Whether you’re a writer, editor, or both, you’re bound to face the question at some point: which office software is the best for writers and copywriters?
To find the answer, let’s first consider what a typical writer’s work entails. You’ll typically need a word processing program, a spreadsheet to keep track of ideas, and a good search engine to find the articles and books that you need for your research. You can also use a tool like Google Docs to create and work on documents with others. (I’ll discuss Google Docs in more detail below.)
Now, let’s move on to the question of which software is the best for each of these needs. With that in mind, here’s a brief guide to the various options available.
For Word Processing:
Most writers and copywriters will need a word processing program to turn ideas into words. Microsoft Word is the most popular and widely used word processing program in the world, so it’s the obvious choice for any writer.
While Microsoft Word is extremely effective and features enough functionality for even the most creative writer, it’s not without its flaws. (I’m sure you’ve heard of the infamous Microsoft Word processor’s memory leak problem.)
If you’re looking for an alternative to Microsoft Word, then consider OpenOffice or LibreOffice, which are open source word processing programs that are available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. (A Google search for “open source word processor” will bring up several alternatives to consider.)
For Spreadsheet Software:
If you’re writing a novel or working on a business plan, you’ll need a spreadsheet program. That way, you can keep track of your ideas and the various calculations that you perform in your research. (I use the built-in Excel spreadsheet on Windows, but you can also use something like Gnumeric for Linux or Mac users.)
There are several alternative spreadsheet programs out there, such as the web-based Google Sheets or the open source OpenOffice spreadsheet. (I’ll discuss Google Sheets and OpenOffice in more detail below.)
For Search Engine Software:
If you want to research a topic or write an article, you’ll need good search engine software. There are dozens of standalone search engines available for download, such as the giant Google, which is the most popular search engine worldwide. (I’ll discuss Google and other search engines in more detail below.)
You might also consider using a search engine within your word processing program. For example, if you have Microsoft Word set to perform its search function, then you can enter a search query into the Word search box and use its search results to your advantage. (I use the built-in Google search function in Microsoft Word, and I find it quite convenient when I need to look up a word or phrase in context.)
For Document Management:
If you need to keep track of multiple documents and need a way to look for specific words or phrases within them, you can use a document management system. These are software programs that let you keep and organize all your documents in a secure location so that you can find them when you need them. (I use the online storage service Dropbox to keep all my documents in one place.)
You can use a separate document management system for each type of document that you create, or you can use a single software package to store and search all of them. If you have a large collection of documents, then the former approach may be preferable as you won’t end up storing duplicate entries in your database. (I discuss this issue in more detail below.)
For Contact Management:
If you have multiple parties that you need to keep track of, such as contacts, clients, prospects, and collaborators, then you can use a contact manager to keep track of all their information. That way, you can ensure that all your communication channels are kept up to date and that you don’t accidentally email the same person multiple times. (I use the contact manager Outlook.com, which is part of the Office 365 subscription service from Microsoft.)
A contact manager will also come in handy if you need to contact a specific person or group of people repeatedly for more complex tasks, such as legal research or long-lead-time procurement. It’s easy to accidentally contact the same person or group of people multiple times when you’re filling out a form or doing some other type of data entry, so having a contact manager helps ensure that you don’t make the same mistake twice.
Last but not least, we have fun. If you’re writing for relaxation or pleasure then you might not need anything more than a word processing program and a big screen TV. (I use the Microsoft Word program on a PC and the TV on an Apple TV to stream movies and TV shows to my lounge room for pleasure.)
If you’re looking for a more engaging experience, however, then consider getting an application specifically designed for writers. (I use the Hummingbird application from Macmillan for my iPad, which is perfect for keeping track of my schedule, notes, and research as I write.)
Now, let’s move on to the question of how you should go about choosing the best office software for writers. As noted above, there are several alternatives to Microsoft Word, and each one has its strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately, it depends on what you need and what type of experience you want. If you’re looking for a complex word processor with a lot of features, then consider LibreOffice or OpenOffice, which are both powerful and feature-packed alternatives to Microsoft Word.
If you’re looking for an easy-to-use and quick word processing program, then choose Google Docs. It’s available for free, and its basic functionality is quite good. Plus, you have the option of collaborating with others online in real time as you type.
Now, let’s take a look at something else that might be important to consider when choosing office software for writers: security. All your documents, spreadsheets, and contacts are valuable to your business, so ensure that all your software leaves as little trace as possible. This means using software that is virus-free and has a clean search history.
When you use publicly-accessible computers at work, it’s important to ensure that your workstation is virus-free. If your workstation is infected with a virus, then your employer may end up paying for your treatment. It’s also important to ensure that your personal information, such as credit card numbers and social security numbers, is safe when you’re using a public computer. This means using a VPN to hide your personal information and prevent others from accessing your data. (I use the TigerVPN app for my Mac — you can get the premium version for as low as $2.95 per month, and you’ll get a free trial for 30 days when you sign up.)
Choose A Software Suite:
Finally, if you’re writing and need more than one program, then consider getting a software suite. A software suite is a collection of related software that works together to create a more cohesive whole. For example, Microsoft Office is a popular software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations — all areas that a writer may need to work in. (The Mac version of Office is called Apple Office, and like Microsoft Office it has its own built-in search function. I use these apps daily, and I’ve been able to perform my writing tasks quickly and accurately. Plus, I get to enjoy the convenience of being able to access my files from anywhere using my phone, tablet, or computer.)
If you’re new to the world of writing or if you’re looking for a way to organize your writing process, then Office suites are a good choice. They’re also a good choice if you need the related programs individually (such as Microsoft Word) and don’t want to buy the entire suite. Instead, you can purchase the individual apps as you need them.
Last but not least, let’s discuss Google Docs. As the name implies, Google Docs is a document-centric collaboration and storage platform that allows for quick and easy sharing and feedback on documents. (You can also use these tools to create presentations, which is handy if you’re doing a lot of work in that area.)
Google Docs is one of the most popular free file hosting services out there, and it has the unique ability to connect to your Gmail account, so all your documents are instantly available from any computer. It also has powerful search controls, which makes it easy to find exactly what you need when you need it.