With cloud being emphasis these days, should you continue using Microsoft Office or should you switch to cloud based office automation products?

Both types have their own benefits. Microsoft Office has a well known interface that is easy to use. We all have been using it for years so we know what all features to expect and where. On the other hand, cloud based office automation products are free and store your files in the cloud - allowing you to retrieve the files from anywhere in the world. Unlike MS Office, the cloud based office automation products are often slow with limited features.

Of late, even Microsoft has been emphasizing on cloud and hence integrated its cloud based offerings into Office - 2010 and 2013. In addition to letting you store your files to local disk, you can store files directly to SkyDrive and/or Office 365 using MS Office applications. Thinking of the same and the possibility of having to switch to Ubuntu in future, I spent good time researching alternatives to MS Office and found some interesting ones.

One of the many benefits of MS Office is that it is very rich suite of productive tools and contains many applications - each focusing on a particular task. Almost all of the cloud based office automation products I found deal with only three types of tools: document or word processing, spreadsheets and presentations.

Until some time back, OpenOffice was the only alternative to MS Office. An open-source, cloud based service, it offered three types of office automation tools: one each for word processing, speadsheet manipulation and presentations. This was discontinued and then carried forward by few patrons into what is now known as LibreOffice - also available as default office automation suite on Ubuntu. None of them appealed to me as the features were very limited.

If I were asked to name an alternative for MS Office, I would suggest using ThinkFree Office. Again, it has just three tools: word processor, spreadsheet and presentations. But the interface of each tool is rich in features and resembles MS Office 2003. This makes it easy. When you sign up with ThinkFree Office, they also give you 1GB of free space.

Another alternative for MS Office is Microsoft's own Office Web Apps. In addition to online Word, Excel and PowerPoint, you also get to use OneNote. You can access this from any operating system when you log into SkyDrive. Since they are MS products, you know what all features would be there in the tools.

How am I using office?

Running Microsoft Office 2013 Preview and storing files directly to cloud. When I am not on my main computer, I access my files via Office Web Apps as I work mostly on documents and spreadsheets only. And when I was using Office 2010, I used SkyDrive Desktop and before that, Live Mesh to sync my files to cloud. Remote, cloud based storage not only allows for universal access of files but it also increases your storage space manifold.