Microsoft Word is the most commonly-used word processing program on the market. Almost all people who own a computer make the investment to purchase a version of Word so that they can type up their documents and share them with others. The use of this word processing program is practically ubiquitous, a situation which has its pros and cons.
On the positive side, everyone is familiar with Microsoft Word. That means that it’s easy to share files between different groups of people because everyone in the group can probably open and edit a Word document. Additionally, there is very little training required when working with new people on a team in terms of the use of Microsoft Word. Whereas new employees may need to be trained on company-specific software, even the first-day employee can handle basic tasks on Microsoft Word because it’s a program that he or she has used before.
Unfortunately, there are also drawbacks to the prevalence of Microsoft Word as the major word processing program that everyone uses. The main drawback is that there are some things that Word just doesn’t do well. These things don’t need to be fixed because there’s no ‘real’ competition in the market for this word processing program. Or at least, there hasn’t traditionally been much competition.
However, individuals and businesses are tiring of having to rely on Word. They don’t want to be limited to only this program and the features that it has. Additionally, many people don’t want to have to pay the price to get Microsoft Word; better competition in the word processing market means lower prices for consumers. As a result, we have started to se the proliferation of numerous alternatives to Microsoft Word. Below you’ll find a review of a significant number of different Microsoft Word alternatives which can be used with various operating systems.
- OpenOffice.org Writer: This is arguably the most commonly used alternative to Microsoft Word. OpenOffice is a complete suite of applications similar to those found in the Microsoft Office suite; Writer is the word processing program in that suite. It is very similar in style to Word and also has functions that allow it to create and edit web pages as well as to export PDF files. The functionality of this program is comparable to Word and its eighteen-year history points to the viability of this product as a true Word alternative. The best part about it is that it’s free. Notably, this product can also be used with Linux and with Mac OS X computers that have the X Window System installed on them.
- KWord: Although it’s fallen out of popularity in recent years due to the proliferation of word processing programs, KWord has historically been a fairly well-established alternative to Microsoft Word. It is based on frames which means that it’s convenient for moving and editing large amounts of text as well as for incorporating images into documents. It is designed to be easy-to-use and flexible enough to meet the needs of a diverse group of people (from student to professional).
- Microsoft Works: This is the Microsoft Word alternative that most people are familiar with as it comes on many computers as a standard free version of Microsoft Word. It has a lot of the same basic functions but also has some flaws and isn’t considered a favoured alternative by most people. For the person who only needs to write basic documents that don’t need to be widely shared, it can be a useful program.
- StarWriter: This affordable software allows users to have all of the same basic features as Microsoft Word without having to actually use Word. It’s great for people who are seeking an alternative primarily on the principle of a dislike of Microsoft or a desire to see this word processing giant face more competition. It is compatible with Word so that collaboration with others who use Word isn’t made difficult by using this program. This software is also commonly used by Linux users.
- TechDigm Office: This application suite includes a word processing program which is comparable to StarWriter and can be easily used as an alternative-but-compatible Word program.
- AbilityWrite: Yet another alternative that is similar to StarWriter and TechDigm is AbilityWrite, the word processing program that is part of the Ability Office application suite. The benefit here is that Ability Office comes in five different versions which each include AbilityWrite along with different combinations of other programs (such as a spreadsheet program) which means you can pick and choose what you need in an application suite.
- Atlantis: Take a look at the home page of this Microsoft Word alternative and you’ll see that it looks a little messy. That’s deterred a lot of people from taking a test run of this product even though it’s available for a free 30-day trial before purchase is required. Those who have tried it, though, say that it’s an easy-to-use alternative to Microsoft Word which has many of the advanced features that Word users enjoy at a lower cost than what Word typically runs.
- Evermore Integrated Office: This is a useful but complicated alternative to Microsoft Word due to the fact that it’s more than just a word processing program. Instead of opening up separate programs (for example, Word and Excel), you open everything up in one place. That makes it a great alternative for people who are seeking a really streamlined system but not so great for those people who are just going to want a word processor without all of the extras.
- yWriter: This is a niche word processing program designed specifically for writers who are working on novels or other book-length works. It has features which make it great for these long works include organizational methods that make it easy to move chapters around and tools that allow you to track your progress on the work. It can be used on its own or file can be saved as .rtf files and opened with other word processing programs.
