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6 Free Alternatives to Microsoft Word

If you’re tired of paying for Microsoft Office features you don’t use, here are free alternatives to Word that you can download and start using today.

Image: anyaberkut, Getty Images/iStockphoto

Microsoft Word has its devotees, but find one person who loves it, and you’ll likely find several who don’t. From redesigns that hide familiar menu items to overly complicated and often unused features, there’s a lot to be desired in a basic word processor that Microsoft Word doesn’t deliver due to its complex nature.

Microsoft Word and the rest of Microsoft Office is expensive– For example, Microsoft 365 Business Premium costs $22 per user per month. There are also some details about the prices for the home version of Microsoft Officeincluding information such as number of users and cloud storage.

If you don’t need all the features of Microsoft Word, it can be hard to pay that price, especially in a small business environment where all you need is a word processor. Don’t pay for what you’re not going to use — check out one of these six free Microsoft Word alternatives instead.

Google Docs

Image: Google

Google Docswhich is easily the most popular Microsoft Word alternative on this list, is free for anyone with a Google account.

If you want the basics of Microsoft Word, look no further than Google Docs: it covers all your basic word processing needs and is tightly integrated with Google Drive and other products. Since everything is stored in Google’s cloud, you don’t have to worry about losing your work. Documents are automatically saved after each keystroke, so in the event of a crash you should be able to pick up where you left off, right up to the letter. Google Docs also supports Microsoft Word’s .doc and .docx formats, so you should have no problems importing and editing them.

One of the best features for business users is real-time collaboration. If you share a document with another Google user, you can both be in the document at the same time, see the other user’s cursor position, see what they are typing, and also chat with each other. It’s a great collaboration tool that stands out among word processors.

Advanced users might find the features lacking – it’s really a bare-bones word processor.

Apache OpenOffice Writer

Image: Apache

If you hate Microsoft Word for the invention of the ribbon, then: Apache’s OpenOffice Writer is the 2003 throwback you want. It has a classic interface that, while looking a bit cluttered, mimics the menus that Microsoft threw out when Office 2007 was released. It will certainly feel familiar to Office 2003 users, with the added benefit of still receiving updates and security patches, which is important for a business software suite.

OpenOffice Writer has its own document format, but also supports .doc and .docx files, and it maintains formatting excellently when importing those types of files. Many of Microsoft Word’s advanced features are also included in OpenOffice Writer, so editing complex Word documents is no problem.

If online collaboration or native cloud support is a selling point, then you may want to pass on OpenOffice Writer as it includes neither. It is possible to save files to a cloud drive and access them with OpenOffice, but you must use the desktop client of Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive or Apple iCloud installed so you can access your cloud storage as a local computer folder.

Zoho Writer

Add images, comments, and suggestions in Zoho Writer with collaboration tools.
Contributors’ comments and suggestions in Zoho Writer. Image: Zoho

Zoho Writer is a free document creation tool with a clean writing interface and powerful built-in capabilities. Writing documents in Writer is largely distraction-free, while important text tools are still at your fingertips.

Writer’s native features, many of which take advantage of the capabilities of other Zoho apps, really set it apart from the rest. Use the built-in AI tool, Zia, for better quality content, quick grammar corrections, and insight into document readability for different audiences. The Document Signing tool places electronic signature tools directly in the document, allowing teams to move from draft to approval and signing in the same space. Document fillable tools also put forms directly into your documents, giving them a professional look that’s ready to embed anywhere you need a form.

Zoho Writer’s real-time collaboration, unsurpassed by Google Docs or Microsoft Word, has detailed controls including comments, suggestions, text masking to hide some items from collaborators, and even content locks for blocks of text. Zoho Writer is built for business collaboration, regulatory approvals, and creative teams.

LibreOffice Writer

Image: The Document Foundation

The Document Foundations LibreOffice Writer, like OpenOffice, is a completely free and open-source product that offers word processing, support for .doc and .docx file formats, and all the tools the average Microsoft Word user needs in a word processor. LibreOffice Writer and OpenOffice Writer are similar in many ways: interface style, file format support, lack of cloud integration and real-time collaboration, and common word processing features. Both are solid choices for those looking for a free alternative to Microsoft Word, and choosing one over the other largely comes down to preference.

One aspect of LibreOffice stands out, and it’s not what’s in the app: it’s the community-driven nature of the platform. Working with users and developers to improve the product is central to the LibreOffice website, and that focus has grown LibreOffice in a thriving community of users and programmers making it better.

WPS Office Writer

Image: WPS software

If you want a word processor that’s as feature-packed as Word, but you don’t want to pay a premium, check it out WPS Office Writer. It is a complete application suite that feels premium.

WPS Office Writer does most of the same things as Microsoft Word, and it includes native cloud support to make saving documents online a snap; however, it lacks real-time collaboration. Look at a review of WPS Office Writer and you’ll find statements that confirm how similar it is to Word. With the addition of more features than other free suites like OpenOffice, this might be the way to go, especially considering you don’t have to pay for it.

With anything free and high-quality, there’s a catch, and you might guess what it is in our modern age of “freemium” apps: ads. Don’t let that stop you from trying WPS Writer – you may not see an ad. There is no banner at the top of the app – ads only appear when you want to use certain features, such as printing or exporting to PDF. If you have to do one of those things, you have to endure an ad of about 10 seconds, which will unlock the feature for 30 minutes. If you like what WPS Writer has to offer, you can choose to remove ads by paying an annual subscription fee of $29.99, or you can pay over $119.99 for a lifetime license.

Microsoft Office Word Online

Image: Microsoft

Don’t forget Microsoft’s free alternative to the paid version of Word: Office online. Like Google Docs, Microsoft Word Online is a simplified, cloud-based version of Word. It lacks many of the advanced features of a locally installed version of Word, but for users who want a free version of Word, this is as close as you can get.

Similarities between Google Docs and Word Online are present right down to the interface, but with a few tweaks to make it feel more like the Microsoft ribbon rather than the drop-down menus Google Docs users are used to. Documents created in Word Online are stored in Microsoft OneDrive, and real-time collaboration features like those in Google Docs are also available. A big plus in Word Online’s favor is formatting: if you create a document in Word Online and then import it to a local version of Microsoft Word, it will retain the formatting much better than if it was created in Google Docs.

Check out our other articles that can save you money, taking a look at 6 free alternatives to Microsoft Excel and 5 alternatives to Office 365 you’ve never considered.

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