OpenOffice Writer Review

Replace Microsoft Word with this free word processor

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 it supports many basic functions such as spell check and custom font styles, Writer also includes advanced tools like 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.

OpenOffice Writer editing DOCX file
What We Like
  • 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 available.

What We Don't Like
  • 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.

Download and Installation

The official list of compatible operating systems includes Windows 11, 10, 8, 7, Vista, and XP; macOS 10.7 or higher; and Linux.

During installation, choose Custom to pick which parts of OpenOffice you don't want to install. For example, if you only want Writer and not the spreadsheet or database program, this is your opportunity to avoid getting them.

To do that, select the items you don't want, and choose This feature will not be available.

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

OpenOffice installation wizard options

OpenOffice Writer Features

Following are other notable features:

  • Provides all the basic formatting adjustments such as changing alignment, font, text style, size, line spacing, etc.
  • Lets you open Microsoft Word files without needing Word installed on your computer. It works with both 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 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 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.
  • Install OpenOffice extensions to add features to the program.
  • Includes a built-in media player to play music and video files.

OpenOffice Writer Considerations

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

Although this program can edit documents in the popular DOCX format, it doesn't support saving back to it, which is unfortunate. If you're editing a DOCX file, the supported save formats are DOC, RTF, TXT, HTML, XML, ODT, OTT, SXW, STW, and UOT.

OpenOffice Writer also supports lots of open formats—text docs, web pages, and other documents. Here are all the MS Word file types that you can open in this program: DOCX, DOC, DOCM, DOT, DOTX, DOTM, and XML.

As noted above, the portable version requires installation of the entire suite; at around 700 MB unzipped, it might be a bit large for some older flash drives.

OpenOffice Alternatives

OpenOffice is just one free office suite. See our list of the best free MS Office alternatives for some other options.

LibreOffice is one example that's often compared to OpenOffice. It has a program like Microsoft Access, Excel, PowerPoint, and Word.

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