- Nota Bene: This is another niche word processing program but this one is designed for academics and researchers. It has specific academic functions such as automatic bibliography and citation assistance. It also has advanced search functions that allow users to find their own quotes and documents using a search engine style method of searching. It’s pricey software ($100+ depending on the version you want) but those who regularly write academic papers that need to be in tip top form may find that the cost is worth it.
Mac OS X
- NeoOffice: This is an application suite that is similar to Microsoft Office or its open source alternative, OpenOffice. Although OpenOffice is accessible to some Mac users, NeoOffice is the preferred alternative since it’s designed specifically for Macs. It’s word processing program is comparable to Word, making it a great (free) alternative to consider if you happen to be working on a Mac.
- Bean: Bean aims to be a very simple word processing program. It is not specifically intended to replace Word because it doesn’t offer many of the advanced features of Word such as the ability to insert footnotes. However, for just writing simple documents, it’s a great Mac OS X program. It’s easy to use and can provide a terrific Word alternative for those people who don’t need all of the complex functions of a more advanced word processing program.
- WordPerfect: Just like there are many Windows users who are familiar with Microsoft Works as a Word alternative, there are many Mac users who are familiar with WordPerfect. The program is actually cross-platform but it was widely used a few short years ago by Mac users who wanted Word functionality. Like with Works, it has many of the same features as Word but is typically considered an inferior alternative.
- Nisus Writer: Established Mac users may also be highly familiar with this word processing program which was the first developed for Mac. It’s still in use today and offers pros and cons to its users. The quirky interface tends to be problematic for people who are seeking something that looks more like Word. However, there are some unique features that are good for niche writers, such as book writers, that make it a favoured program in some industries.
- AppleWorks: This productivity suite can be used on Windows or on Mac OS X but was marketed as a Mac tool which functions best on this platform. It is a template-based word processing programs which lets you create a variety of different types of documents.
- Pages: This is a combination word processor and page layout program which is part of Mac’s iWork application suite. It has all of the major features that you would want from an advanced word processor. With templates and change tracking, it’s an easy-to-use program that lets you do a variety of different things and can be conveniently used for personal or professional purposes.
- Mariner Write: The main benefit of this word processing program as compared to others is that it works off of intuitive features. If you’re a fan of the paper clip tool in Microsoft Word and you’re someone who uses a Mac, you’ll probably find that this word processing software is worth your money.
- Mellel: This is a feature-rich word processing program that is best for people who are working on long documents such as lengthy academic papers or novels. It is also a program favoured by people who write long documents in multiple languages due to the fact that it has strong language support including bi-directional writing abilities (so you could write right-left if you were using a language that required you to do so). The program is limited in its compatibility with Word so it can be problematic for people who have to exchange documents with others but there are workarounds that can resolve this problem.
- Papyrus: This word processor is designed to be a lightweight program which doesn’t put a drain on older or slower computers. It is particularly useful for people who regularly work in HTML because of its ability to move back and forth from HTML. For the individual who is doing basic text writing with HTML coding, it’s a good program. However, it doesn’t have many of the features of more complex word processing programs (for example, it can’t import certain types of files) so it’s not the best of the many Microsoft Word alternatives out there.
- TextEdit: This is a really basic word processor for the Mac user. It’s got a very user-friendly interface that’s easy to understand so any level of computer user should be able to get comfortable with using it.
- AbiWord: This word processing program can be used on Microsoft Windows or Mac OS X but seems to be most popular with Linux users. It is comparable to early versions of Microsoft Word and became of great interest after that last Word update drove many people in search of a free alternative that was similar to the classic version of the most popular word processing program.
- Applixware: This is a full application suite comparable to Microsoft Office which includes a word processing program similar to Word. Because of how well it compares to the more familiar product, this software has played a crucial role in helping to get the average computer user transitioned over to using Linux.
- Gnu TeXmacs: This is a niche word processing program designed specifically for people writing scientific papers. It incorporates features including proper structuring of scientific information and advanced mathematical abilities. People in the sciences who need to write documents but also give presentations will find that this is a good program. It can be used by Mac OS X users and there is a native beta port for Windows users but it’s primarily a Linux tool.
- LyX: This program is highly similar to Gnu TeXmacs but tends to have more applications. Whereas Gnu TeXmacs is likely to be used only by scientists, LyX may be more widely used by academics in various fields. It takes care of the formatting of documents ranging from theses papers to academic books which allows the author using this program to simply type and be done. It can be used by Windows and Mac OS X users as well as by Linux users.
