In my last post, I wrote about using Scrivener as an alternative to Word when you’re working on very long documents. There are actually a few good word-processing programs out there, and the best one is actually free. OpenOffice Writer does pretty much everything that Word can do, and the fact that it’s opensource means that you can extend its functionality with free plugins. You can still save and open documents in Word format, too, so it’s easy to share files with other people.
Apart from the significant savings you can make on not upgrading Word every few years, OpenOffice Writer also includes a nifty autocomplete feature, which is a bit like predictive text on a mobile phone. Start typing in a long word that you’ve used before, and Writer will try to complete it for you. I find this incredibly useful when I’m typing notes from academic books, which often repeat cumbersome and difficult-to-type words. It saves me time and also reduces error.
Even if you don’t want to abandon Word altogether, just doing some of your writing in another program might make you more efficient. The OpenOffice Suite also includes alternatives to PowerPoint, Excel and Access, so they’re worth a look, too.