[Windows] Best free Microsoft Word alternative (best free word processing program) — LibreOffice vs Abiword vs Kingsoft Office vs Jarte

Are you tired of paying lots of money for expensive programs to handle your document editing needs? The programs reviewed here today are all free and offer functionality that easily rival commercial offerings such as Microsoft Word and for the most part are simpler to use. So… what is the best free word processing program available for Windows (many of these programs work on several other types of OS as well)? Let’s find out… but bear in mind that all of these programs are great! It was a very difficult task deciding which one should be given the title of Best Word Processing Program.

This review is part of our Best Free Windows Software section. Check out more articles on the best free Windows programs from here.

Table of Contents

Best Free Word Alternative

Program Name: LibreOffice WriterLibreOffice Screenshot

Developer: The Document Foundation

Download Size: 204MB (includes other bundled productivity software, including presentations and spreadsheets)

Version Reviewed: 3.6.4.3

Requires: Microsoft Windows 2000 (Service Pack 4 or higher), XP, Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8

Note: For those of you looking for OpenOffice, LibreOffice is a version of OpenOffice. LibreOffice was built using OpenOffice source code but is now more actively supported. If it helps, think of LibreOffice as a better version of OpenOffice.

Pros

  • Open Source therefore it is supported by a large community which means that volunteers can help newcomers and the developers themselves can work with you to help find solutions to complex problems
  • Ability to edit and create PDFs
  • Handy extensions such as the presenter console extension which provides more control of slide show presentations such as viewing presenter notes and the PDF import option which allows users to import and modify PDF documents
  • Familiar interface for former Microsoft Word users making for an easy switch
  • Ability to read and edit all major formats (including .doc and .docx)
  • Can save as .doc, .docx, or various other formats including .odt
  • Ability to create charts such as pie charts and scatter plots

Cons

  • Currently no online collaboration feature available
  • Cannot save as .docx

LibreOffice is an easy to use word processor which has all of the tools necessary for getting the job of editing documents done effectively and these tools are readily available for users to access. Sometimes with free software you get the feeling that you are being deprived of features but this is certainly not the case with LibreOffice. It is easy to see that the claim made on the LibreOffice website that the program is simple enough to create a simple document but powerful enough to create high quality content such as books is no lie. LibreOffice makes use of wizards for creating letters, faxes, agendas, presentations and web pages in order to take the complexity out of these tasks.

Two of the notable features which LibreOffice offers are the ability to create and to edit PDF documents. The PDF format is extremely popular for read only documents such as e-books, articles and notes. Most users probably have several of these types of documents on their computers. Sometimes it is also useful for users to edit these documents and LibreOffice offers this functionality. LibreOffice offers all of the functionality one would expect from a paid program such as the ability to create advanced graphs and pie charts and an advanced equation editor which has the ability to display a large rage of elements from terms with fractions to terms with exponents, indices and integrals. Unlike Abiword, highlighting of text is supported which is useful for highlighting important information when reading documents. One feature which is unusual but could prove quite useful for creating a document full of rich and interactive content is the ability to add a movie or sound to your document! There is also the option to change the background of documents which would be useful for creating booklets.

My only issue with LibreOffice is the lack of online collaboration. This feature is becoming increasingly important in today’s world and for group collaboration and is offered by online services such as Google Docs. There is word that this feature should soon be coming to LibreOffice. However the fact remains that it isn’t currently integrated into the program.

Despite this deficiency, LibreOffice is an excellent word processor and could easily replace a paid program such as  since it has a high level of functionality

Runner Up

Program Name: Abiwordabiword screenshot

Developer: Open Source (formerly SourceGear Corporation)

Download Size: 7.94MB

Version Reviewed: 2.8.6

Requires: Windows 95 and later

Abiword presents all of the features needed to edit a basic document on a system of toolbars at the top of the screen. If you have ever used a word processor before the interface will be very familiar to you and if you are using this program for the first time, it should be a breeze to start using.

Like LibreOffice, Abiword is also open source and is supported by a large community. Abiword places the buttons for the most important features directly onto the toolbar. Abiword’s online collaboration is a clear demonstration of the high quality of this word processor. You can either collaborate through the AbiCollab.net Collaboration Service( which is free of course! ) after signing up or you can collaborate using a direct connection( TCP )! Abiword has many many nifty features such as a dictionary and a translator. You can also search for information you are unsure about from directly within the document you’re editing by selecting the required text, right clicking and selecting Wiki Encyclopedia search or Google search. Users can choose to select the options to make revisions while typing or not to which is a good thing as autocorrect features can be quite annoying at times as anyone who uses a smartphone should know by now. One of the more powerful features is the revert feature. This is similar to the commonly found undo option but it allows the user to erase all changes made since the last save.

Although this is a great program I do have some issues with it. Firstly, there is no way to create charts directly without any additional installation which is a real downer as this program has so many other readily accessible options.. Also, the equation editor is lacking and does not have many options for creating different types of equations. You are limited to simple equations and it doesn’t seem to handle fractions well. Abiword is also unable to handle many of the formats which LibreOffice can. LibreOffice is also better suited for creating high quality, rich content such as books and booklets.

