***I have recently shifted to using the new web version of Apple Pages on the Chromebook. So far, it is outshining the word processors that I put in this review. After I try a few more things, I’ll update this to include a detailed review of it. Until then, you can try it out at www.icloud.com.***
A couple months ago, I wrote a review for the Acer Chromebook–A machine that I am still happily using–in order to talk about the specs of the computer itself. However, I have been getting a few hits on the site lately from people searching for whether the Chromebook can use Word and other similar Office apps. No doubt, this is due to the recent release of Office 2013. I feel bad for you guys out there looking for some answers, so here it is the answer, first up, in my top 5 word processors for Google Chromebooks: *PS These are in no particular order.
To answer the question, “Does the Chromebook support Word?” Yes. Sort of. With the release of Office 2013, Microsoft gave us a great gift, Office Web Apps. Basically, it’s like office 2010 still exists, but free, and complete online. You just go to skydrive.com, log in (or create a quick account), and start making docs for free using your familiar Word interface. The Best reason to use this is that it recognizes all the .doc formats from Offices past. Of course this isn’t anything new. It’s basically Microsoft’s answer to Google Drive, which you already have pre-installed on your Chromebook with an offline mode. But hey, it’s Word. It’s free. No Complaints.
This is my current favorite! What is scriptito? Basically, it’s a word processor with tools geared towards novelists, research writers, script writers and so on. If you’ve used Scrivener, then you get the idea. No, you wouldn’t use it to make a resume or a flyer for your upcoming magic show; that’s what Word is for. But you would love it for those other things I mentioned earlier. Also, it exports your files as anything you want, including epub files for uploading to Kindles and such, which again, is perfect for authors. For previewing your work as you go it has a distraction-free reading mode that presents your project in a clean page-turn style so you can get a feel for how it is coming along. Word 2013 has this feature, but it also costs 140 bucks; Scriptito is free. Quickly, other neat features are sticky notes, character charts, storyboards, collaboration and commenting with friends, and a community of readers on Scriptito who read each others books, which can be shared right on the site.
There are a lot of other features that get me excited, but this isn’t just about Scriptito, and I get that not everyone is an aspiring author so… moving on to:
3. Zoho Writer
Zoho isn’t a whole lot different than MS Word or Google Drive, but it is solid and responsive. It’s a viable alternative that always works well. It has a couple cool features like a plugin for Office, so you can sync your .doc files, and customizable styles, so if you always want a blue, 16pt, helvetica header on your docs, you can set it to be that way. I honestly don’t use it that much because, like Word, it’s very similar to Google Drive, and I already have Drive built in to my Chromebook, so why would I want to use something third party? It is a good product though. They definitely get a tip ‘o the hat. (In fact Drive and Word are having issues right now as I write this, but Zoho is still chugging along.)
4. Just Write
If you’ve spent any time looking at word processors online then you you’ve probably seen more than a few minimalist writing apps. You almost can’t throw the word “Word” into a search bar without hitting one. They are all the same. You click the app and start writing. Done. There are no formatting tools, or distracting menus and such, just a blank screen. The few features they do have are Saving, Exporting, and Word Counting. Out of them all, Just Write is my favorite. There aren’t any bells or whistles to compare, so I just go by the screen on this one. I like the dark grey background. It’s nice on the eyes, when I’ve been staring at white for too long.
5. Google Drive
If you have a Chromebook, you can’t forget about this option. It’s got all the features of Word and Zoho. But unlike it’s competitors, it auto-saves to your Google Drive folder as you are working. The only other apps in this list that auto-save are Scriptito and Just Write, but neither one saves to a desktop folder for easy access like Drive. That is just the advantage of staying with the proprietary software of your device. It’s like using Pages on a Mac, or Word on a PC; It’s just made to work with what you have. It also works offline, which is the biggest deal-breaker for most meople. If you are ever without internet–Which I have to admit I never am–this will be your best option. And to answer the “But my work uses Office” problem: You can export a file from Drive as a ppt, xlc, doc, or docx so you’re covered, if you need to send a speadsheet to your boss.
For more Chromebook stuff, check out my article listing couple great alternatives to Skype for the Google Chromebook.