It’s that time again, public service announcement time! I’m quite enjoying sharing with you some of my favourite free programs. It’s amazing what you can achieve with free software, oh, I forgot to mention that I found an acronym for this kind of software, FOSS (Free Open Source Software) cool eh? There is also FLOSS with the extra ‘L’ standing for ‘Libre’ which means ‘With very few limitations on distribution or improvement’ but I like FOSS I think.
So what is today’s piece of FOSS goodness? Kingsoft WPS Office; it’s a free or inexpensive alternative to Microsoft Office. Let’s quickly address the elephant in the room though, I’m going on about ‘free’ this and ‘free’ that but I also just said ‘inexpensive’ as well. It’s always important to consider how a company can financially support itself whilst providing software for nothing? In the case of WPS Office, the answer is that they provide a Premium and Professional paid versions version of their software. Both of these are very reasonable prices, especially when compared to Microsoft Office.
|WPS Office |
|WPS Office |
|Microsoft Office 365 Home||Microsoft Office 365 Personal||Microsoft |
|$9.99 / 3 Months$29.99/Yr|
|$79.99/lifetime(3 yrs services)|
For 1 PC
|$13/ mth$129/ yr |
1 Person Only
includes; Word, Excel and PowerPoint
So here’s the nuts and bolts of the price comparison above; Microsoft Office 365 (Home and Personal) both have 6 programs; Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Access and Publisher) whilst the Student version only has; Word, Excel and PowerPoint. In comparison, WPS has also got 3 main pieces of software to it; Writer (replacement for Word), Presenter (replacement for PowerPoint) and Spreadsheets (replacement for Excel.) This is also where we get the ‘WPS’ from, the first letter of each product. In my humble opinion, these three programs are more than enough to complete almost all of the most common ‘Office type’ functions you will ever need. As I mentioned in my previous post (https://hobstarblog.wordpress.com/2019/05/21/moving-to-linux-part-3my-checklist/), there are also free alternatives to Publisher if that is something you need.
Enough of the boring stuff, what makes WPS good enough to consider switching to? For me, there are several factors that I have come to love, in particular, in it’s most recent update it can even do a thing that Microsoft’s version doesn’t do. Here are some of the Highlights;
– It can open any of the Microsoft alternative files. So you can switch straight from (or even between) Microsoft and WPS, the file types are exactly the same, e.g, MS Word saves Word files as a .docx type of files, Writer from WPS does the same. WPS does have it’s own file types, but I’ve never had the need to use them. In fact, it’s really handy to be able to work in WPS at home and then take my files to work and still be able to use them there, even though I can’t use WPS at work.
– The interface is almost identical. WPS products have the same ribbon and tab layout that was made popular by Microsoft. It is a little bit different in places, I liken it to switching between cars made by different manufacturers; sometime the controls might be in a different spot, but it’s still there. This does mean that there will be a period of adjustment when switching to WPS, but that also brings us to the next point…
– ‘Click to find commands’ search box in the top right corner of the WPS will help you locate any command you can’t manually locate. This idea has been lifted directly from MS Office which has the same feature.
– The interface can be customized much more in WPS. I do like that in MS Office that you can change the theme to ‘Dark Grey’ but WPS takes this idea and amps it up to 11. There are different themes that allow for dark, light or colourful, but there is also an ‘Eye Protection Mode’ which makes the working area have a light green tinge to it, good for your eyes apparently. I like it, so I usually leave it on.
– The last one, for now, is the option to engage ‘All-in-One Mode’ which makes your Office environment more like a web browser. You can have different Word files open in the same window and switch between them by clicking on tabs at the top of the window, or, you can have different types of files open in each tab, Word in one, PowerPoint in another, Excel there too and even .PDF files. Oh did I forget to mention that? It can easily handle your PDF files as well. The paid version also does some nifty Word to PDF and PDF to Word tricks that might be useful for some people.
So now the big question, how does it handle compared to MS Office? I feel like that question has already been answered by me talking about how closely it resembles MS Office and in how it can handle any of the major file types you will likely need to use. But I must say that it’s quicker to load, faster at opening files, switching between tabs is seamless and anything I need to do in Word, Excel and PowerPoint I can achieve in WPS. The learning curve is minimal and there are robustly built-in features to help you find anything that is not listed obviously.
The only downsides I’ve found so far are that on very rare occasions you will be presented with an ad, but only ever for the premium version. I’ve also had instances where a document created in Writer is opened in MS Word and the page numbers don’t line up. Now, what does that mean? I create long user guide and books for my students when training, and these books are numbered with tables of contents. It can cause confusion for my students when I create my work at home, take it to work and print it on a work computer and then not have the page numbers line up. I think this has something to do with either; line spacing, page brakes or margins. I’ll be looking into this more and will post an update when I have a solid answer.
So, final thoughts. WPS Office meets all of my needs for every possible combination of tasks that I need to be completed for my day-to-day use and for my work documents. Best of all, you don’t even need to completely commit to using WPS, when you install it you will be asked if you want to use it as your ‘default program to open Microsoft Office files’ and you can just say ‘no.’ Then you can open WPS from the icon(s) it will place on your desktop, and try it out. In truth, I will need to be keeping Microsoft Office because I train people on how to use it. But perhaps, I can start to train people in using WPS and in how it differs slightly from the former.
I don’t use MS Publisher much at the moment, so I’ll have to do a post on the alternatives to Publisher later after having a play around with a few of them. Keep an eye out for that one.
We’ve come to the end of what I have to say about WPS Office for now. I can stop ‘fanboy’ing about it, although it’s hard because I really do like this free alternative to Microsoft Office. If you decided to download it, or are already running it or another free alternative, I’d love to hear about it down in the comments.
Until next time, never stop learning.