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.
 
NOTE: The Comments section of this category is for brief feedback and input.  Suggestions for new releases or updates for review are encouraged.  For more detailed discussions, please submit those comments in our Forums section.
 
Discussion

JarteJarte

Everything about 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 labeled 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

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

AbiWord

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.
 
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Quick Selection Guide

Jarte
4.5
 
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.
http://www.jarte.com/
5.0
2.97 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Feature limited freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Windows XP to Windows 8

Jarte 5.0 can be installed directly over earlier versions of Jarte. All existing Jarte settings are preserved.

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
8.10
14 MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows 2000 - Win 8

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
http://www.abisource.com/
2.8.6
7.94 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Open source freeware
Windows 2000 to Windows 7, Linux, Mac OS X

Supported formats: OpenOffice.org documents, .doc, .docx, .rtf, HTML web pages

Editor

This software category is maintained by volunteer editor joeguru. Registered members can contact the editor with any comments or questions they might have by clicking here.

 
Tags

word processors, wordpad replacement, text editors, best free, light-weight word processor, wordpad, letters

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Comments

by peter on 22. July 2008 - 18:35  (4770)

I really like it. Apparently, you can add custom dictionaries, which is fairly critical for some of us:
http://www.jarte.com/help_new/spell_check_dictionaries.html#supplemental...
If only I could think of something to use it for ....

by peter on 22. July 2008 - 19:13  (4772)

A review:
Laura Blackwell (PC World) januar 2008
Fits onto a small, 64MB USB drive, works on several files and formats, it's free. Not as good as the paid-for version.
The trade-off for Jarte's small footprint and shallow learning curve is a dearth of features. A paid-for version, Jarte Plus, offers more, such as automatic spelling correction, automatic outlines, the ability to save clipboard cuttings for future use.
This clever little word-processing program lets you open, modify, and save files in common formats. And we do mean "little": Jarte fits onto a small, 64MB USB drive with room to spare for a couple of documents, making it perfect for travellers. Whether we ran Jarte off an XP system's hard drive or a portable USB drive, it opened Microsoft Word .doc, Rich Text Format and Word 2007 .docx files without a hitch. (The .docx functionality requires Microsoft's free, but large, compatibility..

Talk is cheap, but Word is expensive. Fortunately, Jarte is free.

by cy (not verified) on 22. July 2008 - 21:25  (4778)

Don't know about that. The point about Jarte is it's minimalist design.   I certainly do not share the views expressed in this article http://ricardo.ecn.wfu.edu/~cottrell/wp.html, but I structure my writing in phases

  • writing the text
    I hate to be distracted by spell checkers. I prefer
  • spell checking
    after I've completed my writing
  • formatting, adding pictures, tables etc...
  • publishing (sending, printing, online)

Of course, I could also write a list of features available in Word Processors on Planet Earth, (automatic outline would be great!) but I feel it is the same discussion as we find it in respect to a FireFox with a zillion extensions and a browser like K-Meleon with none.

What I enjoy most about Jarte is it's speed, it's size, it's understatement. If I want to write a large document, my MO will be completely different and I'll probably use Open Office Writer guided "by intelligence and experience" (Nero Wolfe)

by chris.p on 22. July 2008 - 23:01  (4783)

Thanks for the info CY.
Peter: I'll probably try this for writing contracts that need to be sent as PDFs. The current solutions I use all result in bad formatting screw-ups in the PDF. I need to find something that outputs decent PDFs (and please don't mention any Adobe app). Word doesn't cut it either.

chris.p

by tony on 23. July 2008 - 9:23  (4804)

Nice piece of software. I love the tabs thats why my favourite office suite is Symphony, but it looks as if this is going to be used more. Providing I don't have any spreadsheets to works from.

Thanks for that CY, excellent images as well, clear and precise.

Tony

by Anonymous on 21. August 2008 - 19:21  (6726)

I downloaded the free 3.2 version and have been playing with it on a couple of laptops. Strange as it seems, it really sings with Vista. In Vista there is an embedded mini-Outlook, calendar, email and contact manager that all work together, not the old Address and Express programs that had no connections other than e-mail address lookup. Add the Gnumeric for Windows and what you have is just about the whole ball wax missing only a presentation system. I've not looked for one yet.

