Review of OpenOffice Writer

Replace Microsoft Word With This Free Word Processor

Screenshot of OpenOffice Writer in Windows XP
© The Apache Software Foundation

OpenOffice Writer is the free word processor that makes up part of the OpenOffice suite, which also includes a spreadsheet, presentation, and database program. It definitely holds up well when compared to professional, non-free word processors like Microsoft Word.

While it does support many basic tools like spell check and custom font styles, it also includes more advanced ones like macros, bookmarks, math functions, a built-in image gallery, and keyboard shortcuts.

There's also a portable version of OpenOffice Writer if you'd rather use it without installing it, like from a flash drive or disc.

Make sure to select your operating system from the drop-down menu through that download link, like if you need the Linux or macOS version instead of the Windows one. You can find the portable version on their third-party ports and distributions page.


  • 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

The portable option requires that you download the entire OpenOffice suite without the ability to selectively install just the Writer component. This means you'll also 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 like changing alignment, font, text style, size, line spacing, etc.
  • Lets you open Microsoft Word file formats without having Word on your computer, like DOC and DOCX files
  • 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 extremely simple to find things like tables, indexes, comments, graphics, bookmarks, sections, and other components in a document
  • Advanced features are allowed, like converting text into a table and changing the case of text, like capitalizing every word in a sentence or making every letter lowercase
  • Macros can be recorded in OpenOffice Writer to automate tasks
  • Creating letters, agendas, and faxes are easy 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 can be imported into OpenOffice Writer, such as sum, round, percent, square root, power, mean, and other math functions
  • 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 to quickly add images like 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

My Thoughts on OpenOffice Writer

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.

I'm glad a portable download option is available for OpenOffice, but it's too bad you're required to install the other parts of the office suite along with Writer. Because of this, the download size might be a bit large for some flash drives, at around 800 MB.

When installing OpenOffice Writer, choose Custom during setup and deselect any program you don’t want installed. This will enable you to prevent the install of the spreadsheet, presentation, and other parts of the suite.