I’m pretty sure every one of us remembers the first time he/she laid hands on a computer very well. In the last decade, computing technology, and the associated hardware and software have increased manifold. More people are buying computers these days. Laptops, once considered a luxurious class of Computers have become affordable and well within everyone’s budget. But that doesn’t mean that expensive machines have ceased to exist. They still do.
But you know something, most of these expensive machines are not just expensive because of their hardware. There’s another major deciding factor when it comes to their price. And that is software. That’s right. When you buy a new computer, you are not just paying for the physical machine, but some of the software applications that come pre-installed with it too. And that forms a significant chunk of their total retail prices. But do you really think you are actually using that “extra” software so as to justify the price you pay for it, along with the hardware that it comes with? Confusing? Read on to find out.
Microsoft Office: Probably the most popular of the default bundled software!!
Let’s face it. We all know Microsoft Office pretty well. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever met a person (from amateur to hard core professional) who knows how to use a computer, and doesn’t know about Microsoft Office. This gold standard of office cum productivity suites is one piece of software that everyone has worked on, no matter how much. I’m pretty sure even today when 90% of first time computer users buy a new machine and boot it up, their first instinct is to check whether that ever familiar trio of Word, PowerPoint and Excel exists in their list of installed programs or not.
In fact, so popular is this thing, that majority of users think it’s almost mandatory to have it installed on their systems, whether they use it or not. And when it’s not they try all sorts of methods, from purchasing a licensed copy of MS Office (which is fairly expensive, if you ask me!!) to scouring torrent websites hoping they can get their hands on one of the cracked versions. But is it even worth so much trouble? I don’t think so!!
How majority of (casual) Computer users use Microsoft Office?
I think almost everyone of us knows what a big Software suite Microsoft Office is. From the days of Office ‘97 to present day’s Office 2013, it has become increasingly big, both in features and installation footprint. Microsoft Office now comes with a whole slew of components that go way past the usual well known trio of Word, PowerPoint and Excel. But do you really need them? To answer this question, check out the following pointers and see if you agree with them or not.
- Most of the casual users normally never use MS Office products apart from Word, PowerPoint & Excel.
- Even those who use the above mentioned three products, use them for the most basic needs such as composing Letters, making simple presentations for academic usage, maintaining lists of activities etc.
- Even if we overlook the other constituent products of MS Office, most users don’t even use Word, PowerPoint & Excel to their full potential
- When you pay for Microsoft Office, you are generally paying for the entire software suite, and not just one or two constituents.
- Even though many users try to go the “torrent” way and score themselves a cracked copy of the software, it is illegal. And not something anyone should be doing, much less a casual user.
I think majority of computer users would concur with me on the above pointers. So what’s the point of paying huge sums of money for a big software (or getting it illegally, thereby encouraging software piracy) if you’re not going to use even 5% of its features? Of course there’s no point.
So what can you do to fulfill your Casual Office software requirements without going for MS Office?
The answer is simple. Real simple. You look for alternatives. I’ve said it before too. There’s hardly a software application out there for which free (and at times, better) alternatives don’t exist. And if the software is a wildly popular one such as MS Office, you can be sure you’re lucky. There are a ton of free, open source office suites that you can download and use (totally legally) for as long as you want. ILFS has reviewed a handful of these free Office alternatives in detail. The following list mentions some of them (Linked to their reviews). Check them out!!
Benefits of using alternatives instead of Microsoft Office:
- Most of these alternatives are totally free to download and use. So you’re not doing anything illegal by using them
- Microsoft Office takes up a huge chunk of your hard drive space for its installation. On the contrary, the alternatives can be easily installed on a fraction of that space.
- Some of these Microsoft Office alternatives are available as Portable Apps, which means you can take them with you on a USB drive, anywhere.
- All of these software applications are cross compatible with the default file formats of Microsoft Office. So you can use your MS Office documents with them just fine.
Microsoft Office is a really, really nice software. There’s not just one but a horde of features why it is called the Gold Standard of Office suites. However, even though its feature set justifies its price, there is no point in paying for the features which you’ll probably never use. And when you go for Free alternatives, it’s not just the memory footprint that you’re freeing up on your Hard Drive. You are also saving up your dollars in the process. So why not use the applications that are available freely to use and fulfill all your needs, instead of shelling out so much for an application that has an endless list of features that you’ll never use? I think the answer is pretty obvious.
What do you guys think about these alternatives? Do you use them? How good do you find them against MS Office? Do they fulfill your requirements? Let me know in the comments below.