In a Hurry?
Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide
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. This review contains a list of free word processors, that load in a jiffy, with capabilities near those of an office suite word processor.
The review looks into the essential features like font formatting, paragraph formatting, file saving to .txt, .rft or .doc formats that are usually needed in a word processor. It also focuses on what makes the program unique as freeware often tends to put a special twist on the normal run of software. Online word processors are generally excluded from this category while older or discontinued applications maybe removed from the list.
If you are looking for an office suite then click Best Free Office Suite at Gizmo's Freeware.
Jarte 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.
AbleWord keeps a common user interface with menus and tool icons familiar to average users.
In this light and excellent word processor, all basic editing functions are included like find and replace, indent and bullet, paragraph alignment, inserting tables, text frames and pictures as well as spellchecks, but some advanced tools like hyperlinks and tracking changes are not available. Files can be saved in doc, docx, txt, rtf, html or pdf format. Page setup with header and footer, and print preview are also a standard feature.
Unlike other word processors, AbleWord is unique in its capability to read and edit PDF documents.
It is remarkable to directly open a PDF file for basic editing, like altering some text or images from the PDF file without affecting its basic layout before saving back to PDF. Importing text from a PDF file into a word document is also included in the latest version.
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.
AbiWord 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.
Related Products and Links
You might want to check out these articles too:
Quick Selection Guide
Please rate this article: