microsoft word could be better

It is the rare individual that isn’t locked in some sort of love-hate relationship with Microsoft Word. Its ubiquity and feature set have made it the default for document creation just about everywhere, so chances are you’ve used it extensively and feel pretty comfortable navigating it. Many people will have Word, and their documents will play nicely with your documents. That’s the love-ish part.

The hate comes in at any number of places. Maybe you hate the price you’ll pay to get Microsoft Office at home. Maybe you hate the fact that they switched to that ribbon interface a couple iterations ago. Maybe you’ve never gotten over the trauma that was Clippy.


Maybe you are browsing Microsoft alternatives because you’re philosophically committed to using open source software. Maybe you just really hate Microsoft as a company. No matter the reason, really. If you’re just looking around, kicking some tires to see what might work for you, here are some alternatives.

A note on my completely not-at-all rigorous testing mechanism: for each Word alternative, I stuffed a heavily formatted legal document — headers, bullet points, footnotes, signature blocks, you name it — into the program to see if it would play nice with an existing Word document. After that, I moved text around, redlined, and commented all over the thing. I also moved documents back and forth between programs with and without edits to see how things behave in Word after they’re created or altered in another program. After that, I did a feature check for things small-firm lawyers often need to handle solo, like mail merges and envelopes.

There are a couple notable programs missing from this list. First, the open source program AbiWord is still beloved, it appears, but hasn’t been updated in forever. It might be a useful choice for an antiquated system that needs something super-lightweight to work, but for a typical office computer, it will just be too clunky to even get installed. (I couldn’t install it on my Mac at all, as it hasn’t been updated since Macs were PowerPCs.) You also won’t see WordPerfect, because that’s a program you need to purchase and because honestly, if you are still wedded to WordPerfect after all these years, you probably can’t be dissuaded at this point.

All that said, let’s do this.