If you just want to get on with the business of editing your documents without any headaches, Abiword is the program for you. With tons of built in plugins for added functionality it will also offer you some advanced options for enhancing your content.

Honorable Mention 1

Program Name: Kingsoft WriterKingsoft Writer Screenshot

Developer: Zhuhai Kingsoft Office-software CO., Ltd.

Download Size: 32MB

Version Reviewed: 8.1.0.3030

Requires: Windows 2000 / Windows XP/Windows Vista (32bit, 64bit)/Windows 8

Kingsoft Writer is laid out very similarly to LibreOffice and offers many of the same features (including great integration with Microsoft Word formats) thus it also gives users the sense that they must have paid for this but believe it or not this is a free program! Kingsoft writer is a small installation but it packs a powerful punch and is a very effective word processor.

One of the features which is very innovative and simply amazing is the paragraph editing feature. Users can structure and restructure their paragraphs with ease using Kingsoft writer by simply selecting the required body of text and dragging the required line of text to the required position. Paragraphs can also be easily dragged and dropped to the required position in the body of the document. Like LibreOffice Kingsoft Writer also allows users to convert documents to the PDF format from directly within the program; however it will not let you edit them. Another great feature is tabbed document browsing which allows users to open several documents without having several windows open. Users are also able to encrypt their documents if desired.

Although this program is for the most part very effective, I do have some issues with it. Firstly like LibreOffice it offers no online collaboration option and it does not handle charts as well as LibreOffice.

Neglecting these downfalls however, Kingsoft Writer is an amazing little program and will handle most word editing jobs with ease.

Honorable Mention 2

Jarte screenshotProgram Name: Jarte

Developer: Carolina Road Software

Download Size: 2.91MB

Version Reviewed: 4.5

Requires: Windows XP/Vista/7/8

The main focus of the developers of Jarte was to create a word processor which carries out the basic required functions of a word processor as well as to add features such as tabbed documents and clickless menus which aren’t found in any of the other offerings which were reviewed.

Jarte is based upon the tried and tested Microsoft Wordpad engine which makes its operation very stable. It is also quite a tiny installation. It also makes use of a tabbed interface which makes it very easy to access documents and it supports the RTF, DOC and DOCX file extensions. Users can choose to view the program in classic mode, compact mode or minimalist mode where each mode displays the menu system a little differently with less visible buttons for the compact mode and minimalist mode which allows for some screen real estate to be freed up.  It can also be run directly from a USB flash drive, CD or even from a Dropbox folder as specified on the Jarte web page. This acts to enhance its portability. Although Jarte’s menu system is probably like nothing you’ve ever seen before it is relatively simple and it works. Users just need to hover over buttons to see available options which allows for quick operation. Also of note are the built in thesaurus and encyclopedia options which give the user access to needed synonym and information respectively. Jarte also has a built in screen capture function and a clip list function which allows users to display and reuse the 25 most recent clipboard clips. In addition Jarte also has an adjustable auto save feature where users can choose the frequency of which their documents are saved automatically.

Although Jarte is portable and fast with great functionality it lacks the ability of the other reviewed offerings to handle many file formats.There are several file formats out there and Jarte restricts users to working with the RTF, DOC and DOCX formats. It also does not support online collaboration.

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29 comments

  1. Diana

    Hi,
    I seem to have a Word dilemma. My Abiword got uninstalled and can’t seem to reinstall, so installed Kingsoft. I tried opening up my old documents and all I have is a jungled mess. Can’t read my old files. I don’t have any other Word Processor with my Windows 8 HP. What do I do? It won’t open with anything I have. Do I need Abiword back, start all over or get something else that will read my old files?

  2. V

    Here’s another shout out for Atlantis … actually the freeware version called Atlantis Nova. It does just about everything the paid version does.

    What *stops* Atlantis from being perfect, though, is the lack of comments. How a modern word processor can ignore that feature is befuddling … and frustrating.

  3. WP Gahd

    Atlantis has such a lax registration that it’s easy to confuse it with freeware but it isn’t. There’s a free version of Atlantis called (I believe) Novo but it leaves off much of the customization that makes Atlantis so good.

    Until Word 2013 was born, though, I agree that Atlantis was the best wp alternative; Word included. Not for epub creation, though. Calibre is MUCH more powerful and MUCH better at that task. I also miss the ability to add comments in Atlantis; a very odd and limiting omission.

    Another fav of mine that went unmentioned (as it usually does in these types of discussions) is Polyedit Lite. This is the freeware version of Polyedit and it offers just about everything that the paid version has, minus the syntax highlighting and a few other programmer-related features. Hasn’t been updated in years but if I didn’t have Word 2k13 or Atlantis handy, that’s what I would use.

