Microsoft Word is the world’s most popular word processing package. And while it’s mature, robust and capable, these days it costs an annual subscription to use it. So what happens if you don’t have the money? Or maybe your computer runs Linux? Well, there are plenty of alternatives, some of them free, that you can use, and while nothing is 100% compatible with specific versions of Word – and sometimes, that includes Word itself – all of these options support opening, and saving, Word documents.
- Libre Office
Libre Office, started when some developers felt that there wasn’t enough progress being made with developing OpenOffice after Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems. They formed the not-for-profit organisation The Document Foundation, and started development on a fork of the software. But as the name suggests, Libre Office isn’t just a clone of Word, but also includes a full-featured spreadsheet, database application, presentation application, vector and flowchart drawing program and mathematical formula editor.
Robust and fast, LibreOffice is the go-to choice for word processing outside of Microsoft Office these days.
Runs on: Windows, Mac, Linux, Android and iPhone.
AbiWord is a very small, lightweight word processor that works on a large number of systems. Unlike Libre Office, it is just a word processor, which makes it useful for older machines with slower processors or less memory, but despite its small size, it still includes spelling and grammar checkers. It’s especially useful for older Macs or PCs, as the currently available versions will run on OS X 10.2 or later, and Windows 2000.
If you have an older computer that needs a new lease of life, or you just need a single-use application that’s light on system resources, AbiWord is a great choice.
Runs on: Windows, Mac, Linux, Solaris, AIX, HP/UX, OSF/1 and Tru64.
- Softmaker FreeOffice
German company Softmaker make a premium level office suite that competes directly with Microsoft Office. However, they also make the previous version free to download as “Softmaker FreeOffice”. In order to download, you need to enter your email address to get onto their mailing list, and they will email you a free product key. Like the other office suites in our list, this includes a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation program. There’s also a free version for Android. One key feature of FreeOffice is that it allows you to create eBook versions of your files directly from within the suite – a useful bonus if you intend to self-publish your magnum opus…
Runs on: Windows, Linux and Android
The smallest application on this list – and the only one that is Windows only – Jarte wrappers WordPad inside a more user friendly application. Not only is it small – at time of writing, the download is a mere 4MB – and there are additional features that you can purchase if you want to upgrade to “Jarte Plus”. It’s also portable, which means that it can run from a flash drive, which can be useful if you need to do that.
Runs on: Windows
OpenOffice originally came about when Sun Microsystems bought StarOffice. They open sourced it, to create a community around the suite, and drive its development. However when Oracle bought Sun, they passed OpenOffice over to the Apache Software Foundation (you may not have heard of them, but they write the world’s most widely-used web server program). Like Libre Office, it’s a full-featured suite including word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, mathematics, database and drawing functions, and again, like Libre Office, it’s a big download.
While there are criticisms over the way that OpenOffice was handled in the past, these are largely behind the project, and it remains a solid choice.
Runs on: Windows, Mac and Linux