But that might be about to change as new technologies and new ways of working make the selection and deployment of office suites more critical to a successful business model.
William Wong, general manager of global markets at Kingsoft, notes that while the basic aspects of office software – word processing, spreadsheets and presentation – have been around for decades, the advent of multi-device environments and the mobile workforce is changing the ways these tools are delivered while at the same time leading to the development of additional tools to enhance productivity.
“Office software has been around for decades,” he said, “but the PC, mobile phone and tablet are causing people to want to collaborate on multiple devices and with multiple people to be able to get tasks done more efficiently.”
This is leading platform providers to build more cloud functionality into their products, not only to provide a low-cost means of scaling resources but to offer a centralized data store that can be more easily shared.
Emerging technologies are also making their mark on office products. Two leading developments are artificial intelligence and integrated audio and video. AI brings a wealth of capabilities to gather and analyze disparate data stores and streamline work processes, while A/V opens avenues for live teleconferencing and interactive presentations.
The key in all of this, says Wong, is not to provide these tools as individual applications but to embed them within the office suite so users can launch multiple functions from a single interface.
“This concept is also coming from the mobile space where people are used to getting different features in a single app,” he said. “They get one product that has documents, presentation and spreadsheets, but also audio, video, PDF support…”
One word of caution, however: As office products become more complex and data is shared over distributed architectures, the enterprise will have to take steps to ensure that security, governance and other policies are enforced throughout the data environment. In most cases, organizations should use a good systems integrator or VAR to oversee this process.
“You have to make sure the software is not doing anything to violate your policies,” Wong said. “If deployed on a corporate level, most enterprises are using OS-level or third-party applications, so you’ll need to manage all of them in tandem.”
Below are some of the leading office productivity solutions:
iWork includes the Pages word processor, Numbers spreadsheet and Keynote presentation system, all of which are linked to the iCloud. The package provides for audio integration into documents, support for the Apple Pencil for note-taking and illustrations, and a built-in teleprompter mode.
Calligra Suite incorporates office applications as well as graphics and project management tools, all of which utilize the same user-friendly interface. It supports ODF as its main file format, and provides highly accurate import of MS and other formats.
Google Docs, Sheets, Slides
Docs, Sheets and Slides are the principal elements of Google’s office suite linked to its Google Drive service. As such, it offers tight integration with numerous Google products, including its search engine. While it does offer some offline capabilities, it is designed as an online service, with all files saving automatically to Google Drive.
Google G Suite
G Suite is Google’s business productivity suite that adds tools like email, a calendar and video conferencing to the standard documents and spreadsheet office configuration. It also provides more advanced security features and message archiving that can be managed through a centralized admin console.
WPS consists of writer, presentation and spreadsheet modules plus a PDF-to-word converter that supports bulk outputting and split-merge pages. It is linked to the WPS cloud for PC and iOS for single-click document sharing, and has a new paragraph layout tool that provides drag-and-drop adjustment of location, indentation and other functions.
The former OpenOffice, Libre Office is a community-developer platform that includes tools like vector graphics, databases and formula editing along with traditional documents, spreadsheets and presentation. Along with Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other formats, it supports OpenDocument (ODF) for export to multiple formats, including PDF.
Microsoft Office 365
Office 365 is Microsoft’s flagship service for the enterprise. It provides team chat, online meetings and other collaborative tools, as well as built-in privacy and transparency controls to balance data sharing and security. It also provides user-driven analytics and intelligence tools to make better use of data.
OpenOffice is an Apache product that consists of word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, draw, database and math modules, and uses ODF as its native file format. It is available in many spoken languages and is free to use for any private, commercial or public function.
ThinkFree offers full compatibility with MS Office and can convert PDF files into editable Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents, preserving both text and objects. It also features native mobile applications and is available in 14 languages.
WordPerfect Office XB
WordPerfect is an all-in-one office suite that bundles the traditional WordPerfect word processor with the Quattro spreadsheet program and the Presentations slideshow creator, along with several other tools. It offers full compatibility with Microsoft Office, plus more than 60 other file types for broad information sharing.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.