Microsoft Office 2010 takes on all comers

OpenOffice.org, LibreOffice, IBM Lotus Symphony, SoftMaker Office, Corel WordPerfect, and Google Docs challenge the Microsoft juggernaut

Ask most people to name a productivity suite and chances are they'll say Microsoft Office, but they might also name one of the numerous competitors that have sprung up. None have completely displaced the Microsoft monolith, but they've made inroads.

Most of the competition has positioned itself as being better by being cheaper. SoftMaker Office has demonstrated you don't always need to pay Microsoft's prices to get some of the same quality, while OpenOffice.org proved you might not need to pay anything at all. Meanwhile, services like Google Docs are available for anyone with an Internet connection.

[ Also on InfoWorld: "10 great free desktop productivity tools that aren't OpenOffice.org" | "Great Office 2010 features for business" | Follow the latest Windows developments in InfoWorld's Technology: Microsoft newsletter. ]

Microsoft's response has been to issue the newest version of Office (2010) in three retail editions with slightly less ornery pricing than before, as well as a free, ad-supported version (Microsoft Office Starter Edition) that comes preloaded on new PCs. Despite the budget-friendly competition, Office continues to sell, with Microsoft claiming back in January that one copy of Office 2010 is sold somewhere in the world every second. (Full disclosure: The author of this review recently bought a copy for his own use.)

How well do the alternatives shape up? And how practical is it to switch to them when you have an existing array of documents created in Microsoft Office? Those are the questions I had in mind when I sat down with both the new version of Microsoft Office and several other programs (and one cloud service) that have been positioned as low- or no-cost replacements.

Microsoft Office 2010
Despite all efforts to dethrone it, Microsoft Office remains the de facto standard for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, and to a high degree, corporate email. Other programs may have individual features that are better implemented, but Microsoft has made the whole package work together, both across the different programs in the suite and in Windows itself, with increasing care and attention in each revision.

InfoWorld Scorecard
Word processing (20.0%)
Value (10.0%)
Spreadsheets (20.0%)
Usability (15.0%)
Presentations (20.0%)
Interoperability (15.0%)
Overall Score (100%)
Microsoft Office 2010 10.0 9.0 10.0 9.0 10.0 8.0 9.5
OpenOffice.org 3.3.0 7.0 7.0 7.0 7.0 7.0 7.0 7.0
LibreOffice 3.3.1 7.0 7.0 7.0 7.0 7.0 7.0 7.0
IBM Lotus Symphony 3.0 7.0 8.0 7.0 8.0 7.0 7.0 7.3
SoftMaker Office 2010 9.0 9.0 9.0 7.0 9.0 7.0 8.4
Corel WordPerfect Office X5 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 5.0 5.9
Google Docs 7.0 7.0 7.0 7.0 7.0 7.0 7.0
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