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Best word processors for GNU/Linux

Word processing is an important part of work – and not just office work; everyone needs word processors at some point. This is the first article in the series ‘Best Open Source Apps’ and here I will talk about the most popular open source word processors for GNU/Linux: AbiWord, Calligra Words and LibreOffice Writer. I didn’t take OpenOffice Writer because it is not all that different from LibreOffice Writer.

The factors I’ve considered for each contender are:

  • Ease of use and intuitiveness
  • Support for ODT, DOCX and PDF formats (because at times you just can’t avoid DOCX, no matter what.)
  • Interoperability (how a file created in one word processor renders in another.)

Here’s what I did to test them out:

  • I created a file in each of them from scratch.
  • Added some headings, an image and a table, and tried to play with each of these elements, to determine the user-friendliness. (Don’t look at the contents of my file. They won’t make sense to everyone.)
  • Saved it in ODT, DOCX and PDF formats and tried to open each of them in different apps. Additionally, for AbiWord, I also tried its native ABW format.

AbiWord is a part of the so-called GNOME Office. Thanks to its resource-friendliness, it comes preinstalled in most Xfce and LXDE distros. Obviously, it’s a GTK+ app, but unlike others of its kind, it looks rather ugly when run on KDE — since it doesn’t seem to follow the GTK+ style set in KDE’s settings. For some reason, horizontal touchpad scrolling also doesn’t work.

A sample file in AbiWord

A sample file in AbiWord

AbiWord might be lightweight, but that does not mean it lacks features. It has a traditional menu-based interface, and has all the options you might expect: Headers and Footers, Footnotes, Styles, PDF Export, Mail Merge, etc. However, to keep things light, it avoids interactive UI in favour of the conventional button-based UI.

For example, the Format Table dialog allows border editing via buttons for enabling/disabling the borders for the selected cell(s). This can get complicated at times, if you have an oddball table like the one above.

The Format Table dialog in AbiWord

The Format Table dialog in AbiWord

One thing I particularly liked was the Create and Modify Styles dialog. It shows only those styles which you have used in the document, thus getting rid of the clutter.

Styles dialog in AbiWord

Styles dialog in AbiWord

Now, I saved this file in ABW, ODT, DOCX and PDF formats, and opened it in different apps.

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The ABW format is supported only in AbiWord, so obviously, it works fine.

Libre software evangelist. GNU/Linux geek who distrohops every quarter. Wannabe otaku. City's biggest Pokémaniac.


  1. Does everyone use Numix? I personally love that theme. No more rounded edges with anti-aliasing thanks to those nice sharp corners.

    On topic – Good selection of Word Processors, bu some were left out. An honorable mention should go to Open Office (Yes they are still going), and Google Drive (although technically, it is a browser word processor, and has no Linux Desktop Client. Lotus Symphony (RIP) was quite good when it was going…

    I personally use Libre Office on my i5 Haswell desktop, (and never forget to change the amount of ram allocated to the programme in preferences to 100 MB, as the measly 20 MB they allocate by default makes it crawl. Once you have done that, files will open in a flash).
    On my EEEPC 701, I use Abiword, and again it suits well the small screen and the slow processor.

  2. Sayantan Das

    I think Kingsoft Write has the closest compatibility with .doc and .docx files. You could have included that. Its not opensource, but free for Linux users.

  3. You left out the best one: freeoffice.com

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