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You are here: MacNN Forums > Software - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Applications > can someone recommend a free word processing program?

can someone recommend a free word processing program?
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macfantn
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Dec 5, 2010, 11:35 AM
 
I need something simple for my parents to use on their new mac mini. They used to use apple works on their old mini, but i want to put something new on this machine.
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ghporter
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Dec 5, 2010, 11:44 AM
 
Open/NeoOffice. Free, full-featured but easy to use. Compatible with just about every file format used in word processing, too.

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
macfantn  (op)
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Dec 5, 2010, 11:49 AM
 
is it easy to use? my parents are computer illiterate.
"I'm sick of following my dreams. I'm just going to ask them where they're goin', and hook up with them later"
     
ghporter
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Dec 5, 2010, 12:10 PM
 
It's pretty easy, but NO word processor is so obvious that it can be used without at least some training. Open/Neo work pretty much like Word, so if you can show 'em the basics and maybe a few tricks, they should be able to use the software without too much effort.

And don't sell your parents short. Just because they're your parents doesn't mean they are not able to pick up technology like this pretty easily.

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
Douglashh
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Dec 5, 2010, 12:15 PM
 
     
reader50
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Dec 5, 2010, 02:35 PM
 
You could encourage them to try TextEdit. It won't do as much as AppleWorks, but if all they do is letters, TextEdit would be enough.
     
Spheric Harlot
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Dec 5, 2010, 03:19 PM
 
NeoOffice/OpenOffice is absolutely TERRIBLE. It's a shit-ugly open-source-committee copy of that pinnacle of human interface design, Microsoft Office.

The only justifications for it are needing Office compatibility, and that it's free, and thus offers excellent value compared to MS Office - your time against comprehensive functionality (vs. your time AND MONEY against comprehensive functionality).

Seriously: If you want simple, go TextEdit.

If you want usable but wow and look-I-made-this-birthday-invitation-by-myself!, get iWork.
     
Big Mac
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Dec 5, 2010, 05:54 PM
 
Neo/Open Office isn't absolutely terrible. It's not pretty or fast, but it's wonderful when you need an Office replacement.

It is complete overkill for what macfan's parents' needs, though. macfan, have you looked at low-cost Mac word processors like Mariner Write or Nisus Writer? If free is the absolute objective then TextEdit is the ticket, but it's not that friendly or feature rich.
( Last edited by Big Mac; Dec 5, 2010 at 06:00 PM. )

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tagged1
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Dec 5, 2010, 06:13 PM
 
OpenOffice is the way to go. No issues with any MS files you cross either
     
cgc
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Dec 5, 2010, 07:55 PM
 
I second Bean.
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turtle777
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Dec 5, 2010, 08:26 PM
 
I second Spheric.

-t
     
reader50
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Dec 5, 2010, 09:52 PM
 
There is also the simple solution. AW still works fine even under 10.6, provided all the install files are present. You could let them continue using the word processor they are happy with. And that will open all their previous AW files.
     
Big Mac
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Dec 5, 2010, 11:20 PM
 
That's not an optimal solution. A user will run into problems sooner or later trying to rely on AppleWorks on a modern OS. I used to use it on Leopard for light database needs and ran into crashes related to recent items.

"The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground." TJ
     
reader50
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Dec 5, 2010, 11:28 PM
 
Big Mac, you may have some other issue, like in the preferences file. I've been using the AW database for years, including on Leopard without issue. note: on a G5, so I can't speak for Rosetta translation.
     
Spheric Harlot
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Dec 6, 2010, 02:09 AM
 
AppleWorks is NOT a solution; it's a crutch.

It's hopelessly dated, scrolling doesn't work, menu commands can be randomly lost, page formatting gets messed up (specifically, borders) with no way to access the appropriate page setup dialog, and the package may simply no longer open after some time.
     
besson3c
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Dec 6, 2010, 02:38 AM
 
How about Google Docs?
     
Big Mac
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Dec 6, 2010, 04:30 AM
 
Originally Posted by reader50 View Post
Big Mac, you may have some other issue, like in the preferences file. I've been using the AW database for years, including on Leopard without issue. note: on a G5, so I can't speak for Rosetta translation.
Maybe it's related to the version I have, which came long ago from my iBook, but it's a problem others have reported.

AppleWorks, a totally orphaned software suite not updated for years, is not a solution for modern times.

"The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground." TJ
     
cgc
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Dec 6, 2010, 07:49 PM
 
Originally Posted by turtle777 View Post
I second Spheric.

-t
Then I 0.5 Turtle.
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subego
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Dec 9, 2010, 07:10 PM
 
One more vote for OpenOffice being a frigging nightmare. It's the perfect option if you hate your parents.
     
ghporter
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Dec 9, 2010, 07:42 PM
 
It sounds like there's tons of hate for Open/Neo Office. I don't see it being a "nightmare" at all, though it's certainly not "intuitively obvious" to a first time user. It's clunky, sure. But if you don't have a huge backlog of habits for using other software, it's not like it would be any clunkier than any other suite.

