Review: is the best free productivity suite

Take advantage of a full-featured, top-quality business productivity suite that's also freeware.

Apache is the free open-source productivity suite that rivals Microsoft's Office suite, the business world's standard. is compatible with most Office documents and many other file types. Like Office, it's a collection of powerful tools, but you don't have to install all its modules. The latest version of supports Windows 8.

The installer's custom option lets users choose which Program Modules to install from Writer, Calc, Draw, Impress, Base, and Math, plus shared Optional Components. During setup, we chose to make our default program for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. comes with a lot of support in the form of Help files and other documentation as well as a huge community of users and developers. And, while its tools aren't Office clones, users who are familiar with Word, Excel, and other Office tools will find their counterparts easy to understand.

Clicking the icon produced a quick-start page that let us open documents, spreadsheets, formulas, and databases. We started with a new document in Writer, the suite's word processor. We quickly created a document and clicked Save to see our options. Writer offered 12 choices, including its proprietary ODF file format (.odt) as well as four Word standards, HTML, text, text encoded, and rich text. Not every format is completely compatible, though. Nevertheless, Writer offers as much as any top word processor. Impress is a presentation wizard, while Draw is a capable graphics editor. Calc is's Excel-compatible spreadsheet tool, and Base generates and accesses databases via the Database Wizard. Math is one of's advantages over Office: it's a standalone equation editor that can also insert formulas as objects into Writer.

One thing lacks that Office has is an integrated e-mail client like Outlook. But is compatible with a wide range of e-mail clients, including Mozilla Thunderbird, which many users recommend for use with the suite. Still, count us among those who'd like a fully integrated e-mail client. In any case, it's hard to find fault with anything does, especially since every bit of it is free.

CNET Top 5
Companies Apple could buy with their billions
Apple's sitting on a massive pile of cash. Here are five interesting ways they could spend it.
Play Video

Member Comments