Comparing Office Suites



  • So there are four major office suites today, and a few serious small competitors. The big boys are MS Office, LibreOffice, G Suite / Google Docs, and Zoho Office. Smaller players include OnlyOffice, WPS, etc.

    Comparing is difficult because none are exactly one to one replacements for another, they are all at least a little unique. Some are local install only, some are remote install only, some are both. Pricing differs based on versions or features. Some have special extra tools like email clients or form creators. Some pieces, like Visio, is technically part of its parent suite, but is not included in a normal purchase.

    So comparisons are difficult just because the products vary so much in their approach to everywhere.

    Also, there are many vectors for comparison, such as...

    • Performance
    • Platform Support
    • Cost
    • Usability
    • Document Compatibility
    • Local and Remote Options
    • Document Storage Options
    • IT Support Costs and Needs
    • Licensing and Management Overhead

    So taking all of the things into consideration, what do people find, like, suggest, etc. From what we see as an MSP, we see all of these and different companies choosing all of them for different reasons. Some they choose because they like them or find them to be a good value, some because it's required by something else in their environment, etc.



  • As an MSP, when we talk to customers about their options, costs, and whatever, we find that LibreOffice is the most commonly deployed because once management looks at its features, easy of use, low unnecessary change rate, near zero IT costs (it deploys to every platform via free repos, it's the most broadly available, lowest overhead of any product we've seen) they generally override individual objections to wanting to keep whatever their person and not personally paid for products. The secret being the "business owners" prefer LibreOffice when evaluating organizational needs. Individuals who don't look at the big picture and aren't personally responsible for cost issues, tend to look at limited factors and pick whatever they are used to.

    MS Office is super common, and universally hated. Nearly every customer we have with it loathes it and whatever factors are leading them to use it prove to be a weak link in some other product's armor. This is so dramatic that I'm working with a team to make software for whom a major selling point is that it does not use or require MS Office. Most of our customers that use MS Office do so either because it is deeply entrenched from a time before organizational level planning was done and/or the existing files are so entrenched in their workflow that updating would be problematic.

    G Suite and Zoho Docs we are starting to see more and more. Only companies with great Internet connections can use them, but that's a lot of companies.

    These are really the only four we are seeing in the wild.



  • At NTG, we used MS Office for a while because we were tied to O365 and the products really are great, but the system we found to be problematic and unnecessarily cumbersome and their lack of cross platform compatibility without loads of delays and IT overhead was a huge deal. They just didn't cut it on a technical basis, their online-only products aren't on par with their local installs and are the only ones that work with Linux, ChromeOS, etc. So we found that there was no upside to their products for us, only downsides, even though it was free as an MS partner at the time. Even free, it wasn't good enough, but it was decent.

    We moved to LibreOffice and CODE on NextCloud for local and hosted LibreOffice. This worked well and is super cheap. CODE was a huge pain to make work, and super slow. LO locally runs beautifully and requires zero IT overhead. LO on Ubuntu is, I believe, faster than MS Office on Windows. It's smooth and nearly instant and just as well integrated. But you are stuck with CODE for ChromeOS, and that sucks. LO/CODE was a step up from MS Office for us, but not a big step up.

    We ended up testing and moving to Zoho Docs, which is purely online. As an always-on to work MSP, the limitations of online only really doesn't exist to us. If we are offline, we can't work anyway. So for us, the downsides of the Zoho approach essentially don't exist. We use Zoho for email and chat already, so the user integration is a huge deal for us. We find the Zoho online docs to be smooth and polished, moreso than G Suite, and feel more like a local MS Office or LO experience. Lots of features, lots of power, runs pretty fast, really good mobile apps, and zero cost (because we have their $1 email.) The unlimited free storage is an awesome feature, as is the ability to fully interoperate between MS Office and LO file formats.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Comparing Office Suites:

    Lots of features, lots of power, runs pretty fast, really good mobile apps, and zero cost (because we have their $1 email.) The unlimited free storage is an awesome feature

    Where do you find this? Their pricing page makes no mention of an e-mail only option at $1



  • Nevermind, I found I was in ZOHO CRM, not ZOHO mail.



  • Isn't stretching it extremely far to put Zoho among the major players?

    Mayor players has to be Microsoft & Google. Then way down, common open source suites like libreoffice/openoffice. And then the rest, including Zoho.

    Even compared to online suits only, Zoho can't have more than a few percent of the market if even that.



  • @Pete-S said in Comparing Office Suites:

    Isn't stretching it extremely far to put Zoho among the major players?

    Well, for us it's the most major player 😉 You can make a case for any of them not being among the majors. MS for not being easy to acquire and use. Google for not being normal. LO for not making any money.

