Switching Word Processors
Looking for a new Word Processor and why I changed
I loved Word 2010. That was my peak Word. It had the Ribbon, but I could alter it to my own specifications. When 2013 came out, I went with it when I got my Microsoft Surface, but I wasn’t as enamoured. They were playing to the enterprise, not to me.
What I needed was something else—a pretty complex word processor, with a spreadsheet program and something to do my presentations with. I already have programs for my graphics.
Word 2013 and after were cumbersome and far too complicated for my needs. It was bloated, the software isn’t reliable and it doesn’t really fill me with confidence any more. It has quirks. It’s slow. Really slow.
So when they moved to a rental model, I decided to change. It’s so closely bound up with the cloud, I don’t like it. I don’t need elaborate collaborations methods. Every time you open Word, it checks with the internet, every time. It’s not easy to use it for protracted lengths of time offline. I don’t know how much I’m being spied on with this new version of Office, and while I’m probably far too paranoid, I don’t like that feeling.
Here’s what I looked at, what they offer and what I went with.
I needed the following features: Live word count, annotations/track changes, Styles, fonts, templates, autotext, spellcheck and total compatibility with Microsoft Office.
I wanted these: Tabbed interface like you have on a browser, so I can have every document tabbed across the top, spelling checker, capitalisation – it capitalises the first letter in every sentence. I’d like a WP that I could customise a bit.
I don’t need mail merge, cloud access or collaborative features. I decided not to review the online offerings like Zoho, Microsoft Word Online or Google Docs. They’re all worth looking at, but I wanted something I could use offline as well as on.
So I set out to find a new word processor. I hadn’t realised how many until I started looking! I’m not describing writer software here, except for Scrivener, because that’s a different thing.
Click on the titles to be taken to the creator’s page.
And this is how I work, just so you know.
I start with a one page outline of where I want to go, then I move to my planning chart, where I sketch out the main Acts of the story. After that, I’ll either start it, or I’ll go into a scene planner.
This is fairly standard, and it does have a Ribbon, if that’s what you’re yearning for. I had an earlier version, with menus, but I stopped using it because there were some differences with my docx documents when I opened them in a different program. It’s not much different to most other word processing programs. It is a paid for program, and it costs $19 or $22 depending on which version you want. You get a 30 day trial.
Calligra is primarily made for Linux. It has everything, even a Tetris game, but I found it cumbersome and I wasn’t a big fan of the interface.
Installing it on Windows is tricky, because you have to find the MSI installer, but it is workable, if you want to try it.
It looks nice, and the pro version ($19) has most of what is needed. However it only saves in the outdated .doc and .rtf formats. I prefer to work in .docx, which Jarte can open, but can’t save in the free version. It also only works on one document at a time.
If you’re prepared to cope with those limitations, then it’s a good tool to get down your first draft.
Ah. Well. As a word processor, it works fine, although it lacks some of the features of others. You can write on it, but you’ll have to export it to a different program to format it. I do like the corkboard which works like a physical one. You write your plan and it shows on the left. That’s about as far as I’ve got. I can’t import my books without them becoming a mess. I can’t export the contents of the corkboard so that I can carry on working on it in a word processing program.
The learning curve for this is huge. People do courses and classes on it, which I haven’t had time to take. A lot of writers love this program, but I can’t see that it does anything that I don’t do for myself already.
I gave Scrivener the good old college try. More than once. I even bought it. But although some people swear by it, I’m afraid I’m one of the people who swears at it. The interface is horribly cluttered, and it doesn’t really do anything that I don’t already do myself. But if you think you need to get into more organisation, this one’s for you. You can plot your book from start to finish.
there are several versions of this, tailored for the platform you’re using it on. However, when I installed it on my computer, it got rid of a lot of my settings, and messed with the way I set things up. It might be just me. I ran it for a short time, but I can’t say I’m overly impressed. It doesn’t do anything special, and the icons are very nineties, and a bit childlike. It doesn’t handle .docx files, either, and it crashes quite a lot.
It only seems to render .doc and .docx documents that it has itself produced. When I opened documents that I’d created in a different program, one that works with every other program I have, then it couldn’t open it properly. I tried it with a few, then I decided I couldn’t trust the program.
This was my go-to for a year. It’s more expensive than most other programs here, at $70 for Standard (Business only adds dictionaries).
It’s fast, efficient, and it has a tabbed interface. Capitalisation works well, but you do have to watch it, so that you don’t have it where you don’t need it (or you can turn it off altogether). I never found any problems with Microsoft Word compatibility, and it exports in pdf and epub, so you can make ebooks in it.
It saves backups in a file which you can specify, and being paranoid, I asked for 21 backups for each document. I also backup hourly to a separate hard drive using a different program. Textmaker managed to corrupt a whole day’s work. That was 4 files, all at different stages of writing, and the backup programs faithfully reproduced it, including the corruption. I thought I’d done something wrong, because I like to mess with my programs and OS, but it happened twice more on a fresh install.
