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.
They don’t even have a CD optical drive to install it in the first place (for those who are old-school).
In this list, we’ll go over some of the best alternatives to Word for Chrome OS. And if you’re really intent on getting Microsoft Word or Office on a Chromebook, we’ll cover that as well.
Sound good? Let’s get started.
Last updated: 3/3/23. Updated with detailed information for WFH positions.
Chromebooks and Word
As you probably know, you can’t really just “install” Office or Word on Chrome OS.
But don’t worry, there are alternatives that you can use.
Most programs work in the cloud, so you may not even need a standalone app now. For instance, Sheets and Word both have web-based versions.
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 it like you’re used to on a Windows desktop, laptop, or smartphone.
You’ll have to find a workaround to get it on your laptop. This is likely an alternative app from another company that works and performs the same tasks as it.
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.
(I know you’re probably a Windows user and you’re in need of it so you can start typing away on that paper.)
Getting a Chromebook word processor up and going
As mentioned, Chromebooks don’t natively support Microsoft Word, so you should look for alternatives to it.
The easiest way to do this is to use third-party apps developed by Google or other companies that are basically document 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 it, and I’ll go over all three of them right now. Let’s go over them in no particular order.
Word Processor Alternative #1: Google Docs
This is probably my favorite Chromebook word processor (yes, I like it more than the original).
It’s made by Google and works exactly like what you’re used to.
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 what you’re used to, 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.
It’s also constantly updated without you even knowing. It updates from Google’s servers, so whenever you load a new document, it’ll automatically be using the newest version.
There are also plenty of add-ons you can get (lots of them free) to do all sorts of extra functionality to your writing experience. Add-ons are like “apps” for this app. It’s crazy. You can get add-ons that help you create a table-of-contents to translating text to generating a bibliography automatically.
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 as a quick-access navigation bar. You have all the formatting you could need. Right there in front of you.
Docs isn’t really a slimmed-down version. It’s just a simpler version that can do pretty much everything that the original can do…without the clutter.
I find it very easy to use and really easy to navigate. You can even search for help instantly within the menu if you get stuck on something and you don’t know how to fix it. It’s all there for you. And there’s tons of help online.
What I really like about Google Docs as an alternative 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 your 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 laptop 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 the original, 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 vanished. It’s one of the biggest wastes of time. You wouldn’t guess how many hours of work this has saved me (not to mention the headaches and frustration).
This is a major reason why I turned to Docs. If you’re used to Windows and you need a text processor for your Chromebook, use Google Docs.
It’s made in a way similar to it 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 filetypes you’re used to (.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.
Working from home has a lot of companies now using Google’s suite of productivity tools to help employees easily collaborate together on documents online.
It’s come a long way since inception. With people working virtually, collaboration is built-in. You can invite people to view, edit, or critique your work simply by sending them an invitation. Since it runs through the web directly in the browser, no installs are needed. This means they can be using Safari, Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Brave, or anything recent. They just need a Google Account for easy group work.
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 and check it out.
Update: This is still my go-to text editor. They’re constantly adding new features to it. My only gripe with Docs is that the spellcheck isn’t always that accurate. So that’s why I run my articles through multiple spellcheckers. I’d suggest you do the same if you decide to use Docs with Chrome OS.
Update: In 2021, I still use Docs as my primary word editor. I’ve noticed that the spellcheck is sub-par compared to other free alternatives, so be sure to run your document through another spellchecker for Chromebooks before you publish.
Word Processor Alternative #2: Use your Chromebook’s native file editor
You can easily view, edit, and open Word files on by using your device’s native built-in file editor.
It’s your Chromebook’s word processor that’s made to work with all things text related. This means you can open a file that you download from your email, USB drive, cloud service, or whatever other means you can grab one.
This means you can open a 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 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 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 Processor #3: Use an app
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 your Microsoft 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 on 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:
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. It’s an excellent Chromebook word processor because it works with almost all different file types.
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 it, or any Office product, on a laptop. 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 it on your laptop? There’s only one way to get it- via the 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
It allows you to create, edit, and collaborate on all 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. This is the closest to the actual program you can get.
It’s basically Microsoft’s online web-based version of it. Many companies now are moving towards putting their software which was once standalone and downloadable into a web version.