    Zoho is likely the last by market share. But it's more like the big boys than not. If you use their product, they feel like a bigger player than MS or Google from how polished and capable their product seems.

    Market share matters when you are investing. But product viability and completeness matters when you are talking IT matters.



  • Nice, 'tis where all data should be. Better than MS Office already lol!
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  • @scottalanmiller said in Comparing Office Suites:

    As an MSP, when we talk to customers about their options, costs, and whatever, we find that LibreOffice is the most commonly deployed because once management looks at its features, easy of use, low unnecessary change rate, near zero IT costs (it deploys to every platform via free repos, it's the most broadly available, lowest overhead of any product we've seen) they generally override individual objections to wanting to keep whatever their person and not personally paid for products.

    MS Office is super common, and universally hated. Nearly every customer we have with it loathes it and whatever factors are leading them to use it prove to be a weak link in some other product's armor. This is so dramatic that I'm working with a team to make software for whom a major selling point is that it does not use or require MS Office. Most of our customers that use MS Office do so either because it is deeply entrenched from a time before organizational level planning was done and/or the existing files are so entrenched in their workflow that updating would be problematic.

    Interesting. I've never come across an organisation that doesn't use Office. And I've never come across one that hates it. Sure, everyone swears at PowerPoint when it doesn't do what they want it to, and years ago I had a few people bemoaning replacing their beloved Lotus 123, but never "hate".

    My biggest issue with using anything else would be compatibility, as Word, Excel and PowerPoint files are routinely shared across organisations. How do people deal with that?



  • @Carnival-Boy said in Comparing Office Suites:

    My biggest issue with using anything else would be compatibility, as Word, Excel and PowerPoint files are routinely shared across organisations. How do people deal with that?

    The biggest thing is that this sharing, which I agree just a few years ago was ubiquitous, is mostly gone now. Finally computer literacy around file formats is starting to happen and people are getting away from this through the following things that I've observed...

    1. Moving away from archaic "file sharing" data communications. It's a bizarre concept to begin with.
    2. Most tools are broadly interoperable. Pretty much all of the big tools work pretty well with each other. MS Office and LO are the worst two, and even they are pretty good. People with LO can work with people sending them MS Office files without a problem.
    3. Google broke the MS Office strangehold and the idea that everyone uses MS Office is well over. It's been most of a decade since anyone could just send an MS Office file and think that people would open it in MS Office.
    4. All four major platforms (and most minor ones) have mechanisms to "share" without file sharing. Even when we were MS Office based, we weren't sharing files to share the contents of Word, Excel, etc.

    For example...

    As a modern company, NTG really never shares "files" with companies except for things like PDF invoices. Even that is old fashioned. Sharing editable collaboration documents with customers or vendors is bizarre and I can't think of when we'd be likely to do it. If we share anything, it's online, data-aware applications. Sharing collaboration files offline would be costly and problematic.

    If people share files with us, yes it is typically an MS Office format. But since everything can open those, we have zero need for MS Office and anyone sharing with us has no need to assume we don't have it, since everyone has the tools to work with those files. It might seem like everyone has MS Office because of this, but it's really just that the idea of file format lock in to specific applications is a bygone era problem. For us today, we open the files in Zoho Docs which handles MS Office and OpenDocs perfectly, and moves between them, and actually stores in its own format in between. So to us, they become Zoho Docs (whoever receives a document via email or whatever converts to Zoho when they upload and the company deals with it as a Zoho Doc all through an online app) and our partners would then be sent a link to work with it online, from which they could download as any offline format that they desired.



  • @Carnival-Boy said in Comparing Office Suites:

    And I've never come across one that hates it.

    It's the owners / investors that typically hate it. No one else is affected by the costs of it. IT benefits from the job protection, end users have the benefit of already knowing it (in most cases.) Owners alone suffer from lost efficiency, cost of support, cost of acquisition, etc. So you have to ask the people who pay for it, and show them the cost and alternatives to find out if they like it or not. When told the cost and that it's not a requirement, it's a rare owner that isn't upset that someone told them that they needed it and that it was cost effective.



  • A similar analogy is when I worked in a grocery store. As a normal worker, I earned nothing from strong sales or good margins. I got the same low pay no matter what happened. So two best things to happen at work would be either an insanely slow day where there was no work to do; or a disaster day (like power out and no lights and all food going bad) simply because it created a day where there was no routine and we got to do totally different from usual work and there was no way to measure success as we were just dealing with a disaster.

    To everyone that worked in the store, the worst days for the business were the best days for the workers because we were punished for successful business days and rewarded for failed ones. So if you ask anyone below an owner, we love days with no customers. But if you ask the owners, they hated days with no customers.