That meant I couldn’t trust the program any longer, and I had to stop using it. I did ask tech help, but they seemed unwilling or unable to do so. They said it had never happened before until 2 other people turned up who’d had similar things happen to them. It’s a great shame. It’s the same thing that used to dog older versions of Word, so maybe the code was inherited. It used to happen in Word when a document got too long and had too many revisions and complex formatting, it would get corrupted. If it wasn’t for the way I keep backups and backup my work, I could have lost the whole thing.
Someone suggested that it was because the program deletes the old version before copying the new version over the top. If it did that wrong, or if the program was closed too fast, then everything was destroyed.
So if you use Textmaker, I’d advise saving your document every day under a new name – probably the document name and the date. Also, saving it with a different backup program to a different source. Although I loved this program, I can’t in all conscience recommend it any longer.
Free Office is the free version of Softmaker Office. It’s fine, and while I was using it, it was stable. It won’t save in docx format, but you can always do that in another program. It doesn’t have the tabbed interface that I like, either, but it’s good for a backup. For other comments, see Softmaker.
Yes, the old favourite. It’s owned by Corel, the people who also have PaintShopPro. It’s very expensive, but if you love it, you might think it’s worth the steep price. It does have a 30 day trial, so I downloaded the X9 version.
I loved it. Really, it’s a great program. Solid, with all the features you could ever want, and a clean interface that is well designed so you can use it on high definition and 4k screens. And it has the famous Reveal Codes feature.
But I couldn’t justify the price. This is a Rolls Royce program, and the price reflects that.
It comes in three versions – Professional (£463), Standard (£287) and Home and Student (£112).
This is a good program, with a few limitations. But I’m loath to use it, because, like Windows, it’s constantly connecting to the Internet. This is a Chinese version of Word. The interface is very pretty, and it does what it does well. There is a kind of autocorrect feature, but it’s buried deep, and you can’t add a shortcut to it to make it more accessible. It’s a greedy program too, and automatically assigns itself the default program for word processing formats, so you have to go in and change that manually.
There is a free one and a paid one. In the free one, if you want to use some of the advanced features, you have to watch a 5 second ad, which isn’t too bad. It has a Ribbon, too. The autocorrect takes some finding, but it does have one, even though you have to dig for it, and you can’t put a shortcut on your desktop. You can have your own menu bar, but it doesn’t have many options..
My Solution – The Winners!
I would always recommend that an author has at least two Wps installed. Then, if one goes wrong, you have another to use. Failing that, you have WordPad. And of course they have to be fully compatible.
This is my current Word Processor. I love it. It’s a word processor only, and it costs $30.
It doesn’t have Track Changes, but it does have two things that I love – a tabbed interface, and when you open a document, it goes straight to your last cursor position in the document you were last working on. Just reflect on that. It saves so much time.
I believe there’s a way to do it in Libre Office, but only if you use the native open document format.
That means I can have the three documents I open when I write – the main document, the character list and the scene plan. It’s simple, and it just works. It’s fast, too. And it has a couple of nifty tools, like the facility that will check for echoes in your work, and one that picks out your ultra-long sentences.
It has a ribbon interface, which I like, but you can also choose to use the old menu-style as well. It autohides, and I have mine on the side of the screen instead of across the top.
I bought it. It’s a really nice program. I like it a lot. It’s small, efficient, and the interface is clean. Plus, it has the side bar for Styles and other elements – in Atlantis, it’s on the right, and it’s called the Style Board. This is my go-to for writing. All I can say is that it has never let me down. But it doesn’t have Track Changes, so I have another solution for that.
The technical help is great. They listen, and they do their best to deal with whatever problem you have. And for me it’s been rock solid.
Open Office was bought by Sun Systems. Many of the original team left at that point, and started up the Libre Office project. As a result, LO has more people working on it, and it has more features. Open Office and Libre Office are branches of the same thing, and the Add-Ons work with either program. It’s open source, and it’s free. You can use this one alone if you want to.
It’s competent and it works, better than some of the paid solutions I tried. I really like it, and in some ways it’s better than Office. With version 5, they rewrote the code, so now it’s faster and cleaner, and built to modern standards. To get the best out of it you have to install Java, but if you don’t want to do that, it will work fine anyway. I’ve blocked Java from accessing any browsers, or the internet, which means it should run fine.
I’m happy running LO. It’s my backup writing tool, and my principal editing program. It is completely compatible with Word, and it has all the tools you need. It also has a ton of add-ons,, dictionaries and so on.
It has a macro recorder, and a spellchecker, and you can customise the menus. It also has a Ribbon interface. It works a bit differently to Windows, but if you’re used to the Ribbon in Word, it will help you to acclimatize to it. It’s also much better, IMO, in dealing with Track Changes. The Sidebar, which most word processors have, is wonderful. I wouldn’t use a word processor without one now.
I use LibreOffice mainly for editing. It does help to have one program set up for writing, and another for editing. I sometimes use it for writing, as well, but the capitalisation is a bit wonky, and it has minor quibbles, like not opening at the cursor mark and distinguishing a little too carefully between straight and curly quotes. But they are all easy enough to live with, and I’d easily recommend it. Even if you use another word processing program, it’s worth installing Libre Office as a backup and to deal with open source format documents.