Word alternatives??

I really, really hate Word. But alas, many of my clients use it. Asking them to switch is not an option. So is there any other program out there that offers:

  • Full compatibility with both .doc and .docx Word files, including comments and revision tracking?
  • Full compatibility with Word embedded objects, especially pictures?
  • Ability to read and edit Word 2007 (win) equations? (Optional, as even Word 2008-mac can’t do this.)
  • Ability to read Scrivener-generated .RTF files and export them in a format that’s transparently compatible with Word? (RTF is okay.)

I suspect the answer is no, and that Word is the best word processor for dealing with Word users. But a girl can dream…

Or rant, given that this post is inspired by a particularly frustrating few days of wrestling with client-generated Word files.



I use Pages for these tasks and have no issues with compatibility. I am not sure about the equations, since they don’t come up in my field (literature). But import of doc and docx, no problem. I send back doc files, with revisions/comments, and the Word user reads them easily. Picture handling in Pages is simple, since it’s a layout program. Pages has no trouble with importing my Scrivener RTF files, since they usually don’t have end or foot notes. And the doc export from Pages is no problem for Word users.

If Pages is not for you, try Nisus Writer Pro. With either program, you might exchange files with a Word-using friend to see how it goes.

PS: on the App Store, you may now buy Pages independent of iWork for $19.99. At that price, it’s worth a try. And if you do, check out iWork.com; where you and a collaborator may post files, review revisions, and settle differences via a Skype chat.

Tried NeoOffice? Free, downloadable, and can deal with most Wordlike things. That or Nisus Writer Pro would be your best bet, I would’ve thought.

I use NWP most, and as in another thread, the only real problem I’ve had with .doc files is when they contain nested tables. But the .doc files I get all the time are so badly formatted that they can be a pain, but I put that down to the fact that my Chinese collaborators really don’t know how to use a word-processor properly … in 10 years I’ve only met one who has used tab-stops and tabs to lay out a CV (Resumé) rather than filling it with spaces. NWP exports to binary .doc if you want, and reads both .doc and .docx. The only thing is, in my experience, don’t use Scrivener created or NWP files saved as pseudo .doc if you are going to attach them to an email to someone on a PC who is going to forward it with the attachment. The person who receives that will have gibberish in my experience … wrong MIME type, I expect.

As back-up I use OpenOffice. The new Oracle version of it seems to be much better. In the past I found I had to switch between Neo and Open for different reasons, but Open now seems to work fine.

Really problematic .doc files generally open best in Pages, but I don’t really like Pages.


Keep in mind that pages doesn’t have a very good RTF importer, so footnotes, headers, page numbers, and a few other things will just not be there if you import an RTF with those in it (Scrivener can and does usually put these elements in if they exist in it’s documents).

That reminds me… we should set a date once a month to submit a nice feature request that Pages fully support the RTF format like everyone else does.

Thanks for all the suggestions!

After doing a bit of research …

NWP does not preserve formatting and images in .docx files. (At least not the specific ones I’m trying to work with.) That’s a deal breaker for me.

Pages does. The file I tested with looked exactly as it did in Word for Mac, except Pages was much faster. Yay!

For equations, the best solution for cross-platform compatibility appears to be MathType, which integrates seamlessly with Pages (or Word) and can copy and paste to/from NWP. However, this approach depends on the Windows user also using either MathType or Equation Editor (a lighter weight version of MathType that ships with Word for Windows). In this particular case, my client apparently did not do that, so there doesn’t seem to be any Mac-based way to edit whatever it was they sent. Blech.

(For those who care, Pages just deletes elements that it doesn’t understand. Word leaves a placeholder, which I think is slightly preferable.)



That’s the reason why I still use Word for Windows: None of the Word alternatives on the Windows side (OpenOffice Writer, Softmaker, Papyrus, Abiword) really preserves revision tracking from Word files. And comments are often also a problem.

I almost lost a big project because of that: My client had entered a number of comments and revisions in Word 2007, and my OpenOffice Writer only displayed part of them - so I left half of the comments/questions unanswered. The result: I ended up with a really furious client on the phone calling me names. Only after opening the file in Word I discovered what OpenOffice Writer had “suppressed”.

So, if revision tracking and comments are important in your work, you’d better do intense testing of your Word alternatives before throwing Word out.


Not sure if you use Windows but if you do, you may want to check Atlantis. I switched over to using it several years ago when Word really started to slow down on my old laptop especially when dealing with large documents.

Atlantis flies in comparison. It is rather old fashioned looking and has the odd omission of not handling tables (not a problem for me most of the time) but on the up side it supports RTF, DOC and DOCX (as well as others including export to epub format).

What I’ve grown to love about it is the ability to suggest a feature and have a good chance of it being implemented (often very quickly). For example, I suggested a ‘show overlong sentences’ feature (a bad habit of mine) and it’s in there now along with ‘overused words’, ‘writing time’ and a number of others.