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Best free word processor: top overall, Word alternative, and online picks

We roundup the best free word processors available today
Last Updated on April 15, 2024
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If you’ve been searching for the best free word processor, you know it can get pretty overwhelming with the wealth of choice available online. Luckily for you, we’ve narrowed it down to the top picks which will deliver accuracy and readability every time – without having to fork over any cash.

Best free word processor: What are word processors?

One of the earliest uses for Personal Computers was to replace the typewriter with something more powerful, and that lets you make changes to text on the fly, rather than stamping letters directly onto paper. Thus, the Word Processor was born, a tool for creating written documents on a computer.

Early word processors were extremely basic by today’s standards. Over time, increased functionality has been added. This includes support for different fonts, ready made templates, spell check, grammar check, advanced formatting options, extensive layout options, support for adding images and rich media to documents, online collaboration support, and much more.

Even today, new features are being added to many word processors, either refining the ways you can use them, or using newer technologies like AI and machine learning to develop features like text to speech, or sentence autocomplete.

Whether you’re writing a personal letter, filling out a report for work, producing a legal document, or creating some written instructions, you’ll be wanting a word processor of some kind.

There are paid Word Processors available, but there are also several free options to consider before parting with your hard-earned cash. Here’s a look at the best word processing software available for free.

How we picked the best free word processors

When choosing the best word processors, there were a few things we tried to keep in mind. Firstly, we went with tried-and-tested, reliable options which were rated highly both in terms of our personal experience and reviews from others on the web. Readability of documents (formatting, aesthetics, ease of use) was prioritized, as were collaborative features which are increasingly important in a time of remote working. A straightforward download process was also key.

Although we mainly took performance on PC and laptop into consideration, we also tried to pick processors which had a degree of compatibility with tablets and smartphones.

We’ve got some other great guides to software which you might want to check out. For example, the best Adobe Acrobat free alternatives, and the best Photoshop free alternatives.

LibreOffice Writer

This is the gold standard of free word processors, released under an open-source license, and made available for Windows, macOS, Linux and FreeBSD. It’s based on the now discontinued original version of OpenOffice. Now Under the LibreOffice moniker, maintained by The Document Foundation, this is a continuation of the open-source office suite that maintains compatibility with newer operating systems and hardware. It’s a powerful and robust word processor that offers full compatibility with Microsoft formats like .doc, .rtf, and .xls, plus native PDF import and export. It supports advanced features such as MailMerge and signing/encrypting documents.

The UI is a little basic, and some types of specialized documents saved in Microsoft formats won’t always load perfectly, but this is a great reliable choice for anyone looking for free word processing software. It’s very actively developed, and fast to respond to potential security problems in loading supported files.

Grab it for free from the website here.

WPS Office Writer

Next up on our list of the best free word processors is WPS Office Writer, a great stand-in for Microsoft Word.

It supports a wide range of file formats, making it versatile for different needs. The interface is user-friendly, and it offers many features you’d find in other popular word processors. The software supports collaboration through features like track changes and comments, making it suitable for team projects or document reviews. It also has a built-in PDF reader, allowing you to view and edit PDF documents directly within the application. There’s a grammar checker, too. Plus, the program features a cloud storage service, which allows you to share documents across your devices. 

Plus, it’s compatible with Microsoft Word, which is a pretty big deal for seamless document sharing. Overall, it’s a solid choice, especially if you’re looking for a functional word processor without breaking the bank.

Head to this site to get started.

Google Docs

A free online word processor built for the web. This is free to use, but still very much a commercial endeavor by Google. You need to have a google account to use it, and even though the standard free version is very capable, they do offer paid licenses to unlock certain extra functionality.

It’s a word processor that lives on the web, simply head over to docs.google.com, and you’re ready to start typing. Files can be saved offline, or you can store them in the free cloud storage provided by Google. It officially supports Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer 11, Microsoft Edge, and Safari web browsers.

It’s got full support for loading and saving in Microsoft file formats, as well as importing and exporting as PDFs. They’ve also started using machine learning more in how this word processor operates and will suggest words or even entire parts of sentences when you’re in the middle of typing. It’s perhaps a troubling precedent, I don’t know if I am fully onboard with a word processor that knows what I’m thinking, but when it works well it does indeed save time. Plus, it’s super easy to work with real-time collaboration – simply sharing the file to other Google accounts will allow others to collaborate on your document. 

