What's the best word processor for Linux?
September 1, 2011 6:22 PM   Subscribe

What Linux-compatible word processor should I be using? Looking for a LibreOffice/OpenOffice alternative...

I've been using Ubuntu and Ubuntu variations on my main writing computer for about two years now, and I'm still struggling to find a word-processing program that I'm fully satisfied with. I like OpenOffice a lot, but given the issues with Oracle I feel like I shouldn't count on it. For some reason, I can't get the fonts in LibreOffice to look good. I'm lukewarm toward AbiWord. The last time I tried Scrivener it was quite buggy -- not sure if it's improved any in the last month or so.

I haven't tried LaTeX or vi -- they seem more complex than I really need or want, but I could be convinced.

Additional bonus difficulty level: compatibility with MS Word's notes and comments features would be a huge plus. Is that going to force me to stick with OpenOffice/LibreOffice?
posted by Jeanne to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This question on SuperUser.
posted by mkb at 6:27 PM on September 1, 2011

I hate to say it, but I had the exact same problem and ended up returning to Windows after 4 years of using only Linux computers. Though I had to spend some time getting used to Word 2007, I ended up liking it much more than even previous versions of Office--no more wrangling with weird formatting, no more losing notes, no more hideous writing environment that was gross on the eyes (something that can't be discounted when you spend 90% of your computing time in your word processor). Dual booting might be worth considering, at least.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:28 PM on September 1, 2011

I've run MSWord on Ubuntu using the excellent codeweavers products. But Libreoffice is what I actually use day in and day out.

There is a version of scrivener ported to Linux at http://literatureandlatte.com/scrivenerforwindows/ (linux version is halfway down the page).
posted by jenkinsEar at 7:07 PM on September 1, 2011

What kind of formatting do you need? If you just need basic formatting, look into using Markdown in some text editor (vi 4eva, but you can use gedit or jedit or something simpler too). It's built for HTML but there are PDF converters.

Of course, this doesn't have any kind of MS Word compatibility, nor does it have more advanced word-processor type features, like footnotes or complicated margins or whatever.

Have you looked into LyX? It's a LaTeX-based "document processor" which has sort of an alien philosophy compared to traditional word processors, but it does make using LaTeX pretty easy and produces nice-looking documents. Or you could just set up a LaTeX template you like and use that. Since you have a package manager on Ubuntu it should be easy to install. One good thing about LaTeX (and I believe you can do this with LyX easily) is that since it's code, you can add comment lines to your documents, and comment things out if you want to leave the text but have it not appear in the output document.

The advantage of both Markdown and LaTeX is that they're totally plain-text-based, so you can use a version control system to manage larger projects, which is a huge advantage. Apart from writers, programmers have more incentive than anyone to deal with text efficiently, and IMO it makes a lot of sense to take advantage of the tools they've created.

On the other hand, you might not care about any of this and think it's way too complicated; in that case dual-booting might be a good idea, or look into Google Docs, which is quite good, and according to my brief research is compatible with MS Word comments.
posted by vogon_poet at 8:03 PM on September 1, 2011

If Word compatibility is a priority, then LibreOffice is your best bet currently. Many LaTeX styles and extensions break the toolchains for creating RTF or OOXML documents.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:26 AM on September 2, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you -- that's a bit disappointing but not unexpected.

What I actually did, which is probably tl;dr --

Tried to install LibreOffice 3.4, having heard that it had better text smoothing.
Realized that I wouldn't get LibO 3.4 to install properly in Kubuntu. Installed Ubuntu in order to try again to upgrade to 3.4. When I opened up LibO -- without having upgraded it -- text smoothing, for some reason, magically fixed!

(I LIKE Linux, I'm just not GOOD at it.)

I'm open to learning a text editor or LaTeX, but I'm way over a book deadline and I want to wait until I turn this book in first.

I don't mind dual booting -- I like Windows 7 fine, but I just can't see myself paying for Word again unless LibO is seriously unusable. I already put one book through multiple rounds of edits with my publisher using OpenOffice, and it's played surprisingly well with MS Word's notes and commenting, so I'm happy to stick with LibreOffice as long as I can get the text to not look completely awful.

Which I have now accomplished.
posted by Jeanne at 9:02 AM on September 2, 2011

Have you tried Google Docs? It's quite capable. Running in a web browser seems odd at first but you quickly stop noticing.
posted by Nelson at 9:07 AM on September 2, 2011

Best is relative.

I use jedit, LaTeX and as a word replacement I use Soft Maker. I bought the 2010 version. The 2008 version is free.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 11:09 AM on September 2, 2011

« Older How can I clean grime off of bare wood?   |   Recording the dog. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.