Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tools o' the Trade! (Word Processors)

Before you start writing your first story, you're going to require a means through which to channel your literary prowess. Obviously, for a lot of people, this isn't really a problem. Pretty much every computer on the market these days comes with some form of a word processor, usually in the form of a trial version of Microsoft Office. This isn't a bad thing, but I know first hand how much it sucks when that trial runs out, and you're suddenly in "read-only mode," stressing to find out if dropping all that money on a new license would be worth it.

A lot of people rely on their word processors - for work or school - and luckily there are a few fantastic alternatives that'll more than convince you to severe your ties with Microsoft's timebomb of an office suite.

1. LibreOffice (Official Download Link)

I didn't start out using LibreOffice. My transition came a little late in the game, within the last year or so from OpenOffice (which I'll get into shortly). For the uninitiated, LibreOffice is essentially a free version of Microsoft Office...


"But wait," I can hear you saying... if this is the first you've heard of it, that is, "there's no way that can be true. There has to be a catch."


"It has to be a half-assed version of Microsoft Office. It probably runs like a cement mixer."

Nope, and nope.

"There are probably a ton of things LibreOffice can't do in comparison."

This is true... but there are also a ton of things LibreOffice can do that Microsoft Office can't.


Right? It sounds way, way too good to be true, but it very much is. LibreOffice is actually comparable to, if not better than, Microsoft Office in a lot of ways. It comes loaded with its own versions of Word, Powerpoint, and Excel, each of which runs just like their Microsoft-based counterparts, though without all of the aesthetical bells and whistles the newer versions of Office probably have. And the best part: a Word document created in LibreOffice can be opened in Microsoft Word, and vice versa. Same goes for the other programs.

If ye are still in doubt, here's a very helpful comparison chart showing what each suite has over the other. In my experience, the differences are negligible, but I really only use the word processor these days. Fewer and fewer classes are requiring any kind of Powerpoint or Excel spreadsheet out of me in recent semesters. Give it a try and see how it works for you! Really, you can't beat that price.

2. Apache OpenOffice (Official Download Link)

OpenOffice was the word processor that I used all the time before I switched over to LibreOffice. Again, it's absolutely free, open-source, and works great. Really, there is no big difference between the two, so it's really a matter of preference. I switched over to LibreOffice because it seems to run a bit better on my computer, and the company behind it is extremely passionate about the program. It has their full attention.

OpenOffice has changed hands a few times recently, and any updates are implemented much slower compared to LibreOffice. But, really, it's still a free word processor. I wouldn't take it over LibreOffice, but it's still miles better than Microsoft Office.

Here's a nice list of comparisons between LibreOffice and OpenOffice by a more educated user if you're at all interested.

3. Google Docs (Official Link)

I don't have a ton of experience with Google Docs, but what experience I do have has told me that it more than works in a pinch. If you have a Google account, you already have access to Docs - free of charge. As of the last time I tried it out, it's a browser-based program and saves your document in the cloud as you type. It doesn't have the level of detail that an office suite like LibreOffice or OpenOffice have, but it's more than capable of creating documents and presentation slides that you'll need for college or work.

Or for your book!

If you're going into ebooks, it won't have the tools you need, but otherwise, it's a great program that also (if I remember correctly) allows you to work offline and save your documents to your computer as .doc or .pdf or what-have-you.


Those are the big three that I can think of, and that I've used to some extent. You can't really lose with any of them, though my personal preference is LibreOffice.

Hope that helps!