Without a doubt, Microsoft Office is the most popular desktop office suites of all time. You probably use it at home, at work and perhaps even on your mobile device. It even comes in a Mac version. Microsoft Office 2003, 2007 and 2010 version remain popular and have a huge install base, although to my knowledge Microsoft never publishes such information. However, it was not always so, and there exists many alternatives to Office, some free, others for a very reasonable price. Since Word is undoubtedly the most often used portion of the Office suite, let’s consider some free alternatives to Microsoft Word.
Free is Good!
Perhaps the best free alternative to Word exists on your PC already: WordPad. Now, WordPad has been around since Windows 95, but it was not until recently that Microsoft updated it from an application that was little advanced from NotePad (a plain text editor and part of Windows) to something that now comes close to doing what Word does. It may well be all you need to do basic word processing and document creation for your personal use. To access WordPad (since Microsoft kind of hides it away), click on the Start button and type WordPad into the Search box. Or, look under All Programs> Accessories for WordPad.
Note the difference between the Windows 95 version of WordPad (top) and the Windows 7 version:
Give WordPad a closer look before you spend any money on a retail Office suite or download any of the following free alternatives:
Other Free Downloads:
I was quite curious about IBM Lotus Symphony since I had used Lotus’ SmartSuite software in the distant past. It turns out that Symphony is based on Open Office, and not on their SmartSuite product, so that was a little disappointing. However, Symphony includes a word processor, a spreadsheet and a presentation application (similar to PowerPoint). Here’s a look at Symphony’s word processor:
Definitely a step up from WordPad, yet a simpler interface than Word. It is certainly worth the download if you need a spreadsheet application and/or a presentation program. It is also compatible with Office Word formats, so you can either save in the default ODT file format or in .doc (or several others).
Yeah Write is a bit of a curiosity. It was developed by the guys that produced WordPerfect way back in the days of DOS (Disk Operating System). WordPerfect 5.1 was the ultimate word processor at the time and every business used it. Yeah Write (YW) has a Windows 9x look to it:
It has drawers where you can organize your documents, notes, diary, journals, letters and more. And it has a tabbed interface:
It’s kinda cool, yet dated at the same time and is not compatible with Word documents. So it does have limitations, but it is small and fast and fairly versatile. In fact, the entire program and all its documents will fit on a USB drive, making it very portable as well. The download of YW is only 870KB zipped and is free. More features can be unlocked by paying a one-time fee of $19. Check out some of the interesting comments from long-time users on Yeah Write’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Yeah-Write/38276039100
So there are some very good, free alternatives to Microsoft Word out there and we have only discussed three. There are also other ‘paid’ programs like WordPerfect (yes, it still exists) and as mentioned earlier, Lotus SmartSuite, but you may find one of the free word processors available will do just what you need.