What’s the real problem with Microsoft Office, Mac or Windows? Other than the fact that it’s from Microsoft. Office can be expensive. It’s definitely bloated, which is Microsoft’s way of saying feature laden. What else?
Office is complex, difficult to learn, and it’s the only game in town, right? Not quite. As it turns out, Mac or PC, there are plenty of Microsoft Office alternatives. Some free, some not so much. All but one are similar.
Send In The Office Clowns
Just off the top of my head, I can name about half a dozen office apps for Mac users. Microsoft Office for Mac. iWork (a poor man’s Office). OpenOffice or NeoOffice (a very poor man’s Office).
There’s also ThinkFree office. Think about it.
What should anything named free be? Free, right?
ThinkFree? Not so free. Even compared to Apple’s iWork, ThinkFree Office isn’t expensive, and brings to an office something Microsoft has trouble doing—compatibility.
Word processor, spreadsheet, presentation app. Cross platform. Relatively low price.
Write, Calc, Show: For A Price
To be fair, ThinkFree office is pretty decent. It claims to look, feel, and deliver like Microsoft Office. I’m not so sure I’d brag about that, but I digress. If what you want is a cross platform Office-like app for less—that does word processing, spreadsheet, and PowerPoint-like presentation—ThinkFree Office deserves a look.
TFO starts off with a familiar installation Wizard with a few steps to get itself installed. When you’re done, TFO looks a little like Microsoft Office for Mac but in a Windows-like way. Get ready to fire up a new office.
If you’ve used Microsoft Office, Mac or Windows, you’ll be at home with ThinkFree Office. Write, the word processor is loaded with Word-like features, including the layout and tools.
Write claims to give users all the features and functionality you had with Word. In my tests, TFO Write opened and saved Word documents with full formatting (to be fair, I’m not a heavy word user and my documents are not complex).
Still, familiarity is a good thing, right? So it is with TFO’s Calc. It opens up full screen, and looks like Microsoft Excel.
Calc claims to have over 300 Excel compatible functions (roughly 288 more than I know how to use), comes with a Chart Wizard, auto filters, protected worksheets, formula auditing, a page layout view, headers and footers, even hyperlinks.
For all intents and purposes, Calc 4 looks and acts like a familiar version of Microsoft Excel. Likewise, you’ll see similarities between PowerPoint and Show, TFO’s presentation app.
Show features automatic slide layouts, a master slide, plenty of drawing tools and a few megs of clipart. There’s also animations between slides, custom themes and layouts, headers and footers, even the ability to drop in video and audio.
TFO’s Show isn’t as intuitive as PowerPoint or iWork’s Keynote, but it’s credible, considering the price tag and cross platform capability. In fact, that’s probably the biggest selling point.
ThinkFree Office is like Microsoft Office, but runs on Macs, Windows PCs, even Linux PCs, so if you’re an office working on a budget and need some decent intraoffice file compatibility, TFO isn’t a bad choice.
TFO offers basic compatibility with Microsoft Office 2007 files.
Unlike either iWork or MS Office, TFO has a Mobile version that runs on Android devices.
For larger offices, there’s even a TFO Server Edition. ThinkFree Office looks, feels, and acts like a credible substitute for Microsoft Office, and is priced far lower (at least, until Enterprise pricing sets in).
For Mac users, TFO still feels like a Windows app. It doesn’t use the Mac’s Menubar, substituting drop down menus within each document window instead. It’s hot wholly bad; just different, therefore inconsistent. And boring. An unintuitive attempt to match Microsoft basics without adding innovation or ease-of-use.