The Jarte uses not resources, and on closing there are no residual hidden files such as with OOo and Office chewing up resources and that's where it benefits Vista as it is a resource hog to begin with.

I just bought the pro version of 3.3 and besides the laptop mounted the USB version on a micro-card and it works. I'll mount it on my MP3/USB device though I do not use it as a flash drive. There is a menu item to do this in the app so not quite sure what the 2nd download .zip file is unless it is to by-pass mounting it on a computer first.

As it converts Office 2007 files, something OOo does not yet do, just having it as a file converting is a plus. Sadly it does not open and save in odf. However, as it works with the Office 2007 files and OOXLM (or whatever it is called) just got the blessing as an open file format, Jarte may be ahead of the curve to all others.

As a WP, the program has almost all features you need and want for all but the most complex stuff and it does it all easy, fast, with no need to keep hiting F1 to figure out how to do things. It does not have mailmerge and of course does not interface with many of the programs that are tied to Word but for many, it is not too much oof an issue, if at all.

Conclusion: This is a must have program, if for no other reason as an upgrade to Wordpad but also as an alternative to those bloated wordprocessing programs.

by Anonymous on 2. September 2008 - 8:37  (7194)

I like AbiWord

by Peredhil on 4. September 2008 - 0:04  (7317)

I have recently found the use of Zoho's online word processor to be well suited for small organizations that need to share documents and have access on the go. It has much more functionality than Google Docs. You can also use Google Gears to access the documents offline and sync them later. The free version give you the use of 5 applications. I also like the MS Office & Firefox plug-ins. Would be nice to have a plug-in for OpenOffice.org.

AbiWord is a good alternative to Jarte.

by Anonymous on 14. September 2008 - 9:31  (7713)

I hope jarte could have some open office document plug ins or compatibility so that I could change my or open my odf document with jarte.
Mohan

by cy (not verified) on 24. September 2008 - 0:50  (8211)

Me too :)

--
always look on the bright sight of life...

by Arithmomaniac on 3. October 2008 - 3:14  (8619)

This isn't really a roundup, just a pitch...Abiword should be added if it is meant to be a list.

by cy (not verified) on 14. October 2008 - 20:56  (9157)

Abiword is a great word processor, I like it a lot and it is Open Source. But this is not a list. It is only a review of one (1) program called JARTE.

--
always look on the bright sight of life...

by Anonymous on 23. October 2008 - 11:43  (9501)

I have been using Jarte Plus, the paid version ($19), for a month or so: I love it -- its leanness, quickness, but also its look and features. The paid version gives smart quotes and autocorrect, both features that I rely on.

I was happy to learn of Jarte on through techsupportalert.com because I have been using OpenOffice Writer for a few years (as I try to wean myself from the big evil), but it takes as much as a minute to load and crashes daily. OO Writer has cost me hours. AbiWord is too limited and quirky for me -- no match for Jarte.

I have it loaded to a small USB flash drive and use it wherever I go. For example, I am a college prof who types and projects notes during lectures: Jarte is the best for this purpose!

(I have not been able to have it open docx, even though I installed the big evil compatibility pack.)

by Anonymous on 19. November 2008 - 20:47  (10735)

You should really try this little gem called Q10.

It's like Darkroom, basically an extremely well-built and nicely designed clone.

by Jojo Yee on 31. December 2008 - 1:27  (12809)

Good recommendation! This is a great product, I like it too.

In particular, when I switch it to minimal layout, its interface is clean and simple just like WordPad or Notepad, but with a much useful tab feature.

I also like its feature for export a document to PDF. It keeps the hyperlink nicely in the exported PDF document, exactly the way done by OpenOffice, or Microsoft Office 2007 with Save As PDF Add-in, unlike virtual PDF printers which usually do not keep hyperlinks in the printed files.

See also:
Best Free PDF Tools
http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/best-free-pdf-tools.htm#Specific...

Best Free PDF Writer
http://www.techsupportalert.com/best-free-pdf-writer.htm

by Anonymous on 4. January 2009 - 12:01  (13089)

Another gem to look at: NoteTab Light

A versatile free Notepad replacement, light weight,
with a simple tabbed interface and formatting features, etc.

