10 Free MS Word Alternatives You Can Use Today

Posted by Rama Van Basten under

10 Free MS Word Alternatives You Can Use Today

While many people believe that they are “locked” into using Microsoft Word for all their document creation needs, it simply isn’t true. There are many free alternatives to the costly application from Microsoft, many of which are free. Today we’re going to talk about ten alternatives to Microsoft Word that you can quickly and easily start using today. Some will be online and some will be downloadable applications that can be installed on your local computer, but all will enable you to wean yourself off of Microsoft Word and still be productive.

Over the past few years many alternatives have been emerging to Microsoft Word and Office. A notable freely downloadable option is OpenOffice which has been in development in one form or another for almost twenty years. One of the newer and more well-known online options is of course offered by those masters of online applications, Google, in the form of Google Documents. So let’s get started on the tour of ten free alternatives to Microsoft Word.

Downloadable Applications:
Some people are simply not ready to cut the ties to their local computer and put all their work online, so for you we have several applications which are open source and freely downloadable to be installed on your local computer and which don’t require an internet connection to function.

Open Office OpenOffice.Org

This package actually includes five programs that all use the same engine making them inherently the same and extremely easy to learn and use. The 5 are: Writer (word processor), Calc (spreadsheets), Impress (presentations), Draw (graphics) and Base (database manipulation). Writer can even natively do some things that Word cannot, like open PDF files without the addition of a plug-in or commercial add-on. As the software is open source it is maintained by a large community meaning help and bug fixes are freely available and quickly created. This is perhaps the leading free alternative to Microsoft Word/Office.

AbiWord AbiWord

This software is part of the AbiSource project which is aimed at a full cross-platform application suite meaning you could run it on UNIX, Mac OS and Windows. The software is fully compatible with not only Microsoft Word but also OpenOffice.org, Word Perfect and Palm OS. It has advanced document layout capabilities and can do mail merge as well which allows you to automatically fill in specific form fields in documents with information from databases and comma separated or tabbed text files. A highly useful feature if you have many forms you need to work with at the office. Additionally the software can be enhanced and expanded with freely available plug-ins that will give it even more features and functions.

Jarte Jarte

Jarte is based on the WordPad Engine, but is still free. There is a pay version of the software that adds on some extra functionality, but the free version is more than adequate and fully compatible with Word and WordPad documents. Features include Windows Vista compatibility, an ergonomic tabbed interface, small resource requirements and quick loading time. It also has built-in spell checking and can export to HTML and PDF files. Jarte allows you to insert images, tables, hyperlinks and everything else that you have come to expect from Word. Jarte contains no ads, trial periods or crippled features and is funded through user purchases of the Jarte Plus version.

Lotus IBM Lotus Symphony

Yes, IBM is giving away a productivity package, for free. Lotus Symphony includes a word processor, spreadsheet program and presentation software. While it was based on an older version of OpenOffice.org, many modifications have been made to the package making it unique now. Lotus Symphony Documents supports the open document format (.ODF extension), Microsoft Office and Lotus SmartSuite files and can also export to PDF. Tables, charts, shapes and graphics are all present as well as the standard text formatting options. The software also contains inline spell checking and correction along with table of contents, footnote, indices and header/footer creation.

Neo   Office Neo Office

Mac users haven’t been forgotten in the free productivity software campaign, because Neo Office is made just for them. The package includes word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, drawing and database programs and runs on Mac OS X. It also offers compatibility with Microsoft Office files including most Office 2007 files. The software has been evolving since 2003 so it is fairly stable and has incorporated a host of Mac native features. The software also has grammar and spell checking and can even import images from cameras and scanners as well as Quicktime videos.

Sometimes it’s easier to collaborate online than by editing, saving and sending the files. These applications will not only let you create the documents online but also quickly and easily share them with others.

Google Docs Google Docs

From the minds at Google Labs comes Google Docs which allows you to create, collaborate and share documents, spreadsheets and presentations. The interface is cleaner than many of the other alternatives but the functionality is still all there. While it will automatically save the file online and store it there, you can also have the documents published as a web page or emailed as an attachment in Word, ODT, PDF or RTF formats. You can invite collaborators to work on the document with you or only allow others to view it without the ability to edit. All it takes is a free account signup.

Zoho Zoho

Zoho offers around 20 free online applications including Writer for word processing. You can link your Zoho account to your Google and Yahoo accounts as well. The interface on Writer shouldn’t cause anyone problems as it is comfortably familiar. Working online can be hazardous and there’s always the threat of losing data due to lost network connection, accidental closing of the browser window or browser crash, but luckily Zoho automatically saves your documents for you, as you finish typing. You can also insert images from your local computer or from the Web. Zoho Writer offers all the standard text formatting and document creation features and can export to DOCX, ODF, PDF, Latex, RTF, TXT and even HTML. It can plug into Echosign for digital signatures, publish the document to a blog or make it public for all to see. You can even invite online collaborators to work on the document with you.

Think Free ThinkFree

The ‘My Office’ area of the website includes a Java-based productivity suite. The site will ask if you want to install the applications to your computer but this is not necessary for online only usage. As the software is built in Java it will take some system resources and time but it caches on your computer so it loads quicker after the first time. The interface on the program is very familiar looking and should not cause most users any problems with navigating. Working online can be hazardous at times and you could accidentally close the application window before you have saved your document, but don’t worry because it will automatically dump the file onto your computer when you close the window. Not the best system in the world but it should save you from having to completely remake the document.

Ajax Write AjaxWrite

This newer online application suite includes ajaxWrite, ajaxSketch, ajaxXLS. ajaxPresent and ajaxTunes. AjaxWrite has been designed to look like Microsoft Word so everyone will be familiar with the interface. The application is lacking some of the features that others include, notably a spell checker, but does include many of the standard formatting options as well as the ability to include an image from your computer, as well as drag and drop image insertion from web pages. The application does respond slower than many of the others and there were problems with the save option though attempting to close the browser window does ask if you want to navigate away and discard the changes. Ajaxwrite only supports Firefox at present with IE support on the way.

Peepel Peepel

Another interesting alternative is Peepel. With a slick interface the all browser-based word processor allows you to do typical text formatting, image insertion from the web (no local computer access) and collaborate with others on the document. It also has templates for resumes, letters and business cards. You can store files online and even open multiple applications in the same browser window at the same time. Applications available include WebWriter, Calculator, WebSheet and Browser along with file managers and file manipulation features.

Whether you are looking for a free locally installed Microsoft Word alternative or an online one for easier collaboration and online file storage, there are many offerings available. The ten that are covered in this article are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg but should give you a good starting point. The obvious giants in the arena are Google Docs and Openoffice.org which are probably also the most popular though Zoho does offer a wider selection of applications. In the end the one that best suits you will be the one that offers the features you need the most.

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