Switching from Microsoft Office to an alternative may sound like downgrading from designer to thrift store, but that's not always the case.
Microsoft Office provides a suite of tools that are useful to most organizations. There are businesses and circumstances that can benefit from using Microsoft Office alternatives, however. It may be because users only really need one tool instead of an entire suite, and the organization can save more money by transitioning to an alternative option. It could be that an alternative suite works better for an organization's needs. Or Microsoft's tools simply might not work well in an organization where a lot of users rely on mobile devices. Whatever the reason is, there are ways to work around Office.
Whether the replacement is for Microsoft Word or Excel, Microsoft mobile applications or the whole Microsoft suite, there is an alternative IT can implement. Regardless of the substitute IT chooses, it's critical to get all the information before making a decision.
Look at the whole package
If an organization is ready to take the plunge with Microsoft Office alternatives, it is important to look at the whole picture. IT must know the feature equivalence of the alternative offering. Users will compare the tools to Office simply because that's what they are used to. A lack of familiarity may cause hesitation and confusion for employees, delaying productivity.
Each alternative suite comes with its own version of a Microsoft service. IT should compare the suites product by product, rather than as a whole, to make sure everything measures up to the organization's needs and user expectations. It is smart to dive deeper into each product to compare the functions. A replacement for Microsoft Word may look a lot like it, but the features are limited or operate differently. Missing useful tools, such as pivot tables within spreadsheets, can throw off users who rely on such add-ons.
Does it fit in at the office?
IT should also measure the ease of integration and support an alternative suite provides. It is important for IT to make sure that the tool can convert all former Microsoft documents into the new format; otherwise, users run the risk of losing important data. IT can export older files into Open Document Format to extract the information and reconfigure the files into the alternative product format. This allows organizations to continue to support Microsoft, while slowly transitioning to the new suite.
If the Microsoft Office alternative is not compatible or has weak compatibility with a certain browser or OS, it will not work. If the organization uses a desktop-focused integration, a cloud-based suite is not a wise choice either. IT should also prepare to adjust any tools that rely on Microsoft Office, such as Active Directory and PowerShell, because these tools will not have the same capabilities with a non-Microsoft offering.
What is up for enterprise adoption?
The two most common Office tools users work with on a daily basis are Word and Excel. Most of the high-performing suites offer both Word and Excel alternatives. The combination of the two offerings in one suite is a win for organizations, because users often work with both.
One of the best known competitors to Microsoft Office is Google Cloud's G Suite. Google's suite offers Google Docs and Google Sheets, as well as other features, for free. Neither Docs nor Sheets offers as many features as the current versions of Word and Excel, but their location in the cloud offers collaborative capabilities Office cannot match.
Another free Microsoft Office alternative is LibreOffice, an open source suite that provides users with almost everything Microsoft Office does. With Writer, Calc and many other features, LibreOffice can run on Microsoft Windows, Apple macOS, Linux and mobile platforms. LibreOffice also handles legacy documents and image formats, which may appeal to organizations with older files.
Other Microsoft Office alternatives that are solid performers are SoftMaker FreeOffice, Apache OpenOffice and Thinkfree Office. FreeOffice supports Windows, Linux and Google Android; OpenOffice supports Windows, Linux and macOS; Thinkfree Office supports Windows and macOS. These alternatives are all free and offer different levels of features.
Take some alternatives to go
Mobile applications are essential for the enterprise. Microsoft Office applications are subscription-based and can become pricey -- ranging from $5 to $15 per user -- when selecting one of the three business plans. Organizations looking for some savings or maybe just a different vibe in mobile office apps can do so and maintain mobile device management capabilities. The key is to find the right app that has the features necessary for users, works with the suite that is in place for the office and supports many devices.
There are a number of mobile office applications for IT to choose from. Documents To Go Premium, for example, lets users view, edit and create files. It has more features but does cost around $15 to $17 per app. It is available on Android, Apple iOS and BlackBerry platforms and supports cloud services, such as Apple AirDrop. SmartOffice is another option that costs around $10 per app, supports Android, iOS and webOS and includes wireless printing capabilities that may prove useful to certain organizations.
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