Best Free Word Processor

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Introduction

If you don't have a lot of space on your hard disk, or you simply wish to create word processing documents without installing an entire office suite then you've come to the right place. The following list contains reviews of free word processors, that load in a jiffy, with capabilities near those of an office suite word processor. Essential features like font formatting, paragraph formatting, file saving to .txt, .rft or .doc will be assumed. These reviews will focus on what makes the program unique as free ware often tends to put a special twist on the normal run of the mill software. Online word processors are generally excluded from this category. Older or discontinued formats maybe removed from review.

If you are looking for an office suite then click: Best Free Office Suite and take a look at Gizmo's Freeware List of Best Office Suites.

 

Discussion

JarteJarte breathes lightweight and fast. Created by Carolina Road Software this word processor is offered as a free version, portable version and optional upgrade to the "bells and whistles" version Jarte Plus ($19.95 US). The program downloads as either a regular install or a portable version in a zip file.

Jarte boots quickly with a Welcome document and blank document already tabbed. The layout is a bit shocking for diehard word processor users. Thinking back, so was changing from the MS DOS style of Word Perfect to the Windows GUI interface of MS Word many years ago. That's not to say Jarte is the future, instead it's more of a twist on the present. Absent of the usual button bars in most word processors, Jarte uses a slate looking bar with gel like buttons (see picture) for a cleaner look. The trade off is using menus and short-cut keys instead of cluttered buttons. The default layout (called Compact) can be changed to Minimal or Classic views. When learning to navigate the Compact layout, turning on the labels is helpful. Minimal layout will remove the graphics and provide a traditional text menu bar. Classic uses a different layout for the buttons and provides better labeling, and an icon menu for various actions. There is an option to turn on button labels in Compact layout if you need them. My personal favorite is the Classic layout. In this layout it's easier to set bars for reference tools like dictionary and thesaurus and set a search bar; or both.

Individual documents are opened in tabs that become labelled with the file name once saved. This makes working on multiple documents simultaneously easier than using short cut keys or a Window menu to navigate between documents. I found this to be true as I used Jarte to write the reviews for this category. Some of the features, like the dictionary, thesaurus, and help link use online resources. Spell checking must be manually invoked in the free version by pressing F7 or finding it in the edit menu (Compact layout) or the Spell button in Classic layout. Automatic spell check is available in the paid version. For files accessed frequently, like templates, use the "favorites" folder to find and open faster.

What makes Jarte unique is changing the status quo when it comes to word processing by changing the interface and providing a cleaner more playful environment.

 

WordGraph is physically one of the larger programs. The installation is fast though. I tried following one of their download links which took me to Soft82.com. This site tried to install a download program so I canceled it and tried the Mirror 1 link. This took me to Majorgeeks.com and installed painlessly.

Unfortunately WordGraph does not setup a desktop icon by default, so I had to dig the program out of the Windows programs menu. When the program opened I was surprised by the GUI layout. There are toolbars of quick buttons, but they are more colorful and smoother than most traditional older styles. The program opened in Outline layout view using a point ruler instead of a U.S. standard ruler. Also the ruler is on both sides of the document instead of the left side only. When I tried to get help on the ruler I encountered another challenge, a message that said "The Help for this program was created in Windows Help format, which depends on a feature that isn't included in this version of Windows. However, you can download a program that will allow you to view Help created in the Windows Help format." The missing file is WinHlp32.exe. So I went to the Microsoft website using the provided link, followed the instructions and installed the update. The help file now works, unfortunately there is no help regarding the ruler or many other functions.

The experience does get better. WordGraph is intended for more advanced users than many of the other WPs. This program is actually from an Office Suite so you will find many of the same features. A cool feature I appreciated are the buttons for things like superscript/subscript, special characters, date & time and highlighting. I was always bothered having to dig for those features in other WPs. Being able to tile multiple documents horizontally or vertically is a nice feature. Although the margins are shown in millimeters, when you move the mouse over one of the margin settings it shows the U.S. equivalent of inches. For security WordGraph has the ability to scramble the text and lock the document. The software company touts word art and math equations but I didn't find anything outstanding in either of these features. Use of the Math Equations/Expressions requires installing their Spreadsheet program Accel. Another feature missing from the troublesome help file. There is an upgrade available for later download, however this requires downloading a zip file, unzip the file in a directory then copy the files into the original SSuiteOffice directory and paste to overwrite the existing files. The process seems a bit cumbersome to me.

What makes this program unique is the appearance and layout. Many functional toolbar button choices often not found in WP programs.

