Office suites

A row of computer desks in a large office

Most business computers and mobile devices contain office suite software that enables users to perform admin tasks like writing and editing documents, working with spreadsheets and creating presentations. Most of us will have used office software at some point. More often than not, it will have been Microsoft 365, but there are plenty of alternatives including Google Workspace that may pique your interest…

What's an office suite?

Office suites are also known as 'office software' or 'office packages'.

An office suite is a software package which consists of several pieces of software that are closely linked. They are usually bundled together and sold as a single package on a rolling monthly subscription and cost just a few pounds per month.

What apps will I find in an office suite?

An office suite will typically include:

  • A word processing app, to create, edit and save documents such as reports and letters.
  • A spreadsheet app, for calculations and manipulating data in a spreadsheet.
  • Presentation software to build a set of slides for use during a sales presentations, training sessions or lectures.
  • An email and calendar package, to allow you to send and receive emails and manage your workload and appointments .
  • Collaboration software so that you can have remote meetings, share documents and work together with colleagues.

Most office suites include other complimentary apps; note-taking software, database systems, customer relationship management software, graphics, design and desktop publishing packages are just some examples. They are often compatible with other essential business software such as accounts packages.

Office suites are designed so their individual components function well together. For instance, you can create graphs using spreadsheet software then insert them to a presentation or word document, or share documents for review via an online collaboration tool.

Types of office suite

There are three main types of office suite for your company to consider:

  1. Desktop office suites are used by many businesses,, students and individuals. Produced by big software companies, they typically cost from £5 per user per month. By far the most popular office suite is Microsoft 365 which is available in on- and off-line versions.
  2. Open source office suites can be downloaded and installed for free. Many can open and save files produced by commercial office software. OpenOffice is the most popular open source office suite and is compatible with Linux, Windows, macOS, Unix, BSD. The main alternative is LibreOffice. Other options include OnlyOffice, Feng Office (online only) and Calligra.
  3. Online office suites don't have to be installed on your computer. Instead, you log on through a web browser and edit files directly. Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 are both great examples with brilliant mobile apps.

The majority of people now use web-based office suites. They offer fully-functional versions of the tools mentioned above that can be accessed from any web browser and on virtually any device. So, for example, if you are working remotely you can open documents sent to you via email on your mobile phone, edit them on your phone and then return it to the sender by email or save it to the cloud.

Choosing an office suite

There are several key things to consider when choosing an office suite for your business:

  • Functionality. It's important your office suite delivers the functionality your business needs. In reality, most packages will offer the basic features you're most likely to use. Many office suites also provide functions which are useful for advanced users.
  • File compatibility. Ensure any new office suite can open your existing files. And if you frequently exchange files with people outside your business, check the software can open and save files in the formats they use, too.
  • Familiarity. Your staff are likely to have used office suites in the past. Choosing one they're familiar with will reduce the time it takes them to learn the software - and could cut your training and IT support costs, too.
  • Price. The cost of buying an office suite is far less prohibitive these days thanks to the dominance of cloud software and low monthly pricing, but fees vary and usually charged per user per month. So, ake sure you choose a solution that fits well within your budget and will scale with your business needs.

Because office suites are among the most frequently-used business tools, they can often be linked to other parts of your company's IT system.

For instance, you might be able to save files directly to a cloud computing service. This can make it easier for several people to work together on a document by tracking who edits it and what each person changes.

Most office suites will offer several versions - from a 'basic' package offering the core software up to more comprehensive 'professional' versions.

Don't worry if a suite includes an program you won't use - providing it's cost-effective for the ones you will use.

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