Selected as Must-have PC apps for Windows Starter Kits in yearly collection at Download.com

It's worth a try.

http://www.notetab.com/

by Anonymous on 23. January 2009 - 6:57  (14478)

I like it because of the simple interface and as someone mentioned above it is sort of like piloting an (older) yacht. I don't quite understand what the outline feature is. Is it like headings in Word? Is there a separate 'outline' window? What's the deal with that. To work with it one really needs auto correct and the ability to insert swathes of text. But that can be found in 3rd party freebies like AutoHotkey if you are technical or Texter (created with AutoHotkey) if, like me, you are not technical.
You have to admit that Jarte's file handling capabilities are far better than Word's and even in some respects better than XP's File Explorer. But what I like best about it is the quiet, easy GUI combined with a nice soft background color. Far less bells and whistles than Word - far easier to write with.

by longbelly on 24. January 2009 - 8:10  (14560)

We shouldn't really compare Jarte with NoteTab.

Jarte is a brilliant word processor. Very fast with an easy to use intuitive interface. Although I have Open Office, I use Jarte for 90% of my writing. I have seen nothing to beat it.

NoteTab - either the free Lite version or the very low cost standard version - is a text and HTML editor. It's a Notepad replacement, but with more power-packed functions and blisteringly fast. I believe it's at the top of its class.

by Anonymous on 25. January 2009 - 1:38  (14631)

Jarte is a revolutionary new concept in program interface. I love it.Great free software utilities

by Anonymous on 18. February 2009 - 3:21  (16235)

I like Jarte. I am a totally blind computer user. The only draw back I see is that I can't work on more than one document at a time. I could be missing something however.

by Anonymous on 6. March 2009 - 23:32  (17359)

I'm working on several large documents in RTF format and Jarte is perfect for my needs. It's very fast and I'm very impressed with it. One oddity: the program has crashed or frozen several times for no apparent reason in the middle of editing or writing, something that Wordpad seldom did. I didn't lose much work since I save frequently, but it is unexpected when it happens.

by Anonymous on 21. May 2009 - 12:40  (22038)

The bad thing: Jarte can't open DOC files created by OpenOffice.org 3.

by Anonymous on 10. July 2009 - 1:03  (24867)

Sorry, no sale (even though it's free). Control interfaces follow certain conventions for a reason: so that new users can find their way around quickly. Jarte violates so many rules of computer interface design that it's almost a parody of the form. It's also incredibly underpowered for something that thinks it can compete with OpenOffice or AbiWord. Plus, it relies on external third-party software to export PDFs. Seriously? This was your choice for a "best"?

by Anonymous on 8. August 2009 - 21:45  (26661)

Open Office is bloatware. Abiword is 32 bit only.

by Anupam on 22. September 2009 - 19:08  (33125)

New version of Jarte is available : Jarte 3.4

Anupam Shriwatri

by Anonymous on 16. October 2009 - 2:26  (34758)

Where do you get the idea it's trying to compete with OO? It's intended to be a simple word processor for when you don't need all the bells and whistles but want more than MS's WordPad provides.

by Anonymous on 27. October 2009 - 23:55  (35338)

I'm now using version 3.4, and they've fixed a number of bugs, including the one I hated the most: if you had the page count enabled, your entire text might disappear from time to time with no warning, leaving a zero-byte file. I haven't encountered any problems with 3.4, even when using large files of 200+ pages.

by Anonymous on 22. November 2009 - 9:24  (37094)

"If you don't write novels . . . you'll love Jarte". I do write novels, and after losing work several times when Jarte 3.3 unexpectedly crashed on me, I'm wary of it, despite its many excellent features. I hope 3.4 has truly fixed the "memory leaks" that cause it to crash. If not, it's back to WordPad and, I hate to say it, MS Word.

by Anupam on 22. November 2009 - 10:04  (37095)

You can try Abiword. Its quite good too. Its available here :
www.abisource.com

Anupam

by Anonymous on 16. December 2009 - 8:59  (38792)

I'd suggest OpenOffice for larger projects. You can use Master Document to tie together files for each chapter, do foot and endnotes, automate table of contents, and more. But for the fancy stuff, I'd use the OpenDoc format OpenOffice defaults to. You can always Save As .doc format when you need to, but I usually share with it's built in PDF printer.

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