Word processing software is a tool that can be used to create almost any kind of text document you can think of. From blogs to eBooks to postcards, this type of software allows even novice computer users to create professional looking projects, such as flyers, ads, webpages, tables, charts, word art and drawings at home or in the office. Many people are familiar with the basics of word processing, but there are tons of options and additional features that can really take your document from fine to fantastic.
Microsoft Word has become the recognized standard in word processing software, but there are several other alternatives that you might want to consider. One of the major reasons you may choose software other than Word is that it can be a bit pricey when compared with similar programs. Some other word processing applications are even free to use. Most of these other options offer, at the very least, basic features that any casual word processor user needs. Further, some even have features similar to Word’s. It’s important to note, too, that Microsoft seems to be moving more toward subscription-based model, meaning you’d can opt pay a monthly subscription for access to the latest version. However, for now, you can still make a one-time purchase of the program.
There are many more options out there than the ubiquitous Microsoft Word, and they’re worth looking into. Below we’ve laid out the most important things to know when you’re looking for the best word processing software for your specific needs. We’ve also gathered articles about word processing software so you can make an informed choice.
One of the most important aspects to consider when choosing a word processor is how intuitive and easy it is to use. You don’t want buy word processing software that you can't figure out, so a good layout and intuitive tools are a must. For example, most people look for the save button in the upper left-hand area of software, so good software will have the save button located in that area.
Good software will also house other options in the menu where they make sense to an average user. Microsoft Word has set the standard in this software category because its layout is very easy to use and even new users can find what they are looking for with a clearly labeled, tab-style menu system. Google Docs also has this easy-to-use tab navigation.
Software can have good usability without tab navigation though. For example, the Word Perfect line has simple dropdown menus that are also easy to navigate. It all comes down to how well the software is designed with the user in mind.
If your computer has limited storage or you would like to be able to access your documents from other devices, you may want to consider choosing word processing software that offers cloud storage. Some brands offer a limited amount of cloud storage for free, while others offer it on a subscription basis.
Another major detail to consider is the pricing matter you want. There are programs that you buy one time, download and have forever; other applications are available through a subscription plan. There are even good options that are free.
The benefits of a one-time purchase are obvious. You can download the software with no additional costs. The downside is that the software isn’t regularly updated with new features, as is the case with subscription software. Subscription software also often comes with a suite of other software that may be helpful. For example, Microsoft includes Excel with a Word subscription.
Then, there are some word processing software brands that you can download that don’t require any money at all. Google Docs, for example is free word processing software where all of your documents are stored in the cloud. AbiWord and the Apache OpenOffice suite are also free options. These are open source software programs that you can download from their websites and are developed by a community of people dedicated to keeping the software free and shareable. While free software programs are great options, they often lack advanced features. Plus, security and malware can be concerns when you’re dealing with cloud storage or open source applications.
Essential features are abilities that every word processor should possess. For example, creating bulleted lists or eye-catching graphics can be essential to making simple documents that will work for the office, classroom or home. Here are a few features that are important tools in any word processing software:
- Automatic formatting options such as headings, quote blocks and titles
- A “clear all formatting” option to make copy and pasting from other documents easier
- Multiple font choices that include familiar standbys such as Times New Roman, Calibri and Arial
- Rulers and guidelines to make setting margins and aligning text and photos easier
- Drawing tools
- Photo and graph insertion tools
- Various templates to make creating documents simpler
- The ability to save your document in common document types, such as .txt, PDF and .doc.
You don’t have to just stick with the basics, though. By purchasing software with a large array of features, you will have word processing software that can grow with your skills and needs. So, even if you have convinced yourself you need very little, you may want to consider software with more flexibility.
Corel WordPerfect’s word processing software is so feature-filled that it competes with any powerhouse word processor, such as Microsoft Word. WordPerfect has the ability to make professional-looking fax cover sheets, resumes, brochures, labels and more. It also has a built-in program to help with eBook publishing.
Here is some more in-depth information about basic and more advanced features common to the best word processing programs.
Not everyone is a spelling whiz or a grammar champion. Good text software should pick up the slack and include dictionaries, thesauruses, spell checkers and grammar correcting tools, all built in.
If you are a student, your word processing software should also include a tool that allows you to insert formatted citations and references when creating research papers and other documents. This type of tool takes one of the most tedious and time consuming parts of writing research papers and makes it much more manageable.
Some software programs also have apps so that you can use them to create, edit and send documents using a phone or tablet when you aren’t able to get to your computer. This app option is particularly handy for writers on the go.
Plain text is boring. Insert tools jazz up documents by allowing you to add drawings, pictures, clip art, graphs, charts, movies and more. Better yet, many word processors have tools that allow you to create these types of media yourself to add a unique touch to your projects. For example, some programs have drawing tools that let you add your own drawings and digital paintings to the document. The drawing tool can also be useful for adding signatures to documents without printing them out.
When you're done with a text document, odds are you’ll want or need to share it with someone else. So, saving your document in a format that a friend or colleague can open on their computer is crucial. Because of this, your program should be able to save a document in different file many different formats, including rich text format, .doc, .txt, PDF and more.
You’re not going to know how to use every feature right away when it comes to your new word processing software, even after a bit of use. This is why an easy-to-use help option in the software is so important. You should be able to click on the help button and look up any topic by using keywords.
Several software programs also allow you to hover your mouse pointer over an option or menu item and information on that item will pop up in a word bubble. Many word processing software brands also offer online help, tutorial videos and help articles.
Tools for Collaborating & Sharing
If you regularly share documents or work on them with several different people, then you should look for collaboration features. A good tracking feature is important so that the document can be passed from one person to another on a project and each person will be able to see what the others added to the document. A reviewing pane is also helpful for viewing various changes made to a document in a list format next to your document.
Text highlighting and the ability to add comments are also important features for anyone who wants to keep track of or display important areas of the text in a document to others. Adding comments is also a good way to ask questions and get clarification from others working on the document.
A finished document sitting on a hard drive is of no use. Print and publishing options help you get that text out to the world by turning it into blogs, HTML, wikis and more with a few mouse clicks.
By considering these categories, you will be able to find the best word processing software that has the features you need for your projects. While you are considering your current needs, be sure to look for word processing software that not only provides basic features, but also allows you to grow as your needs and skills change.