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?
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 laptop 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. When 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?
And there you have it. Three different Word alternatives to get a working word processor on your laptop, 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 text editor 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 processor and alternative that I’ve tried to date. I’ve used several apps, other workarounds, other alternatives, and it all comes back to Google Docs. You can’t really find any other app that even comes close if you want it to be just like what you’re used to.
Since they’re so similar, there’s literally no learning curve other than finding out where all the buttons are. But they’re laid out so intuitively that it’s easy to learn.
It also gives you the flexibility and compatibility you need to work across platforms without having to get every device on the same program. You can work with one and switch to the other whenever you want.
And the crazy part? It’s completely free.
No premium features. No upgrades. No locked stuff. It doesn’t even count towards your Google Drive’s quota for storage space.
Who’d have thought the best could also be free? Heh.
30 thoughts on “3 Best Chromebook Word Processors (And How to Get Microsoft Word) – 2023”
Where is the caps lock on Chromebook? I don’t remember a keyboard shortcut for using capitol letters.
Nice post. I learn something new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon on a daily basis. It’s always interesting to read content from other authors and practice something from their web sites.
Andy, is there any (easy) way of saving a Google Doc to something other than Google Drive. I use several online storage programs and (so far as I can tell) Google doesn’t play well with any of them.
When / if Google introduce the automatic Wokifier I will be installing new wordprocessing software on my Chromebook or using an old laptop (maybe even a manual typewriter!). I am a professional writer and cannot work with pop-ups that change my own words into gobbledygook. Apparently they are planning to interrupt writers with pop-ups and even change certain words to make them more politically correct.
Im perssonally using cloudready (Chromium OS) and i have tried both Word online and Google Docs, and they both run very poorly, masssive lag spikes occurs often. im wondering if you have come across a fix for this, and if you hae noticed which word processor is the fastest? Thanks in advance.
why do you need the internet to access the word processor on chromebook? what you don’t have any and need to get to your work? That’s where i’m lost.
With this latest NSA-found vulnerabilities in Windows, I am looking at the Chromebook for my new laptop. My concerns are twofold…it sounds like Chromebook runs “on line” with its saving, etc. and I have limited satellite bandwidth. Secondly, I use lots of graphics in documents, etc. and am wondering if Chromebook’s WORD alternatives would accommodate that use as effectively. Currently, I find Word Perfect more accommodating than even WORD for more technical graphic usage. I would appreciate your thoughts on these issues…thanks so much! I found your article very informative and appreciate your sharing your knowledge and expertise.
Guys, Chromebook is nothing but a big cellphone, if you don’t have wifi, YOU ARE DEAD ON THE WATER
Can Chromebooks run virtual desktop programs?
As someone who hasn’t tried a Chromebook but is thinking of buying one, can I ask (what is probably) a dumb question? Can you save documents on the machine itself and/or an attached pen drive/external hard disc? Thanks in advance!
Hey Richard Carter,
No worries! You can definitely save documents onto the local hard disk- most Chromebooks have about 16GB of local storage, which is plenty for thousands of documents already. It also integrates with Google Drive to save your documents in the cloud if you prefer to have them accessible anywhere and not take up space on your device. You can also save them in both locations so you always have a backup copy.
Let me know if you have any other questions.
Thanks, Andy, I thought that was so but wanted to check.
Another question: Can I hook up a Chromebook with the screen of my iMac (the machine is >10 years old and is past it, but it’s still a nice screen…).
Hey Richard Carter,
No problem- glad to help!
What kind of connection does the screen use? Is it an HDMI? If you’re not sure, can you find the product online somewhere so I can take a look at the details?
From there, I’ll be able to better assist.
Andy, I’ve now checked with Apple, and it won’t be possible. Never mind, and thank you for your help! R
No you cannot. Not in 2019. This article is so fake! it all goes to google drive and Google says in the TOS that THEY OWN YOUR WORK!
Chromebook, is a cellphone without carrier, TOTALLY USELESS WITHOUT WIFI
yes you can, the problem is, you have to go ONLINE first open it s\as google docs, then down,load it, so WHY IN THE HELL WE ARE FORCED TO SEND OUR DOCUMENTS TO GOOGLE FIRST?
