When Microsoft Word 2013 (part of Office 365) decided not to support UK writers we had a rant! In fact, we were quite prepared and ready to start a revolt campaign against them, but quite frankly who has the time and botheration when your novels are waiting to be written and self-published. So (sighhhh), instead we decided to find some alternatives to Microsoft Word.
There is a site we found which seems to be an excellent resource for finding alternatives. We first used it to find alternatives to Dropbox when saving your self-published files to a cloud data storage system. The site is called AlternativeTo and you simply type into the search box what you want to find alternatives for - so we typed in Microsoft Word and it produced this list of alternative software that you can consider if you want an alternative to using Word.
Here's the ones we tried that did work.
AbiWord is a free word processing program similar to Microsoft® Word. It is suitable for a wide variety of word processing tasks. It looks very basic, but certainly extremely functional. If you are used to writing in an uncluttered environment this could your alternative to Microsoft Word. The best thing we found out straight away is that you can easily choose to have UK English as a default language. So we thought Yipppeeee ... but wait. You are given the option to select this when downloading the software so DON'T just click through all the 'Next>>' buttons, read each window as you are setting up the software.
However, we were disappointed that despite doing this, it still opens a new document with US English! Grrrr ...
But you can overcome this by going to Tools > set language > make default for document. That is, of course, if you can be bothered to do that with each document. Still a pain in the butt, I have to say.
You can view screenshots and take a tour before you download the software.
WPS Office Home is free or you can choose the home premium for $2.99 monthly and the business edition for $4.99 monthly. Sadly, auto-save and document encryption is included in the 2.99 version, but over a year that only costs $30, so not so bad. We use auto-save all the time as it protects every word you write in case your fingers are too fast and too furious on the keyboard and you accidently undo some text that you cannot recover. It happens!! So not having a facility to save your words as you type without thinking about it, is a downside to this software.
It also downloads with the office premium look and feel and functions so you don't know what the free basic home edition looks like until 30 days have passed. You may want to wait that out before using it and getting too used to this new alternative software. Or, if after the 30 days lapses and it reverts to basic and if you find that you prefer the home premium you can always fork out the $30.
WPS Office also offers you the following:
- Includes Presentation, Writer and Spreadsheets
- Fully compatible with Microsoft PowerPoint, Word and Excel
- Supports DOC, XLS, PPT, TXT, PDF and more
- Easily switch between open documents using our Priority Tabs feature
- Quickly share documents with built in emailing function
- Keep your work safe with auto-save and document encryption
- Access to 100’s of free templates
- Access to WPS Cloud and File Roaming
As mentioned above, WPS Office also has presentation and spreadsheets which is like PowerPoint and Excel, but let's focus on the Writer.
- Fully compatible with Microsoft Word
- Rich text, paragraph and shape formatting features
- Make quick changes to margins and spacing using our Paragraph tool
- Advanced collaboration features including track changes, spell check and comments
- Numerous page layout tools
Now we wait to see what the basic free version looks like after a month of using this alternative to Microsoft Word. Fingers and toes are crossed XX.
UPDATE: I loved WPS Writer so much, I had to move over.
What I liked about WPS Writer is that it has a familiar look to Microsoft Word with the same amount of innovative features. One thing I found quite quickly, which Microsoft Word does not have (I think) is the ability to change the view to protect your eyes. In 'View' I spotted this and when selected it dulls the screen and puts a soft greenish layer over the bright white to stop the glare. Most writers who spend countless hours behind a glaring screen will know about eye strain and the resulting headaches. After using this for a month on the free trial, you will see the benefit WPS Writer offers an author.
For the past month I have not cursed and struggled with ensuring my novel manuscript is in UK English. Once I had set the language, WPS Writer alerted me to my typos and even showed me where my original manuscript had inadvertently used US English. Phew!
A Few Niggles
When I upgrade and bought the software, I tried to save some changes and it wouldn't let me. At first, I thought it wasn't going to allow this most basic of functions. But the Free Version of the software does allow for saving of files, but it is limited to the formats in which files can be saved. The Microsoft Office 2007 formats (docs, xlsx, etc.) are premium formats, available only to paid users. So if you want to stick to the paid version, make sure you 'save as' in the right format for the free version. Somehow I don't think you'll want to stick to the free version because the software is only $30 per year for the home version and offers UK writers the ability to write freely without fretting and fussing.
Another thing you may find with WPS Office - don't trust the word count. I knew that my manuscript from Word had been in the region of 85 thousand words, yet it showed as 95 thousand words in WPS. It seems that WPS is picking up random characters as words. A spokesperson at WPS told me that this is a problem they are currently trying to fix. Updates on this will follow.
If you are used to be able to move chapters up and down within your document map, you can't do this in WPS. I'm not sure if they have this in development, but for writers who spend a huge amount of time within their Word Processing Software, all these little innovations make a huge difference to your writing day!
Find out more about using WPS Home Office.
Other Word Processing Software
There are lots of writing software programmes out there too, such as Scrivener, which is excellent for plotting and planning journals, writing projects, brochures etc. However, millions of UK writers prefer to use the standard software programmes such as Word that offers them more proofing flexibility and ease of use when actually writing the document. That is, of course, older versions of Word not 2013.
Paula Wynne is the founder of Book Hub. She started Book Hub out of a need to market and promote her own fiction. As well as running Book Hub, Paula is an author with several published books.
Paula's Writers' Resource Series features the following books: Pimp My Fiction: How to Write a Novel with The Ultimate List of Creative Writing Books to Create A Plot & Build Character; A~Z Writers’ Character Quirks: A~ Z of Behaviours, Foibles, Habits, Mannerisms & Quirks for Writers’ to Create Fictional and 101 Writers’ Scene Settings: Unique Location Ideas & Sensory Details for Writers’ to Create Vivid Scene.