Online word processors come with many advantages. Your documents are accessible from anywhere, they're open to collaboration and sharing, and are easy to import and export.
When you think of online word processing, you immediately think of Google Docs. It is a great service with an extensive array of features, plus heaps of add-ons, too.
That said, you might not always want to use Google Docs. Thankfully, there are several excellent Google Docs alternatives that you can use for online document editing. Here are the best alternatives to Google Docs you can use right now.
1. Microsoft Office
Microsoft Office (formerly Office Online, also known as “Office on the Web”) is the free offering from the world's most popular office suite. A Microsoft account is all you need to gain access to almost the entire gamut of Microsoft Office applications. Office Online grants access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook, as well as Sway and a host of other tools.
So, how does the Office on the Web compare to Google Docs (and the wider range of G Suite tools)? The offering is so good that some people have entirely eschewed purchasing Microsoft Office 2021 or Office 365 in favor of the free online suite.
Great collaboration tools are one of many reasons why you should use Office Online instead of paying for Microsoft Word, for example. Each feature has only strengthened the free service.
However, Microsoft has not given us the crown jewels. The online Office offering does carry some limitations.
For instance, the number of templates available is reduced. As well as this, you can use the integrated styles, but cannot make your own. Office contains a number of these “half-features” that you'll encounter from time to time. Some are negligible. Others can be massively frustrating—I'm looking at you, Merge Formatting.
The free online version of Microsoft Office is still an excellent alternative to Google Docs, despite the shortcomings found in several of the applications.
2. Zoho Writer
Zoho develops a huge number of apps, from a personal wiki to an email service, through CRM and bookkeeping tools, and more. Zoho Writer is Zoho's answer to Google Docs, and it is a strong alternative online document editor.
The word processor is excellent, with a ton of editing options, organized in a succinct and aesthetically pleasing sidebar. Almost anything you can do in Word can be done in Zoho, from adding a header and footer to directly posting a document to your blog.
It also features advanced options, such as mail merging and electronic signature support. Another extremely handy feature is the integrated Zoho chat, so you can chat with collaborators while working.
Zoho is the most feature-complete of the Web-based applications, including Google Docs, and is incredibly easy to use. Zoho doesn't get nearly the press Google Docs does, but I can't see a reason not to switch. Need more convincing? Here are even more reasons to try Zoho as your Google Docs alternative.
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3. Dropbox Paper
Dropbox Paper is the online document editing offering from Dropbox, better known for its cloud storage solutions. All you need to use Dropbox Paper is a Dropbox account. Once you sign up, you can begin using this handy Google Docs alternative.
Dropbox Paper has some handy features. Adding and curating images is exceptionally easy, especially if you already use Dropbox as an image host. Similarly, embedding other content is just as easy. There's also the option to edit using Markdown language, which is handy for quick edits and basic styling.
As with other online document editing tools, collaboration and sharing are key. Dropbox Paper allows sharing and commenting by clicking a button and inviting users (other Dropbox users or from Google Accounts).
One cool collaboration feature is that you can “@” people from your document, even if they're not currently working on the same document. The person receives a notification that you want them to come and work with you. Another handy collaboration feature is Task Assignment. You can quickly turn any bullet list into a task list to be assigned to your collaborators.
As a Google Docs alternative, Dropbox Paper is a handy and quick document editing tool. However, it doesn't have the extensive range of editing tools available to Google Docs or some of the alternatives on this list.
OnlyOffice is a Google Docs alternative that offers both offline and online document editing tools. As we're primarily focusing on Google Docs alternatives that don't require downloading, we'll focus on the online OnlyOffice version.
Like Zoho Writer, OnlyOffice's personal document editing tool is one of the most comprehensive alternatives to Google Docs. You'll find extensive editing options in-line with offline document editing tools. You can customize formatting styles and layouts, invite collaborators to work with you, and even chat within the OnlyOffice window to keep your focus on the work window.
There's also the option to install OnlyOffice add-ons, which are extensions that increase the functionality of the document editing tool. For example, you can install the WordPress plugin and publish work directly to your website or the Zotero plugin, which helps you manage references and other research materials.
Nuclino is a brilliant free collaborative editor and alternative to Google Docs. It is extremely easy to use, has a great user interface (UI), and provides a satisfying experience in pretty much all areas. That said, it isn't necessarily a direct Google Docs competitor. Google Docs provides a rounded suite of tools, while Nuclino has a definite slant toward team and project management.
Nonetheless, writing and editing in Nuclino is aided by the clean aesthetic and easily implemented editorial tools. Nuclino is versatile, too. Multiple groups, multiple boards, easy invitations, smart tags, and integration with services such as YouTube, Vimeo, and SoundCloud provide a comprehensive service. There's the option to write and edit using Markdown, too.
However, Nuclino isn't strictly a document editing program if you're considering a pure editorial experience. If your team depends on advanced document editing and formatting or even just basic spreadsheets, you'll be importing to Nuclino from another source.
If collaboration is what you're into, give Etherpad a good look. There's no need to sign up or install Etherpad. You can simply select one of the public instances running Etherpad Lite, many of which feature secure encrypted connections. Once you're connected, either share a link to the pad or send invitations to your contacts by email.
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As users enter the Etherpad, you can edit the text on the pad in real-time, and changes automatically appear. You can chat in the sidebar, highlight which user made a given change, and save revisions to revert if someone makes a mistake.
Furthermore, some public Etherpad instances allow you to choose how long the pad remains active for, adding a handy ephemeral document angle to this Google Docs alternative. For example, the Etherpad in the above image allows you to set a 24-hours, 60 days, or 1-year period before destruction.
Slite is another collaborative work tool you can use as an alternative to Google Docs. As it is a collaborative workspace, you might find that Slite replaces more than just Google Docs, too.
The free version of Slite allows you to create 50 shared documents per month, as well as unlimited personal documents. You can also invite an unlimited number of users to your free Slite. Furthermore, it integrates nicely with one of the most popular team management tools, Slack, meaning you can talk and work between the two with ease.
Other integrations include Figma, Loom, Trello, Asana, and GitHub. In that, Slite works as a document editing tool and as a project management option.
8. Calmly Writer Online
If you're looking for writing websites and apps like Google Docs but prefer simplicity to extravagant features, Calmly Writer Online covers all your needs for free. You get a clear space to enter your text and images, all of which you can just select and edit like any word processor.
For additional tools, just click on the Calmly Writer icon. From the menu that appears, you can save, print, or open a document, as well as set a range of preferences, including focus, dark, and dyslexic mode.
If you want to work offline, you can even download the whole app to your Windows, Mac, or Linux computer.
Which Is the Best Google Docs Alternative?
Google Docs is an excellent online document editing tool, but what is the best alternative? Well, you can choose a more traditional editor experience in Microsoft Office or Zoho Writer, or try a collaborative experience with Dropbox Paper or Nuclino.
Needless to say, you have more than a handful of Google Docs substitutes to consider before starting your next big project!