3 Best Chromebook Word Processors (And How to Get Microsoft Word) – 2021

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: 1/23/21. Updated with detailed information.

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.

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

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 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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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

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 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

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 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:

  • 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. 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

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 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?

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 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.

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 (check the "Contact Us" page).
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