SoftMaker has positioned Office 2010 as a direct competitor to Microsoft Office, claiming blazing speed and much lower prices. Available for the Windows platform for many years, they have now released a version for Linux, where the main competition comes from OpenOffice.org, which is free but not noted for being particularly speedy.
SoftMaker Office comes as three separate programs, TextMaker, PlanMaker and SoftMaker Presentations; for word processing, spreadsheets and Powerpoint-style presentations respectively. Having separate applications already gives it an advantage over the all-in-one OpenOffice.org in terms of startup speed and memory usage. SoftMaker claim full compatibility with all current and previous file formats for Word, Excel and Powerpoint. The web site also claims support for the Open Document Format (ODF) files that are save by OpenOffice.org and others. In fact, it only loads .odt word processor files, ODF spreadsheets and presentations do not work. In addition to loading and saving in all standard formats, all three SoftMaker Office programs can also export documents to PDF files.
Performance is quite good, certainly faster than OpenOffice.org although that is not a particularly outstanding benchmark to beat. The user interface is very similar to the competitors, which is hardly surprising, people want their office software to be familiar. Productivity and learning new interfaces do not always go hand in hand. However, there is one really nice touch, a tabbed interface for multiple documents. Opening a number of documents at once does not spew windows all over your desktop, just one window with an orderly line of tabs across the top.
This is a commercial program, and while Windows users can be persuaded by the lower price than Microsoft Office, Linux users will require improved usability too. They get it. Whether this is enough to justify paying 70 euros for SoftMaker Office is subjective, but there is a thirty day trial, with all features working, so you can make up your own mind.