I’ve decided that the Microsoft marketing folks screwed up.
If they really wanted to sell Surface Pro 4 tablets and Surface Books, they would have included a free copy of Microsoft Office just like they did with the Surface 3 tablets.
It seems a bit silly to buy a Surface Pro 4 for $1,000 then have to drop another $70 to $220 to have essential apps like Word and Excel.
So, if you got a Surface Pro 4 but don’t want to spend more money to get an Office Productivity Suite, this is the post for you.
I found a pair of free alternatives to Microsoft Office that will do 95% of what you can do with it and even a few things you can’t do with Microsoft Office.
Sounds good, right? Well read on…
Note: If you are a college student, you may be able to purchase Microsoft Office with a major discount. Check with your school for details.
The first Microsoft Office alternative I’ll touch on is OpenOffice. OpenOffice has been around for a long time and acquired by the Apache foundation a couple of years ago.
It used to be that when you talked about a Microsoft Office alternative, this was the program suite you meant.
OpenOffice is an open-source software suite that includes word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and database software. Sound familiar? Yep, it’s very similar to Microsoft Office. The main difference is that OpenOffice is 100% free. It is stored in an international open format and can even read most of the Microsoft Office file formats.
A word of caution: you will not get some of the ‘bells and whistles’ you get with Microsoft products when using OpenOffice and there are some file format limitations, for more info see this great wiki on Sharing Files with Microsoft Office Users.
LibreOffice is really just an offshoot of OpenOffice. It started a years back when OpenOffice was owned by Oracle and some people didn’t like the way things were going so, they made their own version from the OpenOffice code base.
As a result, it shares a lot of similarities including using the same names for the individual programs (like Writer which is the equivalent to Word).
In addition, LibreOffice offers what is called a portable version that can just be carried around on a USB key or MicroSD card and doesn’t need to be installed on a system to work.
How cool is that?
Microsoft Office Alternatives for Surface: Equivalents
So, now that you understand that OpenOffice and LibreOffice are really just two sides of the same coin, I’ll touch on which programs in these two suites correspond to the familiar Microsoft Office programs.
The links below will take you to the description on the LibreOffice site but the information is pretty much the same for the OpenOffice version.
- Writer is the equivalent to Microsoft Word
- Calc is the equivalent to Microsoft Excel
- Impress Is the equivalent to Microsoft PowerPoint
- Draw is the equivalent to Microsoft Visio
- Base is the equivalent to Microsoft Access
You might notice that there is no equivalent to Microsoft Outlook. This is unfortunate but unless you’re using a Microsoft Exchange server for your email there are many email clients that can fill the gap.
One of the more popular e-mail clients out there is Mozilla Thunderbird or simply use the built-in Windows 8 Mail App.
Microsoft Office Alternatives for Surface: Which one should I use?
My advice is to try them both and pick your favorite. It won’t really cost you anything but a little bit of time. After you play with them both, pick one and uninstall the other.
As I said before, neither option will be a 100% copy of the equivalent Microsoft Office program but they will all give you what you need to produce your document, spreadsheet, or presentation.
Since they’re very similar, either one will probably work for you if you can’t or don’t want to spend $$$ on Microsoft Office.
Also, don’t forget that Microsoft offers Office.com, which is an online, scaled-down option to MS Office apps. In a pinch, that will also do the job in producing a document or a spreadsheet. See, our post on Office Online for Your Surface.