Any advice on a word processor for Chromebook (or add-on to Google Docs) that can “track changes”/make revisions? Google Docs does it okay in suggesting mode, but not as good as Word, which lets you hide deletions (on the side) so they don’t interfere with corrected document (Google Docs only does strikethrough through the deleted word). Thanks!
I have an Acer chromebook 15 and and I’m trying to figure out how to create a document, save it, and print it. Any suggestions for this teck challenged senior?
Hey Fred Leard,
No problem! You can create a document using Google Docs since it’s already integrated with your Chromebook.
Go to “docs.google.com” and click on “Create a new doc” or use one of the templates.
Type out your document. As you type, it’ll automatically save every few seconds. There’s no need to manually save it. Think of it like autosave that works every 2 seconds!
When you’re done, you can print it using a Cloud Ready printer. Just look in the menu bar and click on File > Print or hit (“CTRL + P”). This step may be tricky, you can check out this guide on setting up a printer with your Chromebook. It’s a buyer’s guide, but it contains information on printer setup.
There’s also this troubleshooter guide for Google Cloud Ready printers I put together if you’re having issues.
Let me know if you have any questions! Hope this helps!
I do not use Google Docs because the program cannot display formatting marks (MS Word calls this function “show all nonprinting characters.” If that function was available, I would switch everyone from MS Word to Google Docs — and never look back.
There’s an add-on for Google Docs called “Show” which I believe allows you to show formatting marks. You may want to check it out:
Let me know if this helps.
Thank you for this and related posts,written in a style that a semi\micro geek! can understand. I freaked when my Word “expired” a while back; was looking for an alternative, dabbling with googleDocs. looking to purchase a chrome book now, suitable for someone who writes a lot, needs a little internet for research. So I see the need to”get” Googledocs.
Google Docs is the best choice if you decide to pick up a Chromebook. It’s very well-integrated and works flawlessly. I type everything in it and honestly have no complaints. Free, unlimited usage, and uploads to Google Drive automatically so you work anywhere. It couldn’t be better.
The only thing that I think Word has over Docs is the spellchecker. Docs’ spellchecker is sub-par and misses a lot of grammar and typos so I need to run everything through another spellchecker before it can be considered a “final” draft. Other than that, the whole Google Suite is the way to go!
Let me know if you have any other questions. And thanks for the kind words =].
I downloaded the “Free” ms word app only to find it it a read only app. unless you pay a monthly fee. I need to type reports. Goggle docs is irritating to me because I am a bad typist. I use dragon sofrware at work, Google adds capitals in the middle of sentences and doesn’t pick up my words as well, frequently entering the wrong word, making it take me twice as long to write a report because I have ot go back and edit. ANd I can’t edit in the document (I rely on right click!!). I looked to see if they had an add on for this, I don’t see one. I was hoping this chrmoebook would be a cost effecriuve alternative to buying a new laptop
Hmm…how about if you used a voice-to-text extension to dictate the draft, and then plug that into a blank online page and correct it with Grammarly?
That way, you can still “type” it out using your voice and then use another spellcheck to fix all the errors. I totally get what you mean about Google Docs’ spellcheck being pretty primitive. I use the voice dictation to type up some extra-lengthy docs and then run their spellcheck as a preliminary first approach to correct all the obvious mistakes.
Then I take the semi-corrected document and plug it into Grammarly to correct the rest. It catches pretty much 99% of all the remaining errors. Any extra capitals, missing commas, missing periods, and everything else is added in the final proofread.
You’ll be able to correct mistakes with just the mouse and running the paper through two spellcheckers to fix the mistakes. And it’s a lot faster than it sounds once you get used to it =].
If you want a setup that works with voice dictation, uses the mouse to quickly fix errors, and is completely free, this may be it.
Would this work for you?
Another alternative is Microsoft office 365 which contains a version of Word that is different than word online. I don’t understand why it is different, but it is. Further, it is not free but you can get a 30 day trial.
Thanks for the suggestion! I’ll take a look and see if I can distinguish the differences and update this list if it’s awesome!
Keep ’em coming!
Thanks Andy for your help in finding a word processor for chromebook.
No problem. I’m glad it helped you out. Thanks for the kind words.
This is why I write =].
Thanks again for your comment.