Word processing programs for your computer help you handle all kinds of writing tasks much more efficiently. Back in the 1980's there were many competing programs for word processing, with WordPerfect being the most popular. But in the 1990's Microsoft became increasingly dominant, to the point where the only options most people would consider were Microsoft Works or Microsoft Office, the suite that includes what is still the number one program, Microsoft Word. However, the situation is changing again, primarily because of the rise of open-source applications like OpenOffice.org, and the online word processing offered by Google and others. When choosing word processing software, you mostly need to consider ease of use, cost, and capabilities.

Let us look at the two popular Microsoft programs, Works and Word. Microsoft Works is ideal for high school students and people who are just writing letters and simple documents. It is definitely easier to learn to use well than Word is, and usually, the program is included free when you buy a Windows computer. The downside with Works is that many of the more advanced features that Word has are not available.

Microsoft Word continues to be the most used word processing program mostly because of the wealth of features it offers. However, there are so many choices that the learning curve can be quite steep. For example, using the mail merge function or formatting tables can be very confusing tasks the first time you try them. In addition, the defaults often "force" you to do things you do not want, and how to change the default settings is not always clear. Moreover, Word is expensive, either as a stand-alone program or as part of Microsoft Office.

Choosing word processing software like the fast-rising Google Docs, online word processing services rather than software, gives you the advantages of being free, and having free online storage of your documents. Adobe Buzzword is another good online service. However, these services have a big downside: they do not have nearly as many features as Word or even Works. In addition, you have to have an internet connection to use them.

One of the new open-source programs may be the best choice overall, because you can get a set of features rivaling Office, but it is free! OpenOffice.org is one of the best of these and has spreadsheet, drawing, database and presentation programs.