3 alternatives to LibreOffice Writer

Looking for an open source word processor? One of these three options may be just what you need.
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Cat approaching a typewriter

By JWilde. Modified by Opensource.com. cc by-sa 4.0

Even though I write for a living, I rarely use a word processor these days; I do most of my work in a text editor. When I do need to use a word processor, I turn to LibreOffice Writer. It's familiar, it's powerful, and it does everything that I need a word processor to do.

It's hard to dispute LibreOffice Writer's position at the top of the free and open source word processor food chain—both in popularity and in the number of features it has. That said, Writer isn't everyone's favorite word processor or their go-to application for writing.

Sure, the number of free and open source word processors has dwindled over the years. But LibreOffice Writer isn't the only game in town. If you're in the market for an alternative to Writer that's also open source, test drive these three word processors.

Calligra Words

Calligra Words is easily the most powerful of the three word processors I'll look at in this article. It does just about everything that LibreOffice Writer does, and actually does one or two things that Writer doesn't.

You get all the advanced features you'd expect in a word processor, ranging from text manipulation to handling tables and images. Calligra Words gives you a lot of control over all elements of a document, and it uses ODT as its native format. It also has a distraction-free mode, which takes over your screen and shows only what you're writing. There are no window decorations, menus, or toolbars to pull you away from your writing.

While Calligra Words has a limited number of import and export filters, there is one pleasant surprise: the ability to convert your documents to EPUB and .mobi (two popular e-book formats). The files I converted to EPUB turned out fairly well, although the .mobi files I exported wouldn't open in calibre.

You might find the Calligra Words user interface not to your liking at first. It doesn't look like most word processors you're used to. Most of the tool's formatting functions are in a dockable side panel that takes up quite a bit of screen space. You really need to try to get used to it before writing Calligra Words off.

Calligra Words screenshot


AbiWord is one of my long-time favorites; I've been using it on and off since around 2000. Its longevity is a testament to the fact that not everyone needs all the power and features of a word processor like LibreOffice Writer. Light and functional are two of the best words I can use to describe AbiWord.

It's light, but it delivers a solid punch. AbiWord packs all the basic features you'd expect from a word processor—like styles, text formatting, graphics handling, and tables—and a bit more. You can, for example, copy the styles from another document into an AbiWord document, giving you an instant template. AbiWord also comes with a surprising number of import and export filters, including some formats (like Applix Words and ClarisWorks) that were long thought forgotten.

While it's grown in size over the years, AbiWord is still fairly lightweight. It performs smoothly on the Chromebook where I installed GalliumOS.

AbiWord screenshot


The first word processor I used was SpeedScript on a Commodore 64. SpeedScript served me well towards the end of high school and through university. Wordgrinder, much to my surprise, brought back a few fond memories of SpeedScript.

Wordgrinder is a barebones terminal word processor. You might think that it's a jumped-up text editor. It isn't. Wordgrinder's functions are limited, but they're more than enough to write with. You can format headings and body text, create lists, and even add preformatted text and code samples to a document. There's no support for tables or images, though.

Wordgrinder saves documents in its own binary format. You can, however, import ODT, HTML, and plaintext files. If you want to share or publish your work, you can export it to those formats as well as to Markdown, LaTeX, and troff.

Wordgrinder screenshot

Do you have a favorite open source word processor? Feel free to tell our community about it by leaving a comment.

That idiot Scott Nesbitt ...
I'm a long-time user of free/open source software, and write various things for both fun and profit. I don't take myself all that seriously and I do all of my own stunts.


We gotta get Wordgrinder into some repos.

It is in the Ubuntu repos, which is where I got Wordgrinder when writing this article. But I wouldn't mind seeing it spread a little more widely ...

In reply to by bbehrens

What about "Focuswriter"?

It's a good tool, though I consider it more a text editor than a word processor.

In reply to by brad (not verified)

for me, wpsoffice.
it's a flat out rip off of MS Office to be honest but that is what I use at work so that is where I feel most comfortable

I took a peek at it, but since it's proprietary it was a no-go for this article.

In reply to by remma (not verified)

I second your choice. I use wpswriter too. It's great

In reply to by remma (not verified)

What about OnlyOffice? I have found it to be amazing! I have even found to to render documents better than Libre and the others!!! https://www.onlyoffice.com/

I was thinking about including OnlyOffice Writer in this article, but the darned thing wouldn't load when I ran it on my testing laptop!

In reply to by Wilma Fingerdo (not verified)

Great article Scott. I hadn't heard of Calligra nor Wordgrinder. I mostly use LibreOffice and recommend it frequently. I did use OpenOffice up until about 3 or 4 years ago for most of my word processing. I liked the fact that it could save files to epub via an extension.

It's whatever you're most comfortable with, and to be honest I'm very comfortable with LibreOffice Writer. And I think the EPUB conversion extension (which I used a few times with OOO Writer) work with LO Writer.

In reply to by Don Watkins

Nothing beats LyX. We have found up to 40% increased productivity compared to conventional wordprocesssors.

Agreed, although LyX is more than a word processor. It's a document processor (which does so much more). You'll never get typesetting as good with a word processor!

In reply to by Hans Bezemer (not verified)

Not meant to be a word processor per se, but emacs orgmode can handle documentation exceptionally well, cross ref, footnote, table, figure, equations, code segment, quotes, you name it, it has it. It's also very convenient to convert org document into more generic and still visually pleasing txt, odt as well. I simply love to use it for document processing.

Interesting that you mention org-mode. While playing around with it recently, I came across this article about making org-mode look and behave like a word processor.

In reply to by HE Chong (not verified)

Ted is a great GNU/Linux (or BSD) word processor for simple, focused writing.

I'd probably reach for Ted and the ability to save in rich text format rather than working in Wordgrinder's binary format.

I've used Ted in the past, and it's a decent minimalist application. Its UI needs a bit of a refresh, though. And I'm not a huge fan of RTF, mainly because it doesn't retain style information.

In reply to by Andy Prough (not verified)

My favourite FOSS (free) office suite is the Linux offering by Kingsoft. The offering is the wps suite 1.2 billion installed.
I am using the FOSS version. No fees, no restrictions and one reverse software pdf to word (for the first 3 pages). If I want full support which I found unnecessary, its there too, at an affordable cost.
Its the best user friendly WP that produces LO, Microsoft office compatible software.

I'm not convinced it's "FOSS" - it might be gratis, but it's not libre (I don't think the source is available) - although I'd love to be proven wrong :)

In reply to by Leslie Satenstein (not verified)

According to the Wikipedia article about Kingsoft's WPS Office, it's under a proprietary license. The EULA states that you can't "reverse engineer, de-compile, or disassemble the “software” or attempt to gain access to the source code for the “softwares” by any means".

In reply to by Lightweight

I've been experimenting with NextCloud + CODE (Collabora Online Developer Edition) - https://www.collaboraoffice.com/releases-en/collabora-online-2-1-1-rele… - it's early days, but it's already getting pretty close to what Google Docs/Sheets/Presentation can do. It builds on LibreOffice, but provides a browser-based interface, and concurrent collaborative editing...

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