On reflection though, I think Works is probably the best way to go. It's pretty easy to use, and it's not terribly deep, so there isn't a lot of confusing stuff to deal with. Maybe it's not "modern," but again, if the user has never used another word processor, what will he/she compare it to?

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
Spheric Harlot
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Dec 10, 2010, 02:16 AM
 
You mean AppleWorks?

No Way. The only thing worse than clunky, ugly, and overloaded is unpredictable.
     
ghporter
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Dec 10, 2010, 07:34 AM
 
Originally Posted by Spheric Harlot View Post
You mean AppleWorks?

No Way. The only thing worse than clunky, ugly, and overloaded is unpredictable.
Bad choice of wording on my part-I meant iWork. Fairly simple word processing should be a whole lot like typing, but with simple enhancements that make it easier, plus saving and printing options that are also simple. iWork's word processing fits in that category.

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
Spheric Harlot
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Dec 10, 2010, 08:05 AM
 
Not wording: just a typo, I see.

Yes, iWork is cool. Carry on.
     
subego
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Dec 10, 2010, 12:33 PM
 
I miss WriteNow.
     
ibook_steve
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Dec 10, 2010, 02:44 PM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
I miss WriteNow.
+1

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is not
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Dec 10, 2010, 03:59 PM
 
Originally Posted by ibook_steve View Post
+1

Steve
myWritings is the word processor for the rest of us, and all those missing WriteNow.

But is not free.
     
subego
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Dec 10, 2010, 05:11 PM
 
Originally Posted by is not View Post
and all those missing WriteNow.
Hey... That's me!
     
subego
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Dec 10, 2010, 05:15 PM
 
Originally Posted by ghporter View Post
It sounds like there's tons of hate for Open/Neo Office. I don't see it being a "nightmare" at all, though it's certainly not "intuitively obvious" to a first time user. It's clunky, sure. But if you don't have a huge backlog of habits for using other software, it's not like it would be any clunkier than any other suite.
I'm talking about mortals who aren't getting paid to use it.

If you administrate a vBull forum, and can reconfigure a network with the power of your mind, you probably have the chops to deal with OO.
     
ghporter
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Dec 11, 2010, 07:49 AM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
I'm talking about mortals who aren't getting paid to use it.

If you administrate a vBull forum, and can reconfigure a network with the power of your mind, you probably have the chops to deal with OO.
I learned Word in the gutter-I used the "try this to see what happens" method, and wound up as a power user in most people's minds. (In this case "power user" means that I could do footnotes, indices and headers without stumbling around too much; the bar is not that high for most corporate Word users I've been around.)

As an admin for this forum I personally only dink around with the more mundane nuts-and-bolts. I leave real code to the real coders. But point taken on how my point of view might appear. Let me establish a couple of things to hopefully "re-scale" what that point of view really is.

I spent over a decade teaching people from all walks of life how to use all sorts of high technology systems-from digitally tuned air traffic control radios to computer managed airborne satellite communications terminals. The HARDEST teaching challenge was always "how to use a basic computer to type a letter." I got pretty good at it.

If an adult has EVER learned to type and can use a mouse independently, he/she can learn to use Word (or any word processing app) for basic functions in about two days of practice with appropriate coaching. The very hardest first step in all of this is convincing the user that they are not going to "melt down the computer" or "launch the missiles" if they click on the wrong thing.

One more point: patience is everything. The best way to help someone learn is to point them in the right direction and let them try. Keeping your own mitts off the keyboard and mouse while they're trying is very difficult (you really want to help!) but it's essential. Wait for them to say "I think I need help," and then provide just enough help to get them back on track. Doing things for them (outside of demonstrating a process the first couple of times) is NOT helpful.

At age 75, my dad took an "adult education" course in basic computer use. He wound up helping the instructor by helping his classmates. My dad has never accepted any suggestion that he could not do what he tried (a common thing in his generation), and as a result he's wound up able to handle just about any situation or challenge. Don't mistake "lack of exposure and experience" to "lack of ability."

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
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Dec 11, 2010, 01:41 PM
 
Originally Posted by ghporter View Post
Open/NeoOffice. Free, full-featured but easy to use. Compatible with just about every file format used in word processing, too.
Let me agree on NeoOffice and let me add a few comments on set up. Show them the Preferences options in the menu. Show them how to use the SaveAs option for saving files. Set the thing up to save in MS Word 97 (dot doc) for word processing files and to save in Excel 97 (dot xls) for spreadsheets. Then they can exchange files with their friends.
sam
     
subego
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Dec 11, 2010, 08:57 PM
 
Originally Posted by ghporter View Post
I learned Word in the gutter-I used the "try this to see what happens" method...
This attitude right here is I think what separates the geeks from the norms. If you have this, it doesn't really matter what you put in front of someone.

