The Difference Between Open Office & Microsoft Office


Microsoft Office and Open Office are two office software suites that include programs for writing and editing text, spreadsheets, databases, presentations and more. The main difference between the two programs is that Open Office is free and open source, while Microsoft Office costs several hundred dollars to purchase a software license.


  • Microsoft Office began in 1983, when Microsoft Word was first released for the MS-DOS operating system. It was not the first word processing program, but it was the first to use the mouse extensively. The first version of Microsoft Office was released in 1990 and included Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel (a spreadsheet program) and Microsoft PowerPoint (a program for creating slide shows.) Open Office came much later, with the first version released in 2000.


  • Microsoft Office contains different programs depending on what license you purchase. The most limited version (Home and Student) contains Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint and Microsoft OneNote, a program for storing and organizing notes. Other versions come with more features, including Microsoft Outlook for emails and Microsoft Access for databases. OpenOffice includes Writer, a word processing program; Calc, a spreadsheet program; Impress, a slide show program; and Base, a database program. It also includes Draw, an image editing program, for which no Microsoft Office parallel exists.


  • Microsoft Office and Open Office have differences beyond the programs offered. The first is the interface. Open Office's appearance is similar to Microsoft Office 2003, while Microsoft Office 2007 and later has a user interface with tabs that makes it easier to see the many editing and formatting options. Another difference is that Microsoft Office is only available for Windows and Mac operating systems, while OpenOffice has versions for Windows, Mac, Linux and Solaris.

Advantages of Microsoft Office

  • Microsoft Office offers more programs than Open Office, with more versions geared towards businesses. Its popularity--with over half a billion people using it worldwide--means that more people know how to use Microsoft Office than Open Office, and that its file formats are more commonly recognized than Open Office formats. Although the price may be a bit steep for home use, Microsoft created a free online version, Microsoft Web Apps, in 2010.

Advantages of Open Office

  • The biggest advantage of Open Office is that it's free. In addition, because it is open source (that is, its code is freely available for anyone to view and edit), many variations of Open Office exist with many additional features, and you can easily choose which version works best for you. Another advantage is that Open Office supports many different file types, including Microsoft Office, Word Perfect, and Lotus 1-2-3, making it easier to exchange files with people who don't have Microsoft Office.

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