This blog is my attempt to share information with faculty, introducing new apps, websites, or other snippets of information that may be of use to faculty. I am also using it to keep track of projects I'm working on that might be good to reference in the future.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Free Office Replacement - with mobile editing capability as well! WPS Office (Kingsoft)

I'm always looking for free or cheap alternatives for students, friends or family who want to be able to edit MS Office files, but not spend the yearly fee on a Microsoft Office Suite that may be too much for their needs.

I have tried  Open Office and Libre Office and have liked the functionality for both, but one area was that somewhat of a drawback was the ability to save Office files.  Many office alternatives, like these, have no problem opening and editing MS Office files, but by default they saved in their native format (.ODT).  When recommending these (and other) Office alternatives, you always have to remind users to do a File & Save As, and not just a Save.  Not always something a novice user wants to do, as they just want it 'to work'.   If they didn't do that save step correctly, when they emailed the edited file to someone, that person could not easily open it, if all they had was MS Office.  It seems if you are using something as an Office alternative, it should work seamlessly for the end users, so that no one that is sending or receiving files has even an opportunity for incompatibility.

I recently heard that KingOffice helped with that.  I looked up KingOffice and they have changed their name to WPS Office.  The BIG, BIG deal for me is that when you run the install, they ask if you want to save files in Microsoft Office format (.doc, .xls, .ppt) by default.  This should have been a no-brainer option for other replacement suites as well.  So now a novice user can install the software and not have to worry about Office compatibility issues when sending or receiving files.

KingOffice seems 'light' as it only does Word Processing, Spreadsheets and Presentation (PowerPoint).  That is all I need, I don't use Outlook or OneNote.  I use the web interface for Gmail, and prefer to use Evernote instead of OneNote.  It seems powerful enough for most users.

The other thing that made this Office Replacement Suite stand out even more was that it allows users to edit (yes, EDIT) office files on mobile devices - for no cost.  WPS Office has a Windows version, a Linux version, an Android version and an iOS version.  There is no MacOSX version.

With Linux this means that if someone wants to go with an all Linux machine, they will not have any hassles sharing files with other Office users, whether they are on Windows or Mac.

On the mobility front, this is a big feature.  Many products that claim to edit Word, Excel or PowerPoint files on a mobile device usually have some compatibility issues, but still cost quite a bit of money.   I have yet to test the mobile versions, but if they do even half of what they claim, it is a great free app that should be a must install on any mobile Android or iOS device.

We are replacing our old Windows Laptops, and so on mine I will NOT be installing MS Office, but will be going with WPS Office only instead, just to see what type of compatibility issues I come across as a regular end user of Word, Excel or PowerPoint.  I've been trying to use Google Docs more and more, but sometimes you need more editing features than Google docs allows.  I don't use MS Outlook.  There are many 3rd party programs one could use as a front-end email client, but at this point I prefer to use the default Google interface.  If I do find something that stands out, I will write about it.

For now: I will be recommending WPS Office to students that need a MS Office alternative so they can easily edit and share Word, Excel or PowerPoint files with their fellow students who use MS Office.

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