We chose a lineup of the best office software based on ease of use, versatility and compatibility. We avoided browser-based applications and focused instead on actual downloadable software that’s usable offline. To keep things simple, we avoided mobile-only programs. We looked at programs that work primarily on desktops, although some in our lineup also have mobile functionality. To give you the most comprehensive lineup, we looked at both paid and free, open-source options. For office software specifically for Mac, take a look at our reviews here. For additional information, check out our articles on Office Software.
Best Office Software for Business
Microsoft Office is difficult to beat when it comes to office software, particularly for business use. While it’s well-suited for home users and students, it’s in the business arena that this powerful office suite really excels. The business-level software gives you a complete suite of programs and tools, including Outlook, OneDrive storage, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and extra tools like Publisher and Access. Because most of us are so familiar with Microsoft’s layout, how it operates and all its little foibles, it doesn’t take long to get all users up and running. It's also scalable, so you can purchase more licenses and allow more people to access the suite as your business grows. You can access and edit your files on any computer, along with your mobile device or smartphone with the web apps, so users can stay productive even on the morning commute.
Microsoft has led the field of office and productivity software for decades, and its updated packages continue this trend. The major issue with this office software for many people was that you couldn’t access your documents or your purchased office software between different computers or devices, and alternative options in the form of online apps allowed you to do this. However, Microsoft rose to the challenge and launched office software that improved on the quality of former generations and made it possible to access and edit your files between devices, once again solidifying its position as the gold standard of office software.
Best Office Software for Education
Apache OpenOffice is free, which is part of its appeal, particularly when combined with its versatility. It is great office software for education because it is open source, so it can legally be given to students to use at home and placed on as many school computers as necessary without concern, as it doesn’t have any user number restrictions. Because it’s free, OpenOffice is a great choice for teaching students essential computer literacy skills without forcing them to buy specific commercial products. OpenOffice is built as component-based software, so it’s a smart option for teaching more advanced students the principles of software engineering. Aside from its word processing and spreadsheets, OpenOffice allows students and educators to perform calculations, create and solve mathematical equations, create and edit complex databases, make multimedia presentations, and unleash their creativity through drawing.
Apache OpenOffice is a free, open-source software package that runs on Windows, Mac and Linux systems. A close relation of LibreOffice, OpenOffice is not web-based and doesn’t offer any cloud options. However, it remains a popular alternative to Microsoft Office for those who don’t need cloud storage or remote access to their documents.
Best Office Software for General Use
WordPerfect is our choice as the best office software for all-around use. It’s a solid general-purpose office suite that’s suited to home, school and even business users. While it doesn’t offer quite as many different programs as some of the other suites, it covers everything a general user would need. You get a word processor, spreadsheet software, a slideshow program, a digital notebook, and photo-editing software, along with clip art images, training videos, a drawing application and a bitmap editor. This software suite has a PDF editor and is compatible with Microsoft Office, so you can view and edit Microsoft Office files from the WordPerfect programs. For aspiring authors, the suite includes an eBook publisher. To help you save storage space and improve the SEO of any of your online endeavors, you can make use of the metadata-stripping function.
WordPerfect has been around for decades, and it is trusted by users all around the world. This office suite carries a moderate to high price tag, depending on whether you choose the Home & Student, Standard, or Professional edition. While each one is a fully functional office suite, there are considerable differences in features and restrictions among the three software packages.
What to Look For in Office Software
Whether you’re shopping for a student, are a writer, or run a business, you’ll most likely find yourself using your office software a great deal. This is why it’s so important to get the right office suite for your needs. Investing in a software package that doesn’t offer everything you need or that you’re not comfortable with is a waste, so keep in mind the following factors when making your purchasing decision.
Software & Tools
The most obvious and perhaps most important factor to consider is what software and tools come with your office suite. A word processor that can handle complex tasks like writing dissertations and books is essential to many users, while some place more importance on the quality and capability of the included spreadsheet software. Other common inclusions are a drawing program and a presentation builder. Some suites also include photo-editing software.
Some office software bundles include communication and organization tools and software, such as email programs, calendars and organizers. These can prove useful for busy individuals who need a little help to stay on schedule.
Supported File Formats
If you’re using multiple programs from different companies, or perhaps someone you communicate with and share files with uses a different office suite, it’s crucial that you can still access those files. Therefore, make sure the office software you choose supports a large range of file formats and includes the ones you use most frequently.
The number of licenses each software purchase gives you is really important. Some office suites only provide one license for one PC or one user per purchase, while others, like OpenOffice, are free and have no user limits. Some, like Microsoft Office, let you purchase one license per user and scale up the number of users or licenses as your business grows.
Whether you’ve been using office suites for decades or you’re brand-new to computing, having solid support on hand can make all the difference. While you can find answers to many questions online and from user-generated content in forums, having bona fide help from the software developer can save you a huge amount of time when you’re learning the ropes or when something goes wrong. The best office suites have robust FAQs and tutorials for self-help, along with product and technical support available via email, telephone or live chat. Some also have dedicated forums where you can get help from official representatives and other users.