For many users, Microsoft Word (and Microsoft Office in general) has always been prohibitively expensive. Thankfully, there are plenty of alternatives, both free and paid, that you can find online in 2017. In the brief guide below, we’re going to introduce you to some of the best options available, depending on your respective use case. Whether you’re looking for something simple and straightforward to help with essay composition, a word processor for your novel-writing adventure, or something more “middle of the road,” we can point you towards the right application.
If you’re a Windows user, it might seem like there isn’t any other feasible choice for word processing than Microsoft Word. It’s been a critical component of the Microsoft Office suite for decades, and it’s very likely marketed towards you at every turn if you’re not already using it. However, even though Microsoft Office is admittedly an excellent piece of software that has successfully innovated and evolved over the course of decades, it has always come with a price tag; unless you’re a student, it’s a rare find that any element of Microsoft Office (apart from a free trial) is included with the purchase of your Windows operating system.
For those on limited budgets, it can feel an awful lot like you’re being gouged beyond the starting Windows sticker price, which is already quite high. What’s a budget-conscious person to do, then?
The answer — specify and explore your options!
There are plenty of alternatives to Microsoft Office available online, and it might surprise you that some of the best aren’t going to cost you a dime. They might take a little bit of time and effort to become used to, but given that they have nearly as many useful features as the Microsoft Office suite itself,
There’s a reason that Microsoft Office, and by extension Microsoft Word, has such an excellent reputation, though. It is a genuinely great word processor, and even Mac users regularly opt for the Mac version of the MS Office suite when it comes to their productivity. It supports almost every form of text-based document format that’s currently in use, as well as those that no longer are. It’s lightweight, packed full of useful templates and editing features. On top of that, many users report that it simply feels good to type in. The flow of words, the movement of the cursor, the accessibility — all of these are things that Microsoft has been fine-tuning through several iterations of this popular application.
It sets the bar fairly high for any alternative options that want to compete against Microsoft Word, but regardless of that, they’ve managed to. And most of them do so not by mimicking the catch-all aesthetic of Office, which is capable of everything; instead, they turn to niche use cases, looking at individual users’ needs from a word processor when they’re performing particular tasks. It’s been an effective way to compete since some of these are better than Word when it comes to specific activities.
Best Office Alternatives
- Do you work in an office?
- Compose newsletters and emails?
- Are you an author?
- Are you a graphic designer that regularly has to set text?
- Do you work primarily offline, or online?
Each of these questions might help you to find a better Microsoft Word alternative for your particular use case.
The recommendations that we’re going to make below are each worth checking out, and only two of them are going to cost you a single cent. The others are free, and moreover, they come with a surprisingly large support network, largely led by the people that
It’s hard to recommend any application — or really, an entire ecosystem — more than Google Docs. It hasn’t been around as long as Microsoft Word or Office as long, of course, but it’s established itself as a productivity mainstay that is a perfect working alternative to what Microsoft has to offer.
The largest benefit that most users are going to find when using Google Docs is the fact that it operates entirely in the cloud. This means that you’re going to need a Google account to use it, but given that this only requires your signing up for a free Google email address, it’s a simple hurdle to overcome. Once you’ve done it, you get a robust amount of free online storage space, as well as the option to download a copy of the application to your computer, for those instances when you don’t have online access.
Syncing documents between multiple devices isn’t just a simple task; it’s automatic. In the years that this author has been regularly using Google Docs, I’ve never had to manually sync a single file with the system. It’s a testament to how much cloud computing has evolved.
And if you want a functional replacement for almost every part of the Microsoft Office suite, you should know that your Google account gives you access to the entire Google Drive ecosystem.
If you’re averse to joining Google’s online cloud ecosystem, you could always opt for the Microsoft Office replacement that’s been popular for years — Open Office, by Apache. It’s a completely open-source endeavor that aims to replace every element of Office with something that has almost the exact same functionality. The only thing that you’d be missing now is access to Microsoft OneDrive, which tends to interface nicely with Microsoft applications.
Apart from cloud functionality, Apache Open Office is incredibly robust. Every major feature that you’d find in Microsoft Word can be found in Writer. It might not be as polished, and the user interface might not be as pretty, but for a free, open-source application it’s stable enough to be used in any setting that you can find an use for it.
Scrivener is the word processor for professional writers and writers who want to be professionals. Short stories, novels, memoirs, screenplays, and anything else that depends on a creative angle will absolutely benefit on this platform. Even technical writers can make use of the way that Scrivener allows you to structure and organize every piece of content that you write. Those who depend on characters and narrative can create organized templates for each and every piece of your larger project. You can separate different portions of the writing based on current drafting state, and set up custom folder structures.
In fact, the sheer amount of flexibility and drafting features that Scrivener packs in tend to throw some Microsoft Word converts for a loop; at least, at first. Most who stick with it through the early learning curves find a robust platform that can be bent into shapes and functions that Microsoft’s flagship word processor cannot.
While Evernote isn’t technically a word processor, it is a type of application that many people want, and don’t even realize it.
Let me explain that, a bit.
At its heart, Evernote is a note-taking application that allows you to share all of the content stored in it across a plethora of your devices. You can store a lot more than just text, too. Web copy, bookmarked and clipped sites, images, PDFs and more can all be synced into Evernote. It doesn’t have nearly as robust of word processing features as something like Microsoft Word, but the truth is, there is a significant number of everyday users that don’t need all of those features. Rather than seeming like a robust set of tools, all of those unused features can feel like bloat.
While Evernote was once free, it now requires the purchase of an inexpensive subscription. It’s a small price to pay for all of the versatility you get, especially if your usual productivity depends on a combination of phone, computer, or tablet.
Many current users of Microsoft Word wish that the entire interface of the software hadn’t become so flashy. Word is undoubtedly a very modern program, and the current iteration of all Microsoft Office apps matches the Windows 10 aesthetic quite well.
So, if you want something that looks like old Word, you owe it to yourself to give LibreOffice Word a try. It’s entirely minimalistic, and though that might mean it has a slight learning curve for those associated with newer applications, it’s still excellent. There’s no integrated cloud support for it, of course, but it is part of the larger LibreOffice suite of applications. Each of them presents a great stand-in for the otherwise expensive Microsoft Office collection.
We’re saving one of the very best recommendations that we can make for last — primarily because this is something of a stark opposite from Google Docs, and the larger Google Drive ecosystem. Along with that, it’s just about the perfect alternative to Microsoft Word. And the added fact that it’s free means you have to check it out.
Unlike many of the other open-source alternatives that we’re suggesting on this list, WPS Office Writer does have cloud storage support. In fact, signing up for it gives you 1GB of storage entirely free — comparatively similar to Microsoft’s offer with OneDrive. WPS Office Writer isn’t open source, however, no matter how much it might look like it at first glance. The developers of this applications support their work by embedding ads within the application itself, but if don’t worry if you’re ad-averse; they’re some of the least bothersome embedded ads that we’ve seen in a productivity program.
If you don’t feel like shelling out money for Microsoft Word, don’t worry — there are plenty of free (or simply less expensive) software choices that can be found online, many of them still receiving frequent, active updates in 2017. If you have any questions about the recommendations that we’ve made, let us know in the comments, below!