Abiword Is the Best Free Lightweight Word Processor

Justin Pot 14-05-2011

Get a lightweight but not underpowered word processor. If you need a program compatible with a wide variety of file formats, Abiword might be the right fit for you. It’s not as powerful as Microsoft Word or Libre Office‘s Writer, to be sure, but it does have most of the features the average user needs (and many the average user doesn’t need).


Abiword isn’t well known on the Internet at large and that’s a shame. Not only does it work well on Linux and Windows computers, it also runs quickly on just about any computer, even really old ones. This makes it a great fit for anyone who finds minimalistic text editors, such as FocusWriter FocusWriter - Minimalist, Distraction-Free & Beautiful Text Editor Read More , too stripped-down when it comes to formatting, particularly if they also find Word and Writer too bloated.

Recently, during a discussion on MakeUseOf Answers, I noticed that our team never got around to reviewing AbiWord. Seeing as AbiWord has been around forever, and how it’s still the best compromise out there between a bloated word processor and underpowered text editors, it’s time to change that.

In A Nutshell

Fire up Abiword. The first thing you’ll notice – this free word processor loads quickly. The second thing you’ll notice is that this interface is familiar to anyone who used Word before 2007:

free word processor

You’ll quickly find all the formatting tools you’d expect – fonts, colours, lists, headers and footers and annotations. Naturally you can insert images and tables as well; explore the program and you’ll get a feel for what it can do very quickly.


You can save your files in a wide variety of formats:

free word processor

How well these will look in their respective native programs can vary, but the flexibility is appreciated. Most of these files can be opened as well, making AbiWord a great free word processor for opening obscure files.

Abiword also features real-time collaboration, similar to what’s found in Google Docs What Is Google Docs and How to Use It Google Docs can do more than you might realize. Let us show you how Google Docs works. Read More . This functionality might be the subject of an upcoming review, so I’ll say no more about it for now. Additional functionality can be added with Abiword plugins, though most of the best ones are bundled with the program on Linux.


What’s Missing?

So what’s not here that might cause some people to use Word or Writer? Well, macros are right out, of course, and there is no grammar checking. It’s also worth nothing that doc/docx support isn’t perfect. Advanced images and tables will cause Abiword to sputter, so I won’t be editing MakeUseOf’s manuals with AbiWord anytime soon.

There are certainly other features missing; feel free to fill in your fellow readers in the comments below.

Get It

Ready to get started? Install Abiword, then.

Debian and Ubuntu users can simply click here to install AbiWord. Other Linux users shouldn’t have any trouble installing AbiWord; it’s in your package manager.


Windows users can download AbiWord here. Your life would be easier if Windows came with a decent package manager, but at least you can have fun clicking “Next” a bunch of times.

Mac users can try to download AbiWord here, but note that the Mac version of AbiWord hasn’t been updated since 2005. This means some features are missing, and there could be a security risk. Having said that, it worked on my system:

free word processor

No promises it will work on yours, but on the plus side OS X’s built-in TextEdit is pretty awesome.


Overall, I think Abiword is a great application between minimal text editors and bloated word processors. What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Explore more about: Digital Document, Text Editor.

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  1. Paddygav
    June 9, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    I love AbiWord. Use it will my old systems running Puppy and the like, and everything can be saved as .odt for when I get back to a workstation with more guts.

  2. Zenny
    May 16, 2011 at 8:07 am

    The strangest choice in noting what's missing is to claim it lacks a grammar parsing routine when, in fact, it uses the link grammar parser (Carnegie Mellon U, this variant has been integrated into Open Cognition Project), and it downloads as a non-plugin default on Debian Sid.  Dump:

    Also:  Hi Marc!

  3. Simon Sant Cassia
    May 15, 2011 at 12:04 pm

     This is only useful on Ubuntu these days, sadly. Windows 7 offers the far better Wordpad app built in.

    • jhpot
      May 16, 2011 at 1:53 pm

       I'll have to look into the new WordPad; it wasn't all that useful for opening .doc files previously.

  4. Cell Travis
    May 15, 2011 at 6:11 am

    Ive been using Abiword on my older Mac iBook G4 for the past 3 years. Apart from its small download size (which sure beats waiting for the whole OpenOffice suite to download) it's a no-fuss application for quick word processing.

  5. Dan
    May 15, 2011 at 1:19 am

     Since Softmaker Office is giving away their 2006 and 2008 word processors for free, I don't find a need for Abiword anymore. It launches a hair faster than Abiword, has better MS Office files compatibility, and can be programmed with macros. Too bad it doesn't have a Mac version,  but there is one for Linux.