 

AbiWordAbiWord uses the traditional word processing GUI layout. The program is a bit dated since the last release 4 years ago. AbiWord touts being open source and cross platform similar to MS Word. The goal of the program is to function on multiple platforms. To that credit, most other word processors are Windows platform only.

The download and install process for AbiWord is easy and comes complete with six different install types: typical, full, full with file associations, minimal, full plus downloads, as well as a custom install where the user can pick and choose between which functions and features to add or remove from the installation. In under thirty seconds the program is installed and runs upon completion.

At first look, there is very little that appears to make this program unique, aside from being cross-platform. I did manage to find the Extra toolbar. This toolbar adds buttons I typically miss in a word processor; lining, super/sub scripts, paragraph spacing, line spacing, and head/footer buttons. Another feature I like is being able to change the ruler measurement from inches to point, centimeter, or pica using the preference menu. AbiWord has a dictionary and a reference section, but no thesaurus.

Sharing documents is possible with the integration of AbiCollab Web service in the latest version (2.8.6). This feature is especially welcome for scenarios such as remote collaboration.

 

To be reviewed:

AbleWord, a capable word processing application to read and write Microsoft Word documents and PDF files.

 

Related Products and Links

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Quick Selection Guide

Jarte

5
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Clean fresh looks, task oriented, various layouts.
No grammar checking.
5.2
3 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Feature limited freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Jarte 5.0 can be installed directly over earlier versions of Jarte. All existing Jarte settings are preserved.
Windows XP to Windows 8

WordGraph

4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Advanced features, additional command buttons, tile docs, custom ruler
Hard to setup help file, help insufficient, updates cumbersome
8.18
19 MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Update 8.12 available. Exports to multiple formats. Dual monitor compatible.

AbiWord

3.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Custom ruler, Extra toolbar with cool buttons, cross platform
Help section is lacking, outdated look and feel
2.8.6
7.94 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Open source freeware
Supported formats: OpenOffice.org documents, .doc, .docx, .rtf, HTML web pages
Windows 2000 to Windows 7, Linux, Mac OS X
 
 

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This software review is copy-edited by Jojo Yee. Please help edit and improve this article by clicking here.

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Comments

I've done a test regarding opening speed and correct layout with several programs and a few large/complex files.
All files have one/some pictures, files 4&5 also background image an all pages.
File 1: RTF, 77,6mb, 42608 words, 129 pages
File 2: DOC, 14.3mb, 490376 words, 1487 pages
File 3: DOCX converted from the DOC above, 4.87mb, same word count, 1497 pages
File 4: DOC, 69,9mb, 75752 words, 201 pages
File 5: DOCX converted from the DOC above, 5,41mb, same word count, 192 pages
I got the files' properties from Word 2003. I can't explain the page number difference and I didn't check in detail.

I assume file number 2 had some problems and/or was not correctly converted to DOCX by Word 2003 (actually file 2 and file 4 were the only files that failed to convert from DOC to DOCX using a batch converter based on wordconv.exe - the converter included with the MS Office 2007 Compatibility Pack for Office 2003; they did converted though, manually yet painfully slow, when using directly word 2003). I reconverted the doc to docx using kingsoft writer and the results are in the last column (DOCX1K).

The programs used are:
AW = AbleWord 3.0
MW = MS Word 2003
KW = Kinsoft Writer 2012 9.1.0.4550
LO = LibreOffice 4.4.3.2
JA = Jarte 5.3
TM = Softmaker Freeoffice TextMaker (2012) rev. 698

Here are the results as
Program name | time to open file 1 | file 2 | file 3 | file 4 | file 5 (in seconds)
AB = aborted after 70 seconds if no progress could be seen
NR = not responding, aborted after 60 seconds (had to use task manager to force close program)
NB = missing page background; + er = white placeholder over some pictures

--- | RTF | DOC1 | DOCX1 | DOC2 | DOCX2 | DOCX1K
AW | 4 | 8 | 24 | 4NB | 4NB | 10
MW | 4 | 1 | 76 | 1 | 5 | 11
KW | 4 | 2 | NR | 2 | 4 | 10
LO | 28 | AB | NR | 9NB | 5NB+er | 18
JA | 3 | 38 | AB | AB | AB | 24
TM | 8 | 41 | 52 | 5NB | 3NB | 6

Other notes:
- Kingosft Writer modified the Regional Settings without my permission or even asking, changing the decimal setting from comma to dot. This happend even if I chose to only install the writer program and not the spreadsheet one. For me this only is enough to disqualify Kingsoft and I am going to uninstall it as soon as I finish this. Also, when exiting spams me with a message asking to share on facebook. Too bad, because it was the only one able to display the page background for DOC2/DOCX2 and was fast overall.

