Review of OpenOffice Writer

Replace Microsoft Word with this free word processor

Screenshot of OpenOffice Writer in Windows XP

OpenOffice Writer is the free word processor in the OpenOffice suite, which also includes a spreadsheet program, presentation program, and database program. Writer holds up well when compared to professional and expensive word processors such as Microsoft Word.

While Writer supports many basic functions such as spell check and custom font styles, it also includes advanced tools such as macros, bookmarks, math functions, a built-in image gallery, and keyboard shortcuts.

There's also a portable version to use with a flash drive or disc if you'd rather not install the product.

Check OpenOffice's system requirements for your operating system before downloading the software.


When installing OpenOffice Writer, choose Custom during setup and deselect any program you don’t want installed, for example, if you only want Writer and not the spreadsheet, database, and other programs.

When downloading, be sure to select your operating system from the drop-down menu under Download Apache OpenOffice.


  • Supports a wide range of file formats
  • Can use extensions and templates
  • Basic and advanced formatting
  • Provides live spell check while you're typing
  • Portable option

With the portable option, the entire OpenOffice suite must be downloaded and installed; there's no ability to selectively install only the Writer component. This means you'll get OpenOffice's Base, Calc, Draw, Impress, and Math programs.


  • Menus can seem cluttered
  • Dull program interface
  • Must download the entire suite even if you're just installing Writer
  • Large setup file may take a while to download


  • OpenOffice Writer works with Windows, Mac, and Linux
  • Provides all the basic formatting adjustments such as changing alignment, font, text style, size, line spacing, etc.
  • Lets you open Microsoft Word file formats, such as DOC and DOCX files, without having Word on your computer
  • Menu panes can be undocked from the main program and moved freely around the screen to provide more room for working in a document
  • Includes a navigator that makes it simple to find things such as tables, indexes, comments, graphics, bookmarks, sections, and other components in a document
  • Advanced features are supported, such as converting text into a table and changing the case of text, for example, capitalizing every word in a sentence or making every letter lowercase
  • Macros can be recorded in OpenOffice Writer to automate tasks
  • Easily create letters, agendas, and faxes with built-in wizards
  • A wizard is available for converting documents in batch from the OpenOffice and Microsoft Office formats to the OpenDocument format
  • Formulas normally found in spreadsheet software, such as sum, round, percent, square root, power, mean, and other math functions, can be imported into OpenOffice Writer,
  • A thesaurus is built in with easy access from the right-click context menu
  • Several zoom options are available to position the document exactly how you want it on the screen, including a book mode and a regular single-page layout
  • A large gallery is included for quickly adding images, such as arrows, backgrounds, diagrams, bullets, and others directly into a document
  • Keyboard shortcuts can be modified and every menu and toolbar name and placement can be customized

OpenOffice Writer Considerations

OpenOffice Writer is full of great writing tools, though using it for the first time may be a bit overwhelming until you're familiar with the buttons and menus.

Though OpenOffice Writer can edit documents in the popular DOCX file format, it doesn't support saving back to it, which is unfortunate.

As noted above, the portable version of OpenOffice requires installation of the entire suite; at around 800 MB, the download size might be a bit large for some flash drives.

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