IT Advice for Charities – Alternatives to Microsoft Office


Here is the fifth in our continuing series of IT advice articles.  This feature is intended to suggest ways that charities can improve their use of IT in order to become more effective and efficient.

Microsoft Office is the ‘go to’ office software suite for businesses and for personal use.  However, there are good reasons why charities might feel that they cannot afford the ongoing cost of Microsoft Office, especially now that the software is effectively being rented from Microsoft through their Office 365 program.  Here, Craig Steeland, who works locally as a social care IT consultant, describes some free options for charities who want to avoid paying the ‘Microsoft tax’ for office suite software.

Question:  Our charity is needing to find savings due to reducing grant income.  One of the areas we are looking at for savings is IT software.  If we were to end our Microsoft Office 365 subscription, what might be the alternatives?

Answer:   There are two very good options, Libre Office or Google G Suite.  Both offer a good range of office applications to replace Word, Excel and PowerPoint as a minimum.  Both can be configured to open and save in the Microsoft formats of DOCX, XLSX, and PPTX.  Simple documents created by others in Word should open very faithfully in layout to the originals.  With some more complex documents, all of the content will be displayed but there may be some slight differences in layout.

Libre Office is a stand-alone, offline suite of programs which is installed on each computer.  Libre Office does not depend on an internet connection.  Its interface will be familiar to those who have used older versions of Microsoft Office.  Libre Office is used by over half a million users in French government offices and in large organisations around the world.  Find out more:


Google G Suite is a set of tools including an office software suite,  cloud storage, shared calendars, collaboration tools and email.  It enables charities to use their own charity email addresses with Gmail.   G Suite include Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides, replacing Word, Excel and Powerpoint, respectively.  All three programs have some offline capabilities, but work best with a good internet connection.  Google G Suite is free for charities through the Google for Non-profits program, making it excellent value for qualifying charities.  Find out more:

Thunderbird is an excellent, free email client which partners very well with either Libre Office or G Suite as a replacement for Microsoft Outlook.  It is very easy to set up and use.  Find out more: