Microsoft Word on a Chromebook.

The 3 best word processors for Chromebooks (and how to get Word also)

If you’re looking for a Chromebook word processor, you’ve come to the right place.

I’m guessing you’re a student or professional in need of a word processor to type out documents on your Chromebook. You may have tried to find a way to install Microsoft Word on your laptop, only to find out there’s no actual way to actually install it. Chromebooks don’t even have a CD optical drive.

But don’t worry, there are alternatives to Word that you can use. Chromebooks natively doesn’t support third-party programs, unless they’re apps that are approved for the Chrome Web Store (and if your laptop is Android app compatible, you get those apps too).

This means that you can’t run Word like you’re used to on a Windows desktop, laptop, or smartphone. You’ll have to find a workaround to get it on a Chromebook. This is likely an alternative app from another company that works and performs the same tasks as Word.

And, if you really just want to use Microsoft Word on your Chromebook, there’s a way to do that too. I’ll cover it.

Okay, so enough talk. I know you’re probably a Windows user and you’re in need of Word so you can start typing away, so let’s get started.

 

Getting a Chromebook word processor up and going

As mentioned, Chromebooks don’t natively support Microsoft Word, so you should look for Word alternatives.

The easiest way to do this is to use third-party apps developed by Google or other companies that are basically word processors without the whole “Microsoft” part.

You’ll need to find an app from the Chrome Web Store to do this. I’m going to assume you don’t have access to Android apps, just so we’re all on the same page. Not everyone has a laptop that can run Android apps from the Play Store, but every Chromebook can run Web Store apps. So this guide will work for anyone with a Chromebook.

There are three amazing substitutes you can use instead of Word, and I’ll go over all three of them right now.

 

Word alternative #1: Google Docs

Google Docs is a free word processor for Chromebooks.
Get Google Docs. It’s probably the best word processor on Chromebook with full integration.

This is probably my favorite word processor (yes, I like it more than Word). It’s made by Google and works exactly like Word. The only difference is that it’s actually easier to use and it saves every second- literally.

Google Docs is like a slimmed-down version of Word, but not exactly. The navigation bars are simpler and everything you need is right there. For the more abstract tasks, you can find it but you’ll have to dig through the menus. But chances are that you won’t have to go looking for anything, as Docs puts everything you need right in front of you. Think of it like a quick-access navigation bar.

So, Docs isn’t really a slimmed down version. It’s just a simpler version that can do pretty much everything that Word can do…without the clutter.

Google Docs is a Microsoft Word alternative for Chromebooks.
An alternative to Word is Google Docs- it’s faster, easier, and constantly saves your work on your Chromebook.

What I really like about Google Docs as an alternative to Microsoft Word is that it’s lean, faster, and it saves everything you do in the cloud (Google’s servers). And by everything, I literally mean it.

As you type, make changes, and whatever else, Docs will automatically save your changes. There’s a little text box near the top of the screen that saves “Saving…” or “All changes saved in Drive.” As you go through your document, you’ll see it constantly updating so you never lose you work.

Yes, you’ll need a Google Drive account to get going, but it’s basically set up for you as soon as you launch your first Doc.

If your Chromebook loses WiFi connection, you can turn on offline sync so it’ll automatically update when a connection is regained. You literally have no way to lose your work.

Compared to Word, sometimes my laptop runs out of power unexpectedly since the battery meter isn’t calibrated. Or maybe it forces a refresh because of some other program installed. Or my desktop will update overnight with Windows Update and restart itself. All my work has been vanished. It’s one of the biggest wastes of time.

This is a major reason why I turned to Docs. If you’re used to Word, and you need a word processor for your Chromebook, use Docs. It’s made in a way similar to Word so you know where everything is. And the help menu actually helps. You can search for something and get an answer. Just try it. You’ll like it.

You can even save your files as Word files (.docx, etc.) even if you typed the whole thing up with Google Docs. How cool is that?

And if you like collaborating with others, or if you just have a group project, you can easily work with them using Docs. You can see who’s in the same “room” as you, the changes everyone has made, and where everyone’s cursor is to see what they’re working on. You can also make comments and directly communicate with each other as well. It makes writing documents a party for all. Join in.

I use Docs for everything- writing, making to-do lists, saving personal memos, capturing screenshots, taking notes, and even writing some of these articles (like the one you’re reading now).

You don’t need to download nor install anything to get Google Docs. It’s all web-based. Just go here.

Word alternative #2: Use your Chromebook’s native file editor

Chromebook Microsoft Office alternatives.
Your Chromebook has a built-in native Word, Excel, and PowerPoint reader.

You can easily view, edit, and open Word files on by using your Chromebook’s native built-in file editor. This means you can open a Word file that you download from your email, USB drive, cloud service, or whatever other means you can grab one.

Simply open it up and you’ll be able to make changes to it. You can also save it in the same “.docx.” format even if you edit it with the native editor.

You can open up a Word, Excel, or PowerPoint file on your Chromebook by doing the following:

Step 1: Grab the Word file and save it to your Chromebook. This should be self-explanatory, but I understand that many readers aren’t familiar with Chromebooks, so I’ll break it down:

  • If you’re getting it from your email, download it and it’ll be in your “Downloads” folder.
  • If you’re importing it from a flash drive, open up the file explorer and connect to your USB drive. Find the Word file and save it to your Chromebook.
  • If you’re downloading it from a cloud service, like Google Drive, just save it and it’ll show up in your “Downloads” folder.

 

Step 2: After you’ve saved the Word file, click on the Launcher icon in the bottom-left of your screen. You can also just press the “Search” key on your keyboard (where the “Caps Lock” key is on a traditional Windows keyboard).
Step 3: Click on “All Apps” then go to “Files.”

Step 4: Find the Word or Office file, double-click it, and it’ll open up in your native file editor.

Step 5: Make your changes, edits, and whatever else you need to do.

Step 6: If you want to save it in the same format so you can easily open it on a Windows computer, save it in the same format it previously was by going to “Save As…” and then choosing the proper file type.

(If you’re new to Chromebooks, you may want to check out this beginner’s guide to get up and going.)

Are you getting a “file not supported” error?

The file type must be: .doc, .docx, .xls, .xlsx, .ppt, .pptx for it to open. If it doesn’t open, it could be corrupted or larger than the size limits that’s allowed. If you get a “file not supported” error, try opening up the file on your Windows computer and breaking it down into parts or removing any images from it. Save it again. Then try to open it again on your Chromebook.

 

Word alternative #3: Use an app

Chrome Web Store offers Microsoft Office alternatives.
Chrome has a bunch of Microsoft Office alternatives on the Chrome Web Store.

There are plenty of Microsoft Office apps available for Chrome OS. The most reliable one is made by Google and has full support for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

It’s an app you add to your Chrome web browser. It’ll allow you to view, edit, and save Office files without needing to install any Microsoft products on your computer. It works not just for Chromebooks, but any computer running Chrome Internet browser- this means you can use it on a Windows or Mac computer as well.

It’s very easy to use too. Once you install it and activate it, you can drag Word files into Gmail, Chrome, Drive, and more. Depending on where you drag them, it’ll open up with Docs, Sheets, or Slides automatically.

You can also save them in their original formats when you’re done making changes so you can open them up on their original computer without a hitch. Or if you’re working with others for a group project, you can send them as their native file type so others (who aren’t using Chromebooks) can open them easily. How generous.

The app is called “Office Editing for Docs, Sheets, and Slides” and it’s fully supported by any Chrome-native device, or any devices running Chrome.

It supports the following formats:

  • doc
  • .docx
  • .xls
  • .xlix
  • .ppt
  • .pptx

So, you can use this app if you don’t want to install any programs, mess around with different apps, and want it to just work out-of-the-box.

You can grab it here.

Note that if you’re using a Chromebook, you probably already have this installed by default.

