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Why I prefer SoftMaker Office


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.


Comments

Vicky

2019-10-14 02:44

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.

SoftMaker

2019-10-14 05:30

Vicky, we are working on a new version for Android.

George Crawford

2019-10-12 12:28

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.

Christoph Steinbruchel

2019-10-11 23:51

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.

RD Parker

2019-10-09 23:53

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.

Christoph Steinbruchel

2019-10-09 17:25

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.

Ed Wullschleger

2019-10-09 15:05

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!

Gregg Hardin

2019-10-08 22:06

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.

Sandra Vella

2019-10-08 21:14

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.

ashfaq kazmi

2019-10-08 18:14

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".

SoftMaker

2019-10-08 18:15

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.

John Comloquoy

2019-10-08 20:37

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.

Treeshadow Woodworks

2019-10-08 16:49

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.

Thomas

Sherryl

2019-10-08 16:30

That picture illustrating your story is sexist.

SoftMaker

2019-10-08 16:52

It's a meme that we are referencing. Background:

knowyourmeme.com/memes/distracted-boyfriend

Malcolm

2019-10-09 04:00

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?

SoftMaker

2019-10-09 07:11

Based on your concerns, we have reviewed this image and decided to keep it. Thank you for your feedback.

Pamela

2019-10-09 09:23

The image is of an immature jerk.

Eric

2019-10-09 14:30

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”

Viet Vet

2019-10-18 02:57

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!!!

Malcolm

2019-10-09 03:57

That is my first response too.

Vera

2019-10-15 00:27

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.

Igor

2019-10-08 10:38

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

SoftMaker

2019-10-08 10:44

Igor, Microsoft Word doesn't support regular expressions for searching either. It has search for wildcards, but so does TextMaker.

Igor

2019-10-09 04:46

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.

SoftMaker

2019-10-09 05:21

Thank you for the feedback. I will look into this.

Donavon Hiss

2019-10-08 07:56

TextMaker falls short of being able to handle bibliographic references with programs such as EndNote, Mendeley, Zotero, etc. For me, that is a dealbreaker.

SoftMaker

2019-10-08 07:58

We are working on Zotero support.

Chris Davies

2019-10-08 07:56

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.

Sergio Montes

2019-10-08 07:50

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.

GRH

2019-10-08 13:57

You could try Affinity Publisher in the mean time, only about £50
affinity.serif.com/en-gb/publisher/
It is an excellent MS Publisher replacement.

Audrey Gan

2019-10-08 06:08

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?

SoftMaker

2019-10-08 06:31

TextMaker reads and writes ODT files. PlanMaker opens ODS files, but can only save in other formats. No ODP support in Presentations yet.

Kunal Ghosh

2019-10-08 00:22

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.

SoftMaker

2019-10-08 05:48

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).-

Chris

2019-10-08 00:08

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.

SoftMaker

2019-10-08 05:47

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.

Chris

2019-10-08 10:30

Yes and I use the classic munu which works well.

RD Parker

2019-10-07 23:46

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.

Kevin McCann

2019-10-07 22:00

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.

Paul Brasington

2019-10-07 21:25

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).

Dennis McCarthy

2019-10-07 21:23

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

Kurt Schilling

2019-10-07 21:05

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!.

JR Pazo

2019-10-07 19:41

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.

Ian Gordon

2019-10-07 19:20

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!

Zim

2019-10-07 17:29

Many decades. Many word processors and spreadsheets.
Softmaker is The One.

Keith Schaefer

2019-10-07 17:20

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.

Bob Danker

2019-10-07 16:50

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.

SoftMaker

2019-10-07 17:30

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 www.softmaker.com/en/support-assistant

Anthony Calitz

2019-10-07 16:15

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.

SoftMaker

2019-10-07 16:24

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.

Bill Wilken

2019-10-07 11:55

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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