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3,165 helpful votes
If you're asked about alternatives to Microsoft Office, chances are that the only one you know of is Sun's popular free suite, Open Office. And the price is certainly right, though for most businesses, that's rather less important than the efficiency, ease of learning and use, and therefore profitability of using the application. Personally, I've used Open Office and although it's compatible with MS files, I'm not really that comfortable with it. And it feels heavy and on my small rigs, it loads up slowly. And like many casual users of office software, I really only need the word processor, the spreadsheets and occasionally the presentation application. I don't want to buy or have to download or install other parts of a suite that I am never going to use.

Kingsoft is not free. It will cost you $70 if you do decide to buy it, but you sure don't have to rush into anything because it has a 100 day - yes, a hundred days - free trial period in which all the elements of the suite are fully operational. You get the three most useful parts of an office suite: word processor, presentations, and spreadsheets. And just to demonstrate that it can be done, it weighs in at as little as 50Mb and runs just as fast as you like.

The only online criticism I've come across is that it's so close a clone to MS Office that it's almost plagiarism. But I suspect that comment was made by someone who just shelled out for MS Office and then found out that this was not only substantially less expensive, but could be used for free for three months before making a commitment. I think that's an unparalleled offer for business software, and it demonstrates the company's confidence in its flagship product. Anyone familiar with office software will be at home with this immediately and it'll probably make your accountant happy too, so this one is well worth the download.

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Update: Kingsoft Office 2010 Professional (what? no office amateurs?) has just been released, $69.95 and a 30-day free trial. Confusingly, Kingsoft are advertizing this with the details of the 2009 version in some places so I am not at all sure what advantages there are to the latest version. I am going to guess that the main one will be compatibility with Windows 7, as the 2009 version is XP/Vista only. But check it out and if you find anything useful to report about the new one please let us know.

By Chris O.
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