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The best free office software for your Mac or Windows PC

There's no need to pay for a subscription to Microsoft Office, not when there's a ton of free office software out there on the web. We point you in the right direction, and cover some priceless productivity gems in this article, including well-known names such as Evernote and Libre Office, to more obscure offerings. We'll cover software for Windows, Mac, and in some cases Linux and mobile platforms – so read on for our top picks.

Dia (Windows, Mac, Linux)

The open source equivalent of Microsoft's Visio is ready to make flowcharts, organisational charts, diagrams, and more – all of which can be saved out to multiple formats.

Evernote (Windows, Mac, Web, Mobile)

Evernote lets you capture anything you see on your screen, save it to the app, and automatically sync it with online and mobile versions. You can save notes everywhere, access them anywhere, and make them as public or private as you want.

FocusWriter (Windows, Mac, Linux)

Distraction-free writing tools are in vogue, but some hide too much. FocusWriter keeps things you need (like tabs and tools) when you take your hands off the keyboard, but hides them again when the writing starts.

FreeOCR (Windows)

FreeOCR does a pretty great job when it comes to making sense of your scanned-in text, particularly considering that it's a free tool that works with any image with text, even a digital photo.

Grindstone (Windows)

Grindstone doesn't want to just track your tasks, it wants to help you accomplish them more efficiently. It displays a stopwatch when you start one, so you can see your progress over time – and it keeps track of your time away from the desk, plus it can generate reports on your productivity, which you can use as a timesheet or invoice.

Jarte (Windows)

Windows has a built-in, ultra-simple word processor app called WordPad. It's nothing to look at, but it simply works. Jarte (pronounced "jar-tay") wraps around the WordPad engine to give it a good-looking tabbed interface.

LibreOffice (Windows, Mac, Linux)

LibreOffice is an excellent choice for anyone who wants a free alternative to Microsoft Office. It includes a word processor, spreadsheet, database, presentations, and apps for maths and drawing. For the full details on this one, see our review.

Notepad++ (Windows)

Part Notepad replacement with extra muscle, part developer's editing tool, Notepad++ has a tabbed interface that makes it easy to write code in text files. It'll even FTP the files for you.

Pencil Project (Windows, Mac, Linux)

Pencil is a unique open source diagramming tool that can be used as a standalone application or as a plug-in for Firefox. Either way, the results are the same. It offers built-in stencils, or you can make your own, with easy links between pages.

Scribus (Windows, Mac, Linux)

Looking for the open source equivalent of Adobe InDesign for designing publications? Scribus comes as close as possible, with all of the professional tools, including built-in colour separation and colour management.

Tomboy (Windows, Mac, Linux)

It's smaller than OneNote and not web-reliant, like Evernote, SpringPad or Simplenote. This little note taker is better than relying on wayward text files because it links your notes together, as needed, for easy access.

WriteMonkey (Windows)

This "zenware" for distraction-free composing has an interface that will make you think you're writing in DOS circa 1980 (and that's a good thing).

Wunderlist (Windows, Mac, Linux, Mobile, Web)

Create a task in Wunderlist's excellent interface and you'll instantly be able to share it on all your mobile devices and computers. Wunderlist will help you get things done, and you can invite others to join you in your tasks.

yEd (Windows, Mac, Linux, Web)

Cross-platform yEd (pronounced "why-Ed") is a "diagrammer" or "graph editor" that will import your spreadsheets for data and let you create diagrams and charts with drag-and-drop ease. You can then export them to several graphics formats.