Due to company policy, I have recently become a Microsoft Office user at work. At home, I continue to use SoftMaker Office. Switching back and forth has proven to be less of an issue than expected. Quite the opposite: Writing in TextMaker and editing spreadsheets in PlanMaker emphasizes the feeling of being home.

At work, I have to make do with the tools I am issued. At home, I choose my own toolset and that continues to be the software that makes me the most efficient.

An Office Odyssey

I've been using SoftMaker products way before starting to write this blog. Over the course of the past decades, I have probably gone through every Office suite available. After a rough start with WordStar and WordPerfect, I switched to Microsoft Word until one fateful night it ate my diploma thesis. Back then I was not in the habit of making regular backups, hence I had to reconstruct my work from an older printout. That's when I came across Lotus SmartSuite – shortly before it was gobbled up by IBM and left out to die by its new owner.

With a heavy sigh, I moved onward to StarOffice, which later became OpenOffice (and eventually LibreOffice). As I was looking for something less cumbersome than OpenOffice, a colleague pointed me toward SoftMaker Office. It was love at first sight – especially once I realized it was available for multiple operating systems, including smartphones and tablets. I like to keep my options open. At the time, there was no Microsoft Office for Android, and the apps provided by Apple and Google seemed too limiting.

Every couple of years, I took another look at Microsoft Office. It always seemed too bloated for my needs and way too set in its ways – and instead of improving, that trend seemed to be getting worse. When Microsoft introduced ribbons with no option to switch back to menus, I stopped hoping that Microsoft Office would ever meet my needs.

An Office suite is a tool

In my opinion, an Office suite is a tool to get things done – much like an operating system. Neither is an end in itself; they are not meant to draw attention to themselves. Never have I sat down and said "I just want to play around with a spreadsheet for a couple of hours." When I open PlanMaker, I have plans to make.

I'm not a fan of Microsoft's habit of forcing new interfaces onto their users – eliminating the start menu from Windows 8, enforcing ribbons and a single document interface (SDI) in Office 2007. I don't like being bullied into having to change the way I work without getting any benefit out of it.

So when SoftMaker announced their own ribbon interface for SoftMaker Office 2018, I held my breath. Upon reading the announcement more closely, I realized the ribbons would remain optional, not a forced change. Users can even have it both ways: SoftMaker's ribbon includes a "hamburger button" which opens the classic menu structure ("hamburger button" is the name of those three stacked lines). Since I like to minimize switching between keyboard and mouse, I quickly set up a keyboard shortcut to open the menu directly.

Customizability is king

Microsoft Office severely limits users' possibilities to customize its applications – especially in regards to keyboard shortcuts. In Word, you can quickly save a document with a new name using Ctrl+Shift+S. When I realized that this didn't work in Excel, I spent ten minutes of company time looking for a way to set up a custom keyboard shortcut before giving up and asking a search engine for help. Imagine my surprise when Microsoft themselves directed me to use a third-party add-in. This would probably have violated company policy. Ugh. (On the plus side, the web search taught me to adapt – I now use F12 instead.)

To me, the customization possibilities and their accessibility are some of the main advantages of SoftMaker Office. When I realized that PlanMaker and Presentations would close with Ctrl+Q, I was quite surprised to find that TextMaker wouldn't. It only took me a minute to set up the corresponding shortcut in my favorite word processor.

Another gripe with Microsoft Office is its single document interface (SDI), especially when I want to Alt+Tab to other open applications and instead I cycle through my open Word documents. I have read Microsoft's rationale for this – when it comes down to it, the ribbon is nothing more than a tabbed toolbar and developers worried that users would get confused with two sets of tabs. Microsoft's argument would be more convincing if SoftMaker Office had not proved that ribbons can peacefully coexist with a tabbed multi-document interface.

To add insult to injury, the ribbons in Microsoft Office are anything but consistent across applications. I was downright flabberghasted when I realized that a ribbon could even become inconsistent within one application – the default quick reply editor of Outlook hides some editing options provided only in the full editor window. Figuring this out cost me another fifteen minutes of company time.

