Using SoftMaker Office and FreeOffice as full versions on Chrome OS [A]

Introduction

In addition to Microsoft Office, LibreOffice, and OpenOffice, there are other alternatives to office products that not everyone knows. One competitor of Microsoft Office is SoftMaker Office! As a satisfied customer, I have been using it for years on Windows, macOS, Linux, and Android, and you can also use it as a full version on Chrome OS!

Important notes

Notes for beginners: My posts usually contain some basics so that you can understand how to proceed. I partly repeat the basics in other posts, so you don’t have to jump back and forth all the time.

Here is the meaning of the abbreviations after the headings: [E] Everyone [A] Advanced [B] Beginner [P] Professional

If you still miss something, feel free to comment. The community will try to help you! 🙂

Notes for professionals: My posts usually have the form of a knowledge database entry and should be equally suitable for beginners, advanced users, and professionals. Just pick out what you need right now. You can also find content specifically targeted to professionals. These are marked accordingly with [P] and other finger points.

Do you want to have more professional content on a topic? Add it to the comments 😉

Disclaimer of liability: As always on this blog, I warn you that all changes to your system mentioned in this post are at your own risk! It is theoretically possible that there are system or application errors that could lead to data loss and further problems!

SoftMaker Office versions [A]

SoftMaker Office is available in a standard, professional, and a limited but free version called FreeOffice. Furthermore, the commercial versions can be purchased as one-time purchases or as subscription versions (“NX versions“). However, I do not want to go into the differences here. The descriptions in this post are representative of all versions. If you do not yet have a license, you can try SoftMaker Office for 30 days or simply use FreeOffice.

Since I switched to Chrome OS three years ago, I wondered if I could continue to use SoftMaker Office as a full version (NX Universal). The Android version has been running quite well for years. It’s just a bit too limited for me and hasn’t been updated for a while. You can install it as single components (TextMaker HD, PlanMaker HD, Presentations HD) as free basic versions or for 5.99 € each as pro versions from the Play Store.

SoftMaker Office in Linux on Chrome OS

You cannot use the Windows and macOS versions of SoftMaker Office on Chrome OS. That leaves the Linux version. What about that?

I don’t want to bore you with details here, so in short: In the past, it was not possible to run the application without the Linux option of Chrome OS. Then there were various limitations, problems, and instabilities. Today the application runs pretty good and stable so far. The stability has reached a level that allows us to recommend installation and continued use.

How to download SoftMaker Office [A]

You can find the installation package for Linux for SoftMaker Office here: link or here for FreeOffice. The web pages are very similar in design. Here is a screenshot of the SoftMaker Office version:

Downloading SoftMaker Office: selecting version
Image: own screenshot of the author

If you have a current Chrome OS device with an Intel or AMD processor, the 64-bit variant should work for you. However, if you have a device with a 32-bit processor, you should, of course, prefer the 32-bit option. To be sure what applies to you, you can take a look at the system preferences of Chrome OS:

Chrome OS Bit version
Image: own screenshot of the author

Under “About Chrome OS,” you will find information about your version below the large lettering “Google Chrome OS.” In the brackets at the end of the version name, you can see a “(64-Bit)” in my example, so the case is clear!

Since Chrome OS comes with a Debian Buster as of May 2020, you should, of course, select the appropriate “.deb package for DEB based systems.” In the screenshot below, you can see in orange letters which package I have chosen for my Acer Chromebook Spin 13 and Google Pixelbook.

How you download the package now and where you place it is a matter of taste. I have created a particular folder just for downloads for Linux:

Downloading SoftMaker Office: download folder
Image: own screenshot of the author

If the folder “Linux files” is not available to you, you can read in this post how to activate and set up the Linux of Chrome OS first.

If you want to do it right away, you can also create a folder “Downloads” there or just put the Debian package of the download page somewhere else, but below “Linux files.” When you start the download, Chrome OS will display information about the progress:

Downloading SoftMaker Office: finished
Image: own screenshot of the author

How to start the installation of SoftMaker Office [A]

You can now open this file with a double-click to start the installation of SoftMaker Office:

Installing SoftMaker Office: double-click file
Image: own screenshot of the author

If you are sure that you are ready to start, simply click on “Install.” A confirmation will then appear in the same window:

Installing SoftMaker Office: confirming installation
Image: own screenshot of the author

Chrome OS will now inform you about the progress of the installation In the notification area:

Installing SoftMaker Office: progress 1
Image: own screenshot of the author

The duration of the installation depends on the performance of your Chrome OS device, of course. After a short wait, I found that this progress bar “jumped back and forth faster“:

Installing SoftMaker Office: progress 2
Image: own screenshot of the author

Finally, with a little patience, a successful completion of the installation should be indicated:

