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 Microsoft Word Alternatives
Some people are reluctant to cut the ties to their local computer and put all their work and business documents online. If you are one of them here are several free word processing applications that you can download and install on your local computer.
An additional appeal of the desktop software and MS Word alternatives is that they don’t require an Internet connection to function.
This package actually includes six programs that all use the same engine making them inherently the same and extremely easy to learn and use. The 6 applications included in the OpenOffice suite are: Writer (word processor), Calc (spreadsheets), Impress (presentations), Draw (graphics) and Base (database manipulation) and Math (mathematical equations). 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 destop alternative to Microsoft Word/Office.
AbiWord is a free word processing application very similar to Microsoft Word. It is a full cross-platform program, meaning that you can run it on Linux, Mac OSX 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. It is 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 is based on the WordPad Engine, but is still free. There is a paid 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.
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.
NeoOffice is an office software suite made for Mac OS X users. The NeoOffice suite allows users to view, edit and save OpenOffice documents, PDF files, and most Microsoft Word documents, PowerPoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets. The free edition of NeoOffice can’t save documents, but users can open, edit and print documents
Online Microsoft Word Alternatives
Sometimes it's easier to create and collaborate online in real-time than by editing, managing multiple versions on local hard drive and sending the files. Web-based word processing applications below will not only let you create the documents online but also quickly and easily share them with others.
For Microsoft Word and Office aficionados, the best possible free online alternative for their document editing needs is definitely Word online, which comes as part of the Office Online suite. Although free MS Word web app is not a full-fledged version of its paid counterpart, it allows you to open, create and edit Word documents online. Also, it offers some additional benefits of online software tools. For example, the ability to access your docs literally from anywhere with only an Internet connection or share and collaborate on documents in real-time. An equally alluring feature of Office Online is its cross-platform compatibility. So, if you’re a Chromebook or Linux OS user, MS Word web app is the most elegant way to get access to Microsoft’s document editing features - for free!
Google Docs allows you to create, collaborate and share documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings and even forms. Google Docs is packed with features, which can be further extended with various add-ons. While it will automatically save the file online and store it there, you can also have the documents published as a web page, downloaded or emailed as an attachment in Word, ODT, PDF, plain text 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. And if you are apprehensive of having to depend on the Internet connection for document processing, don’t worry. You can enable Google Docs offline access and keep editing your documents even when you are disconnected from Internet. All it takes is a free Google account.
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 Writer’s interface 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.
ThinkFree Online is a web office service. It is basically a free web-based editor program. It allows you to write, save, share and open documents from your web browser without installing a program on your PC. To start using it, you need to register as a member. Once you’ve done that, you will be given an online storage space called 'My Office'. Then you can start creating documents compatible with MS Office. All documents will be saved in your storage. You can easily retrieve, view and edit them. Mobile device users will be happy to learn that all documents from My Office storage can be retrieved for viewing and editing through Think Free Mobile.
Ehterpad is an online document editor primarily intended for collaborative editing in, as the site claims, “really real time”. It’s an open source, highly customizable tool for online document collaboration with friends, fellow students and classmates, or colleagues at work. One of its advantages, especially appealing to users who are reluctant to use services which require email registration, is that there is no sign up with Etherpad. All you need to do is start a new pad and share the link to it with you collaborators. You can also invite them by email if you prefer. After that, you can start working on the planned writing project together, in real-time, even if you are miles apart.
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 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.
While using MS Word can be very difficult, using PDF can be even more difficult. Investintech publishes a PDF to Word solution called Able2Extract that has the ability to convert PDF documents to Word efficiently and accurately. It is a top rated PDF to Word Converter solution that has been integrated into several of Investintech’s desktop online and mobile PDF conversion products.