- Ted: This rich text word processor is designed to be highly functional and yet lightweight. That makes it a good Microsoft Word alternative for people who are running older or slower computers. It offers the major features of a program like Word including basic spell checking and header/footer tools but doesn’t have a lot of the extras that jam up slow systems.
- FLWriter: This is another lightweight Linux word processor. It has some advanced features (including bi-directional writing ability) but it’s essentially just simple software.
- Pathetic Writer: This is a basic word processing program which is used by some Linux users. However, it hasn’t really gained any traction in the market and isn’t considered a favoured Linux alternative to Microsoft Word.
- Wazo: Most Linux users are computer geeks that like to be able to play around with their software and tweak it to their liking. That’s the kind of word processor that this is so it’s not designed for the average user but is appreciated by some Linux fans as a more flexible alternative to Microsoft Word.
- WordGrinder: This is another word processor that’s distinct from Microsoft Word and is favoured by those Linux users who truly enjoy working on a platform that differs from Microsoft and Mac OS X. It’s got no formatting or font styles, just text, so it’s more like WordPad or NotePad than Microsoft Word but it’s a full word processor that Linux users may like.
- Maxwell: This word processor had a lot of potential when it first began to be developed several years ago. The company that was developing it didn’t end up going anywhere with it so the attention drifted. However, it’s a strong word processing program that can still be downloaded and used today.
- Google Docs: This is one of the most popular Microsoft Word alternatives out there for people who are comfortable working in the online platform. It utilises many of the same features as Microsoft Word so it’s a tool that is familiar and which can easily be used by people who have Word experience. Instead of the documents being created and stored on your desktop, they are all created and stored online. This allows you to access them from anywhere with an Internet connection. You can store, share and edit your documents online by yourself or with a team of online collaborators. Documents can also be converted back-and-forth to .doc files if you want to use this as a supplement to Word instead of as an alternative.
- Buzzword: This online word processing program by Adobe is highly similar to Google Docs. It can be downloaded for free (at least for now) and used by anyone with a Flash 9 Player. It has all of the features you need from a word processing program and also has the collaborative features made possible through the online platform.
- FlyWord: This is another of the online word processing programs that’s given Google Docs a run for its money. The FlySuite is a series of collaborative online/offline applications that can be used on any operating system; FlyWord is the word processing program that’s a part of it. The difference is that this one isn’t free; it’s $40 for the word processor and a bit more if you want the other applications as well.
- ThinkFree Office: This is an online set of applications that is designed to be a free alternative to Microsoft Office. It is also compatible with Office and can be used in conjunction with it if so chosen. It operates on all systems. More importantly, there is a mobile version which means that you can access your word processing program and documents from your Wi-Fi-enabled mobile phone.
- Docly: This is a really unique word processing program that is specifically designed for the Web 2.0 world and for those people who regularly publish documents online. That’s because it has an innovative feature which provides an automatic copyright to any work published using this word processor. This is terrific for bloggers and other web writers who want to attach rights to their work without going through a whole lot of hassle. It has all of the basic features of any other simple word processor.
- ajaxWrite: This web-based word processing program is designed to be a supplement to other word processing programs. Its interface is similar to Microsoft Word so it’s easy to get used to using it. It can be used on any computer that gets and Internet connection as long as that computer accesses the Internet with a Firefox browser.
- iNetWord: This is an online word processing program with a tight focus on the program’s editing capabilities. You can not only create documents online but can also engage in fairly complex editing, including multi-party editing. It’s a good word processing program for people who are working together on documents from remote locations. It’s currently in beta and is available for free during that time.
- Nevrocode Docs: This is a simple online word processing program which allows you to create documents online and access them from other computers. In comparison with the other online Microsoft Word alternatives, this one has been somewhat limited. A major complaint was that you could only save the documents to the Nevrocode server and not back to your own computer; Nevrocode is working on this and may be a more viable option as newer versions are released.
- ZCubes: This is a great online product because it allows the user to not only create text documents but also to create web pages, web portals and online albums. In many ways, it combines the functionality of Web 2.0 / social bookmarking sites with a word processing program. It comes in a basic version which can be used with Internet Explorer and Firefox as well as in a professional version that can be used only with Internet Explorer.
- Zoho Writer: This is the word processing program which is a part of a larger set of applications designed to offer collaborative and creative function to its users. The word processing program is intended to work well with the rest of your online word; it allows you to embed photos and videos from major online sites (such as YouTube or Flickr) as well as to publish directly from your word processor to major blogging sites. This is an example of the kind of word processing program we’re likely to see get increasingly popular as Web 2.0 continues to develop.