I often want to teach someone how to use a program by saying "just play with it". Of course, the people who understand how to do that don't need me to teach them anything.
     
ghporter
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Dec 11, 2010, 11:00 PM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
This attitude right here is I think what separates the geeks from the norms. If you have this, it doesn't really matter what you put in front of someone.

I often want to teach someone how to use a program by saying "just play with it". Of course, the people who understand how to do that don't need me to teach them anything.
I also learned oil painting (I'm not creative enough to stick with it, but I have the technique down), use of a sewing machine, and basic masonry skills this way. It's not a "geek" thing; it's a "let's figure this out" thing. To teach things to folks that need the help, you need to point them in a direction and tell them to look for various things. Just playing with things won't help if they don't have a goal, but the "things learned on the way to learning other things" effect is amazingly productive.

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
l008com
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Dec 12, 2010, 12:47 AM
 
NeoOffice is dead isn't it? There's just OpenOffice now. And as of 3.2.1, it's really fast on intel macs and have a very mature icon set. No more foolish looking purple pirate ships. I vote for OpenOffice. It's free. It can do what they need. And it can probably do anything they may need in the future. And the spreadsheet works just like any other spreadsheet i've ever used. Which is plenty good enough for me. It's not as pretty as iWork but who cares.
     
dimmer
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Dec 12, 2010, 01:39 AM
 
It somewhat depends upon their use of the program: if it's for basic letter writing and so forth, then anything from TextEdit on up will suffice. Do they have a decent broadband connection? If not, Google Docs isn't a good idea. Office and it's work-alikes are brutally complex, bloated, slow and just damn unpleasant to use.

AppleWorks does have the problem that it's not being developed anymore, and won't be, but there again it's not going to suddenly stop working (this side of Lion anyway). How many years do you think your folks have in them?

iWork is a really nice application, easy and fun to use but still powerful. I'd recommend at least letting them use the trial version and see if they like it.

Personally, I still think MacWrite Pro was the best word processing software evah... (and not just because Claris quoted me in some of their sales materials either.)
     
dimmer
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Dec 12, 2010, 01:50 AM
 
Originally Posted by is not View Post
myWritings is the word processor for the rest of us, and all those missing WriteNow.

But is not free.
Nope, but it's very, very cheap (and behaves itself as a good shareware app should).

A brief trial of myWritings shows it to be a pretty nice little app. Def. worth checking out.
     
CharlesS
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Dec 12, 2010, 02:15 AM
 
Originally Posted by dimmer View Post
AppleWorks does have the problem that it's not being developed anymore, and won't be, but there again it's not going to suddenly stop working (this side of Lion anyway). How many years do you think your folks have in them?
It already stopped working years ago (if you care about saving your work, anyway).

Apple - Support - Discussions - kworks: AppleWorks fails to save ...

There are plenty of examples on this forum of people being bitten by this bug and having their homework eaten, Ellen Feiss-style. You can find plenty if you do a search. Most of the posts are from several years ago, but since AW hasn't been actively developed for some time, I doubt it's been fixed since then. There are a lot of good word processors out there — find one that works well for you and that you like. But for Pete's sake, get one that you can at least trust to save your work.

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Spheric Harlot
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Dec 12, 2010, 07:09 AM
 
Originally Posted by l008com View Post
I vote for OpenOffice. […] It's not as pretty as iWork but who cares.
Good interface is not about teh Pretty.
     
SVass
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Dec 12, 2010, 11:45 AM
 
Originally Posted by l008com View Post
NeoOffice is dead isn't it? There's just OpenOffice now. And as of 3.2.1, it's really fast on intel macs and have a very mature icon set. No more foolish looking purple pirate ships. I vote for OpenOffice. It's free. It can do what they need. And it can probably do anything they may need in the future. And the spreadsheet works just like any other spreadsheet i've ever used. Which is plenty good enough for me. It's not as pretty as iWork but who cares.
No, you are wrong! NeoOffice is alive and far better than Open Office!
NeoOffice Downloads
Both Open Office and Microsoft Office have some "features" that are unacceptable in that neither will open files saved in the new XML format invented by MicroSoft. NeoOffice will. NeoOffice also runs macros that Microsoft has not chosen to allow Mac people to use even though they are work in Windows.
I repeat my earlier advice to show the elderly how to save as files in old formats in order to allow humanity to open them.
sam
(PS-I have a new, complimentary copy of MS Office 2011 for the Macintosh and they changed the user interface once again to make it more like the PC version. I am too old and ornery to relearn a simple interface. Do not give it to the elderly.)
     
besson3c
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Dec 12, 2010, 03:03 PM
 
Originally Posted by Spheric Harlot View Post
Good interface is not about teh Pretty.

