Finding the Right Word Processor

Word processors! They are bread and butter on any college student’s computer. They are workhorses, often complex, and sometimes aggravating – especially when they freeze before you’ve saved your work! There are also a ton of them to choose from.

Word processors are a dime a dozen and can range in complexity, functions, and price. Some word processors can only be found on certain operating systems, while others are designed for a specific type of writing or project. We’re going to look at some of the relevant word processors available for the scholarly community on Windows, OS X, and Linux.

Microsoft Word (Windows, OS X)
Ah, goliath himself! Microsoft’s flagship app dominates the word processor market for two big reasons – it’s hard to find a word processor that is as powerful in features and ubiquitous in use as Microsoft Word. Word is the de facto standard for term papers, class essays, and published articles because it offers writers powerful tools like grammar correction, extensive footnoting/endnoting options, and plug-in extensions with several citation software options like Zotero, Endnote, and Refworks. Often bundled with Microsoft Office, Word offers something for every kind of writer in an all-in-one solution while providing export options for the go-to file formats of .doc or .docx. However, depending on your institution, Microsoft Word can cost a pretty penny, which can make it an unsavory option for many a writer on a budget. Good news for many college students (including Dukies), however, is that Microsoft Word can often be obtained for free through your institution! Duke students can download Word via the OIT website: Writer (Windows, OS X, Linux)
For those of us who don’t need all the advanced bells and whistles of Microsoft Word and who like our word processors free and open-source, then look no further than’s Writer. Writer offers most of the same features of Microsoft Word and comes in a UI package similar to Microsoft Word 2003. Writer, however, is missing some of Word’s advanced features, like remote access and collaborative editing, editing tools like the grammar checking engine, conditional formatting, and several of the document-viewing options that many of us have come to know and love. Writer makes up for its feature leanness with its moddable, open-source foundation and vibrant open-source community. Best of all, it’s free! Download Writer here:

Google Docs (Browser based)
Another freebie, Google Docs offers a stripped down version of Word’s processing power. Though it lacks Word’s power options, Google docs offers in-the-cloud syncing, cloud storage, and real-time collaboration on documents. If you’re always hooked up to the internet, don’t need Word’s options, and need a way to write collaboratively, Google Docs is your best bet. Sign up for a free account at:

Ulysses (OS X)
Are you a creative writer? Do you work on a mac? If the answer to both questions is yes, you might want to check out Ulysses. Ulysses offers several unique features not found in Microsoft Word. Built on the LaTeX document preparation system, Ulysses is a semantic text editor that allows the writer to separate content from presentation. This means you can concentrate on your content first and then later come back and design the output of the text to the printed page. Ulysses also features built in notepads, a full black screen writing mode, full font and color control, a bookmarking system, and a unique “text trash” system that saves all the text you delete from a project to use again if you wish. Ulysses is available in the Mac App Store for $29.99. Website:

Scrivener (OS X, Windows-Beta)
Another fantastic creative writing processor, Scrivener offers a creative all-in-one workspace that is popular among novelists, playwrights, screenwriters, and any other long-form text writers (including scholars!). Like Ulysses, Scrivener offers a lot of unique options and features. In Scrivener you’ll find an entire project management system that offers multi-document editing, a organizational cork board, outlining tools, a full-screen editor, a scriptwriting editor, and compiling tools for export and print. An education version is available for $38.25. Website:


One response to “Finding the Right Word Processor

  1. Thanks for writing this! This really helped me out. Keep up the good work. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s