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Is it Time to Dump Office? Five things to keep in mind when assessing free alternatives to Microsoft

By Ericka Chickowski

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Improvements in open source and software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms mean more alternatives to Microsoft Office (see chart).We checked in with Guy Creese, research vice president with IT research and advisory group Gartner, and Rob Helm, managing vice president of research with Directions on Microsoft, an independent Microsoft technology consulting company in Kirkland, Wash., for some expert views on what to consider.

Environment. If you use a lot of Microsoft documents, you may be stuck, because other solutions aren't great for translating formats, Creese says. But if you use Lotus Notes, a switch to Lotus Symphony can be easy. And if your workers are mostly viewing and lightly editing via mobile phones, online SaaS solutions could be a good choice.

Usage patterns. Are your workers casual Office users or do they require advanced functions such as track changes and Pivot tables? Do they depend on a laundry list of macros that would be supported by Office only?