    Same with MS Office. Owners (the business) feel one thing (if they are aware), and everyone else feels another thing because they don't benefit from the overall business success (in 99% of cases.)



  • @Carnival-Boy said in Comparing Office Suites:

    I've never come across an organisation that doesn't use Office.

    All it takes is a company having Chromebooks, which while still pretty niche, are getting more and more common, for MS Office to have little way to function universally at a company. Chromebooks seem to be the biggest "oops, we invested in something and never considered our office suite needs and now have to rethink how we share documents" factor out there. Mostly, I'd guess, it's two decision makers that don't talk and then what do you do. But we see companies talk about Chromebooks a lot. Many avoid them because they can't run Office. But many run them and leave Office. Once in a while, you have someone without office that wants them, but that's still pretty rare.

    You can, of course, use O365 Online with a Chromebook and it works as well as it does on Windows (better in some ways) because Chrome is Chrome (and Chrome is the officially recommended and supported platform for MS Office Online) but the assumption of the "need MS Office" thought process is that you need, at least some of the time, the local installed versions and Chromebooks can't do that.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Comparing Office Suites:

    @Carnival-Boy said in Comparing Office Suites:

    I've never come across an organisation that doesn't use Office.

    All it takes is a company having Chromebooks, which while still pretty niche, are getting more and more common, for MS Office to have little way to function universally at a company. Chromebooks seem to be the biggest "oops, we invested in something and never considered our office suite needs and now have to rethink how we share documents" factor out there. Mostly, I'd guess, it's two decision makers that don't talk and then what do you do. But we see companies talk about Chromebooks a lot. Many avoid them because they can't run Office. But many run them and leave Office. Once in a while, you have someone without office that wants them, but that's still pretty rare.

    You can, of course, use O365 Online with a Chromebook and it works as well as it does on Windows (better in some ways) because Chrome is Chrome (and Chrome is the officially recommended and supported platform for MS Office Online) but the assumption of the "need MS Office" thought process is that you need, at least some of the time, the local installed versions and Chromebooks can't do that.

    It's too bad Chromebooks don't work for every job role and function in an enterprise, or meet the needs for all policies 😢



  • @scottalanmiller said in Comparing Office Suites:

    end users have the benefit of already knowing it (in most cases.)

    This is a benefit for the owners to, as it reduces training costs, and increases productivity. I've been using Office for years and I'm still pretty rubbish with it (as in only using about 20% of its features), so moving to another office suite would almost certainly reduce my productivity, at least in the short term, whilst I had to learn how to use it.

    Calculating the TCO of different suites is an impossible task, but I don't think one should assume that Office is the most expensive, just because it has the highest licencing costs.

    Full disclosure, I work for a Microsoft partner, so I may not be entirely unbiased 🙂



  • @Carnival-Boy said in Comparing Office Suites:

    This is a benefit for the owners to, as it reduces training costs, and increases productivity.

    Absolutely, but the amount is pretty trivial. Every picked up a new office suite? Takes what, ten minutes to be at 99% efficiency? And not everyone, not even most people, are training on MS Office now coming out of school. So the amount that this impacts companies in a positive way isn't what it used to be. And overall usage of Office Suites has dropped so much, even people coming from MS Office backgrounds might not know any more about it than someone just picking it up for the first time.

    There are isolated workers for whom this is a big deal (and some even more isolated where it is a big deal in the opposite direction.) But overall, this is a tiny factor. And one of the original selling points on LibreOffice was that it had less of a learning curve, rather than more of one, for people with MS Office experience.



  • @Carnival-Boy said in Comparing Office Suites:

    Calculating the TCO of different suites is an impossible task, but I don't think one should assume that Office is the most expensive, just because it has the highest licencing costs.

    Which is why I don't and I'm overly clear that it's the licensing and support overhead, not the licensing cost, that make it hard to justify. The cost is the icing, not the cake.



  • @Carnival-Boy said in Comparing Office Suites:

    I've been using Office for years and I'm still pretty rubbish with it (as in only using about 20% of its features), so moving to another office suite would almost certainly reduce my productivity, at least in the short term, whilst I had to learn how to use it.

    Have you tried grabbing LO, Zoho, or G Suite just to see? My guess is you'd have about five minutes of "Where the heck is everything" then about an hour of "oh, yeah forgot where to find that" and then once in a great while have to look for something after that. Unless you are a crazy office power user, of which I've barely even met one in all my travels, the things you need to know how to do on an office suite are so basic and obvious that I can move to most new products and not notice a difference after just a few minutes of poking around; learning curves approach zero.

    It's also worth noting that MS Office changes enough version to version that this effect hits MS Office users over and over again and that alone can make the one time effort to switch to something else pay for itself in terms of recurring re-education alone over time.



