The Best Free Word Processors

By Scott Shpak

Whether you just need to put a few words on a page or you are publishing documents stretching hundreds of pages, you'll need the help of a word processor. Even basic programs provide much more than the humble typewriter ever could, from error correction to easy duplication. In many cases, there is no need to buy word processing software, since free choices abound for a variety of document creation needs and hardware platforms.

Open Source Alternatives

Perhaps the leader in terms of full word processing packages available at no cost is OpenOffice Write and its derivative product LibreOffice. Both packages resemble older versions of Microsoft's ubiquitous Word program, in both appearance and function; each has its own refinements, since these products have been developed separately since 2010. Despite differing development paths, a 2013 product comparison by technology website InfoWorld ranks these packages overall as equals. In terms of free software feature sets comparing to Word, OpenOffice and LibreOffice are your best alternatives.

Under-the-Hood Options

Two long-standing Windows programs, Notepad and WordPad, remain bundled as part of Windows 8.1. While Notepad is best described as a text editor, WordPad has basic formatting features that qualify it as a bare-bones word processor. Its Microsoft roots make it easy to import objects, including Excel and PowerPoint documents, and it does possess a stripped-down version of a ribbon interface, although with only two tabs. As a simple word processor with a current look and and familiar layout, WordPad is an obvious selection.

In the Clouds

Google Docs is an excellent word processor alternative if most of your work is done online, available free with 15GB of online storage through Google Drive. Its interface is clean and functional, and it has office suite compatibility with other Google products. Zoho's free plan offers spreadsheet and presentation software along with a word processor. While it only offers 5GB of storage, Zoho does allow offline editing, an advantage for traveling laptop users. Each program offers easy collaboration with other users.

Going Mobile

With the proliferation of cell phones and tablets, portable productivity is more accessible than ever before. Textilus is a free word processor with a variety of cross-platform compatibility, able to read and write files to share through Word, OpenOffice and other common document formats; it also allows you to share work through exports to cloud storage such as Dropbox and iCloud. Kingsoft Office for Android provides word processing for Android-based phones and tablets, and similarly supports compatibility with Microsoft Office files and popular cloud storage options.