Yeah, but I don't care about having an optimal experience when I need a word processor, I'd personally rather use something sub-optimal than pay money for iWork or MS Office. I rarely need a word processor, when I do I don't need anything terribly fancy, and when I do I'm not looking for an ideal user experience, it's just a matter of finding something that works and will get the job done so I can get it done and move on.

Surely there are others like me in this respect.
     
Spheric Harlot
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Dec 12, 2010, 04:51 PM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
Yeah, but I don't care about having an optimal experience when I need a word processor, I'd personally rather use something sub-optimal than pay money for iWork or MS Office. I rarely need a word processor, when I do I don't need anything terribly fancy, and when I do I'm not looking for an ideal user experience, it's just a matter of finding something that works and will get the job done so I can get it done and move on.

Surely there are others like me in this respect.
I'm sure macfantn is as surprised as I am to hear that you are his father.
     
Spheric Harlot
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Dec 12, 2010, 04:53 PM
 
Originally Posted by SVass View Post
PS-I have a new, complimentary copy of MS Office 2011 for the Macintosh and they changed the user interface once again to make it more like the PC version. I am too old and ornery to relearn a simple interface. Do not give it to the elderly.)
Amazing, isn't it?

Microsoft does everything they possibly can to DIScourage people from continuing to purchase their products.
     
ghporter
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Dec 12, 2010, 05:38 PM
 
Originally Posted by SVass View Post
No, you are wrong! NeoOffice is alive and far better than Open Office!
NeoOffice Downloads
Both Open Office and Microsoft Office have some "features" that are unacceptable in that neither will open files saved in the new XML format invented by MicroSoft. NeoOffice will. NeoOffice also runs macros that Microsoft has not chosen to allow Mac people to use even though they are work in Windows.
I repeat my earlier advice to show the elderly how to save as files in old formats in order to allow humanity to open them.
sam
(PS-I have a new, complimentary copy of MS Office 2011 for the Macintosh and they changed the user interface once again to make it more like the PC version. I am too old and ornery to relearn a simple interface. Do not give it to the elderly.)
Office 2008 (and Office 2004 with the FREE update) handle ALL of MS's XML-based file formats without any problem. OpenOffice 3.x will open the XML-based file formats, but apparently won't save in those formats. This may or may not be an issue for many users-just about everything accepts the older, pre-XML formats...

I have not bothered to get Office 2011 because I really don't like the new user interface. I think it goes beyond what the Windows version's interface does-and that's not a good thing.

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
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Dec 12, 2010, 06:22 PM
 
Originally Posted by Spheric Harlot View Post
I'm sure macfantn is as surprised as I am to hear that you are his father.

What if I am his father? One mustn't make assumptions...
     
turtle777
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Dec 12, 2010, 06:30 PM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
What if I am his father? One mustn't make assumptions...
I am your father.

Shut up, son.

-t
     
besson3c
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Dec 12, 2010, 10:54 PM
 
Originally Posted by turtle777 View Post
I am your father.

Shut up, son.

-t

But you said that if I cleaned my room I could play on MacNN!
     
turtle777
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Dec 13, 2010, 01:40 AM
 
Shut up, son.

-t
     
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Dec 13, 2010, 11:45 AM
 
Originally Posted by ghporter View Post
Office 2008 (...e) handle ALL of MS's XML-based file formats without any problem. OpenOffice 3.x will open the XML-based file formats, but apparently won't save in those formats. This may or may not be an issue for many users-just about everything accepts the older, pre-XML formats...
...
I have not bothered to get Office 2011 because I really don't like the new user interface. I think it goes beyond what the Windows version's interface does-and that's not a good thing.
Office 2008-Excel will not open files saved in XML format from FTDNA project sites nor will it accept data paste ins from their spreadsheet like data files. As this is the major amateur yDNA data generator in the world with around 200,000 different males having data entered who are tracing their paternal ancestry, this defect is well-known. The Windows version does work. NeoOffice also works.
sam
     
besson3c
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Dec 13, 2010, 03:35 PM
 
Originally Posted by turtle777 View Post
Shut up, son.

-t

You're the worst father I've ever had!
     
turtle777
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Dec 13, 2010, 03:47 PM
 
I'm doing my worst.

-t
     
dimmer
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Dec 14, 2010, 03:11 AM
 
Originally Posted by CharlesS View Post
It already stopped working years ago (if you care about saving your work, anyway).
I must not have been paying attention, as I totally missed that. My bad. I doubt I've ever done much more with AppleWorks in a while outside of getting information out of it. [A quick test on my system didn't have the problem, but that's no reason to gamble on it.]

Thanks for the info Chuck.
     
 
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