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Why are we so tied to Microsoft Office?

MS Office

If you’re looking for a new office suite for your computer, why fork out for Microsoft Office when there are free alternatives that are just as good? Guest author Thomas Roberts, aged 10, looks at the options.

Everywhere I go, I see people using Microsoft Office.

Schools, works, homes, pretty much anywhere with a computer will have Microsoft Office installed.

But the owners of the computers must have had to pay a lot (or get freebies from Microsoft, as is often the case with schools) as Microsoft Office is very expensive.

It costs £60 a year for a 1-PC Office 365, more than £80 a year for 5-PC Office 365, and over £100 (one-off) for the most basic Office 2016 plan.

Businesses may have to pay even more for Office Professional, which costs just under £300.

Microsoft Office alternatives

If you’re looking for a new computer but the Which? Best Buy (or otherwise) you really want doesn’t have Microsoft Office pre-installed, there are free alternatives out there.

Google Docs is one example. Another is LibreOffice, which is available for Windows, Mac and Linux (it’s usually pre-installed on Linux).

It also has a viewer (can edit, but you need to enable experimental features) for Android. This is available on Google Play, F-Droid and as an APK download from the LibreOffice website.

LibreOffice can do all of the things Office can do: there’s an equivalent for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, etc, and it can edit PDFs.

The UK government use the format that LibreOffice uses (OpenDocument Format) to publish their documents.

It does this so as many people as possible can read and access its documents without having to pay the hefty price that Microsoft demand.

Using OpenDocument Format

ODF isn’t a specialist Linux-only format, so why aren’t more of us using it?

Well, I think there are several reasons why.

Firstly, I don’t think many people are aware there are alternatives to Microsoft Office out there.

Secondly, they worry about compatibility issues.

There are some issues, mainly with things like fonts, bullet-point styles and images. But if you’re running Windows, you’ll be able to use Microsoft fonts that work on Word, and you can manually install MS fonts on Linux.

Generally, ODF documents are perfectly readable on Microsoft Office and vice-versa.

Lastly, many people think that alternatives aren’t nearly as user-friendly as Microsoft Office, but this isn’t true.

If you’re used to Microsoft Office then LibreOffice should be easy to get used to (especially if you enable the experimental NotebookBar, which is similar to the MS Office Ribbon).

If you’d prefer not to have your sensitive documents in the Cloud or you just don’t need it, then LibreOffice is a perfect alternative.

This is a guest post by Thomas Roberts, aged 10, who visited the Which? offices in Paddington last week. Thomas has read Which? for two years and has successfully advised his family and others on various purchases. His visit was a belated Christmas treat.

Do you use an alternative to Microsoft Office or are you firmly tied to it?


For somebody 10 years old he seems to be a budding engineer , he is quite right of course and that is exactly what is on my LInux PC – Libre Office/Libre Base/ LIbre Calc/Libre Draw/ libre Impress/LIbre Math/Libre Writer . For too long LInux has had bad publicity directed against it mainly from MS and its engineering employees , but surprise, surprise MS has changed its tune ( for financial reasons ) and is now using LInux in some of its own designs. LInux is used by many government services , its servers are worldwide and is being used by a lot more portable devices worldwide than Windows , hence the interest . LInux has matured and is more public friendly in Linux MInt , for instance a near replica of Windows 7 without the spying and without being blocked from making changes to the system and its a mile more secure as there are no “back-doors ” so no tales to Redmond like Windows . Using Ubuntu which MInt uses you are dealing with an English company -Canonical -headquartered in London. Dell a very big US company sell and market Linux laptops and have just come out with a new all-in-one PC , my LCD screen is Dell and is totally reliable. While those die-hard games enthusiasts say Windows is better at games LInux is not far behind now and is well ahead in other departments that count on security.


Hi Thomas and welcome to Which? Conversation.

I started to use ‘Word for Windows’ – the predecessor of Microsoft Word – in 1990. I carried on using Word, Excel and PowerPoint because that was what most people used where I worked. Now that I’m retired, a charity makes Microsoft Office available to people who work for it.

One of these days I will switch to using other software because I have never liked Microsoft Office.


Hi Thomas, we use MS Office for very much the same reasons as wavechange.

I still have my very first version on floppy disks somewhere. Then we were able to purchase later versions very cheaply through a work scheme, and have 3 versions going at the moment on different computers.

I enjoyed using earlier Microsoft products, there was great camaraderie on computer forums as we learned what went on inside the box and helped each other to fix problems. But the way MS has forced itself on us over the years especially with Win10, made access to inside the box harder, depleting the knowledge that was available, I will not be going MS on future computers. The latest nail in the coffin was to remove the ability to control our own updates on Win7. As my OS no longer gets updated, MS have only hastened my departure and I will be going Linux next time.

So next time I will also not be using MS Office.


Thanks for the welcome Wavechange. What I would like to see is LibreOffice being used in schools and by more employers, so people wouldn’t feel obliged to buy MS Office at home (and, if they use Linux, mess up their nice clean Linux box with nasty MS software)!


Got to agree with that Thomas.


Hi Thomas – I would be very glad if Microsoft had never existed and I am particularly glad that Infernal Explorer has been phased out. I have not bought any copies of MS Office and use it just because it has been provided for my use.


‘Infernal Explorer’ – I like that! I will be using that along with ‘Losedows’. Yes, Infernal Explorer has been phased out, but what about Edge (couldn’t think up anything for that one)?


I have not seen the Edge browser, probably because I am a Mac user. The only windows I have in my house are double glazed. 🙂


Edge browser -aka-on the “edge ” of reality in its ability to pass back to Redmond all your data and after that sends you personalised ads .I could go on in a very technical fashion but I hope people are not naive when using it and Cortana and your speech pattern is logged -guess where ? and guess which third party collects it ? I fully realise that many people love Windows -fair enough , no problem with that but don’t complain when you get redirected to adverts.