Documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and notes—they're the files that make work work, that showcase your new project and last quarter's performance and your ideas for the future. They're such a crucial part of computing, it's hard to imagine a computer today without an office suite.
For years—decades even—that meant it was hard to imagine a computer without Microsoft Office. Today, it's easy if you try. Office has more and better competitors than ever, while at the same time the features we need from office tools have changed—things like collaboration, offline and online access, and compatibility with multiple devices.
Microsoft Office 365, Google G Suite, Zoho Workplace, Apple iWork, Quip, and LibreOffice are the biggest office suite players today. Which set of tools should you use? You might already have an older office suite and are wondering if you should upgrade to Office 365—or if the G Suite tools in your Gmail account are enough. Or maybe you're trying to decide which suite to roll out to your team.
We reviewed the best features in these office apps to help you pick the suite that fits your needs best.
The 6 Best Office Suites:
Paid Plans from:
Office compatibility with desktop and tablet apps
Personal online apps
$6.99/mo. personal; $10/mo. per user Business
Collaborating with a team in online documents
Personal online apps
$5/mo. per user
Making stylish files in minutes on Apple devices
Full features with Mac or iOS device
30+ apps in one suite
25 users & 5GB storage
$3/mo. per user
a new, paper-free approach to office
$25/mo. for 5 users
A free desktop office suite
What Do You Need in an Office Suite?
For years, the most important thing in an office suite was how well it opened Microsoft Office files, because Office was—and still is—the office suite most commonly used in companies big and small. Someone would email you a
.xls file, you'd add edits, then send it back. If your programs didn't show the files the same way, the documents would slowly become a mess.
Compatibility is still important—and in this roundup, the first screenshot for each office suite shows a standard Word document to test how well it imports files. But other features matter, too, especially today.
Collaboration is perhaps most important in a modern office suite. Instead of emailing a file to a colleague, you can send them a link to your file and view it together online. Web apps made compatibility somewhat of a lesser concern since everyone can use the same apps if you're working online.
Mobile is equally important. You might add details to a draft document from your phone on the train, then your boss could approve them from a tablet during a flight, trusting the changes will magically sync up once they're back online. That should just work in today's workplace, especially when so many teams are distributed and we tend to work on the go.
Although files and styles change, at the core you still need tools to organize your ideas, crunch numbers, and turn them into something that works for your team. Each of these suites does that in their own unique ways. You might find one that fits your needs—or you may end up with a traditional office suite installed on your computer while also using another set of online apps to collaborate with your team.
Tip: This article focuses on the word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation apps in each office suite. For details about their email, calendar, and contact apps, check our comparison of the best business email hosting services, including details on Office 365, G Suite, and Zoho.
Microsoft Office 365 (Web, Windows, Mac, Android, iOS)
Best for Office compatibility with desktop and tablet apps
This is not the Office you grew with.
Traditionally, you'd buy a boxed copy of Office for $100 or more and install it from CDs on your computer. That'd give you Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, along with extra tools like Outlook and Access depending on the version of Office you purchased.
Office 365 changed that all. From $6.99/month, you can get every Office app on all your devices. Or you can use the free Office Online versions of these programs from your browser or the nearly full-featured mobile apps so you can get work done anywhere.
Start a Word document on your PC at home, add some edits from your phone, then print it off from your browser once you get to the office. You can collaborate online in Office Online, editing a document along with a colleague in Word Online or adding comments to an Excel Online spreadsheet that your coworker can check later.
Office's apps each include more features than those in most of the suites in this roundup, with decades of development behind each one. Excel includes an impressive number of functions and data analysis tools, while OneNote is one of the most innovative notes apps with a paper-like layout that lets you write where you want. There are new apps in the suite, too, like the modern presentation tool Sway and Delve, a smart tool to automatically find the files you need.
