Alternatives to MS Office Abound

Opinion: For years Microsoft's Office has been the de facto standard in office productivity software. But open source and open standards are changing that.

It has been said that life is the sum of all our choices. In the IT world, that has meant Mac or PC, Linux or Windows, Intel or AMD, Oracle or DB2, and Microsoft Office or, um, wait a minute ... oh, thats right, theres no choice there.

Despite years of development and a small but doggedly faithful user base, IBMs SmartSuite (formerly from Lotus) and Corels WordPerfect Office (formerly from Novell) have pretty much been reduced to asterisk status in market share. Leaving unfair monopolistic practices aside for the moment, Microsofts Office has become the de facto standard in office productivity software, a standard that has worked well if you consider that compatibility inside and outside your company is the whole point of collaborating in documents, spreadsheets and presentations.

Still, there have been many drawbacks. Cost, for one. Plus, because Office supplies such a large amount of Microsofts profits, there has always been a drive within the company to continue to upgrade the product. This has led to "feature creep"—which could more accurately be described as feature stampede—when most users used only some of the existing features, as well as a tendency to not play nice with competitors and previous versions of Microsofts own file formats.


Now, with open source and open standards maturing, the Microsoft Office grip on the enterprise may be slipping. In addition to 2.0 and Suns StarOffice 8, eWEEK Labs analysts report in this weeks issue that other office alternatives, including GNOME Office, KOffice, ThinkFree Office and even old friend WordPerfect Office 12, are all capable replacements for Microsoft Office that wont break the bank or your old files.

Senior Analyst Jason Brooks and Senior Writer Anne Chen report that the time may be right to consider alternatives or to take the opportunity to mix in open-source applications for certain segments of your enterprise that dont need all the power of Microsoft Office, nor all the cost.

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Follow the podcast link on and join eWEEK Podcast host Stan Gibson every week for a fast-paced recap of IT news headlines from the latest edition of eWEEK, along with Labs reviews, commentary from eWEEK editors and even a dispatch from our own Spencer F. Katt. Please enjoy the podcast and let us know what you think. ´

eWEEK magazine editor Scot Petersen can be reached at


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Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Prior to joining Ziff Brothers, Scot was the editorial director, Business Applications & Architecture,...