-Jarte has a totally confusing interface (at lest for me), with those little icons that are ment to be menu items. I would have totally prefer a text menu instead of those. Also the pagination for the DOC file no. 2 took quite long to complete after the 38 seconds, initially it had an incorrect layout -during this, the page started scrolling by itself. The same for the DOCX1K converted by Kingsoft, another 2-4 seconds to re-paginate.

- AbleWord and TextMaker are the only programs that were able to open all files, but for the file with page background images these were omitted. TextMaker was sensible slower than AbleWord.

- Word 2003 had problems with the DOCX1 file it created, but in the end it opened it (I could see a progress bar the whole time). Excepting this, it was the fastest.

- LibreOffice is almost the slowest and most uncomaptible, competing for this with Jarte (actually Jarte did not open most of the files). It's hard to tell which one is worse.

- TextMaker is somewhere in the middle, slower than Kingsoft writer and Ableword (excepting the last DOCX file) but at least it opened all files and did not crash. Kingsoft writer was definitely faster but it failed on one file and it has its other problems.

I did not test any features but if AbleWorld has good features I think it is the best of what I've tested.

Later Edit: I've used some tabs in order to try to have some columns but even if here in the edit window they appear correct, in the final text they are omitted. Sorry for that. The columns are separated by the pipe ( "|" ) character.

Later edit 2: Actually I forgot that AbleWorld was unable to display page background. If one can live with that, then I would say it was the best. But I couldn't say it was perfect either because it IS missing at least this feature. KingSoft office would be the best if it wouldn't change the Regional Settings for decimal point/comma (and if you can live with a little spamming from them).

nice testing. should try to include apache office. curious how it lines up with libraoffice.

If Kingsoft's WPS only imported ODT files I'd do away with OpenOffice and Textmaker, as good they are. WPS renders docs beautifully, even better than Word and the cloud backup is great.

I would check out..
Writers Delite (Writer's min WP)
Penumbra WP
Both from SSuite

I think the review about Jarte is quite misleading and it's highly overrating this program. First of all, according to the Introduction of this article, ...

Essential features like font formatting, paragraph formatting, file saving to .txt, .rft or .doc will be assumed.

Well, Jarte 5.3 cannot open DOC files (in windows 8.1 anyway). It shows a dialogue explaining that the FileFormatsConverter (the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack) is needed and a link to... CNET (!?) on the reason that this pack is no longer available from Microsoft. First of all, the pack it is actually available:
https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=3
Secondly, CNET is known of not offering the "real" downloads but an ad-ware downloader. I don't know what kind of deal have the producers of Jarte with CNET but this is not good practice.
I could say that even if Jarte is/has no adware itslef, it IS an adware software because it links to a site that offers ad-ware-bundled downloaders instead of the real downloads.
I am not going to complain about the interface becase suddenly this problem seems minor compared with the above. So why is Jarte so ... recommended?

after more trials my conclusion is, nothwistanding, that WPS 2015 is the best word processor, if you need chinese characters display and paste

after my post I tried AbleWord and surprise! it display efficiently Chinese characters, and the paste function also can paste chinese readable characters.
It is very small, so I wonder how this software can beat bigger ones in this capability.
Moreover, it opened swiftly and correctly a long my document (a tentative thesis..) with mixed writing, italian and chinese, and enriched by maps.
WPS 2015 crashed when ordered to open this document.

these word processors are good enough, but cannot display chinese characters, and this for me is a strong limitation.
Chinese characters are displayed by Open Office/Libre Office, Softmaker, and logically by WPS (ex Kingosft), a Chinese firm, all free.
I am searching nothwistanding a more satisfactory word processor, with chinese capabilities. Do you know others?

I've found Ableword a reliable little program. www.ableword.net. Has lots of features and has been very reliable so far (been using it for a few months). It opens pdf files too.

Just realised that if I do start up my rather slow to go Libre Open Office Write, once it is running, it is unobtrusive and not a hog and as part of an extensive suite has everything you need.

So, except for Jarte for quick notes Writer is it for me.

Only problem with it is it won't do an auto update - seems to require a full install.

RE: Jarte
I was a heavy user for a long time, but it mysteriously lost its setup more than once - and although recoverable, was scary.
Have since been told the next version is much better and stable.
SO - am going to give it a try.
I *WILL* report back after - as I find this Website very helpful and commenters above *usual* review standard.

Thanks to all contributors and Season's Best Wishes!

How is WordGraph on resources?

* Maybe someone has a suggestion. I'm looking for something to use on a laptop - somewhat limited RAM.
Don't need every function in full blown processors (if I do, will just open one). But, more than Wordpad. At least manual spell check. Preferably save in doc & maybe docx, along w/ rtf, txt.

