Not everyone wants to pay for an office suite. Actually, most people don’t want to pay for any software. Despite that, Microsoft Office is the undisputed (if expensive) champion in its category, but if you just need a word processor or an office suite for basic use, then free alternatives will get the job done just as well. There are quite a few to choose from, and one we recently tried out and liked is WPS Office 2016. We used it for two weeks to see how well it works.
As writers, we spent much of that time using WPS Writer, the word processor in WPS Office 2016. The app is fairly light and did not freeze even once in our two weeks of use. That’s worth mentioning because we tested it on a computer that tends to slow down and freeze with just two or three programmes (one of which would be our browser) running. The light nature of the WPS suite, along with good design, and reliability make us think this could be a good free alternative to buying Office.
WPS Writer opens new documents in neat tabs, which makes switching between files easy. It has a nice eye-protection mode that changes the background colour of the document to light-green, which is really helpful. The first change we make to any word processor is the document background colour. Finding this mode pleased us a lot since you usually have to dig through multiple layers of menus in order to do something like this.
We were happy with WPS Writer as a tool for editing too. Features such as comments and track changes worked as expected. These look much better in MS Word, but we didn’t face any problems while using them.
We had no trouble switching to WPS Writer as our daily driver for writing. But that is partly because we were on the free 30-day trial. After the trial expires, WPS Office 2016 has certain limitations. Unless you agree to watch an banner ad for 5 seconds, you won’t be able to access features such as export to pdf and printing files. Once you watch an ad, it unlocks that particular feature for 30 minutes, following which you’ll have to watch another ad. Similarly, WPS Presentation and Spreadsheets have limitations that kick in once the trial period expires – though all you need to do is watch an ad to execute the corresponding action.
You can always pay and continue using WPS Office 2016 without ads, but if you’d rather not, and if you’re fine with looking at ads to access some features, you can continue to use it for free. It’s just a banner ad for software and only for five seconds, which won’t bother most people. For those of us who need an office suite for professional use, these interruptions could be a real bother.
We didn’t need WPS Presentation or Spreadsheets much in our daily workflow, but both apps worked fine in our testing. We used them to open various presentation and spreadsheet files saved using Microsoft Office and the app opened them without any rendering issues. We’ve had plenty of rendering issues with free office apps such as OpenOffice and LibreOffice when opening pptx and xlsx files. Thankfully, WPS Office didn’t give us these problems.
With a relatively light office suite that has a decent feature set, it offers a good alternative to MS Office. However, if you don’t want ads at all and want a free office suite, then LibreOffice remains a pretty good choice. It’s not as fast or well designed as WPS Office 2016, but it is free, open source, and has no ads.