Free and Open Source Word Processors

A word processor, as you may all know, is a computer application that is used for the production (including composition, editing, formatting, and most probably printing) of any sort 0f printable material. It is considered as one of the earliest applications for the personal computer in office productivity.

Microsoft Word is without doubt the most commonly used computer word processing system today. However, due to unfair or high price tag of Microsoft’s Office Suite, free and open-source word processors are rapidly gaining in popularity. Why pay when you can get it for free and with almost the same features as that of Microsoft Word.

To those of you who are looking for some quality word processors but don't want to spend for even a dime, try some of these:

AbiWord is a free software word processor licensed under the GNU General Public License. The name "AbiWord" (pronounced "Abby Word") is derived from the root of the Spanish word abierto, meaning "open". It is supported on Linux, Mac OS X (PowerPC), Microsoft Windows, ReactOS, BeOS, AmigaOS 4.0 (through its Cygnix X11 engine), and other operating systems.

AbiWord was originally started by SourceGear Corporation as the first component of AbiSuite, as part of a plan to create a full Office Suite that would be free software. However, SourceGear gradually moved on to other business interests, and now the AbiWord project is run by a team of volunteer developers. AbiWord is part of GNOME Office, a collection of office applications with some degree of integration.

EZ Word
EZ Word, a word processor that is part of the Andrew User Interface System, was the first graphical word processor available for Linux. It was part of a user-interface research project jointly done by both IBM and the Carnegie Mellon University.

Many people found the user interface quirky and difficult to learn. The program never really caught on, and the Andrew project stopped developing software in 1997. The last version of the AUIS suite, version 8.0, was never fully debugged, but is free software available under a BSD free software license.

Gio-Key-Board or GioKeyBoard is a multimedia literacy "Initial-Sound-Keyboard" (synthetic phonics) with integrated word processor for children. The freeware is useful for pupils in improving primary reading and writing skills (reading education, literacy).

Gio-Key-Board is multilingual and language-independent. All sounds, graphics, keyboard layouts, options (100) and dictionary-words of the program can be changed and adapted. The free software can read and speak all written texts by speech synthesis. The "Child-Write-Program" also has a speaking dictionary to insert words into the text.

Handicapped persons (special education) can write texts using either a single keyboard-key, mouse-button or the joystick.

KWord is a free word processor, a member of the KOffice project and of the K Desktop Environment.

The text-layout scheme in KWord is based on frames, making it similar to Adobe FrameMaker. These can be placed anywhere on the page, and can incorporate text, graphics and embedded objects. Each new page is a new frame, but the text is able to flow through KWord’s ability to link frames together. The use of frames means that complex graphical layouts can be achieved relatively easily in KWord.

LyX (written as LyX in plain text) is a document processor following the self-coined "what you see is what you mean" paradigm (WYSIWYM), as opposed to the WYSIWYG ideas used by word processors. This means that the user only has to care about the structure and content of the text, while the formatting is done by LaTeX, an advanced typesetting system. LyX is designed for authors who want professional output with a minimum of effort and without becoming specialists in typesetting. The job of typesetting is done mostly by the computer, following a predefined set of rules called a style, and not by the author. Specific knowledge of the LaTeX document processing system is not necessary but may improve editing with LyX significantly for specialist purposes.

Although LyX is popular among technical authors and scientists for its advanced mathematical modes, it is increasingly used by social scientists and humanists for its excellent bibliographic database integration and ability to manage multiple files. LyX has become especially popular among self-publishers, including even novelists, because LyX combines the ease of use of a word processor with the typesetting abilities of LaTeX. Writer Writer is the word processor component of the software package. Writer is a word processor similar to Microsoft Word, with a roughly equivalent range of features.

As with the entire suite, Writer can be used across a variety of platforms, including Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, Linux, FreeBSD and Solaris. Released under the terms of the GNU Lesser General Public Licence, Writer is free software.

GNU TeXmacs
GNU TeXmacs is a free scientific word processor component of the GNU project, which was "inspired" by both TeX and GNU Emacs, but shares no code with either of the two programs it is named after. It is written and maintained by Joris van der Hoeven. The program produces structured documents with a WYSIWYW user interface. New document styles can be created by the user. The editor provides high-quality typesetting algorithms and TeX fonts for publishing professional looking documents.

TeXmacs can handle math formulas, and is used as a front-end to a number of computer algebra systems such as Maxima or Yacas. TeXmacs also supports a Scheme extension language called Guile for customizing the program and writing extensions.

Ted is a word processor for the X Window System environment, which runs on Linux and other Unix-like systems. Developed primarily by Mark de Does, Ted is a lightweight, yet full-featured word processor.

It saves files in a Microsoft Word-compatible rich text format and has support for headers, footers, tables, different fonts, text alignment, and other features common to word processors. Ted has been localized into various languages.
While the program includes a spell checker, it does not check for spelling as the user types. It is a very light-weight and fast word processor, making it ideal for older computers and embedded systems.

Ted is currently using the Motif toolkit for widget rendering and compiles and runs fine when compiled with LessTif. A GTK+ version is currently under development.

If there are other free and open source word processors that you may know of and which I failed to include on the list above, please share them with us via comment.


  1. Hey Jun. Thanks for this helpful post. I'm especially interested in GioKeyBoard since I work in special ed. Once I've taken it for a test drive, I'll probably write a post about this resource, and if I do I'll link to what you've written. I've subscribed to your blog for a while, and I read it regularly. Thanks for all the effort you put into it! --Paul (Vancouver Island, Canada)

  2. Thanks for the inspiring words Paul. I'm glad that you are also interested in open source software.

    I hope that you will find GioKeyBoard useful. Keep up the good work… and Thank you once again.


  3. i like LYX :D
    thank you for article

  4. AnonymousJuly 18, 2009

    what are the advantage of open source word processor?????? againts enterprise word processor??

  5. When it comes to choose Word Processor, I know only one name; Aspose.Words Although it is not Free but worth each penny you spent, for sure.

  6. AnonymousJuly 04, 2011

    I am currently entering High School and I need a Word Processor That is good for writing reports and stuff.. I am currently entering Paxon For Advanced Studies

  7. I just issued a 2.23 version of Ted.
    Since a couple of versions, it is a Gtk+ application.

    Mark de Does