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Hosted Exchange - Think Microsoft Office Is Your Only Hosted Exchange Option?

Unified Communications Featured Article

February 03, 2011

Think Microsoft Office Is Your Only Hosted Exchange Option?

By Susan J. Campbell
TMCnet Contributing Editor

Microsoft Office is often the office suite of choice, but you don’t have to default to this hosted exchange platform just because you think it is your only option. A recent PC World report took a look at alternative suites that can meet your productivity needs, whether you are an individual user or a business user.

The report examines five of the most compelling Microsoft alternatives used for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations and hosted exchange. Some are free and others have a cost that is considered relatively low, especially when compared with the cost of the Microsoft (News - Alert) Office 2010 Home and Business edition, which sells around $280.

Let’s take a look.


This free alternative will run on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux with a LGPL public license. This platform was created when Oracle (News - Alert) and community split and is a brand new spin on The software includes Writer for word processing, Calc for spreadsheets, Impress for presentations, Draw for sketching, Base for database creation and Math for a simply equation editor.

The LibreOffice 3.3 solution is available in more than 30 languages, and offers strong support for standards such as Microsoft Office, Microsoft Office Open XML, Open Document Format, and PDF. This open source software also enjoys the support of a large global community.

The interface in the LibreOffice 3.3 is familiar to Microsoft Office, but is also easy to personalize according to tastes. It will work on the go, but does not offer as much as other platforms in terms of cloud, mobile and collaboration capabilities. 

IBM (News - Alert) Lotus Symphony

Another free platform, the IBM Lotus Symphony is based on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X and its license is proprietary. The platform is made up of three applications: Lotus Symphony Documents, Spreadsheets, and Presentations, and has a wide variety of plug-ins available.

The latest version 3 was released in October 2010 and is based on code. For a fee, IBM will provide a QuickStart solution to help companies evaluate the return on investment and feasibility of using the software throughout the enterprise. For those wanting to use the solution in the cloud, IBM also offers LotusLive, which is also free.

Version 3 includes a good selection of clip art, and the integration with Microsoft Office is solid. Symphony does have a relatively limited set of tools that are very similar to those in Office and other competitors. This platform also includes its own browser and has a strong support for standards, including Open Document Format and those found in Microsoft Office.

Google (News - Alert) Docs

Google Docs is an online option with proprietary license that can either be free or used for $50 per user per year as part of Google Apps for businesses. It is easily argued the most recognizable name in cloud-based office software. The free service enables users to import existing documents, spreadsheets and presentations, or create new ones. Multiple people can share documents and make changes in this hosted exchange. Mobile options are also available.

The cloud-based capabilities help to support group collaboration and sharing and the power of Google is behind the hosted exchange application. Finding and opening files created elsewhere tends to be a hassle in Google Docs, however. The platform requires that files be uploaded and converted into its format, which complicates the process.

This platform works well for those who are constantly on the go and need to share files from multiple locations. The platform does not provide the software necessary for finishing touches on lengthy or numerous documents and therefore, other options may prove a better choice.

SoftMaker Office

At a price of $80, SoftMaker Office provides three licenses for home and business use and will run on Windows, Linux, Windows Mobile, and Windows CE with a proprietary license. This is a Microsoft-compatible suite and includes modules for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations as well as a Visual Basic for Applications-like (VBA) scripting language and the ability to automate recurring tasks.

This platform also includes support for Microsoft formats, Open Document Format and PDF. The platform is free to try to see if seamless support for the DOCX and XLSX file formats from Microsoft Office 2010 and 2007 make it a worthy investment. The interface mimics Microsoft Office more closely than others and each module is packed with features.

Zoho (News - Alert)

The name alone makes Zoho worthy of a look, and the fact that it is free for individuals and business prices start as low as $5 per user per month for 20 workspaces is a draw. The platform is completely online and the license is proprietary.

This cloud-based office suite is delivered through the browser, like Google Docs. It offers more than 20 different hosted exchange applications for business, productivity and collaboration. Features such as a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, note-taking and organizer tools compete most directly with Microsoft Office and all are available in multiple languages.

Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jaclyn Allard


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