* Atlantis Nova started up at only 5 MB (blank document on a desktop w/ 8 GB RAM) - same as Wordpad. But, it has no spell check - at all, and no way to get one, AFAIK. Other than that, it looks like a mini MS Word.

* AbiWord (portable version - portableapps.com) used a heck of a lot more RAM - *21.5* MB startup on my desktop. Haven't tried it on the laptop. I'm sure it'd use less than my desktop.
Yeah, the UI is a bit dated, but has everything most people need, laid out well. Has spell check as you type.
Abi saves in a BUNCH of formats - as many as any app.

* Jarte - started up @ 7.2 MB on my desktop. If you choose one of the other GUI "views", it's not terrible, but takes some getting used to. I'm sure if I used it a while, I'd get used to it. One thing (maybe partly from being a new look) is the function names mostly have to be read - icons are too small to be of use. The font for these (like "subscript", etc.) is VERY small. If you have really good eyes, it may not bother you.
I couldn't understand why w/ SOOO much open space, they made some of the top-center icons / labels and many labels in the "main" vertical toolbar on the left so small. And I have my system set at 110 DPI vs. default 96, so most things are larger. If the system DPI was @ default, I couldn't read some Jarte labels.

Jarte's *manual-only* spell check worked, was fast but a bit odd in some ways (not terrible). One thing is, if highlighted one word / line & spell check, it shows a green checkmark if no error. But, if select another word / line, it doesn't remove the previous checkmark. It redraws the mark on 2nd check, but if not watching closely, you'll miss it & won't know if it's the previous mark or a new one.

Also, the box w/ alternate suggestions was only 13/16 inch high & no way to increase it. If there were many suggestions, you had to scroll. If using Jarte full time, that may / may not be a problem. Again, there's LOTS of space they could use.

I too favored the "Classic" UI view, though it's definitely "out there." But things are easy to get to. It has optional "no click" tabs / icons for things like the font, spell menus. Change the "clickless operation" pref to fast timing, & menus change rapidly when hovered.

I didn't think there was excessive clicking to get to features. For most, only one click. In fact, once I figured out how things worked, there was less clicking than many other word processors. Now, you just may not care for Jarte's layout.

* QT Writer Express - tried it; not my flavor. Manual spell check was slow to open, even on a very fast machine. Had no conventional margin controls (anywhere, that I could see). No control over R margin, AFAICT. Very basic UI - which is OK if that's what you want. Except it still opened at 17 MB on my desktop, in spite of sparse GUI.
I can see people who are distracted by too many icons liking QT Writer express, but not if looking for something w/ a lot more to offer than Wordpad, or something using about the same resources.

I used PolyEdit Lite for awhile, and it is 17 MB on startup. It's not under development any more, but I recall liking it more than these recommended word processors.

TextMaker is my word processor of choice right now. It starts up at around 23 MB, so maybe it is not for you. But I would strongly recommend it, certainly over all of the Word Processors here. It is not clear to me whether you can install TextMaker separately from the office suite it comes with, however. (FreeOffice). I didn't want to bother checking, frankly, but I'd be surprised if you couldn't specify that you didn't want the other two office apps.

Those searching for an WordPad replacement should try TextMaker out. I wanted something a bit less bulky than MS Word, but more full-featured than WordPad. I also wanted something that would start quickly but have all of the essential features of normal text editing. Whenever I need really advanced features, I use MS Word. In my case, that means I use MS Word a few times a year, while I use TextMaker every day.

It's vastly superior to WordPad, if only because it has autosave. I went searching for a Wordpad replacement when I lost an hour's work when Wordpad crashed. Even if TextMaker crashes, which is rare, it saves even your unnamed documents and tries to restore them. The program may be more than some people need, in that it has tables, change tracking, spell-check, and so on. (It also saves in MS Word and HTML formats, as well as RTF.) But for my needs, it blows away the apps listed here.

Aesthetics matter to me, also, and I like the clean, attractive interface of TextMaker, as well. Jarte needs a serious overhaul in terms of both aesthetics and usability. I still find it amusing that Jarte uses an icon of a greek temple to represent the idea of "reference bar". Probably 20-30 times, I hovered my mouse over that temple thinking, "What the h*ll is that temple thing?" And the Jarte classic view wastes screen real estate, a basic no-no in interface design. Wasted screen real estate in TextMaker is close to zero.

Another downside of TextMaker, though, is that it appears the latest version is Textmaker 2012, so updates are rare. Apparently, people are still working on it, but rare updates are a downside. But, pleasantly, I can honestly say that's about the only downside I've experienced with it.

