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WPS Office for Windows: Still the best Microsoft Office alternative?

It's still free, thank goodness, but I'm not loving certain changes to the company's model.

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WPS Office Writer 2015 comes with lots of handy templates. Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Last August I professed my ongoing love for Kingsoft Office, which had just been rebranded WPS Office and updated with some new features. Why on earth would anyone shell out for Microsoft Office when this freebie delivers most of the same core functionality?

Today, realizing I've still been using the same WPS Office 2014 Beta 2 from summer, I went looking for -- and found -- a finished WPS Office 2015. It promised, among other things, faster load times, which was my only real complaint with the beta. But there are other changes as well, and not all for the better.

Kingsoft

For those unfamiliar with it, WPS Office offers word processing, spreadsheet and presentation modules, all of which bear a striking resemblance to Microsoft Office circa 2013. I've used the suite in one form or another nearly full-time for the better part of a year, and not once have I run into a compatibility issue or feature deficiency.

What's more, the suite now includes OneDrive-like cloud integration in the form of WPS Office Cloud, which auto-syncs your files to online storage and, if you choose, other devices. (WPS Office is also available for Android, iOS and Linux.)

However, this feature is still pretty vague in that there's no mention of how much cloud storage you get, and I encountered some rather vexing errors with it after upgrading to WPS Office 2015. Update: Writer 2015 is effectively broken on my system right now, as it's caught in some weird restore-file/upload loop. Uninstalling and reinstalling didn't help. My advice: If you're using an older version, don't upgrade.

My bigger issue is the company's new pricing model. Now, when you install WPS Office, you automatically start with a 30-day trial of the Premium Edition. After the trial elapses, the suite reverts to the more basic Free Edition, unless you decide to stick with Premium -- which will cost you $2.99 per month. Yes, sadly, you no longer have the option of just buying WPS Office Premium outright. Now it's a service, a subscription. Et tu, Kingsoft?

I get that the company is in business to make money, and previously the free version was practically too good to be true. Also, it remains a solid choice for people who just need the basics. But features like save-to-PDF and track changes/comments appear to have migrated to WPS Premium -- and I say "appear to" because there's no good indicator anywhere of which versions have which features. (Also, because I'm locked into the 30-day Premium trial right now, I can't actually tell what might be missing when I go back to Free.)

Obviously there are plenty of other free office-suite options, including perennial fave OpenOffice, always-improving LibreOffice and myriad Web tools like Google Docs and even Microsoft Office Online. But I've been such a fan of Kingsoft WPS Office for such a long time, I guess I'm just a little bummed to see it move to a subscription model (even if that subscription is still optional).

What's your take on all this? Where do you do your word processing these days, and would you ever consider paying a monthly or annual fee for this -- or any other -- office suite?

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HP

Bonus deal: I remain on the fence about the overall value of a Windows tablet, but at this price, you could consign it to just one or two specific tasks (say, e-books and Netflix) and it would be a killer buy. Once again, the Microsoft Store has the HP Stream 7 Signature Edition tablet for $79 shipped -- and this time it includes a $25 Windows Store gift card.

You also get a year of Office 365 Personal (the license for which you can also use on your PC), and that's worth $70 all by itself. (An ironic thing to mention, I know, given the subject of today's main deal.) The tablet itself has some pretty low-end specs, but, again, as long as you're not trying to use it for CAD work...