Word and WordPad: differences

(maybe a naive question)

My daughter just received a new laptop (from me, by the way) with Vista. It’s got WordPad but not Word. We don’t even know the difference. We are both familiar with Word. Apparently she can’t receive Word documents.

Does she have to download Word ? What version ? I see that Word 2007 is not free (but that doesn’t really matter).

Would appreciate your advice.

WordPad is Word Lite, in a manner of speaking. It has basic editing features, but misses a lot of what Word can do. It’s enough for basic documents, but if she just needs to open and print the document that you’re sending her, rather than editing it, might I suggest the free Word Viewer? It will allow her to view documents and print them, but not make any changes.

For a more full-featured word processor that reads Word files, nothing beats Open Office, IMHO. Also free!

A few years ago I tried Open Office for a few weeks, but found that it’s highly unpractical to use with Microsoft Office files - and you won’t get rid of those, do you? - due to extremely annoying and rather time consuming compatibility issues. - Now, you don’t see that as a major problem AD 2007?, or is it the hidden price to pay?

She may also be interested in trying Google’s online word processor. IIRC, it’s compatible with Word files.

I downloaded Open Office about a year ago, so I may not have the latest version. Word won’t read .odt files, of course, but you can save as .doc if you choose (in fact, you can have it do this by default) so that others can read your work. And it opens .docs from Word users just fine, with only one exception that I’ve ever encountered where some formatting got slightly messed up.

I haven’t used the Open Office equivalents of Powerpoint, Excel, etc. but their answer to Word works fine for me. In fact, the newest version of Word is what has a bunch of compatibility issues, from what I hear.

Microsoft Word is the word-processor flagship of the Microsoft Office series of software.
WordPad is the XP version of Microsoft Write which was supplied as standard with 3.1/95/98 versions of Windows.
NotePad is an ASCII text editor which is also supplied with XP.
The primary difference between the two is that there are no control characters used in NotePad so it can be read by a batch file parser.
Microsoft being Microsoft would like you to pay through the teeth for creating stylised documents.
Although in fairness, they do supply Word Viewer as a free download.

Just to expand on what others have said, you could use WordPad as a very basic word processor if you only need it for your own use and don’t share many documents with others. OpenOffice tries to replicate full blown MS Word and then some and it truly is free. The OpenOffice version of Word is the most compatible part of the MS Office and approaches 100% with the remainder being minor and easily correctable. The other OpenOffice applications tend to have more compatibility issues but they are still pretty good. The main problem with OpenOffice is simple familiarization which happens with all new, large software packages and simple takes a dedicated effort to make it your own.

The Windows operating system comes with Notepad, which is a basic word processor. It doesn’t handle extended characters, and has size limits. It was the first one that Windows had.

The OS has for a long time now, come with a slightly better word processor called Wordpad. It opens larger files, and handles extended characters. It still is only really for typing short notes or reading readme.txt files.

Expensive Purchase:
Word is the full featured word processor by Microsoft, that is not part of the operating system installation. It’s the high end product and is part of the Miccrosoft Office software suit.

Cheap Purchase:
Microsoft Works is the home user package with a word processor, spread sheet, and data base. Later they started to include Microsoft Word with it in some bundles.

I’m not sure exactly what you mean by “she can’t receive Word documents.” (She can’t get them onto her computer? She can get them there, but not open them?) In my experience (which is, admittedly, with XP), WordPad will happily open Word documents, at least as long as they don’t contain anything too complicated.

[nitpick/] Notepad is a text editor and not a word processor. Although this won’t matter to most people, it is an entirely different type of application with deep roots going back decades. Text editors are essential for programmers and there are fierce debates surrounding them (vi versus emacs for example). Notepad seems like the simplest of applications to most and it is but the different families of text editors are essential in IT and fill a role that true word processors cannot.

Did your daughter happen to get this laptop in preparation for going to college?

If so, have her go to her college bookstore or IT service department and inquire about getting a copy of her school’s licensed reseller version of Microsoft Office, which has every Office app she’ll need and will probably cost her under $50.

As someone who writes articles and books as part of my job, I can’t imagine trying to do serious word processing with WordPad. It’s just too simple. If your daughter is going to be doing any sort of academic or professional writing, she is going to need a word processing program, like Word or some of the other ones being recommended in this thread.

She’s waaaay past that, Zipper.

I have Google word processor but never used it. Seems very similar to MS Word. Should she try it first, as suggested by MissMossie, rather than downloading something as heavy as Open Office, or has anyone a negative opinion of Google wp? Or does it have any downsides ?

(She’s not doing any professional writing).

I have a Toshiba laptop that came with Works (8.5). I have never used it as I installed Open Office 2 (around 8 minutes download).

Took a look at it and the word processor appears to be of the Word 97 flavour - looks OK although as I say never used it. The old Works was absolutely dire in comparison to Office - or anything else really.

I’d be surprised if it wasn’t supplied with your daughter’s laptop, usually comes free with most computers with Windows installed.

Microsoft wanted to verify the installation and register it, which I did, now it is doing a 20 minute update before it can apply a security update.


I use OpenOffice 2 on this machine and Abiword & Gnumeric on the Ubuntu machines and have up to now had no difficulties in exchanging files with Office users, provided I remember to save it as an MS Office file that they use.

You can download Works 9 from Microsoft, $39.95.


I didn’t want to explain that to somebody that didn’t know the difference between Word and Wordpad. I was trying to simplify the explanation for this thread.

I think the compatibility problems have been significantly reduced. I don’t have any problems opening Word 2002 files in OpenOffice, and any formatting changes have been very insignificant, and mostly related to fonts not being available. I think that it might have changed in the few years since you tried it. I’ve used OpenOffice on both Linux and Windows, and had no problems opening the files saved in .doc format on Word on my laptop.

I’ll second that.
I regularly exchange files with my employers and neither I nor they experience any problems - they assume I am using the same Microsoft software as they do.

I’m also surprised. I’ll check again with her.

Got some useful info from this thread. Thanks everyone.

OK, thanks Myglaren and Devorin for the input to my question about compatibility issues with Open Office. For about ten years I got the Microsoft products I needed for free (working home, etc), but I’ll probably change carreer this fall and sure as h-ll aint buying Microsoft Office as a private person. Even though it’s simply the best, you don’t use 10% of it, and it’d be dumb to buy it as an average joe.*

  • Don’t know if “average joe” fits right here, but I sounded good in my ear.