It's no secret that Microsoft
dominates the productivity suite market, but that doesn't mean it's the only way to go. Corel, Sun Microsystems, Apple, IBM, and others offer alternatives at a fraction of the price of Microsoft Office 2007
. Corel WordPerfect Office X4 sports one-click PDF, HTML, and XML publishing, includes redaction and password-protection, and supports 60 file formats. The lesser-known StarOffice 8 provides basic productivity tools and throws in a couple of extras, such as a drawing program. OpenOffice 2 is Sun's free version of StarOffice. And IBM just rolled out a free test version of its Windows- and Linux-compatible Lotus Symphony suite.
If you to take productivity tools wherever you go, then you can pick from online services including Google Docs & Spreadsheets--now with Presentations too--as well as from Zoho, or the ThinkFree blend of desktop and Web tools. And Corel's Lightning lets you save content to and from the Web.
For a side-by-side comparison chart of all alternatives to Microsoft Office, click below.
While most of these tools let you save work in Microsoft's file formats, the introduction of new file types in Office 2007 complicated matters. Microsoft does not support the Open Document Format that the open-source community favors. However, Sun offers a free plug-in for Microsoft Office
that enables you to save ODF files.
The indie suites also provide unique benefits. For example, Corel WordPerfect is the tool of choice for writers and lawyers who need more control over long documents. ThinkFree 3 may be handy for business travelers who want to tweak a document using only a Java-enabled Web browser. Zoho is the only browser-based service that directly plugs into Microsoft Office apps to store work both on the user's hard drive and on Zoho's servers. Among the desktop programs, however, only iWork, Microsoft Office, ThinkFree, and OpenOffice work with Macs.
So which to choose? To help get you started, check out this chart