If you're about to buy a new computer, you'll be expected to choose an "office suite" to go with it. Well, the world's most-used suite is Microsoft Office, which comes in various versions that run from a few hundred to several hundred dollars.
Nowadays, however, you can have all the functionality of MSOffice for free.
The LibreOffice suite has been around for a while, as have Google Drive (Google Docs) and AbiWord,
a free alternative to MSWord.
Back to buying a new PC — you won't be told about these gratis alternatives to MSOffice,
WordPerfect Office — because salespeople make no commissions on free software. You may even be told
that your new computer comes bundled with a suite included at no extra charge. Not so — it's been
figured into the price of the bundle. Be prepared to say you'll go somewhere else if they try to hustle you
into buying, when free alternatives are readily available.
As for what's actually included in LibreOffice and Google Drive/Docs, here's a breakdown:
LibreOffice comes with Writer, an MSWord-compatible word processor, Calc, an Excel-compatible
spreadsheet app, and Impress, a PowerPoint-compatible presentation program.
Google calls their comparable MS-compatible programs Google Docs, Google Spreadsheets, and Google Presentations.
In addition to the tools listed above, LibreOffice contains a Vector Drawing utility, a Mathematical Function Creator, and a Database program. Lotus Symphony and LibreOffice can also output documents as Adobe Acrobat Reader-compatible PDF files.
The programs also come with spell-checking, thesaurus, and auto-correct capabilities.
The main difference between Google's suite and the others is that Google's applications reside online, rather than on your hard drive. The chief advantage of online computing is collaboration, meaning programs can be easily accessed by multiple users, thus avoiding the need for sending copies of documents around to various people who may be working on them.
Another advantage to online applications is that they don't use up valuable hard drive space, although the files you create can be copied to your PC.
The major disadvantage to online programs is that they are only viable as long as you are connected to the WWW. If your Internet connection goes down (as happens to everyone from time to time) you're dead in the water until you get reconnected.
However, with today's massive hard drives, storage space tends to be a relatively minor issue —
especially when you consider how easy and inexpensive it is to install USB-connected external hard drives
and/or flash memory devices.
My personal favorite has become
And I do most of my writing with my Google Chromebook.