Zoho Office Suite taps AI to provide a free, powerful alternative to Office 365

If you don’t want to pay for Microsoft’s AI-powered Microsoft Office, there are alternatives—including Zoho’s free Zoho Office Suite. Zoho’s alternatives to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Google Keep launch today, complete with their own intelligent features that are arguably friendlier than Microsoft’s own.

The updated, smarter Zoho Writer 5 word processor and Zoho Sheet 5 spreadsheet join Zoho Notebook, a new addition that intelligently transforms links into “cards” that pull data from the web. The suite also includes Zoho Show, a free alternative to PowerPoint. For this revision, the Zoho Office Suite includes Zia, an AI assistant that Zoho integrated into its CRM solution last year.

Zoho does charge $3 to SMBs to use the suite, and $6 per user for enterprises. If you’re a single home user, you pay nothing, though you’ll need to sign up for a Zoho account. All of the Zoho Office Suite apps are available on the web as well as on iOS and Android, but require an Internet connection. The exception is the new version of Writer, which is now available in an offline mode.

Writer’s new features include the Zia-powered spelling and grammar checker, which includes Flesch-Kincaid readability analysis as well as writing tips; offline mode and a dark mode; and forms and signature integration. In Sheet, Zia can automatically construct pivot tables and reply to plain-language queries, even on mobile. And in Notebook, Zoho’s Zia now constructs the sort of “cards” you might find in Twitter or Facebook, where a link will expand to show the title and any art associated with the link.

What this means to you: Microsoft’s Office suite is undoubtedly the powerhouse office suite, and as we’ve recently seen, Microsoft will do just about anything to keep you locked into an Office 365 subscription. Zoho, though, has been quietly providing a solid alternative for years. You can still import Office files (Writer, for example, accepts DOCX, DOC, DOT, TXT formats and more, and exports to DOCX, too) while keeping your files within Zoho’s workflow. Microsoft may make it a bit easier to save documents in its OneDrive cloud, but you can also connect to a cloud service within Zoho. The key point, of course, is that it’s all free to the home user.