  • I've tried G Suite and struggled.



  • @Carnival-Boy said in Comparing Office Suites:

    I've tried G Suite and struggled.

    G Suite is, I feel, the most dramatically different. It's the only one that I find any challenge with, too. It's also quite expensive. Google's take on most things is to not follow interface conventions. I find their email client to be a productivity train wreck, too... so slow, and so weirdly unproductive. But even with their G Suite office tools being the worst, I still find them easy enough to get up and running with quite quickly.

    Do you have any memory of the kinds of tasks that were making it hard to use?



  • @scottalanmiller Personally I love LibreOffice and Zoho. There are very few things that Office365 can do that they don't. However most businesses I've seen use one of the Office versions and no one ever uses most of the features. Just too heavy also for my liking.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Comparing Office Suites:

    All it takes is a company having Chromebooks, which while still pretty niche, are getting more and more common

    Chromebooks are getting extremely popular in schools i will add. I go to local high schools all around to assist in dual credit registration and most schools in this area provide every student with chromebooks.



  • @jmoore said in Comparing Office Suites:

    @scottalanmiller said in Comparing Office Suites:

    All it takes is a company having Chromebooks, which while still pretty niche, are getting more and more common

    Chromebooks are getting extremely popular in schools i will add. I go to local high schools all around to assist in dual credit registration and most schools in this area provide every student with chromebooks.

    Yup, and my college age nieces use them. And a friend going back to school (later in life additional professional cert) just bought one. The last couple of years they seem to have exploded in use.



  • @Carnival-Boy said in Comparing Office Suites:

    've been using Office for years and I'm still pretty rubbish with it (as in only using about 20% of its features),

    i feel like this is the norm everywhere. No one uses much of the Office features. So why are people paying for all those features their organization wont use?



  • @jmoore said in Comparing Office Suites:

    @Carnival-Boy said in Comparing Office Suites:

    've been using Office for years and I'm still pretty rubbish with it (as in only using about 20% of its features),

    i feel like this is the norm everywhere. No one uses much of the Office features. So why are people paying for all those features their organization wont use?

    Exactly. I've been using it since one of the initial releases and I'm neither proficient in it nor using anything special.



  • @jmoore said in Comparing Office Suites:

    @Carnival-Boy said in Comparing Office Suites:

    've been using Office for years and I'm still pretty rubbish with it (as in only using about 20% of its features),

    i feel like this is the norm everywhere. No one uses much of the Office features. So why are people paying for all those features their organization wont use?

    It's not about the features anymore, Office hasn't added a feature than 95% of people (or more) have needed in more than 10 years. The reason it keep selling - entrenchment - it's what they already had/have.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Comparing Office Suites:

    Every picked up a new office suite?

    Yes this is absolutely correct. Most Office suites are all very similar. Sure they have a few unique points here and there but when I tried zoho docs it really was like 10 min to cover everything. Libre, OnlyOffice, gsuite, wps, are all basically the same in my opinion. Takes very little time to learn a new one.



  • @Dashrender said in Comparing Office Suites:

    @jmoore said in Comparing Office Suites:

    @Carnival-Boy said in Comparing Office Suites:

    've been using Office for years and I'm still pretty rubbish with it (as in only using about 20% of its features),

    i feel like this is the norm everywhere. No one uses much of the Office features. So why are people paying for all those features their organization wont use?

    It's not about the features anymore, Office hasn't added a feature than 95% of people (or more) have needed in more than 10 years. The reason it keep selling - entrenchment - it's what they already had/have.

    Right.... "failure to evaluate business needs".



  • The main reason we didn't switch 10+ years ago was our old Word docs looked like shite in OO. updating them all wasn't worth it in management's mind (even though they never got a quote to do such an updating).



  • @jmoore said in Comparing Office Suites:

    @scottalanmiller said in Comparing Office Suites:

    Every picked up a new office suite?

    Yes this is absolutely correct. Most Office suites are all very similar. Sure they have a few unique points here and there but when I tried zoho docs it really was like 10 min to cover everything. Libre, OnlyOffice, gsuite, wps, are all basically the same in my opinion. Takes very little time to learn a new one.

    Yeah, I've played with WPS and OnlyOffice, too. And both were "usable on the spot" without any extra setup time, too. These days the interfaces are so intuitive I can move between pretty much all of them transparently.



  • @Dashrender said in Comparing Office Suites:

    The main reason we didn't switch 10+ years ago was our old Word docs looked like shite in OO. updating them all wasn't worth it in management's mind (even though they never got a quote to do such an updating).

    While their impression might have been correct... more "didn't evaluate".

    Likely wouldn't take much, since MS Office does the conversion. And so does Zoho, and others.