Microsoft Word Alternatives

I posted this at my classroom blog, but I thought it might be useful to fellow educators, so I am cross-posting it here.

Some of you don’t have Microsoft Office or Microsoft Word at home. That doesn’t mean you have no option aside from Word Pad if you want to write papers. All of you have MS Word at school, but it isn’t always possible to type all of your work at school. What are you supposed to do, then?

There are some good online word processing programs that allow you to write and save your work online so you can edit it from anywhere — school, home, grandma’s house, the library, wherever!

Writely allows you to decide who can see your work. For instance, you can allow friends to see your documents so they can help you edit. You can edit your documents from anywhere — all you need is an Internet connection and a browser. You can store your documents online. No more hunting for documents only to remember you saved them on your home computer when you’re at school or vice versa. It is also compatible with Word. You can post Writely documents to your blog — thus, if it’s your turn to write for the student blog, you can write your post in Writely first to make it easier to proofread. Writely also allows you to save documents to your own computer. Writely is owned by Google, who purchased it in March.

Like Writely, Zoho Writer also allows you to edit from anywhere. It also boasts collaborative editing of documents, which allows friends to write and edit with you at the same time. You can import and edit Word documents, Open Office documents, and many other types of files. Also, Zoho Writer allows you to save your documents in many different formats, including MS Word .doc files and PDF’s. Like Writely, you can use Zoho to post to your blog. It also allows you to save different versions of the same document, which should be really valuable for editing. Zoho Show allows you to create presentations, including uploading and editing Power Point presentations. It is also integrated with Flickr, so if you have an account, it will be easy to move your photographs into your Zoho Show presentation. Zoho Sheet is a spreadsheet program, like MS Excel.

Finally, there is gOFFICE, which is an entire office suite, including a word processor, desktop publishing (cards, newsletters, etc.), and spreadsheets (like Excel). Soon, gOFFICE plans to add presentations (like Power Point).

As all of these online word processors are web-based, they should work on Macs, but you may not be able to use the Safari browser to work with them. Try Firefox.

Finally, if you are looking for a free program to download to your computer instead of an online word processor, try Open Office. Open Office is open source software, which allows users to study, change, and improve the software. This is different from MS Office, for example, which does not allow users access to source code — users must wait for updates and purchase them. Open Office includes the following applications:

  • Writer — a word processor
  • Calc — a spreadsheet program
  • Impress — presentation software
  • Draw — illustration software

I do not believe that Open Office will work with Macs unless you port it, but that additional step should get you started.

Update: Robert reminds us that it is a good idea not to send folks MS Word documents as attachments.  Here’s why.

4 thoughts on “Microsoft Word Alternatives”

  1. Dana, Neo-Office exists for the Mac. It works quite well and is (IMHO) more stable than a "ported OpenOffice." However, the new Intel Macs should make "porting" a thing of the past.

    BTW, I shared your class blogs/wikis with a pair of teachers in my district…your work inspired them to want their own! Kudos!

    Miguel Guhlin

    Around the Corner –

  2. Dana, couple of things:

    (1) New users cannot register to use Writely right now. If you go to the Writely web site, there's a blank that looks like a registration form that says "Let me know when I can sign up!" Below it, it says " We have closed off new registrations until we move Writely to Google's systems. Please submit your e-mail address and we'll send you an email when registration opens back up!" I tried to sign up a month ago and this message was there… and it's still there. I wonder what's taking so long?

    (2) Somebody already mentioned NeoOffice for Mac OS X. We had it installed on our Mac at home for a while, but eventually we got rid of it because we just thought it was too big and slow. We use Appleworks instead, or a basic text editor for everyday stuff and Pages for important/fancy documents.

    If I may shamelessly self-promote, I just wrote about stuff like this at my blog, which you know because you commented there!

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