So when I come back home and I open SoftMaker Office, it is with an unexpected feeling of relief. There's probably a moral buried somewhere in the fact that a relatively small company in Germany is consistently producing a more accessible Office suite than a certain software behemoth located in Redmond, USA. When I take work home, I edit the documents in SoftMaker Office, take them back to work and nobody is any wiser. And when I realize that F12 does something entirely different in PlanMaker than what I've now come to expect, it takes me less than five minutes to change it.


I've been using this product for several years now, and wouldn't use anything else.
I do a lot of editing, and although I can find-and-replace spaces with non-breaking spaces, I cannot find-and-replace hyphens with non-breaking hyphens. I queried this nearly two years ago [July 2019] and although there have been a few updates since then, this has yet to be addressed.
Please send your technical questions on the link below. Our technical support team will be happy to assist you.

Technical support: www.softmaker.com/en/support-assistant
I found Softmaker Office a real good alternative to MS Office for day to day office works. But one major issue I found was the non-compatibility of Indian Language Unicodes that is languages like Hindi, Tamil etc. do not show appear properly when using their unicode fonts.

You should try to sort this out.


Years ago I used textmaker because the format on my pocket PC and IBM laptop was identical ( unlike MSWord) when I used macros and such.
That no longer was a need and I never thought about textmaker again until now with a new Surface Pro 7 I don’t have MS Office already on it
Any experience doing handwriting recognition and such with textmaker?
Thank you
Thanks for your post, but currently, we don't support handwriting recognition.
Thank you for your response
After SoftMaker support for Zotero integration, it has become my main office suite. It even replaced Microsoft Office on all my devices. I hope they'd offer student discounts on the Universal edition.
Softmaker office is the best, I've set it up to do my own books in Planmaker and its gr8 m8, keeps track of everything I need. Took a while to set it up and I've had to tweek it a bit but it works gr8 I've just put 1 bookkeeper out of wrk.
Microsoft Word is problematic. In my humble opinion, It hinders general computer literacy. That's why I choose TextMaker. Microsoft Excel is OK, though.
I chose Softmaker Office on my home computer. On my workstation at work I need to use Office 365. But since we need to work from home I need to remote into that workstation. However I cannot print anything from that workstation on my printer at home so when I need to print a document I first email it to myself and then on my home computer open it in Softmaker Office on my home computer. The documents open without compatibility issues and print just fine. With other office suits I will run into font and layout issues.
Please send your technical questions on the link below. Our technical support team will be happy to assist you.

Technical support: https://www.softmaker.com/en/support-assistant

After using TextMaker for several weeks, I'm very impressed with it as a replacement for Word 2013. However it has one major drawback, which I haven't seen referenced in earlier comments – it's not a native destination for speech recognition by Dragon NaturallySpeaking.

This is a huge disqualifying feature for anybody using Dragon for text input – you are thereby shut out of a host of features, including correction by voice. It's probably too much to hope this can be changed – I presume it's a limitation built into the backbone of TextMaker, but curiously, some of TextMaker's dialogs such as File Open do operate as native Dragon destinations.

