Free Alternatives to Microsoft Word

December 30, 2008

in applications

by Tina Gasperson

Q: What are some of the free alternatives to Microsoft Word, and how do I get them?

A: Because of its widespread use, Microsoft Word is often the first choice for small and large businesses and individuals who want the most professional looking documents they can create. However, Word is often too expensive for the average computer user, since it is only available as part of the Microsoft Office suite which also includes Excel spreadsheet and PowerPoint presentation slide software. Fortunately, there are several alternatives to Microsoft Word that can recognize, open, and save your files in the .doc format.

OpenOffice Writer

One of the most popular Word alternatives, called Writer, is included in the free suite. OpenOffice is a full-featured, robust, and easy-to-use Office alternative that will look familiar to you if you already use Office. Writer can open and save files in .doc format. You can download OpenOffice for free or order a CD and have it mailed to you, at the official Web site. The program is available in dozens of different languages and will run on Windows, Linux, or Macintosh platforms.


This Word alternative is a standalone word processor that has matured into a stable and very usable product. Like OpenOffice, Abiword is free to download and runs on Windows, Linux, or Macintosh. Abiword can support Microsoft Word’s .doc file format with some limitations. If your documents are complex, with tables, boxes, or other special formatting, Abiword may not translate that formatting perfectly. For straight text, however, Abiword works perfectly most of the time.



Google Documents

The popular search engine Google is branching out into other services and now hosts a free online office productivity suite at Just register for a Google account, and you’ll have full access to the applications there, including Google’s word processing application. The nice thing about Google docs is that you can access your files from any computer with Internet access, and share them with other Google users as you see fit. Like other free word processors, Google docs can read and save files in the .doc format, as long as they are not too complex, and you can access Google docs with any online computer regardless of the platform.

So, even though Microsoft Word is considered by many to be the standard word processor application, you can still use these free alternative products to open and create your professional documents, and no one will know the difference – except you.

Tina Gasperson (, affectionately known as Computer Lady by her family, has been writing about IT, home computing, and the Internet for more than a decade.

{ 1 comment }

Lucy Oppenheim 12.30.08 at 10:27 pm

I’m glad to know there are alternatives to the free program I’ve used. I’m also surprised it didn’t make your list. I’ve used Lotus Symphony to track the changes I made while copyediting documents created in Microsoft Word. My clients haven’t had any difficulty opening those documents back up in Microsoft Word and–of course–accepting the changes.

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