SoftMaker Office 2012 offers a capable set of office applications, including an email client new to this release (Professional version only). It can handle documents created by Microsoft Office with ease and also runs on any PC with Windows XP or above.
Excellent file compatibility with Microsoft Office, runs on older PCs, easy to use
Not as slick looking as Microsoft apps, email client does not support Exchange protocol
€69.95 (£58) SoftMaker Office 2012 Standard, €99.95 (£83) for SoftMaker Office 2012 Professional
SoftMaker Office 2012 runs on any PC capable of running Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7
SoftMaker Office 2012 is a new release of SoftMaker's productivity suite for Windows, offering a set of office applications to rival Microsoft's Office 2010 and other suites such as OpenOffice.org
Available since the end of November, SoftMaker Office 2012 is the first release of the suite to feature an email client in addition to the word processor, spreadsheet and presentation tool of earlier versions.
SoftMaker's chief selling point is file compatibility, not just with files created by Microsoft's current Office 2010 suite, but the older formats used in Office 2003 and earlier, plus it has support for OpenOffice.org files and SoftMaker's own native document formats. SoftMaker applications can also export to a PDF document as standard.
However, SoftMaker 2012 also has the advantage that it will run on any PC with Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7, which might appeal to those with older or less capable PCs. In addition, the user interface has more of a conventional look and feel, which should please those who dislike the ribbon-style user interface that Microsoft created for recent versions of Office.
We found SoftMaker Office 2012 to be a capable suite, with the individual applications matching rivals for pretty much all the features that users might require.
We also tested the suite on several machines and confirmed that it runs well even on relatively low-spec machines such as netbooks and older PCs running Windows XP.
However, the applications look rather utilitarian when compared with the slick cosmetic appearance of Microsoft's productivity tools.
It should also be noted that the email client does not support Microsoft's Exchange protocol and can only link to mail servers via standard protocols.
SoftMaker Office is also a paid-for product, so buyers must weigh up the benefits of purchasing this against free-to-download suites such as OpenOffice.org, or buying into Microsoft's much more pricey products.
To set against this, customers get the rights to install SoftMaker Office on up to three PCs for a single payment and the company also provides technical support to registered users, while users of free-to-download suites typically have access only to web-based community support via forums.
SoftMaker Office 2012 comes in two versions; the Standard edition consists of the TextMaker word processor, PlanMaker spreadsheet, SoftMaker Presentations and the BasicMaker scripting language for automating tasks.
The Professional edition includes all the above plus the SoftMaker eM Client for email, plus extra Berlitz dictionaries.