Installing SoftMaker Office: finished
Image: own screenshot of the author

How to find and start SoftMaker Office in Chrome OS [E]

As you can see in the display, the icons of the SoftMaker Office may already be found in the launcher of Chrome OS. However, I would recommend, at this point, to restart the system to make sure that everything has been set up and initiated. Then you can find TextMaker 2021, PlanMaker 2021, and Presentations 2021 in the launcher:

Linux Apps menu
Image: own screenshot of the author

How to set up SoftMaker Office [A]

When you start e.g., TextMaker for the first time, a few things need to be set up, such as the preferred design of the user interface:

SoftMaker Office started: selecting UI
Image: own screenshot of the author

Note: As you can see in the screenshot, TextMaker is displayed in English. But don’t worry: I’ll describe further down in the post how you can change the program language and document language to your native language! Is it French, German, Spanish? No problem!

As you can see, in IT, I am a “dark mode” fan, so I marked the corresponding tile by clicking on it. The top row contains designs with the so-called ribbon menu, this large menu bar known from Microsoft Office 365. If you’re a fan of the old style with menus, you can even choose an appropriate option for that: The bottom row includes designs with a more classic and narrower text menu. There is also a touch mode for finger operation on a touch-sensitive screen. Just pick the design you like best and confirm the dialog with “OK”!

The next step is to set up the license:

SoftMaker Office started: selecting license
Image: own screenshot of the author

If you already have a product key, click “Unlock SoftMaker Office (product key required)” to enter it in a dialog box and confirm it. If you don’t have a product key, simply click on “Start free trial (limited to 30 days)“. Then you will be informed that the version can only be used for 30 days:

SoftMaker Office started: testing period message
Image: own screenshot of the author

You can confirm this message with “Continue” or if you still want to buy a license, click on “Purchase and unlock”. Here in the post, you can continue with the trial version, which is not restricted at first:

SoftMaker Office started: personal data
Image: own screenshot of the author

In this dialog, you can, if you want, enter your data, which the program will then store in your documents within the file properties. If you don’t want to do this, or are you finished, you can confirm this dialog by clicking on “Ok.”

Then TextMaker finally appears in all its glory, as you might know it from Windows:

SoftMaker Office started
Image: own screenshot of the author

How to set SoftMaker Office to your native language [A]

Above I promised to describe how to change the program language to your native language. You can do so by clicking on “File,” then on “Settings” and there you can select your desired language here as the used dialog language on the tab “Appearance“:

SoftMaker Office started: changing UI language 2
Image: own screenshot of the author

In this post, I use German as an example, as this is my native language.

If your measurement is different from “U.S.” in your country, you can change it to “Metric.” further down at “Measurement“:

SoftMaker Office started: changing UI language 1
Image: own screenshot of the author

Here again in big:

SoftMaker Office started: change metric
Image: own screenshot of the author

You can change the default language of your documents on the “Language” tab:

SoftMaker Office started: changeing document language
Image: own screenshot of the author

Depending on the version, SoftMaker Office comes with a so-called “Duden Korrektor” with a great German spell checker. If you’re not about to write any documents in German, you can scroll a bit below. Otherwise, it’s an excellent help to reach better results in spelling, grammar, and precise language like Grammarly for English texts.

You can activate this “Duden Korrektor” here:

SoftMaker Office started: activating Duden
Image: own screenshot of the author

The field can be found quite far down in the screenshot and is bordered black by my marker.

If you now confirm all these settings by clicking on the “OK” button found below, TextMaker will appear in your native language or here in German:

SoftMaker Office started: German UI
Image: own screenshot of the author

PlanMaker and Presentations now also have a user interface with your native language.

Conclusion [A]

Well, we did it! Have fun with it!

A note about stability as of the end of May 2020: SoftMaker Office runs very stable on all my Chrome OS devices. I only sometimes have problems closing TextMaker when I simply close it with the “x” of the window. Then it hangs up from time to time, and only a restart helps. However, if I close the document and exit the program more smoothly via the menus, which just leads to two more clicks, this has never happened before. That is what I want to recommend to you if you have the same issue.

Closing a document:

SoftMaker Office: closing application
Image: own screenshot of the author

Exiting the program:

SoftMaker Office: closing application
Image: own screenshot of the author

A final note about the speed of SoftMaker Office using TextMaker as an example: It starts quite fast and almost always runs without noticeable jerking. However, if you activate the “Duden Korrector” for German text with all its functions in the preferences, the text input sometimes reacts quite slowly when editing documents. But the “Duden Korrector” is very good and sturdy. Without it, the program “runs” even on my slower devices.

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