For me the only workaround is to dictate initially into another program (I use the excellent RTF editor Jarte), and paste into TextMaker after final editing. All RTF editors seem to be native Dragon destinations, as is LibreOffice, and even the simple Windows Notepad (despite apparently having no RTF features), but if TextMaker doesn't work this way I would understand it may not be possible to apply a correction.
David, I'll forward your vote for better voice-recognition support to product management for evaluation. Thank you for your feedback!
Which Textmaker website should be used to install the free version? Multiple sites come up on the screen when you google textmaker. Is the 2018 version free indefinitely or only for 30 days?
TextMaker 2018 is commercial, you can try it for 30 days. FreeOffice TextMaker, part of FreeOffice, is permanently free.
Is the SoftMaker2018 version free indefinitely or only for 30 days?
SoftMaker Office is commercial, you can try it for 30 days. FreeOffice is permanently free.
This is a great office Suite. I recommend it to small businesses that can not afford MS Office. However, it lacks one feature that I personally miss when creating graphic reports. Is it possible to add finer text rotation support? Right now textboxes can not be rotated. And text within objects do not rotate with the objects.
This is on our wishlist. Right now, you could use TextArt for that.
And the photo is fine. Everyone who is offended is too easily offended. Relax.
I have been a customer for quite a few years an am impressed with the quality of the suite, with the customer service, and with the amount of work I can get done. I am an (almost) lifelong non-fan of how Microsoft operates, forcing many unnecessary changes on us poor schlubs out here who have to do real work daily. See ribbon menus. Awful. Thanks for your continued efforts in a difficult field.
Use to use Softmaker as it is a fairly good piece of software. They used to claim the were working on Datamaker. However, it is only available for German users. Without this not worth buying.
I'm not nearly as technical as some of the previous commenters, but I love the fact Softmaker just works. We run a small business from home and Softmaker works on our Linux, Android, Windows and Apple products. I discovered Softmaker when I needed something that wasn't Microsoft Office, but would work with Microsoft Office documents on a tablet after Windows 10 ruined my laptop. I have noticed the Android Textmaker and Planmaker apps haven't been updated in a while in Google Play, so I'm not sure of the future there, but they work great on my new laptop running Linux. Softmaker is what old-school Microsoft Office used to be, the version everyone loved, before Microsoft "improved" it.
Vicky, we are working on a new version for Android.
I have come to love SoftMaker Office that i have been using since the 2012 version. I use both the Windows and Linux versions. I have had excellent luck with TextMaker in opening and saving MS Word files. I still prefer the "pull down menu" interface vs. the tabbed MS office. Softmaker has offered great support and updates the program often enough. I love new option in the 2019 version where saving in MS Office format is an option that I use. I also love not being tied to the cloud as in Office 365 or Google docs but the cloud does have certain advantages. Thanks for a great product and also your option for schools.
TextMaker is a wonderful program. I have never had compatibility issues with MS Word files. The only thing missing for me is support for EPS graphics, which is why I sometimes still use Lotus Wordpro, or even LaTeX, for writing scientific publications.
Couldn't help smiling when I read your post re Lotus Wordpro, thought I was the only one hanging on to it. I'm an engineer and you're so right about EPS graphics. Then, too, there's 123; there are engineering spreadsheets I created in 123 that won't run in Planmaker; the first part of a chained equation will give the correct result but beyond that... Now I just keep Softmaker to support them; yes I've tried their tech support and gave up.

If I still had it I might still use it, but there are so many pieces of software from back in the day that I miss! I guess we'll all just have to geek out together!
Other events in my life have forced a conversion to Evernote. It was easier than I found it to be about a year ago. Evernote has an import feature for MS OneNote and with some customization, I have converted. It works on my android phone and chromebook laptop. With this hurdle behind me, I can now look at, in the future, to using Softmaker products. The new CEO at Evernote in 2019 has been a definite improvement.
TextMaker is a wonderful product. I have not had any compatibility issues with MS Word. The only thing missing for my work, which involves writing scientific publications, is support of the EPS format for vector graphics. That is the reason why I sometimes still use Lotus Smart Suite.
I've been using Softmaker Office at home since 2006. I have to use MS Office at work, but always like the compatibility between Softmaker documents and Microsoft documents, and that compatibility has only become better over time. I've also tried Open Office but it always seemed to have problems with compatibility. While Softmaker Office is compatible with the MS Office ribbon interface, I especially like the fact that I don't have to use that interface with Softmaker Office! A great office suite for a reasonable price!
I enjoy the fact that SoftMaker works well for me and the price for the version I am using is $2.99 plus an exchange fee of about 5 cents, versus Microsoft Office 365 which was 9.99 a month. I'd rather pay less for software (less than 40 US dollars a year) than Microsoft's office 365 which was around $100. For me, the software does almost the same thing. I do miss autocorrect, but it has actually taught me to watch my spelling. Autocorrect is a crutch in MS that I got used to and am glad I am weaning off of. Keep the graphic of the guy ogling the "SoftMaker girl." Yes, it is sexist, but the same emotions were involved in the making of that picture, jealousy, envy of the "other girl.". (What does she have that I don't?) I have been using SoftMaker for the last year or so and haven't been happier with my decision.
I switched to Softmaker several years ago and wouldn't go back to Microsoft again. The constant expensive updates with Microsoft were a big part of my decision. Softmaker is, in my opinion, equal to and better than Microsoft suite, yes there are some minor 'language' terms to adjust to but every time Microsoft suite upgraded they changed everything anyway. Thank you Softmaker for making a great alternative that appears to suit all end users, small and large. I am very happy.
for years together I have been requesting SoftMaker people regarding integrating Urdu in the suit but never got the problem solved. Thus a big hindrance in fully adopting the suit and getting rid of "Microsoft Office".
We support Arabic, but I don't know how far that takes you with Urdu, which is an Arabic script. Support for complex scripts besides Arabic is still on our wish list, but it is a major undertaking.
Urdu uses mainly an "Arabic" script but also uses a few non-Arabic characters in addition (as does Farsi). There are also stylistic differences in the more commonly used fonts.
Hi there,

