While Linux is known for its staggering amount of choice and customization potential, the operating system also conveys an undeniable attraction to simplicity. Office suites are perfect for those who want a collection of different productivity apps, but either don't want to choose each app separately or prefer consistency between them.
Only office applications that are made available as part of a greater suite are listed here. For a more detailed description of the applications included in these suites, simply skip ahead to the pages dedicated to a specific type app (e.g. word processor, spreadsheet, database).
OpenOffice.org (OO.o), besides being a great free alternative to Microsoft Office for current Windows and Mac users, is currently the go-to office suite for Linux. Ubuntu and most other modern Linux distros have at least the Writer word processor, Calc spreadsheet software, and Impress presentation app from OO.o installed by default. Rounding out the full suite is the Base database app, Draw graphics editor, and Math formula/equation software.
One of this suite's best features is the ability to open, edit, and save MS Office file formats with ease. Also, the default file type for any documents created with OO.o is the Open Document Format (ODF) which should be transferable to most modern office applications. Due to corporate sponsorship by the late open source champion Sun and functional compatibility with MS Office, OO.o has the popularity (and therefore the documentation and support) needed to remain leader of the pack for the foreseeable future (unless, of course, Oracle changes the arrangement).
SoftMaker Office (2008 trial edition)
SoftMaker Office is a retail office suite that covers the basic productivity trifecta of word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation software. SoftMaker Office is not the only retail Linux office suite available, but it is the only one to pass the usability screening for this roundup. Kudos to SoftMaker for selling a product that the consumer can actually install.
SoftMaker Office can be purchased for $79.99 either on CD or by download. There is also a 30-day trial version available, so try it out for yourself. *Version 2010 is now available for Linux as well as Windows.
KOffice is part of the complete K Desktop Environment (KDE) project, and it is without a doubt the most expansive office suite in this roundup with a whopping eight apps in the full collection. The basic "Productivity Applications" include the KWord word processor, KSpread spreadsheet app, KPresenter presentation software, and Kexi database software. The "Creativity Applications" include Kivio for flowcharts (a Visio replacement), Karbon14 for vector graphics, KPlato project management, and the Krita image editor.
Please note that I used KOffice version 1.6.3 for this roundup. Version 2.0 of KOffice gets full KDE 4 integration and a major face-lift. Though the long-awaited 2.0 has been officially released, it was not yet available via the official repo of any major distribution at posting time. Also, the KDE project tends to make its .0 releases the first look at the development of a new version, not a stable milestone like most other software houses.
Unlike the other offerings, the GNOME Office Suite is a loose mash-up of a few productivity apps with no integration features or discernible brand uniformity. This suite includes the Abiword word processor, Evolution PIM, GNUmeric spreadsheet, and GNUCash financial software.
Because GNOME Office was possibly never intended to be an office suite, it's not the first choice for a complete productivity package. The included apps are all fine when considered by themselves, some are even excellent, but collectively they do not add up to a complete office suite.