Apache Open Office
Compatible with: PC, Mac, Linux
Apache is currently the leading producer of free open source software.
The software package includes all necessary office programmes. It has a word processor which is similar to Microsoft word, (NB: the grammar checker is not as good, though!).
Open Office also includes other features like the ones you’d find with a Microsoft Office package – for example, to produce spreadsheets, presentations, databases, and an illustrator programme.
As Open Office’s features mimic those you’ll have encountered with Microsoft Office, this makes them pretty easy to use. Open Office also supports a range of Microsoft Office files saved as, .doc; .xls, .ppt, and other formats such as PDF, HTML, and XML.
Think of the difference between Apache Open Office and Microsoft Office as like the difference between a Big Mac and a Whopper – they’re essentially the same thing, just presented to you a bit differently.
Oxygen Office Pro
Compatible with: PC and Linux
Oxygen Office Professional is essentially just an enhanced version of Open Office and is branded as ‘Open Office with extras.’
Although Oxygen Office might not look as up-to-date and pretty as Open Office, you might find some of these extras are useful to you.
They include: templates, fonts, clip art, new and updated import filters, enhanced palettes for colour, and overall enhanced performance.
Note that Oxygen Office isn’t available for Mac!
Compatible with: PC, Mac, Linux
LibreOffice is another fork off from Open Office and, after plenty of research we’ve found the general consensus is that the two are pretty much exactly the same, and LibreOffice has all the same programmes as Open Office.
A few small notable differences are that LibreOffice can handle Scalable Vector Graphics images in its programmes and supports a larger number of languages.
We also heard through the geek-vine that LibreOffice is just slightly more compatible with Microsoft Office than Open Office is, so if you’ll be doing a lot of presentations at uni (where Microsoft Office is the standard) this might be a better option.
Microsoft Office Web Apps
If slightly unfamiliar office software isn’t for you, then you might want to stick with Microsoft Office, and this is a great way to use it free of charge.
Microsoft Office Web Apps are stripped down versions of the most popular office features – Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote are available.
All you need is a Windows live account (which is also free), and you can access the programmes via your browser. One downside of the Web Apps is that they don’t include all the best features as the programs are simplified for online use.
Google Docs is our top pick for students – it’s super straight-forward to use and allows you to create basic documents, spreadsheets and presentations online.
It includes all the familiar editing tools such as font changing, text editing, cell editing, etc. Google Docs also allows you to upload your existing files in DOC, XLS, ODT, ODS, RTF, CSV, and PPT formats.
What makes Google Docs a cut above the rest is that it makes collaborations and group projects easy. The software allows you to invite others to access and edit your documents, all in real time.
This allows multiple people to work on the same document at once, tracing the edits that are made and by who (and you can even discuss changes in a live chat window whilst you do so).
Google drive also autosaves regularly, so if you suddenly lose internet connection or you laptop battery dies, you can be relaxed in the knowledge that your work will still be there when you get back online.
Amazingly, you can also easily restore or view previous versions of your document, so if you’ve deleted something previously that you’d like to resurrect, it’s easily done!
Great for use on mobile and desktops, ThinkFree is getting more and more popular due it’s similarity to Microsoft Office suite.
Although ThinkFree is an online software, you so still have to go through an installation process before you can use it. Don’t be fooled by this though – you can still only access it online, and if you do want to upgrade to offline use you’ll need to pay £35 for ThinkFree Office.
Perhaps the best thing about ThinkFree is that it does fancy stuff with your browser so you can still use all your normal keyboard shortcuts.