One of the most popular applications for Mac users is Microsoft’s venerable Office. Word. Excel. PowerPoint. Entourage.
Love Office or hate Office, it’s a big seller with many users and more than a few fans. Is it possible to get an Office-like clone for $50. ThinkFree thinks so.
ThinkFree Office 3, despite the name, is not free, though $50 is a nominal amount to pay for a suite of applications that behaves, more or less, like Microsoft Office.
The student teacher version of Office is about $150, with other versions going up to nearly $500. Does ThinkFree Office compare favorably at $50?
If you’re a Mac user familiar with Excel, Word, and PowerPoint, then you’ll feel somewhat at home with ThinkFree Office. The user interface is strikingly similar to that of the real Office, though plenty of differences, even quirks, exist.
ThinkFree Write compares favorably to Word in that there are far more features than most of us will ever use. Files are, uh, mostly compatible, including the new Office file formats.
ThinkFree Calc compares very favorably to Excel with similar functions and features. After all, a spreadsheet is pretty much a spreadsheet. For most of us. If you’re a power Excel user, stick with Excel.
ThinkFree Show compares somewhat favorably to PowerPoint, though with fewer bells and whistles. ThinkFree uses the term “applications… extremely compatible with Microsoft…” As in, mostly, almost, generally, often, expect a gotcha here and there but not too many.
In an effort to differentiate, ThinkFree provides a rather expansive offering of what amounts to decent compatibility with Microsoft Office at a fraction of the price.
Small offices rejoice. There’s ThinkFree Office available for Windows, Linux, and Mac.
There’s a ThinkFree Server Integrator for network document integration, and ThinkFree Server Standard which is a browser-based server office suite.
Browser based? Can you say Google Apps? Google’s Chrome web browser appears to be designed to become a multi-platform (Mac, Windows, Linux) platform which can run high powered web-based applications.
ThinkFree seems to recognize the future of diversification and has both a web-based product and an iPhone version. Variations on the ThinkFree theme include ThinkFree Online, ThinkFree for iPhone, ThinkFree Docs, ThinkFree Mobile and the collaborative WorkSpace.
The online version, My Office, is free.
Generally speaking, my trial of ThinkFree Office indicates that it is a worthy and affordable alternative to Microsoft Office, especially if your business is comprised of Macs, Windows, and Linux PCs.
The cost of buying and running Microsoft Office on each PC in the building can get expensive. ThinkFree cuts that price substantially, yet offers similar compatibility.
My trial also indicates that not all files are fully compatible with Microsoft’s files; some formatting gets strange, not all Excel formulas make the transfer, some images and text shifts when transferring to PowerPoint and back again. But it’s pretty close.
ThinkFree Office, even running on a powerful iMac with plenty of RAM, runs slower than the more expensive Office, but not so that you won’t get used to it, or become annoyed. Like Microsoft’s offerings, it’s good enough.
Interestingly, one feature touted by ThinkFree is the ability of Office to change documents to Adobe’s PDF, portable document format, something Macs can do with ease.
There are free versions of OpenOffice and there’s Microsoft Office starting at $150. In between there is ThinkFree Office. Not free at $50, but affordable and usable, and still here after all these years.
Where I work Microsoft Office is entrenched on every desktop, though I’ve come to know and love Apple’s attractive iWork ‘08 suite. For the budget conscious, free is still good, and ThinkFree has a niche with Office similarity and cross platform capability.