App Directory: The Best Word Processing App For Windows

Windows has plenty good word processors available, but for the majority of users, the free LibreOffice should serve any word processing needs you have.

LibreOffice Writer

Platform: Windows, Mac, Linux

Price: Free

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  • A familiar interface for anyone that's used a word processor, featuring basic formatting like font, bold/underline/italics, tables, bulleted lists, and more
  • Compatible with all major file formats, such as Microsoft Word DOC and DOCX, RTF, ODT, and more
  • While-you-type auto-completion, auto-formatting, and automatic spell checking
  • Easily move toolbars around and tweak the interface to your liking
  • Lots of advanced options that let you customise how LibreOffice works

LibreOffice's biggest advantage, of course, is that it's completely free. While lots of office suites like Microsoft Office are advanced, they also cost a lot of money. LibreOffice does a great job of being a Microsoft Word "clone" without the $200+ price tag. Anyone who has used Word can immediately jump into LibreOffice and should be able to find everything pretty easily -- all the toolbars are similar, the menus are familiar, and it can read and edit Office documents like a champ without causing any formatting issues in Word. When it comes to word processing, LibreOffice Writer has everything most users could ever need, and at an impossible-to-beat price.

LibreOffice is slow. I mean really slow. Starting it up for the first time on my laptop (which, for what it's worth, has a super-fast SSD in it) still takes a good 20 seconds. Once you get into it, it isn't so bad, but that startup time can be pretty annoying. The interface also isn't the prettiest, and the menus can be a bit more confusing at times, especially if you delve into its deeper options (though the options inside are plentiful). Writer also doesn't offer some of the smaller, more convenient features that Word has, like a word counter at the bottom of the window, which can throw off more advanced users.

Microsoft Word is the most obvious competitor to LibreOffice. As I said above, Word is a bit more polished and has a few smaller features that, if you've become reliant on them, will throw you off in LibreOffice. If all you're doing is basic word processing (that is, you don't use spreadsheets or create presentations or work with longer documents) Microsoft Office may not be worth the high price tag -- but if you have the money to blow and you just need those Word-specific features, Word is obviously where you'll have to get them.

WordPad is a simple word processor that comes free with Windows. It solves LibreOffice's biggest problem -- slowness -- since it's so lightweight and fast. However, that light weight comes at a big price in features. WordPad is extremely simple, almost to the point where I'm hesitant to call it a word processor. It can do basic text editing and formatting, but if you're looking to add a header to your pages, use a template, or even check your spelling, WordPad won't be able to help you. If you need something quick and simple, though, WordPad is a great alternative.

Google Docs is also a bit simpler than most people might like, but it has some incredible collaboration features that make it perfect for working with other people on a document. Plus, you can access your documents from anywhere, no Dropbox-like file syncing program required, which is fantastic if you jump from computer to computer.

Lastly, if you're looking for a distraction-free writing tool, the free Q10 does a good job of making you focus without skimping on word processing features. It's more geared toward writers, so it has the advanced features they'd want -- like word counts, page counts, a spell checker, an alarm, and stuff like that -- but it doesn't have a lot of the extra formatting tools you'll find in a normal word processor. This is our "left field" pick for word processor, since it isn't a word processor in the strictly traditional sense -- but it's worth a look if that's what you're using word processors for.

There certainly other good word processors out there, but these are our go-to picks. If you have a favourite we didn't mention, share it with us in the comments.

Lifehacker's App Directory is a growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools in a number of given categories.


    Surprised isn't on here, I've never used it as a replacement but I've always seen it recommended. Has it fallen off the tracks?

      Glenn, Libre office is basically a version of open office.

        I'm not sure why Libreoffice over Openoffice though ... OOo definitely has better documentation and feels (IMHO) just a little more mature.

      probably because its slow. its really really slow. on my i960 /12g ram machine word is still faster. in fact google docs load faster on chrome than openoffice

    Notepad++ with spell checking plugin configured. All you'll ever need :)

    "Word Processor" is not the same as "WYSIWYG Editor" - this distinction is often, and understandably lost on many people as all prominent word processors offer WYSIWYG as the default view.

    Don't forget Office Starter 2010 and Office Live - free, 100% MS Office compatible (of course) and perfectly adequate for 90% of users.

      Yes.. surprised Office Starter wasn't even mentioned.. if it is better than LibreOffice for Word Processing and it's really just the pricetag that is the problem.. then Office Starter fills the gap there..

    Been using 'Word Starter 2010' since it was released. It's free, it's quick, it comes with 'Excell' and even though some people might find it a bit weaker than the full Office suit, I find it to be extremely useful.

    Agree why OpenOffice isn't rated - it's part of Apache so it hasn't gone.
    Office Starter is a good option but you can't download it, has to come on a new system which is annoying

      Ahh, actually I got it for free via LH awhile ago, unfortunately it seems to have been a limited release!:(
      looks like I got it just in the nick of time.

    Oracle is is no longer commercially developing OpenOffice, thats why.

    Google Docs and Word ftw

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