If you plan to work from a desktop computer or tablet most of the time—and don't want to work from your browser—Microsoft Office is still likely your best option for most office work. Its apps are some of the best ways to make documents and spreadsheets, with enough collaboration features and new apps to make them work in the modern office. Office 365 also includes 1TB of storage in OneDrive so you can backup your files online with the same subscription. And there's an entire ecosystem of plugins and templates from Office's decades on the market that can help you get more from its apps.
Office 365 Tools Included: Word processor, spreadsheets, presentations, notes, database builder (on PCs), email, file sync
Office 365 Excel Spreadsheet Functions Supported: 465
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our .
See on Zapier
Google G Suite (Web, Android, iOS)
Best for collaborating with a team in online documents
Microsoft Office might have been first default "office suite" in the enterprise, but it took Google to take it beyond desktops and into the cloud. G Suite—formerly Google Apps—started out as Writely, a simple online writing app from 2005. Google acquired it and piece by piece turned it into the cornerstone of today's best Microsoft Office competitor.
G Suite's individual apps are great on their own—modern tools with everything you need to make documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. The individual features aren't the reason to use them, though.
What makes G Suite great is how it's built for collaboration. You can share your files with anyone—even publicly on the web if you like—and let them all jump in and help craft a masterpiece. You can live-edit with others at the same time or leave comments that Google will email for feedback later (even directly from the inbox—just reply to the email to reply to the document comment). Because it comes with any Google account—and who doesn't have a Gmail account?—G Suite is practically ubiquitous.
It's getting smarter, too. The new Explore tool in Google Docs and Sheets can find insights from your data, creating charts from your spreadsheets and finding related documents automatically. It can even work while you sleep. Add a Google Form to your Google Sheets spreadsheet and new answers will show up in your sheet automatically, ready the next time you log in. Add some add-ons and integrations to your G Suite account, and your Sheets can crunch numbers on their own.
G Suite is best online. It does have mobile apps, though with far fewer features than the core web apps—you can't add suggested edits or most formatting to a document on mobile, for instance. And G Suite only works offline if you use it in Chrome. But if you mainly work from a computer and are online most of the day, G Suite is one of the best ways to collaborate on files online with your team or anyone who has a Gmail account.
G Suite Tools Included: Word processor, spreadsheet, presentations, notes, email, file sync
G Suite Sheets Spreadsheet Functions Supported: 351
G Suite Price: Free for personal use; from $5/month per user Basic plan for teams
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our Google Docs review .
See integrations with all the G Suite apps on Zapier
G Suite is packed with great tools, so learn how to get the most out of its spreadsheet and form tools in our Ultimate Guide to Google Sheets.
Apple iWork (Web, Mac, iOS)
Best for making stylish files in minutes on an Apple device
Want to create beautiful documents, spreadsheets, and presentations? Apple iWork apps—Pages, Keynote, and Numbers—are the easiest way to make them, and they're free with Macs and iOS devices. You'll either find them preloaded on your new devices or in the App Store as a free download.
Each includes a number of templates to help you quickly make the files you want, in a simplified interface that hides most of its tools until you need them. You can start out with a template, pull in your own images and graphics, and end up with a print-quality file in minutes. Or, turn your document into a book—Pages lets you export a document as an ePub book that's perfect to publish to an eBook store.
Numbers is a unique take on a spreadsheet app, acting more like a document than the typical grid-filled sheet you'll find in Excel or Google Sheets. Crunch the numbers you need, then add text and charts around it in the blank document to build a full report around your core table.
Keynote, similarly, is great for more than just your standard slideshow. Its animations are so fluid, it's a popular tool for prototyping new apps and making short animated videos. Or, just use it to make your next meeting a bit more interesting—with the new Keynote Live, you can stream your presentation online right from Keynote.
iWork is best in its native apps on Mac and iOS, though you can also use it online from iCloud.com. That's a great way to share your files with colleagues who don't use iWork or to quickly tweak a presentation from a work computer when you forget your laptop.
