Web Browser and Office Suite are two most used applications on every computer. For Linux users there is not much trouble finding a web browser as Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome are available on all major Linux distributions. But situation is not as good for Office Suite. MS Office has versions for both Windows and Mac but unfortunately not for Linux. OpenOffice and LibreOffice are the main office suite alternative available for Linux. Few years back, Open Office was having good compatibility with MS Office version 2003. But things got changed with release of MS Office 2007 by Microsoft. It came with Ribbon interface and new .docx/.xlsx/.pptx extensions which were not compatible with OpenOffice. Later in year 2010, Sun (main sponsor of OpenOffice) got acquired by Oracle and development of OpenOffice almost halted because most developers left OpenOffice to develop LibreOffice.
LibreOffice developers have introduced many new features since then but with every new release of MS Office compatibility got reduced. Now MS Office 2013 and 365 versions are available but files created using these are not compatible with LibreOffice 4, the newest version of LibreOffice. When you try to open MS Office created files with LibreOffice, formatting of the document is totally screwed up unless the document is pretty basic. Even I prefer to use Linux (Ubuntu) but just because of MS Office I have installed Windows 7 side by side as I need to work with complex documents and spreadsheets.
Fortunately, few days back I discovered one new Office Suite for Linux called Kingsoft Office. Actually calling it new will not be appropriate as Kingsoft is one of the oldest software company based in China. Kingsoft has developed its first Word Processing System based upon DOS even before first release of Microsoft Office. Till now Kingsoft was actively developing Office Suites for Windows and Android but recently they have started developing new version for Linux. In China, Kingsoft Office is known by name of WPS Office.
I downloaded Kingsoft Office on my Ubuntu powered laptop and found it pretty good. There are three applications in the suite as below –
- Kingsoft Writer – MS Word alternative
- Kingsoft Spreadsheet – MS Excel alternative
- Kingsoft Presentation – MS PowerPoint alternative
Kingsoft Office is very much compatible with new versions of MS Office. I tried to open many .docx and .xlsx files in Kingsoft Office, and I can say that compatibility is around 95% even for the complex documents. Best part is that the user interface of Kingsoft Office is very similar to MS Office including the Ribbon interface. In fact, you can think of Kingsoft Office almost a clone of MS Office. This will reduce the learning curve for the new users who have recently migrated from Windows to Linux. One more useful feature is that multiple documents can be opened in Tabs so there is no need of switching between multiple windows.
As of now Kingsoft Office for Linux is in Alpha version so there are few limitations and there could be some bugs as well. Some limitations which I have observed so far are –
- No option for saving files in .docx for Writer and .pptx for Presentation, .xlsx is available for Spreadsheet.
- No support for opening or saving files in Open Document formats (.ods / .odt / .odp) which makes it incompatible to LibreOffice and OpenOffice
- No option for inserting Pivot Table and Chart in Spreadsheet
We can hope that the current limitations will be addressed in next versions of Kingsoft Office for Linux. Even with these limitations, Kingsoft Office is very much usable and useful for every Linux user. At least, you can view the files created in MS Office in almost original format.
Download Links –
WPS Office for Linux Website (Chinese)
Kingsoft Office Website (English)