And the award for Best Free Office Suite goes to...

From the Cheapskate: Former champ WPS Office is no longer my preferred Microsoft Office alternative. Ready to hear my new pick? Plus: three bonus deals!

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A few years back, I dubbed Kingsoft Office the best free Microsoft Office alternative. Then the developers renamed it WPS Office, built in a bunch of clunky online features and added a watermark to all printed and PDF documents. Talk about ruining a perfectly great freebie! (To be fair, developers gotta eat, and the free version really was almost too good. I'm guessing few users bothered to pay for the pro version.)

So what's the alternative to that alternative? Ladies and gentlemen, the 2016 Cheapskate Award for Best Free Office Suite hereby goes to LibreOffice 5.1.

LibreOffice 5.1 has an interface that's streamlined and familiar.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

This is, of course, a decidedly old-school option. For many a user, word processing, spreadsheet management and presentation creation work just fine in a Web browser, thank you. Tools such as Google Docs and Microsoft's own Office Online afford plenty of basic features, without extra software to install or money to spend.

So why bother with a desktop office suite? I can think of any number of reasons: mail-merge, text boxes, change-tracking, custom styles... shall I go on? Plus, and let's be honest, Google Docs is a really ugly place to spend your time. Interface isn't everything, but it's something.

LibreOffice, for its part, borrows heavily from Microsoft Office circa 2003 -- and that's just fine. (I know plenty of folks who despise the Ribbon interface that's prevalent across newer versions of Office.) I do wish it offered a tabbed view for multiple documents, though, of course, Microsoft Office doesn't, either. Which is ridiculous.

That gripe aside, I like pretty much everything about LibreOffice. It's fully file-format compatible with Microsoft Office (read: it can open and save .docx and all the other "x" files), and it offers some of the more obscure features (macros, track changes, etc.) not typically found in freebie suites.

If you're a regular Cheapskate reader, you know I'm a bit conflicted about this. I like Microsoft Office, and in fact I rely heavily on Outlook because it's the only desktop mail client worth a damn. (Yep, I said it.) But I still think it's overpriced, and Microsoft shenanigans like this drive me insane.

That's just me. If you're looking for a free (technically, open-source) office suite that can handle the big-three productivity tasks with aplomb, look no further than LibreOffice 5.1. Your thoughts?

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