Despite being web-based, Google Docs also supports offline editing of files. You won’t have access to all features when offline, and you will have to take extra care with how it handles synchronizing multiple versions, but it’s very hard to lose work produced in Google Docs. It’s saving every edit you make or letter you type, and saving it in the cloud. If your device gets destroyed, or your operating system crashes, your documents will be safe as you left them.

Performance is fine on even most modest systems, although running a word processor in a browser can be more system resource-intensive than running it locally, so that’s one factor to consider for low-end machines.

Google Docs is perhaps not ideal if you do intend to do mostly offline word processing, but if you have a strong internet connection, it’s a solid option.

Access Google Docs from any supported web browser here.

Microsoft Word on the web

This is Microsoft’s answer to Google Docs, and it functions in much the same way. The advantages are that it has full native support for all Microsoft’s popular file formats, and unlike most other word processors, it won’t have any minor formatting issues in the process. Some functionality is still available in offline mode, but in my experience, it’s offline mode is less reliable than Google Docs’. Word documents are generally the most common word processor file format, so this program might be a safe bet if you are receiving and editing them frequently. 

It will automatically synchronize your documents with OneDrive and can save and load local documents too, as well as integrate directly with the standard version of Microsoft Office on systems with it installed. It supports Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer 11, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. 

There are paid options available, but all you need is a Microsoft Account to use the free version.

Access Microsoft Word on the web from any supported web browser here.

Apache OpenOffice Writer

A second open-source option that is also based on the earlier OpenOffice, this version is maintained instead by The Apache Software Foundation and is also available for Windows, macOS, Linux and FreeBSD. You can think of these two different word processors as siblings within the same family. Apache OpenOffice Writer is not quite a feature-packed as LibreOffice Writer, only offering support for importing documents in Microsoft formats, but not saving in them. You’ll also need to grab a separate plugin if you want to add PDF support.

Apache has a slightly different UI compared to LibreOffice, and some of the default settings are configured differently between the two. If you prefer how Apache works out of the box, then that might be one reason to opt for it over LibreOffice.

In general, Apache has been less responsive in updating OpenOffice Writer with regards to bugs and security issues, so if you are using it, be careful about opening documents of potentially dubious origins.

Grab it for free from the website here.

What should I consider when picking a word processor?

When choosing a word processor, try to keep a few things in mind. Although all the platforms we have noted offer easy-to-use editable documents, one might be better for you than another. Take a look at these aspects of word processors when picking one out.

Functionality

 Ensure that the word processor has the essential features you need, such as formatting options, spell check, grammar check, and collaboration tools.

Compatibility

Check if the word processor can seamlessly work with common file formats, especially if you need to collaborate with others using different software.

User Interface

 A user-friendly interface can significantly impact your productivity. Choose a powerful word processor, but with an interface that feels intuitive and comfortable for you. There shouldn’t be any distractions, so an overly fussy interface might not be best.

Collaboration Tools

 If you’re working on documents with others, collaboration features like track changes, comments, and real-time editing can be crucial.

Cloud Integration

Cloud storage and synchronization can be valuable for accessing your documents from different devices. Check if the word processor integrates with popular cloud services.

Templates

Pre-designed templates can save you time and effort, especially if you frequently create specific types of documents such as resumes or business letters.

Support and Updates

 Consider the level of support provided by the software developer and how frequently the word processor receives updates. Regular updates can ensure compatibility with the latest technologies and security patches.

Is Google Docs as good as Word?

Google Docs is equally as good as the free version of Word, but the paid version of Microsoft’s word processor arguably comes out on top overall. This is because it offers advanced formatting and layout options, and works just as well offline as online. However, if you just need a lightweight in-browser word processor, Google Docs may be a better option.

Best free word processor: Final thoughts

That’s our round up of the best free word processors available online at the moment. Although the award for the very best free word processor goes to Libre Office Writer, we think all the options are pretty fantastic, and great value considering they are all free of cost. Take a closer look at each one and work out which might be best for you.

As a keen gamer and writer with knowledge across peripherals and computing, Lewie has written for PC Guide on VR, gaming releaes and polenty inbetween!