    Abiword & LibreOffice have gotten far too bloated. Lotus seems less so but it’s interface is just too odd for serious work. Jarte? That would be at the bottom of my list for lack of power/ease of use; it’s more like a toy. There’s another new kid on the block that has Linux roots and is a replacement for Gnome Office (and Abiword). It’s not yet stable on Windows but it promises to be a major player when it is because it’s lean, mean, and seems to be very powerful.

    Word 2k13, however, definitely has changed the game and left everyone else in the dust. Simple, clean, very fast to load, easy to use (with the Ubit old-school menu add-on), powerful, it’s hard to beat. Want a distraction-free screen similar to WriteRoom or JDark etc.? It’s there with an add-on. Want to comment in the margins? Easy. Want more power? VBA makes it possible to add anything you want. What I miss most about it is that the Scrivener-like add-on for Word 2010, Writing Outliner, doesn’t work with the new version but you can’t have everything I guess.

    Add the fact that Word is de rigueur in publishing and every other place and it’s a must have; nothing else comes close. Sometimes ya gotta pay.

  4. JohhnyG

    Thanks for clearing up my confusion, Ashraf. I was using OO 3.3 and after reading you reply this morning, I installed LO 3.6. It seems to be much improved, especially the startup time. Thanks for taking the time to reply.

  5. AFPhys

    @michel:
    I will not collaborate with someone who insists on using MS Word.
    The EU has dinged MS very hard for their lack of open formats, meanwhile OOo and LibreOffice are fully in compliance with EU standards.

    Those who use MS formats only are at the mercy of the moguls of M$$. I refuse to be one of them.

  6. smaragdus

    My favourite text editor is Atlantis Word Processor not because it can save documents as DOCX (yes, it can), but because it can save docs as WebPages (HTM) and E-Books (EPUB). Atlantis also has it own encrypted format (COD).

  7. GF

    I tried Abiword few months ago. It has not a precious feature: the links to Internet pages are not ready to use, I mean they are not active/”clickable” (I don’t know the exact word to explain the concept).
    I think it’s a severe lack.

  8. michel

    You really should mention that if you are collaborating with anyone using Ms Word -i.e. most business or truly professional uses – none of these alternatives will do. Especially Libre/OpenOffice, which hads never had the true compatibility it claims. I know this from personal experience, and a quick search will show many people agree with me.

    Fine for personal use, that’s all.

  9. Ashraf
    Mr. Boss

    @Dave: Glad to be of help!
    @Col. Panek: You misunderstand. We never said LibreOffice causes compatibility issues. Indeed, LibreOffice can open, read, and edit DOCX, PPTX, and XLSX files. However, it cannot save files as DOCX, PPTX, XLSX — it can save as DOC, PPT, XLS. For most people, it doesn’t matter if a file is saved as DOC or DOCX, and most won’t even notice the difference. But some people that want to specifically save files as DOCX should know LibreOffice cannot do that.

  10. Col. Panek

    “Cannot save as .docx…”? Au contraire!
    I work on .pptx, .xlsx and .docx files at work, using LibreOffice, and rarely run into problems with incompatibility. PDF exports are always the same cross-platform. I liked Jarte on our old Windows machine, but AbiWord starts up fast on my Linux PCs for those quick “brain farts”.

  11. Ashraf
    Mr. Boss

    @Dave: LibreOffice is an OpenOffice fork. Whatever OpenOffice can do, LibreOffice does but better. You can save documents as .doc if you wish, as well as other formats such as odt. You cannot save as docx but you can open docx.

    LibreOffice has presentations and spreadsheets too.

    @Pohanginapete: Thx for the feedback!

  12. Pohanginapete

    I’ve used Jarte as a secondary word processor for years now, and love it. No, it won’t do the complex stuff, but it’ll do everything I want for 90% of my documents: things like bold, italics, indenting, bullet or numbered lists, inserting hyperlinks, etc. If I need something more (notably, the reviewing tools for collaboration), I’ll revert to Word. If I didn’t have Word I’d use LibreOffice, having used OpenOffice in the past.

    Because Jarte loads almost instantly (unlike Word and others), I can start writing immediately — I’ve had ideas vanish while waiting for Word to load. (Flashnote’s even faster and is brilliant for catching ideas, but has no formatting ability; it’s a scratchpad only.)

    I generally use Jarte for writing blog posts because I can copy and paste into the blog without introducing all the extraneous html rubbish that Word insists on adding.

    I recommend Jarte even if you have Word or one of the complex equivalents like LibreOffice. Save the complex word processors for, well, complex word processing. :^)

  13. Dave

    LibreOffice looks impessive based on your review Ashraf.
    I’m presently using the Open Office bundel but find it’s abilty to do just basic things like for example number pages awkward.
    Does LibreOffice save the files as .doc files or…? Also if I do switch what do I then use for spreed sheets and power piont type presentations?

    Thanks I’ve learned a lot from you
    Dave

  14. JohhnyG

    It’s hard to take this article seriously since there’s no mention of OpenOffice. Nothing I read here inspired me to consider any of the programs mentioned as an alternative to OO Writer (which can be installed separately from the suite).