How is your support for complex script languages going now, a year later? We've run into a snag where a third party partner making our training modules is seeing that when documents are exported from Word to the needed RTF format, semi-spaces and other characters are missing. It extends the completion time significantly, as each line has to be double checked and live changes made on the fly, after the RTF file has been uploaded into the online training. Farsi is the language in question here, but we are also headed for other complex languages.
Please send your technical questions on the link below. Our technical support team will be happy to assist you.

Technical support: www.softmaker.com/en/support-assistant

Great article by Gerald but i do have some concerns. SO UI is too tiny on High DPI screens. Only work around is to use Classic mode and enable Touch. Gerald talks about the inconsistency of interface between MS Office applications. This too is very prevalent in SO. For example FlexiPDF. No Dark mode, totally different UI. Thunderbird, not skinned the same. Gerald was talking about Outlook having a different UI than the rest of MS Office. Also unless SO puts time and resources into lots of free easy to find Tutorials, Templates and Macros it will never gain traction. MS Office just makes all these things so easy. That being said we do use SO in our business and at home, but are thinking of switching to MS office 365 solely because time is money. When you can search for a macro, template or tutorial and have your solution in minutes it kind of out ways any disadvantages of MS Office over SO or anything else. Thanks for great software.

That picture illustrating your story is sexist.
It's a meme that we are referencing. Background:

How does that change things? The fact that the image has been used in other places and caused other people to be upset should be a good warning. Do not use sexist material to promote your ideas unless you want your ideas and this product to be strongly associated with the sexist message.

