by May 2, 2011 0 comments



There are quite a few freely available Office suites out there, which can fulfill most of the requirements of an office. In fact, many free Office suites today go beyond the traditional word processor, spreadsheet, database managers, and presentation software. Many of them also include software like an integrated web browser, tab switching capabillity, scalable vector graphic image maker, e-mail client and many other applications. Comparing so many Office suites feature by feature is beyond the scope of this article, so here, we’ve only highlighted our key observations about them.

Snapshot
Applies to: Offices
License: LGPL
Operating Systems supported: Windows, Linux, Mac
Pros: PDF Import/Edit, Vector Graphic Editor, low memory usage>
Cons: Email Client

Libre Office 3.3

This is an Open Source Office suite from the Document Foundation, which is available in 30+ different languages for Windows, Linux and Mac Operating systems. It comes with 6 applications, whose names are the same as OpenOffice.org, viz. Libre Office Writer, Calc, Draw, Impress, Math and Base. Installing it is pretty simple. Libre Office Writer has improved over its previous version, with options like saving files as PDFs, changing cases . It also has an updated dictionary and auto spell checker to make life easier. Another useful feature of Libre Office is that it allows you to edit PDF files. You don’t need Adobe Acrobat to edit them anymore.

Libre Office Impress is an application used to create business presentations. It has a friendly user interface and provides the most widely used options in a single click. The Calc application is used to create spreadsheets, and it now supports a million rows. Libre Office Draw is a drawing tool used to create sketches, diagrams, flowcharts, etc and Math is a formula editor which can be used to create and display your chemical, electrical and scientific equations in standard notations. Most features of Libre Office look very similar to those of OpenOffice 3.3. In addition to the above, Libre Office also supports MS Works import filter.



Verdict: Libre Office is a comprehensive office suite with a lot of advanced features that would suit any organization.

OpenOffice.org 3.3

This is perhaps the most popular Open Source Office suites that is out there. The Office suite is available for Solaris, Linux, Windows and Mac. Just like Libre Office 3.3, OpenOffice.org 3.3 also has 6 applications, namely Writer, Calc, Draw, Impress, Math and Base.

Click on the image to enlarge

Just like MS Excel and Libre Office 3.3, identification of sheets in OpenOffice.org’s Calc has been made easier by the addition of colored sheet tabs. It also supports one million rows. Plus, the general number format is no longer limited to two decimal places. The slide layout of OpenOffice.org’s Impress has become more user friendly. You can now directly select the content type such as table, chart, movie, text or picture by clicking on the content type icon. Base is a relational database application, like MS Access. In OpenOffice.org’s Draw, you can create diagrams and sketches, but it does not allow importing of SVG files.


Snapshot

Meant for: Any office looking for a feature rich office suite
License: LGPL
Operating Systems supported: Windows, Linux, Mac
Pros: User Friendly
Cons: PDF Import, Email Client

We found shortcomings in OpenOffice on several fronts as compared to Libre Office. For one, we found that Libre Office works a little faster and uses lesser system memory for many operations. Second, though OpenOffice.org claims that it can import and edit PDF files, we were not able to do it, whereas, we were able to edit them using Libre Office.

Verdict: OpenOffice.org is a strong rival of Libre Office and has a similar user interface for all applications.



KOffice


Snapshot

Price: Open Source
Meant for: Linux desktops
License:GPL
Pros:Lots of applications
Cons: Not available For Windows

This is one of the few to have 9 different applications. These include KWord, KSpeard, KPresenter, Krita, Karbon, KPlato, KFormula, Kexi and Kivio. Koffice is developed for use with the KDE desktop environment in Linux. KWord as the name suggests is a Word processor. One small but useful feature of KWord is that you have to choose from a document template (fax, business card, memorandum, envelope, etc) the moment it starts.

Its spreadsheet application KSpread also has many useful default templates for making student i-cards, balance sheets, invoices and many others. KPresenter offers you enough functionality to make multimedia presentations for business conferences. Kexi is a simple database application, which requires some time to learn. Kivio is an application for designing flowcharts and diagrams –something that’s not really there in most other free Office suites. In Kivio, you can add stencils according to your requirement such as electrical contacts, computer hardware, network tools and more. KPlato is a project management application and it is very useful for business users to manage their projects. Karbon and Krita are the two different drawing applications. KFormula is the application to create and edit mathematical formulas and is similar to OpenOffice.org and Libre Offfices’ Math tool.

Verdict: KOffice is well suited for an organization running Linux on the desktop, given its rich set of apps.


Snapshot

Price: Open Source
License: GPL
Operating Systems supported:Windows, Linux, Mac

Pros: Feature rich groupware client
Cons: A very basic word processor>

Gnome Office

Just as Koffice is a part of the KDE desktop environment, Gnome Office is a part of the Gnome desktop. The only difference here is that it’s a collection of loosly coupled applications that can be downloaded separately. Moreover, some of these applications are available for different platforms like Windows, Linux, Mac OS, etc. Another interesting aspect is that there’s a set of standard applications for the Gnome desktop, and a set of extended applications for it. The standard set comprises of AbiWord word processor, Gnumeric spreadsheet program, Glom database app, Evolution email and groupware client, Inkscape vector graphics editor and Ease presentation tool.

AbiWord is an easy to use Word processor, but it’s not as powerful as others, so you won’t find features like export/import of PDF files, password protection of documents, etc. Gnumeric has similar as other spreadsheet apps, and can even save files in many formats like HTML, XML, ODS, CSV, PDF, etc. Glom has very limited features as compared to OpenOffice.org’s Base or Koffice Kexi. One difference is that it uses PostGreSQL database at the backend, which is extremely good, but it can not work on databases that it did not create.




Inkscape serves as a good replacement for more complex and expensive graphics editing suites like Adobe Illustator and CorelDraw. Evolution is a very popular email and groupware application, which is considered to compete with Microsoft’s Outlook.

Verdict: This is the only Open Source office suite which comes with an email and groupware client, although it has limited features in its other applications.

IBM Lotus Symphony 3

This is a freeware Office application for Windows, Linux and Mac operating systems. The suite consists of 3 most useful Office applications, namely Lotus Symphony Document, Presentation and Spreadsheet. To install, first you need to register on their website to get a unique IBM id. After registration, the download link will appear on the screen with the choice of operating systems. Unlike other office suites, this software has only one window to startup rather than having a separate icon for each app.


Snapshot

Price: Proprietary
Operating Systems supported:Windows, Linux, Mac
Pros:Tabbed Interface, Less Memory usage, Web Browser
Cons: No Database manager and email client

The layout of the Word processor is very different from the above discussed Office suites. All properties are expanded on the right side of the screen which saves users time while editing. It is compatible with all formats of OpenOffice.org, MS Office 2007, Libre Office, but only partially compatible with MS Office 2010 formats. Users can export PDF files by using Lotus application, but not import. The spreadsheet program works similar to OpenOffice.org Calc or Libre Office Calc and we didn’t find anything missing that comes with other spreadsheets applications. The features offered in the Lotus Symphony presentation application are enough to create multimedia presentations. However, like Open office, it does not provide the default view to select content type.

Verdict: Lotus Symphony is the strong contender and it has tabbed user interface which can be very useful for an enterprise to use basic Office applications.

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