Many people install Linux on their machines for its simplicity, believe it or not. Distributions like Ubuntu and Mint target the curious inexperienced user and provide a complete suite of free software to tackle most PC-related tasks.
If you’re regularly tapping away on a word processor, balancing the books with a spreadsheet or knocking your boss’ socks off with a killer presentation then you’ll appreciate the importance of a decent office suite.
Here’s a selection of completely free work-related tools that you may or may not have heard about.
Chances are you have heard of this one. It comes pre-installed on a myriad of Linux distributions, including the massively popular and newbie-friendly Ubuntu.
Now at version 3.2 this freeware powerhouse provides a complete solution for any discerning Microsoft Office convert. Modules include:
- Writer – a word processor that natively exports PDF files.
- Calc – a spreadsheet application also with PDF support.
- Impress – a presentation program which can export to SWF & PDF and handle PowerPoint files.
- Base – a database program similar to Access.
- Draw – a vector image editor.
- Math – a tool for calculating mathematical formulae.
It also works on Windows and Mac, so if you’re thinking of making the switch you can try it out on your existing OS first.
Calligra Suite (formerly KOffice)
This year the KOffice team decided to rename their product Calligra Suite, with the aim of promoting the suite’s creative applications (as well as the boring office stuff you’d expect to find). This makes Calligra Suite a rich package, with 12 years of development behind it and a cracking line-up.
Some highlights from the package include:
- Words (formerly KWord) – a word processor incorporating style sheets.
- Tables (formerly KSpread) – a spreadsheet application with templates.
- Stage (formerly KPresenter) – a presentation application.
- Karbon – a new vector image package.
- Krita (formerly KImageshop) – a bitmap graphics package.
There’s plenty more in the suite, which requires KDE and its libraries to function. This package also works on Windows and Mac.
Comprising of several applications designed for the GNOME platform, GNOME Office provides a competent solution for your office needs.
Whilst not as feature-rich as the previous two, there’s still a tool for every job:
- AbiWord – a word processor with support for the OpenOffice.org (.ODT) format.
- Evince – included with your normal GNOME installation for viewing documents, including PDFs.
- Evolution – an email client, also included as part of GNOME.
- GNUMeric – a basic spreadsheet application.
- Ease – for creating presentations, still in development.
- Inkscape – a popular vector image editor and presentation tool.
You’ll need to download each individually, though if you’re using a distribution that uses GNOME you’ll notice a few of them on your machine already.
Symphony is a refreshing change from the usual approach to office software. Instead of providing several different applications to perform each task, Symphony uses a single application in several different ways.
The program can handle word documents, spreadsheets and presentations and even has a built-in web browser (useful for checking links in documents without losing track of your work).
You’ll need to supply IBM with a little bit of information before downloading, but if you’re after a lightweight single program for office duties then you might be impressed with Symphony’s fairly unique approach.
My wildcard! The two forerunners in cloud-based office and publishing solutions, both Google and Microsoft’s products will work on any PC with an internet connection and compatible browser.
They’re not strictly Linux applications, but they do function just as well on the Linux platform as they do on other operating systems.
If you’re torn between the two I’d recommend Google Docs as it allows you to download your work in a variety of formats, rather than Microsoft’s limited proprietary Office file types. Both allow you to print directly from the application and support collaborative editing.
If you’re really after that “application feel” try using Chrome and creating Web Shortcuts. You’ll might even forget they’re running on the cloud!
There should be at least one or two offerings here that take your fancy if you’re looking for that perfect-fit office solution. Considering they’re free, you might as well try them all till you find the one that fits. With selections like this, it’s a wonder why you’d ever pay for an office suite again really.
Do you have a favourite office suite? Do you prefer cloud-based or locally installed software? Any on the list that don’t cut the mustard? Let us know in the comments.
(By) Tim Brookes is a keen photographer and writer who has been producing content for the web since 2006. You can visit his blog and portfolio at timbrookes.co.uk to find out about his latest work.