I suggest that you change the image. Why don't you obtain an image that is relevant to the topic at hand?
Based on your concerns, we have reviewed this image and decided to keep it. Thank you for your feedback.
The image is of an immature jerk.
That is the most awesome response I can imagine! “Thank you for being pedantic and pointing out something unrelated to our product in a cancel culture sort of way, but nah, we’re going to keep it”
Just another ONE of the problems with people (mostly younger people) today is the POLITICALLY CORRECT attitude. Think about the people of the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s - most of the songs of those times, daily actions of average person --- would never have been, if they had went by the B.S. of today's Politically Correct generations. If you don't like the picture (and what YOU interpret it to mean) don't sit there and look at it. YOU Can choose to 'move on' or just stay there and COMPLAIN about something that isn't worth the effort it takes to complain (like I'm seeing here). GET OVER IT!!! GET A LIFE!!!
That is my first response too.
This picture doesn't pass the sexism test of role changing. Imagine a woman with a stupid expression on her face turning to a passing beau and thereby neglecting her partner. Most men would be amused and not annoyed; but some women might again discover sexism in the depiction of the man as the cooler and smarter one. - So you can't get it right - or wrong. It depends on how you see yourself.
SM Office is a light tool and can't be a full-fledged ersatz for MS Office.
Some of main weakness: weak tools for searching (absence regexp), and absence a tool like PowerQuery etc
Igor, Microsoft Word doesn't support regular expressions for searching either. It has search for wildcards, but so does TextMaker.
sorry, I wasn't correct about supporting regexp in MS Word. In any way search and replace tools of MS Word is more powerful than SM Text.
Thank you for the feedback. I will look into this.
TextMaker falls short of being able to handle bibliographic references with programs such as EndNote, Mendeley, Zotero, etc. For me, that is a dealbreaker.
We are working on Zotero support.
I would never use MS Office again after realising the database I wrote in Office 2000 (which took me about a year) was completely unopenable in any version of MS Office produced after 2007 (that's only two versions!). As for macros? Forget it. Have no expectation that your documents produced with MS Office will be compatible with themselves in future versions.
I rarely use Word today, as Textmaker suffices for my needs, but...I'd like Softmaker to develop a program similar to Publisher, which is essential for the desktop publishing business. In Publisher and Excel Microsoft has the best programs of that type. I believe that a little competition from Germany could improve things in Redmond, too.
You could try Affinity Publisher in the mean time, only about £50
It is an excellent MS Publisher replacement.
I'm currently using Openoffice. However I noticed that my files get corrupted quite frequently. Discovering SoftMaker is like a little godsend. But I would like to know if it is possible to open my OpenOffice files with Softmaker when they are saved in OpenOffice format. Or do I need to convert them to Microsoft format before I can switch over completely?
TextMaker reads and writes ODT files. PlanMaker opens ODS files, but can only save in other formats. No ODP support in Presentations yet.
I tried Text maker for sometime. What put me off was the absence of a direct word count indicator. In my line of work, I need to see the number of words and characters all the time.
TextMaker 2018 has a real-time word counter. It's just not in the status bar by default. Right-click on the status bar, choose Customize, drag the Count words item to the status bar (or the quick-access toolbar or a custom ribbon tab or, if you use classic toolbars, to any toolbar).-
I have almost converted to Softmaker from Word 2003, which is where I called a halt to further changes for change sake, and the ribbon was the final pointless addition that offered no significant benefits for me. However I still use Lotus SmartSuite, and have managed to get it to work on windows 7 and 8, but I have no wish really to use windows at all, having found the same change for change sake in the operating systems. Having previously supported IT in education I have needed to manage change and training programs to allow deployment of the new versions of Windows and Office and this was always wasted time. I like simple programs and find Atlantis word programme simple enough for most of my documents and so complete conversion to SoftMaker has not happened yet. However Textmaker is well suited for some tasks that the other programs do not manage, for example quick copying a web page into a document when images are included.
You are aware that we don't force ribbons upon you? As opposed to Microsoft Office, you can choose to continue using classic menus and toolbars with SoftMaker Office.
Yes and I use the classic munu which works well.
I have Softmaker on 1 laptop where I do not need to OneNote. If Softmaker had a comparable product, I would switch everything. I broached the issue with Softmaker and there has been little or no response. Using Planmaker is not viable. I have researched 15-20 replacements and there is nothing I want to convert to. I no longer have linux running so Softmaker is not really needed. So, I guess I am stuck with purveyor of mediocrity.
Like many here, I think I've tried every word processor ever made. They all have good points and bad points, but SoftMaker is doing an excellent job making really good programs that work by themselves or with the other formats sometimes needed. Perfection? No. But pretty darn good. I'm currently using TextMaker for document production. I'd like to see better implementation of OTF capabilities, but that is true of most word processors.

I tried to make PlanMaker my go-to spreadsheet, but the look and feel is just a tad off kilter for my tastes, and macros are an issue. (Perhaps once I take the time to learn BasicMaker that will change).

Finally, I feel as if the SoftMaker people care. Prompt responses, and just a generally good corporate attitude. Informative emails, not too pushy, etc. Now, if they'd only make their own email client instead of Thunderbird. Oh, and maybe a website creator, and a Font manager. Oh, and go ahead and whip out an Access replacement, too, please.

Also, a shout out to Gerald Himmelein. I look forward to his monthly columns.

