Microsoft Word has been the de facto document writing application for decades, but recent years have seen more aggressive competition from Google, Apple, and open-source groups like The Document Foundation. Here are the alternatives to Microsoft Word in 2018.

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1. Google Docs

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Google Docs has become such a popular rival to Microsoft Word that its inclusion on this list is practically a given. It offers a streamlined interface, intuitive collaboration tools, and it's based on the web, so you can access your files from anywhere. Oh, and it's also completely free to use (and it doesn't display any ads to help Google pay the bills), though business users have optional paid tiers that add a number of features for administrators.

On the downside, Google Docs is a little tricky to use offline. The process is straightforward: Go to the main Google Docs portal, click the hamburger menu in the upper left corner, select Settings, and click the slider next to Offline. The thing is, you already need to be online to switch to offline mode. So if you don't have an Internet connection, then you're cut off from your Google Docs library. Working offline is also only available with the Google Chrome browser.

If you need to work offline and you want to stretch your dollar, that's where LibreOffice comes in.

2. LibreOffice Writer

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LibreOffice is a free suite of productivity tools provided by the non-profit Document Foundation, established to create an open-source alternative to Microsoft Word. It's maintained with voluntary donations from individual users and the occasional crowdfunding campaign, and its popularity is enough to afford a sizeable staff. LibreOffice Writer is the word processor part of the office suite, and you can't download it separately. However, the installer file is less than 300MB, which should be manageable for most users. You can download directly from the website, or use the Torrent link for peer-to-peer transmission. P2P allows the Document Foundation to save money on its website bills.

The interface should be familiar to anyone who uses a word processor on a daily basis. You have intuitively designed icons for things like creating, opening, and saving a file; a respectable collection of different typefaces to choose from; the ability to export something as a PDF or even an EPUB; and you can sync your documents with Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and several other remote hosts.

However, LibreOffice doesn't currently support app-based two-factor authentication, instead choosing the less secure SMS-based 2FA. So if you're working with sensitive material, Google Docs or Microsoft Word may remain the better choice.

If you get lost trying to figure out how to do something in LibreOffice Writer, it has a searchable help guide that you can download for offline use or view on the foundation's website.

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3. Microsoft Word Online

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It turns out that Microsoft itself has free low-key versions of its core office productivity apps available in a web browser interface, giving you the look and feel of Word but with many of the advantages of Google Docs.

This version of Microsoft Office isn't advertised very much because it could cut into the sales of Office 365, but it also lacks a few tools that advanced Office users may need, such as support for Ink and certain page layout components like a table of contents.

As its name indicates, Word Online can also only be used when you have an Internet connection, whereas Office 365 and Google Docs both have tools to accommodate for offline use.

But Word Online also has respectable collaboration features, and it uses Microsoft OneDrive to keep your documents in the cloud, allowing you to access them from wherever you can get an Internet connection.

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Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.