Apple iWork Tools Included: Word processor, spreadsheet, presentations (notes, mail, and calendar apps also included with iOS and macOS)
Apple Numbers Spreadsheet Functions Supported: 266
Apple iWork Price: Free for Mac and iOS; free web app with an iCloud account, which comes free with any Apple device
Zoho Workplace (Web, Android, iOS)
Best for 30+ apps in one suite
Zoho offers an incredible array of apps, but it all started with their online word processor, Zoho Writer. New apps joined the group year by year, eventually turning into Zoho Workplace—a full office suite online, with dozens of other Zoho apps that you can add on if needed.
Writer continues to be the leading app in the suite, with a new design that rethinks how a word processor should be designed. It keeps nearly all of its features hidden by default for a distraction-free interface. Need to tweak something? Open the left sidebar to find all of the tools a couple taps away in neatly organized toolbars. Bring in Microsoft Office files, and Zoho does an impressive job at retaining most of the original formatting.
For everything else you need to do, there's a Zoho app to handle it. Its presentation and spreadsheet apps follow a more traditional style, with menus and toolbars mixed so you can work the way you want. And everywhere, collaboration is at the forefront. Each app includes a Zoho Chat box where you can talk to your colleagues and keep the conversation going no matter which Zoho app you're using.
When you need to turn your spreadsheets into an app, or find customer data for your report document, or find your company's finances for a presentation, that and more can be stored away in one of Zoho's many tools. That's the best reason to use this suite—it's all of the software your company needs, tied to an office suite that works from any browser. Plus, it's an affordable suite for small businesses.
Zoho Workplace Tools Included: Word processor, spreadsheets, presentations, email, team chat, file sync, websites (with 25+ other Zoho apps available)
Zoho Sheet Spreadsheet Functions Supported: 362
Zoho Workplace Price: Free for 25 users with 5GB storage; $3/month per user Standard plan for unlimited users and 30GB storage
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our .
See Zoho app integrations on Zapier
Quip (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, Web)
Best for a new, paper-free approach to office
Quip decided to rethink office software. The whole idea of documents is still rooted in paper—in most word processors, you work in a virtual sheet of A4 paper, even though you might not print the finished document. Quip does away with that skeuomorphism.
Just like a web page, your Quip documents go on forever with nary a page break or footer in sight. Write and organize your text with web-style headers. Use standard keyboard shortcuts to format your text—or hover over the left side of a paragraph to turn it into a quote, code block, header, or list. On the right, add new sections to your document—links to other documents, smart dates that remind you when they're due, and mentions to pull others into your document. They're living documents, smart pages with everything you're working on—stuff that could never fit on a printed sheet.
Need to crunch numbers? Just insert a spreadsheet block into your document for a smart table that supports standard spreadsheet functions. It's perhaps the easiest way to make a full report—you can write the document and find the data for the report all in one place.
Quip is best when shared with your team. It includes Slack-like team chat rooms where you can discuss ideas and share gifs with your colleagues. Each document has its own tiny chat in the sidebar, where you can track changes and chat with your team about the content.
It's far more basic than the other office suites. You can't select your own typeface or other formatting options—Quip instead includes a half-dozen document templates to style your document. And there's no presentation app, unlike other office suites. But it is a simpler way to put your data to work, without the legacy paper-style features most office suites are still built around.
Quip Tools Included: Word processor, spreadsheets, team chat
Quip Spreadsheet Functions Supported: 406
Quip Price: Free for personal use; $30/month Quip plan for 5 users, plus $12/month per additional user
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our .
See Quip integrations on Zapier
LibreOffice (Windows, Mac, Linux, Android)
Best for a free desktop office suite
The latest version of the storied Microsoft Office competitor OpenOffice.org, LibreOffice is perhaps the best-known free office suite. If you didn't want to spend $100+ on a copy of Microsoft Office, for years it was your only good option. And today, if you want a free office suite on a PC that works without an internet connection, it's still one of the best options.
LibreOffice isn't fancy. It still feels like an older version of Microsoft Office, with endless toolbars and sidebars and buttons, some of which do the same functions as others. It's perhaps the least reliable at making documents look exactly like they would in Office (aside from Quip, but then, Quip has other goals in mind).
