The Best [Free] Microsoft Word Alternatives [Complete Guide]

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Did you know the first rendition of Microsoft Word was released in 1983?

For reference, 1983 was also the first year cell phones were released to the public. We all know the first cell phones are dinosaurs compared to the iPhones we all use today.

We’ve come a long way since the ‘80s in the tech world!

But, somehow, Microsoft Word still dominates the word processing market. Charging high licensing fees for software usage, $129.99 to be exact, to install on one computer.

If you think that price is as outrageous as we do, you will want to read about all the FREE alternatives out there.

With the advent of cloud sharing features and a few friendly programmers willing to share their code, there are quite a few challengers out there, giving Microsoft a run for their money.

We will share some great free alternatives to Microsoft Word you can start using today.

Google Docs

Google Docs is by far the most popular replacement for Microsoft Word.

Some icons look a tad different. But, the average person probably won’t realize they are using a different software program.

The most significant difference between Google Docs and Microsoft Word is that Google Docs is entirely web-based.

You do need a Google account (Gmail) to use it, and if you are trying to collaborate with someone, they also need a Google account. Non-Gmail users will only be able to view the documents (not edit).

Since it is cloud-based, it is better than Word for collaboration. Multiple users can work simultaneously on the same file without having to save it and pass it around the office. There is even a chat function on the side for live communication.

Don’t worry, you can track changes and see who has edited the document in case you want to reference an older version.

Even though Google Docs is a web-based program, it does offer the ability to work offline. Make sure to adjust your settings to edit offline before you lose internet access.

Google Docs is a popular choice among schools and small businesses looking to avoid high licensing fees.

Apache OpenOffice Writer and LibreOffice Writer

Image via Libra Office

Both Apache OpenOffice Writer and LibreOffice Writer are very popular, and virtually the same program.

They began as one original application that, due to many disenfranchised business plans, split off into two different applications owned by two different companies. But both programs share the same code.

You will notice the wording used on their websites is the same.

Like Microsoft Word, they are used locally on your computer and are available for OSX, Windows and Linux.

Unlike Word, both are open source, which means that the code is shared and updated all the time. This is great for reducing bug issues and expanding features in real-time.

Both Apache and Libre offer spelling and grammar checkers, the ability to add charts and graphs and pre-made templates.

You can also collaborate with other users like Google Docs with the ability to tag people in notes and track changes.

WPS Office Writer

WPS Office Writer is pretty similar to the Apache and Libre programs and compatible with all processing systems.

We love that the full suite offers a presentation and spreadsheet component, perfect for small business needs. It is also available on mobile, which is a nice feature if you need to reference something on the go or at an off-site meeting.

In addition to English, it is available in several different languages; including French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish and Russian. Making it great for international companies and clients.

Our favorite WPS Office Writer feature is the ability to open and edit multiple documents at one time. Even Word hasn’t mastered this functionality.

WPS Office Writer comes with 1GB of free cloud storage, which allows users to upload and share their files for easy collaboration.

You can upgrade to 20 GB for $29.99 per year if you need more storage space. Still $100 cheaper than Word.

Dropbox Paper

Dropbox Paper is a much simpler, less powerful text editor.

Geared more towards design and media formatting, you can easily embed videos and other types of media like audio clips, gifs and Pinterest boards. This is a great option for brainstorming or creative meetings.

Make sure you set up a standard Dropbox account before trying to access Dropbox Paper.

The interface on Dropbox Paper is very different than any of the applications mentioned above. It might take a little more time to figure out how to use it effectively. If you are a creative-minded individual, it might be intuitive, but for us, word processing people, it is more challenging.

With features like project management, smart formatting, and team feedback, your project due dates will be extremely well organized.


EtherPad is set up with the same online collaboration intent as Google Docs.

Simply log-in to the EtherPad space, create your document and email the link to your collaborators.

A user can edit one paragraph while another writes a completely new one. Another collaborator can start a new chapter on the next page, and it all comes together at the same time. This could be a great tool for planning that girl’s trip you’ve been talking about doing with your besties.

Etherpad is vocal about how open they are to collaboration. They invite users who have ideas, a passion for the technical aspect, or thoughts on how to make it better to reach out to them. Etherpad is invested in making the best product for their consumers.

It’s true teamwork in action!

As you can see, there are many great free substitutions for Microsoft Word.

Whether you are looking for a fully decked out locally installed Microsoft Word alternative, or a streamlined online one for easy collaboration and online file storage, there are many available.

You may discover that some of these are even better than the original; either way, it is time to get writing!

Jessica Heston

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