6 Affordable Office 365 Alternatives for Small Businesses
As popular as Microsoft Office 365 is, it’s hard to deny the fact that it’s a little expensive. Five dollars per user per month (with annual commitment) only gets you the Office 365 Business Essentials package, which includes Exchange, OneDrive, SharePoint and Teams, but only offers basics like Outlook and Excel in web-based and mobile versions. Businesses looking for Microsoft’s full office and productivity suite with web-based, mobile and desktop versions are expected to shell out $12.50 per user per month (again, with annual commitment) for Office 365 Business Premium, which might be a pittance to enterprises, but a serious stretch for small businesses.
That is not to say that Office 365 isn’t worth the investment — with its robust and innovative feature set, it’s no surprise that it’s the office suite of choice for over 155 million business users — just that there are plenty of Office 365 alternatives that are far more budget-friendly.
Zoho, an up-and-coming software company, has developed not one, but two viable Office 365 alternatives: Zoho Workplace and Zoho Office Suite.
Zoho Workplace includes an extensive array of built-in applications, including business email, spreadsheets, file management, online meetings and even a word processor. Zoho Workplace users have access to 30 MB email attachments, unlimited organizations and private chat channels, 5 GB file upload for docs and Google Workplace (formally Google Suite) integration for free for up to 50 members.
Zoho Office Suite (also known as Zoho Docs) is a bit more subdued than its Workplace counterpart, but no less powerful. Designed to “[blur] the line between your productivity tools and business apps,” Zoho Office Suite consists of five applications:
- Writer for word processing
- Sheet for collaborative spreadsheets
- Show for interactive presentations
- Notebook for multi-device note-taking
- WorkDrive for online file management
All of Zoho Office Suite’s apps are compatible with other platforms, including Office 365 and Dropbox, for seamless import, editing and export. Zoho Office Suite also features Zia, Zoho’s AI-powered intelligent assistant, across all applications.
- Zoho Workplace: Free for up to five users; $3/user/mo. for Zoho Workplace Standard; $6/user/mo. for Zoho Workplace Professional
- Zoho Office Suite: Free for up to five users; $4/user/mo. for Zoho Docs Standard; $6.40/user/mo. for Zoho Docs Premium
“With a price tag of free, a minimalist user interface that becomes familiar after using it for only a short time, and the ability to optionally share documents amongst team members without sending them by email, Zoho Workplace puts group collaboration at the forefront of cloud-based work. With a Chromebook, a Windows system, a Macintosh, or even with an iPad or Android tablet, I can create and edit word documents, spreadsheets, and presentations online with ease.”
“Zoho Docs is absolutely perfect for sharing and storing documents within my team. We are able to upload any documents that we can think of to make sure that they are safe and shared with the entire team. I would highly recommend Zoho [Docs] to any team that is looking for a cost-effective and easy way to share and store their documents for their small business.”
The Document Foundation
The successor to Apache OpenOffice, LibreOffice is a free, open source office suite developed by The Document Foundation, an “independent, self-governing meritocratic entity, created by a large group of Free Software Advocates.” The LibreOffice platform consists of the following office applications:
- Writer for word processing
- Calc for spreadsheets
- Impress for presentations
- Draw for vector graphics and flowcharts
- Base for databases
- Math for formula editing
LibreOffice is compatible with numerous document formats, including Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Publisher. Although LibreOffice’s office app suite is robust, it lacks the productivity features included in Office 365; however, LibreOffice users can gain access to additional features through its extension and template library. Since LibreOffice is open source, it’s always evolving; users are recommended to check its website frequently for update and add-ons.
“LibreOffice is very intuitive because it is based on rather traditional menu structures that make it easy for users to find features. It offers most of the features that MS Word offers, and most of the time implements them in an easier-to-understand fashion. LibreOffice can import documents from MS Word and usually does so flawlessly… The software is free to download and use — this is essential for grad students working on a budget.”
For businesses that don’t need all the bells and whistles that Microsoft has to offer, Kingsoft’s WPS Office could be the perfect Office 365 alternative. Perhaps the smallest office suite on the market, WPS Office’s free version consists of only three apps: Writer, Presentation and Spreadsheets. Since WPS Office is cloud-based, it’s compatible with Windows, Mac, Android, Linux and iOS products. It also supports multiple file formats and is compatible with Microsoft Office, Adobe and Google Workplace.
Price: Free for WPS Office; $29.99/yr. for WPS Office Premium
“There are many good things in WPS Office, but the best part is you can convert word files to PDF and you can edit them as well. You will see your files in Table Format, you can recover deleted files, different kinds of Templates. It has an automatic spell checker, so no need to worry about spelling mistakes during fast typing. You can open different formats of files other than word format. It has built-in charts also available in very small download size. You can even open all received files at one place.”
SoftMaker FreeOffice 2018 is a free Office 365 alternative replete with word processor (TextMaker), spreadsheet application (PlanMaker) and presentation program (Presentations), all of which are compatible with the Microsoft Office suite and can be used on Windows, Mac and Linux. FreeOffice 2018 is a modest service but offers simple perks like multiple user interface options and touchscreen optimization. For users who require additional capabilities, SoftMaker also offers paid versions of its office suite, including SoftMaker Office Standard 2018 and SoftMaker Office Professional 2018.
Price: Free for SoftMaker FreeOffice 2018; $69.95 (one-time purchase) for SoftMaker Office Standard 2018; $99.95 (one-time purchase) for SoftMaker Office Professional 2018
“FreeOffice 2018 is an excellent Office alternative that makes it easy to create and work with files compatible with Microsoft’s core productivity apps. With its ability to toggle between classic and modern interfaces, it should satisfy anyone who is looking for a hardy Office-style suite without having to fork out for the real McCoy.”
Best known for its productivity and collaboration tools, Workplace also features a robust office suite that rivals Microsoft’s. Although Workplace isn’t a more affordable option — its basic business edition is actually more expensive than Microsoft — its extensive feature set makes it a compelling Office 365 alternative. With Workplace, you get:
Workplace’s price tag also includes the security and support of the Google ecosystem, and some reviewers have praised Workplace for being easier to use than the Office 365 platform. As of April 2019, Workplace supports Microsoft Office file formats, allowing for greater collaboration with partners and vendors and making it an even more competitive offering.
Price: $6/user/mo. for Workplace Basic; $12/user/mo. for Workplace Business; $25/user/mo. for Workplace Enterprise
“The transition from Office 365 to Workplace has been fairly smooth. Google provides a migration service that can complete the process without paying extra. Workplace apps are amazing for collaboration, something that Office 365 combined with Dropbox couldn’t match before. Google has improved the accessibility of their Workplace apps immensely to the point that several of our visually impaired and blind employees are able to use it without any substitutes or help. Google offers GSSMO and, for this reason, we are able to have a mixed environment of strictly Workplace users, as well as some that prefer Outlook.”
The Polaris Office 2017 professional office suite includes all of the standard features, including a word processor, spreadsheets, presentations and PDF formatting, with added benefits, such as enhanced security, visual data representations and optimized presenter tools.
Price: Free for Polaris Office 2017 Basic; $3.99/mo. for Polaris Office 2017 Smart; $5.99/mo. for Polaris Office 2017 Pro
“I’ve been using Polaris Office for years and have watched it grow from a very unstable unfamiliar suite of programs to a very well-known formidable alternative/competitor to Microsoft Office. Polaris reads and edits EVERY Microsoft Office file type, as well as PDFs.”
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