face it, Google Docs will do almost everything if not everything they want to do. As Google Docs keeps adding features there will even less need to keep purchasing Office applications.

  11. I am agree with you it is necessary for all PC user

  12. Yes there are many alternatives available today for Microsoft office and they provide good functionality so we don't need to spend any more on Microsoft office. Actually Microsoft office has god tie up around the world and with almost all PC we get that and become addicted.