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Producing docs the free way

Submitted by Ryan P.C. McQuen on March 1, 2012 – 11:30 pm4 Comments

Writing papers is a necessary part of college. No matter your major, you will somewhere down the road need to put out some text.

That being said, most students consider Microsoft’s Office suite an essential college expense, but pay no heed to that adage! You need only Internet access to be producing beautiful documents, and progressing toward that graduation day.

LaTeX has a nice history of producing beautiful documents, and is very popular within Academia, especially masters and doctoral programs. Chances are if you have downloaded some PDFs for research before of peer-reviewed articles, they were made with LaTeX.

If you are running a Windows or Linux system point your browser to to download the installer.

Mac users should head to for the Mac version. LaTeX is powerful, but it isn’t necessarily user-friendly. If you’re planning on writing in a serious manner throughout college, it is worth learning, but if you need something a litte more simple there are other word processing options.

AbiWord is a nice simple word processor for Windows and Linux with just enough features to accomplish things like footnotes and running page numbers. It is free to download from Users familiar with Microsoft Word should have no trouble learning the layout of AbiWord.

Mac users should head over to for the fantastic and free Bean. It has full-screen functionality, and the interface finds a perfect balance between functional and uncluttered. New Mac OS X features like auto-save and tabs make their way into Bean as well, as the developer is quite active.

If you need a fully featured office suite, check out LibreOffice at It is an extension of the now defunct OpenOffice. LibreOffice’s development is continuous, with many updates a month, and is even more full-featured than Microsoft’s Office suite. Even better, it offers 100 percent compatibility with Microsoft formats like .doc and .xls. Mac users should download NeoOffice instead of LibreOffice, because it adds a lot of Mac-like features to Libre’s base code. Things like full-screen, versions and auto resume work in NeoOffice, so if you’re a fan of Mac OS X Lion’s new features NeoOffice is worth your time, otherwise LibreOffice will suffice.

Any way you split it, free word processors are an abundant and viable option for any student, no matter what your computer platform is. Save some money today.



  • Thomas Mears says:

    Um, OpenOffice is still alive and kicking, but it is has been taken over by Apache instead of Oracle.

    • Ryan P.C. McQuen says:

      Alive and kicking seems strong. Maybe defunct was a little harsh, but they have not released a new version since December 2010, while LibreOffice released a new version last month. OpenOffice may not be dead, but it certainly isn’t actively developed, and not nearly at the rate LibreOffice is. Many of the people working on OpenOffice now work on LibreOffice, they forked out in the end of 2010, ironically after the last release of OpenOffice.