But it does work—especially for making new documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. It might take a bit more work to get things to look the way you want, but you can hide any extraneous toolbars or sidebars for just enough customization to fit your workflow. And while it's a bit slow to load and scroll through long documents, you can pinch to zoom, drag-and-drop files, embed files from one app of the suite into another, and everything else you'd expect in a desktop office suite. You can collaborate with document revisions and comments, only you'll need to sync the files on your own via Dropbox or another file sync app—and there's no way to live-edit files together with your team.
Perhaps LibreOffice's best feature is its Base app. This database editor lets you quickly build a form-based interface for new databases or use existing MySQL and other standard databases to build simple apps without coding. It's one of the few alternatives to Microsoft Access. It's also a great way to build simple in-house desktop tools for your team, then scale them up later into standalone apps if you want.
LibreOffice Tools Included: Word processor, spreadsheets, presentations, database builder, drawing tool
LibreOffice Calc Spreadsheet Functions Supported: 385
LibreOffice Price: Free, open-source
What's the Best Office Suite for You?
Work offline on a Mac or PC? Microsoft Office, iWork, and LibreOffice are the best options if you prefer to work from native apps installed on your computer. They include the most features, will make the nicest looking documents, and are designed to work great even without an internet connection. LibreOffice might not feel as polished as the other two suites, but it is free, includes a database app, and is still a great option especially on PCs (as Macs come with iWork for free). Quip and G Suite in Google Chrome can work well offline (with Quip's apps and G Suite's Chrome extensions), though you'll find them frustrating if you need to primarily work offline as their best collaboration features only work with an internet connection.
Work from a phone or tablet? Microsoft Office and iWork are again great options, as their mobile apps include nearly as many features as their desktop software. Quip, though, could be the best option for mobile office work, as its simpler take on documents works even better on mobile and all of its apps include the exact same features. G Suite and Zoho offer mobile apps that work well, though both include far fewer features than their web app counterparts.
Work with a team online? G Suite, Zoho, and Quip are the best options for working from a browser. They're each designed for collaboration first, built for teams to work together online. Microsoft Office 365 then is a great option for working directly from apps or online with Office Online. You can start a document in Word on your PC, have a colleague edit it from Word Online in their browser, and then finish up in Word on your iPad for collaboration from any device.
Don't want to pay for an office suite? Zoho and LibreOffice are the best options. Zoho's free for 25 users, meaning you can easily use it for even mid-sized work teams without paying—and LibreOffice is free for everyone, albeit without online collaboration tools. G Suite is another great option—as long as your team uses personal
@gmail.com accounts, you can collaborate with as many people as you want for free. That same trick works with Microsoft Office, too—use free
@outlook.com personal accounts, and you can collaborate in Office Online for free. And if you have a Mac, iPhone, or iPad, iWork is hard to pass up as it comes free with your device.
Microsoft Office isn't the only office suite today—but its new Office 365 plans are a great value, and its apps are still the most full-featured office tools. Apple's iWork apps help you easily create beautiful documents and presentations, while G Suite and Zoho both offer surprisingly full-featured tools from your browser. LibreOffice still offers a great set of tools for the low price of free. And Quip makes it so easy to create documents and spreadsheets, you'll wonder why you used to spend so much time tweaking fonts and footers.
One might not be the best for you. In fact, the best option is often to use the best features from multiple tools. On the Zapier team, we collaborate on documents and spreadsheets in G Suite, use Quip for shared internal notes as a wiki of sorts, and still keep Microsoft Office and iWork around when we need more robust features or template options.
Which works best for you? We'd love to hear which office suite you rely on—and why—in the comments below.
Find Alternate Apps for Your Needs
Don't want a full office suite? Perhaps you'd like a new way to make presentations, a less distracting writing app, or a spreadsheet tool that's not so complicated.
These are the apps for you, with more details on the apps in these office suites along with newer tools to make the files you want:
Header photo via Pexels.