Most of us use a PC or a laptop to write now and lots of people looking for a free alternative to Word. As lovely a program as Microsoft Office is, many find the payment options too steep. So just what is an aspiring writer, blogger, skint student or general note taker to do?
There are now many free word processing and office programs available. They all have different key features, with some being more suited to the light user whilst others feel more like a full word processing program. I’ve chosen three worthy and free alternatives to Microsoft Office, which each have their own unique features.
WPS is a full office program, that is available on desktop and mobile. Although you can download and use this for free, you can also choose to pay, which will get rid of those pesky adverts, opens up a few more features and allows for install on more devices. If you sign up with an email address you can synch your documents via the cloud with your own personal, free 1GB of drive space.
The standard file format that WPS saves in is .docx which is the same as Word. This makes it a bit easier to share documents with others who have different Office programs installed. The spellcheck in WPS is good at noticing mistakes but the suggestions it gave were nowhere near what I had intended to type. Everything that you could want to do in Word is featured in this program, from tables to word art. However, it does not play nice with .odt formatted documents, rendering them as utter gibberish. All in all this is great free alternative to Microsoft Office with the only cost being paid in adverts.
Office Online allows you to create Office documents straight from your browser. To use Office Online you will need a Hotmail account to sign in with, along with space on your OneDrive. Your newly created documents are saved on the OneDrive attached to the email you used to log in. It is possible to download your documents from your drive, but you won’t be able to read them without another program getting involved. Although this is inconvenient, you can download Word Mobile from the Windows store, which is basically a Word reader. I have to say this will read most commonly formatted, word-based documents without any issue, so thumbs up on that.
Many of the basic functionalities of the full Office package have been applied here, however, I did notice a few things were missing. The spellcheck is unreliable, with the inline spellchecker showing different results from the manual one. You can’t create or add any shapes, but you still can add images. Those needing a specific font for a document should avoid as you are restricted here. If you are a basic user who only needs to edit the occasional document, and is happy to work from a browser, then this application might be perfect for you.
My personal choice when it comes to free alternatives to Microsoft Office is LibreOffice. Prior to installing LibreOffice the best advice I would give is to download the latest x64 versions of Java and Java Runtime Environment. You will need both if you should wish to install any extensions in LibreOffice and it is important to grab the x64 versions as that’s the only one that will work.
Even without any added extensions, LibreOffice is a comprehensive office suite. In all honesty, this is the closest I’ve found to that full-bodied, paid up Microsoft experience. You have all the features from Office, in a customisable, open source program. You can check out the difference for yourself in this handy guide.
First up, there are no adverts. Hooray! The spellcheck is great, you can also download a separate grammar checker extension. I have my language customisations set up to include autocomplete options as I’m writing, which I find handy. You can download themes, change the look of the icons, adjust the right-click context menu and so much more. The standard file format that LibreOffice uses for saving documents is .odf, however, you can easily change this to .docx or another commonly used file format instead. I’ve found it’s best to do this at the start of writing, rather than relying upon the “save as” and changing the file type after, as the latter can ruin any formatting you have placed in your document.
Admittedly, I have a penchant for well designed (aesthetically as well as UI/UX), feature packed, easy to use, customisable and free programs. That’s why I’ve personally been using this office suite for about a year now. It’s unobtrusive, doesn’t constantly yell for updates, does what you need it to and easy to be smitten by.