Best free word processor

Hi, all,

Having just bought a MacBook and coming from the PC realm. The first software I bought was Scriviner, but I need a word processor as well. From what I’ve read, Nisus Pro, Mellel and Pages are likely the best choices, but my budget prevents me from purchasing these at this time, so I am wondering if anyone can suggest a free word processor to get me through the next few months.

Thank you.


I like Bean. I ended buying Nisus b/c I needed a bit more in the way of features that Bean doesn’t have but I still use it from time to time for quick edits.

Bean is good for simple word processing. A step between TextEdit and full features. However, if you are willing to put up with a bit of a drop in the interface “beauty” department, there are two free word processors that are quite powerful. Abiword is one such, and it is pretty fast and slim despite having a good number of features only found in more expensive offerings. Again, it suffers a bit from looking like a non-Mac application. Lots of buttons and cluttered palettes; but it gets the job done. Second to that would be NeoOffice. This is a huge application that is actually a full office suite: Spreadsheet, presentation software, simple illustration, and simple database, including a word processor. While not at feature parity with Microsoft’s office suite, it is definitely up there—and is probably one of the better routes for Mac users who need to interface with Microsoft office formats without having to purchase Office. Downsides are again interface, and this one is slow in comparison to AbiWord and Bean. So unless you need a full-strength WP, I’d try AbiWord first. Another nice aspect with both of these is that they are cross-platform. They can be installed on Windows and Linux computers, so their file formats are much more useful if you need to use multiple platforms on a regular basis.

The downside (though some might see it as a positive) of Bean is that its base format is RTF. That’s okay if you only need to make things look good. But if you need styles, real headers and outlines, and things of that nature, you might find it a bit limited. [size=10]And yes, I am aware that Nisus uses RTF as its base format, too. But it is heavily augmented RTF, something Bean doesn’t have access to.[/size]

Amber and Robert,

Thank you for the suggestions. I’ve installed Bean… looks like a useful application. I tried to find AbiWord for Mac, but the download site at seems to only have links for Windows and Linux versions. NeoOffice does look a bit bloated and I probably won’t install that unless I end up needing a spreadsheet.

Thanks, again.


Interesting. Well, it can be downloaded here. Looks like 2.4 is the last Mac build available. Perhaps they lost their Mac developer.

And yes, bloated would definitely be a way of putting NeoOffice. :slight_smile:

I’m not sure if this is necessarily a bad thing. :wink:

If you want a fully featured free package that can talk fairly effortlessly to Windows machines, try Open Office ( More or less exact copy of MS Office, but using open source architecture. Mac version works well, though the print drivers can be a little dodgy. Will save in its own or Office format. Plus has a one-click PDF conversion which is really handy.

Neooffice is just a Mac build of, and it used to be a much better build than their own. I haven’t tried OO for a while though, so maybe that is no longer true.

Mmm … NeoOffice is rewritten in Java and partly OS-Xised … Open/Save dialogs for example. I have a copy of—the latest?—OpenOffice Aqua Alpha … a more OS-Xised native-Cocoa version. It’s still not really not that Mac-like, but it looks better. Still has a few glitches, though and I’m sure some bugs. The real problem I have found is that Neo and Aqua running on the same machine seem to interfere with each other a bit!
For production purposes, Neo is the better bet as it’s pretty stable and has nearly everything, but yes, bloated and somewhat slow, though recent versions have got much faster.


Actually my biggest gripe with the NeoOffice flavour of OOo is purely an aesthetic one - I cannot STAND that it completely whites over windows while you’re resizing them. Usually when I’m resizing a paginated document it’s to shrink the window to the page margin…just a habit of mine…and it’s impossible to do that while the window is whited out.

Also, I’m pretty sure OOo has been Java for quite a long time - at least every build since 2.0 - so this isn’t exclusive to NeoOffice.

I used OOo for years on various flavours of Linux. It’s not a bad package, but it suffers from the fact that it basically is trying to compete with MS Office on a feature-by-feature basis. Office is bloated, therefore so too is OOo. At least OOo crashes less than Word :stuck_out_tongue:

I have to say, I’m happy with iWork. It’s lack of cross-referencing is a pain but at least unlike MS Office, it doesn’t crash when I throw several hundred pages at it.

Only parts of OOo are written in Java: Mainly the database module (as it is based on HSQLDB, an open source database engine written in Java) and some of the wizards.


Ah, fair enough. I stand corrected.

Keith and Amber, feel free to create a new topic for this post. Under the Principle of Conservation of Topics, I try to revive mouldering ones when possible.

There’s a word processor called iText that just received a major update. It comes in several flavors – a free version (iText Express), a paid version (iText Pro), a Windows version (Lightway), and one called iText that I’m a little confused about.

I used it briefly before the wonderful Bean came out, as it had more features I needed than TextEdit but was easier to handle than Mellel. It felt a little clunky then, but I haven’t seen recent versions. The new one is all Cocoa.

I’m pretty happy with Bean, but iText does have footnotes (though apparently they don’t survive intact when the doc is converted to Word or RTF format) and other features that Bean and TextEdit lack. I don’t really have time to try it out right now, but I’d like to hear what other scriveners think about it.

Anyway, here’s the description, which is kinda charmingly written by the Japanese developer. It is the only writing program I’ve seen that’s described by the developer as “cute.”

Do you ever wish you had a small, fast, simple word processor that has the TextEdit basics and just a few more important features - page numbers, columns, header/footer, footnotes - for manuscript writing?
How about a bookmark feature for effortless, lightning-quick navigation of your manuscript? Just try iText Express!

iText Express is a cute, intuitive, and refined text editor with word processing completely rewritten in Cocoa, and is suitable for both Power PC and Intel Macs. iText Express provides the simplest way to make gorgeous manuscripts on your Mac! Yes, it’s Yummy !

iText Express has lots of attractive features it shares with LightWayText, besides giving good vibes by fully complying with Mac OS X. iText Express blends seamlessly into the OS X environment, and will continue to grow with the power of Mac OS X. iText Express perfectly covers every feature of TextEdit basics and Microsoft Word compatibility as well.

iText Express even supports still more lovely features including header/footer, footnotes/endnotes, page layout and numbers, multiple columns, hyperlinks, lists, bullets, tables, bookmarks, customizable guidelines, background color, and vertical writing, yet is so much easier to use. You can embed pictures, movies, and other files (e.g. other text files, spreadsheets, or PDF files) or entire applications within a document too. iText Express can also enhance the find features with the regular expression. You will sure find your manuscripts are led to effortless, lightning-quick navigation.

iText Express features flexibility in an elegant, intuitive interface. iText Express will definitely make your writing a pleasure. Remarkable for anyone who expect a reliable simple word processor for Mac OS X. Feel iText Express yourself freely. It is free, you have nothing to lose!