Kingsoft Office 2012 Free offers a real choice

Open and edit Office documents with this compatible freeware productivity suite.

Sooner or later, nearly everyone whose work involves computers will need basic office tools such as a word processor, spreadsheet program, or presentation maker. Since Microsoft's powerful Office suite sets the standard, alternatives need to demonstrate their compatibility with the latest versions of Office. Kingsoft Office 2012 Free is the freeware version of Kingsoft Office Professional. It's a fraction of the size of some similar programs, and of course, it's free.

It bundles Kingsoft Writer, Spreadsheets, and Presentations. Each can open, edit, and save documents that are compatible with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, respectively. While it can't match everything Office (or its tools) can do, Kingsoft Office 2012 Free does the most important jobs, and it also has many extras, including encryption, a PDF converter, and watermarking. It even has some unique features of its own, such as its Humanized Table Operation and drag-and-drop Paragraph Adjustment feature. The latest version is compatible with Windows 8.

From its start menu to its individual tools, Kingsoft is enough like Office in features and options to be familiar to many users, though with its own unique touches. For example, Writer's Homepage is quite similar to Word's File page, but compared with Word's ribbon-style Office look, Writer's tabbed user interface bears more resemblance to a browser. Each Kingsoft tool sports feature-packed toolbars, too. But we'll get right to the point: we successfully created, saved, edited, opened, and re-edited documents from both Microsoft Office 2010 and Kingsoft Office 2012 in each of the comparable tools. Compatibility isn't total; for example, Kingsoft Office could open and edit macro-enabled Word docs, but not save them again in that format (it could in other formats).

Kingsoft Office has a full Help file plus an online Support Center and Forum. But if you just start with one of the templates on each tool's Home page, you won't go wrong.

This free productivity suite obviously merits attention. When all is said and done, it's easy to find out if Kingsoft Office 2012 Free is the software you need it to be: Just download it and try it yourself.

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