 

“Downloading” Microsoft Word on Chromebook

Okay, if you’ve made it this far, you probably really want Microsoft Word on your Chromebook.

As you should know by now, you can’t just install Word, or any Office product, on a Chromebook. That’s why we had to use all these workarounds above. Chromebooks don’t natively support any third-party programs, as they only support apps downloaded from the Chrome web store, or Google Play store if your Chromebook is compatible.

So, you really want a Microsoft-supported version of Word on your Chromebook? There’s only one way to get it- via app.

Thankfully, Microsoft does offer a third-party app called “Word Online” just for Chrome browser and Chromebook users.

Word Online is the closest to Microsoft Office you can get

Microsoft Word on a Chromebook.
You can get Microsoft Word via web app from the Chrome Web Store.

It allows you to create, edit, and collaborate on Word documents. You can create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations all from a live web app through your Chrome browser. This means you don’t need to download anything to your computer. It all works through the Internet.

You can also save anything you create to your OneDrive cloud service if you’re a user of it.

The collaboration feature allows you to have others make edits to your files so you can all work together at the same time. It works exactly like the one Google Docs offers. I haven’t used it much, but it works pretty well. You can see who’s viewing your document, spreadsheet, or presentation and what they’re doing and where their cursor is.

If you’re used to Office products and their user interface (menus), you’re probably better off using this app. It keeps everything where you’d expect them to be so you don’t have to get used to using Google’s products.

But at the same time, they’re both pretty much easy to use and you’ll likely find a lot of the menus, options, and other tools in the same place. After all, Google modeled their products after Microsoft’s for an easy learning curve.

You can grab Word Online from the Chrome Web Store here.

Need a word processor that works offline with your Chromebook?

Google Docs is an offline word processor.
Google Docs works offline so you can continue typing without any WiFi connection.

If you’re offline, you can make edits with Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Simply turn on “Offline Sync” and you can continue making edits to your files.

When you regain an Internet connection, your Chromebook will automatically sync everything you’ve done to your online storage, so it’s like nothing happened.

It doesn’t matter if you’re online or offline really, as everything you do either saves in the cloud or saves on your laptop. Went there’s a connection present, the cloud, and your laptop to communicate with each other and “fill each other in” with any additional changes made by you (the user) since the last connection.

The trick is to turn “Offline Sync” on before you actually go offline.

If you don’t, you’ll lose your WiFi connection and you won’t’ be able to make any changes to your Word, Sheets, or Slide files until you get a connection again. It’ll simply lock up.

For example, if you’re typing out a document and you lose your WiFi connection. Google Docs will just lock up and prompt you with a message to turn on Offline Sync when you get a connection again.

Then, after you get a connection, you’ll likely turn it on.

However, the wait can be an issue depending on your situation. If you have to finish your assignment within a specific period, you could be risking it.

So, what you need to do is switch on the option the first time you use Docs so that if you ever lose your connection and go offline, you can still work offline on your Chromebook.

It really only applies to first-time users, but it’s pretty significant.

 

Did you find the best word processor for your Chromebook?

There you have it. Three different Word alternatives to get a working word processor on your Chromebook, and a way to get Microsoft Word and Office on your Chromebook as well.

If you’re still on the fence, I suggest going for Google Docs. It’s the easiest to use, fastest, and the most connected with its autosave feature. It’s also a word processor that works offline for Chromebooks, so you’ll always be connected in some way and your work will constantly be saved.

It’s the best word processor and Microsoft Word alternative that I’ve tried to date. I’ve used several apps, other workarounds, other alternatives, and it all comes back to Google Docs.

And the crazy part? It’s completely free.

No premium features. No upgrades. No locked stuff.

Who’d have thought the best could also be free? Heh.

 

About Andy Z.

Andy is a casual-hardcore Chrome OS fan and contributes to the site regularly. He likes computers, tech, sports cars, videogames, and of course, Chromebooks. Thinker. Introvert. Geek. You can find him on Twitter (@platytech), or send him an email (platy@platypusplatypus.com).

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