Thanks to all.
I have an Office 365 licence, partly to check compatibility for clients, but I've never found any problems with SMO. I would probably use Excel on balance for spreadsheets, but between Word and Textmaker (word processing is my primary application) there's just no comparison. Not only is Textmaker's UI preferable (I use a customised version of the ribbon), but Word has an unusable tendency to lose your data if you ever go offline. It's crazy because I keep all my working documents in a OneDrive folder anyway, and Textmaker handles them far more reliably than Word. Perhaps Word is better if you're doing complex collaboration but I just don't work that way. Critically SMO lets me write the way I want to, rather than within the absurdly constraints imposed by Microsoft (it didn't used to be that way so I don't know what's possessed them).
I followed a very similar path as did Gerald - totally agree with his frustrations with MS Office. My biggest gripe was it was so slow at opening and saving documents and MS as we know hogs the CPU and ram as if it owns your PC.
Early on, I discovered a lovely word processor program called Wordexpress by Microvision. It introduced me to multiple guide lines which enabled me to construct a layout with precise size business cards, a little business that I tried for a while and it was far less constrained and easier to use than MS with some other features that were very useful.
That vendor eventually gave the game away probably failing to compete with MS and I suspect that SoftMaker may well have purchased the rights to that software because TextMaker came with very similar functionality.
MS Office is more of a commercial suite of programs not meant so much for home users and will never die - I've stuck with Office 2003 because I can't stand the ribbon crappy idea (change for the sake of change) and use it in conjunction with SoftMaker products.
.. Nice article Gerald
I've been using SoftMaker's TextMaker and PlanMaker for about seven years now. Can't say that I've mastered the programs by any means. I do like the interface which I find to be more easily navigated than that of Microsoft. Never have cared for "the Ribbon". I will admit that I do most of my writing using a text editor, but depending on the nature of the document import it into TextMaker for polishing and publishing. As to PlanMaker, well, it simply rocks!.
My office chair wore out day and night looking for a productivity software suite that would meet my specific needs and have simplicity tied into professional output products. Glad I received an info email about SoftMaker Office three years ago. Not only was it simple, but the documents produced were professional and portable into many other apps without a hitch. I'm hooked permanently. YES, time is precious and SoftMaker Office saves me tons of hours of work.
I have been a dedicated Wordperfect user since day 1, but when I had to deal with documents in Word, or even worse, WordX (docx) then I had to search for a better, open system option.
SoftMaker has been it since 123 folded... It even does old 123 files!
Many decades. Many word processors and spreadsheets.
Softmaker is The One.
To my way of thinking, the user interface is more important than the features. When a software company forces changes in the user interface, they create another unnecessary learning curve that impacts productivity. If their changes were always on an opt in basis, then I could integrate them in at my convenience, with no loss in productivity. I once worked at a company where twice they changed to email system, without warning, on Monday morning. In one case a lot of emails were permanently deleted, by mistake, due to a simple, but not obvious, change in how deleting was now done. Talk about productivity losses! There was chaos for at least a week. Our clients didn't care, they just needed us to do the work that was expected. Yes, we lost a few clients.
I might switch to TextMaker from Word, but working with cascading outlines (I.A.1.a) in TextMaker is different from Word, and I cannot successfully work in TextMaker with a document containing a cascading outline that was created in Word. Since I need this seamless integration (I work in an office that uses Word), I cannot switch to TextMaker. But I admire the product overall.
I am not aware of a difference in behavior between TextMaker and Word concerning such outlines. You might want to raise a support issue at https://www.softmaker.com/en/support-assistant
The only problem I have with Softmaker Office is the inability to open and use any Excel spreadsheets that contain MACROS. PlanMaker does not have this feature - Is there any solution for this problem? I'd hate to purchase a copy of Excel specifically to use MACROS as so many of the spreadsheets that I have to use contain them.
Anthony: PlanMaker opens and saves Excel files with macros, however it doesn't execute them. Our macro system is a bit different, using BasicMaker. On the plus side, you can't get macro viruses through Excel files with PlanMaker.
"On the plus side, you can't get macro viruses through Excel files with PlanMaker" can hardly be considered a plus. Following the same reasoning one could also say that the software don't have a specific functionality because we believe the user doesn't need it.
Actually, we provide VirusFree and a safer environment with the automation ability of macros using BasicMaker scripts. So that you get only benefits without any risk.

Whether I use it on Linux, OS-X, or Windows, TextMaker works without a hitch. And for $75 or so, it’s a steal.

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