Still, to some extent, the right word processor is subjective. Hope you find the right one for you.

Thanks. Writer's Delight (also from SSuite) appears nearly, if not identically, like QT Writer Express. No margin adjustment while typing. In print preview, there's the ability to set page margins & other typical print setup. But, when you exit preview, the margin settings aren't imposed on the writing page. i.e., the lines don't wrap at the same margins as set in page setup. If you didn't care where lines / paragraphs ended, I guess it's not a problem.

No spell check of any kind.

Has no toolbar icons for bold, italic, underline. But the 1 page help file lists hot keys for those (same ones as in Windows, or Tbird). But, aside from selecting fonts / font size & colors, very few other formatting features. Thunderbird has more than these 2 apps.

It has simple bullet styles - if you use hot keys (no menu selection) & keep entering it to toggle thru choices: Ctrl + shift + L ('L' for bullets).

Without spell check (in any processor), not much reason to leave Wordpad, if they don't have some extra goodies. I've never seen a "writer" or word processor w/o margin adjustments reflected on the writing page, or wrapping that didn't follow margin settings. Oddly, Writer's Delight & QT Writer Express have other things like revision tracking, right to left text - but not typical margin settings.

So, these 2 have a couple of extras over Wordpad, but loose several things.

I'm not so sure you're going to find a program that will fit your needs. Adding features makes the program bigger, and since size is an issue for you, so will the available features. If you do find something though, be sure to post here so the editor can take a look. Good luck.

Thanks for the article.

I created a resume in Wordpad but it does not always hold column alignment especially when printing.I need to know that when I send a resume to an employer and they display it or print it,the character alignment will be held.I do not need a lot of bells and whistles just basic functions.Thanks for any recommendations.

First try saving your Wordpad files as .docx. If that doesn't help, I recommend you try using one of the reviewed programs. Depending on your computer/word processing experience, for resume creation I recommend WordGraph (more advanced) or AbiWord (less advanced). Also make sure to save your documents as .doc or .docx. NOT .txt or .rtf types. If you continue to have issues with formatting after trying one of these programs, please post to our Freeware Forum section.

Wordpad simply isn't capable of doing anything as critical as a Resume reliably, at least in my opinion. Essentially it's little more than a glorified Text Editor (an advanced NotePad). Your best bet would be to download and install LibreOffice or OpenOffice and use the Writer app from it. It will hold it's formatting much better. Abiword would be my next choice.

Always make sure that the printer you intend to print to is selected as the DEFAULT printer prior to printing. That way you can see how the printed page will look in Print Preview before you print. If you have one printer as the Default, then select a different printer at the print process there is a good chance that the formatting of the document will change. This holds true with ANY word processor that you use, although some are worse than others. Depending on how close the different printers are internally, the differences can be minimal or can be quite severe.

And it isn't a matter of a lot of bells and whistles. It's a matter of quality of the product. Think of it this way. Most people only use about 5% of the capability of their computers and the software they have installed on it, but if the computer or the software isn't capable of doing what they need then it isn't up to the standards that they need. You may not need to ability to create complex tables, numbered lists, equations, or many of the other capabilities of an actual work processor, but you do need something that is capable of consistent formatting, something that LibreOffice, OpenOffice, or AbiWord are much better suited for than WordPad.

@joeguru
Thanks for the great list of free word processors!

So thanks to you I downloaded and installed WordGraph... and was I surprised, it has the ability to display thumbnails of the current document. I have not seen this feature in other applications.

I find this to be very helpful as I don't have to jump around from my document to the print preview to get my formatting right.

On their website I found a portable word processor called QT Writer, not as fully featured as WordGraph, but I think it could be very useful as a portable app.

As for the ruler, I don't think it does anything but show the pixel height if the displayed page {just my opinion}.

The best thing of all is that everything is free on their website, saved me a bundle.

Thanks!

Thank you for the feedback. Yes the QT Writer has good qualities too but a bit light for this category. I think the Writer's D'Lite is good for those who are extremely computer challenged and just want to type and print. Yes SSuite does have a whole suite of nifty free programs.
Thanks Panzer, I'll check it out in the near future.

I tried Abiword, Jarte and Polyedit Lite. Unfortunately neither of them works with revisions which is a problem for me (a lot files going back and forth between me and my editor). Additionally, PolyEdit Lite comes bundled with Pokki and some kind of game package, even though I unchecked all the opt-in boxes during the installation. So, it's back to Open Office for me, bloated as it is.

Not having a grammar checker is listed as a :( for Jarte. In my opinion, it's a :) not having one.