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There's no question that Microsoft Word is the standard when it comes to computer word processing. The program, which was first released over 32 years ago, is installed on over 1 billion machines and used for just about all non-specialized word processing needs. But it's starting to see its dominance challenged, as consumers move to online word processors and tablets, where Word's reign is much less established.
If you're looking to break free from Bill Gates or simply want to explore other options for your firm, there are alternatives out there. Here's five quality alternatives to MS Word that are functional, affordable and, most importantly, compatible with the Microsoft documents everyone else still uses.
If there's a potential Word-slayer out there, it's Google Docs. The online word processing platform is simple and free, like many things Google makes. Since it's cloud-based, your documents can be accessed from wherever you have an Internet connection, or downloaded as plain text, a Word document, or a PDF. However, while Google is simple, it also lacks many of the features you'll find in Word. Formatting the cover page of a brief is more difficult, for example, and offline editing is only available through the Chrome browser.
Apple's Word alternative is Pages. It's free on all new Mac computers. The word processor is very well built for design -- its showcase website features it being used almost exclusively for image-heavy documents -- but also does a fine job with old fashion typing. Its main drawback is, of course, that it's a Mac-only program. Like Google Docs before it, Pages also lacks some advanced features, such as mail merge. But, it's a perfectly adequate word processor, which is good enough if you're a member of the Cult of Steve.
This small player is actually great for complex layouts. Linux users love it, but so should lawyers trying to get their formatting down right. This free software allows you to drag and drop paragraph layouts on a paragraph by paragraph basis, making it easy to get everything in exactly the right place. It also opens documents in tabs, instead of different windows, keeping desktop clutter to a minimum.
LibreOffice is an open source word processor, so if you believe that "information wants to be free," this is the Word alternative for you. It's not quiet to the level of Word, with an occasionally clunky interface and some problems handling Office documents. But it's free and constantly being improved. If your word processing needs are limited, it's a fine alternative to Word.
Another freeware alternative to Word, Open Office has been around for over 15 years. It has standard word processing abilities -- it and LibreOffice share ancestors -- but not too many bells and whistles. Open Office is a bit weak on collaboration features but has an active and engaged user community that can help you make the most of the software.
So, which of these five will bring down Word? Probably none, at least not in the immediate future. But, they all provide a functional alternative to Word, something which adventurous, tech-curious lawyers should bother testing out.
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