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Our Picks for the Best Free-and-Easy Text Document Editors

Word processors can turn your plain text files into polished, professionally looking documents, with attractive typography and titles, headings, and tables of contents. Microsoft Word is the yardstick all Windows word-processing apps are measured against, but if you are looking for something free, Google Docs, for example, offers commonly used text-editing tools for free.


Word Processor FAQS

  • What is a word-processing app?
    A word processor, or text editor, helps you write, edit, format, and print text documents. You can give your documents a polished look by choosing appropriate typefaces, adjusting text color and size, changing alignment and margins, creating titles and tables of contents, and more. Many word processors offer collaboration tools for sharing and working on documents with colleagues. With Microsoft Word, for example, contributors can edit, make comments, and track changes to a document. Some word processors, such as Word and Google Docs, come with a collection of prebuilt templates for adding a tailored look to a document. Because of Word's market dominance, its file formats are de-facto standards, and many non-Microsoft word processors are compatible with Microsoft's standards.
  • What's the difference between free and paid word processors?
    If you are looking for an industrial-strength word processor available across desktop and mobile devices, you probably will have to pay for it. Microsoft Word, for example, offers a rich set of writing, editing, and design tools that range from simple formatting settings to sophisticated collaboration features. The desktop version is available as a one-time purchase or part of a subscription. If you want free, Google Docs is available via a browser for desktop computers and as an app for mobile devices. While it lacks the depth of Word's collection of tools, it offers much of what you'd want in a word processor. LibreOffice and OpenOffice are also free and match up with Word's tool collections but lack mobile apps.
  • What about collaboration?
    Both Microsoft Word and Google Docs come with collaboration tools that let teams work on documents together in real time. You can set if collaborators can view, comment on, or make changes to a file. You can view changes everyone makes to a file and revert to an earlier version of a file. In addition to making comments in a file, collaborators can communicate via a chat box.

Best Windows word processors

Microsoft Word

The essential word processor, Microsoft Word is available across desktop and mobile platforms and comes with a collection of templates, design and formatting tools, and collaboration capabilities. An online version is available for free.

Google Docs

Web

Google Docs lets you write, edit, and collaborate in the cloud for free. Docs comes with companion apps for creating spreadsheets, presentations, drawings, and surveys.

LibreOffice

The popular and free LibreOffice productivity suite includes apps for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, vector graphics and flowcharts, databases, and even formula editing and supports Word, Excel, and PowerPoint file formats.

OpenOffice

The OpenOffice collection of free apps is comparable to Microsoft's Office productivity software, and like LibreOffice, offers drawing, database, and mathematical equation tools.

Clifford Colby follows the Mac and Android markets for Download.com. He's been an editor at Peachpit Press and a handful of now-dead computer magazines, including MacWeek, MacUser, and Corporate Computing.