Can you Use Word on Raspberry Pi? (and best alternatives)


If you decide to move to Raspberry Pi as your main desktop computer, one of the first things you’ll need to find is a decent solution for office work. Does Microsoft Office work on Raspberry Pi? That’s what we’ll discuss in this article.

Microsoft Word will not work on Raspberry Pi because it’s designed to run on x86 architectures (AMD and Intel processors) while the Raspberry Pi is based on ARM. Also, Microsoft Office exists on Windows and macOS, but there is no Linux version available.

However, all is not lost, as I have researched, tested, and selected replacement options. I will share these options with you in this article.

Can you get Microsoft Word on Raspberry Pi?

Microsoft Word, and Microsoft Office in general, can’t run on Raspberry Pi as it runs on Linux with ARM architecture. Microsoft’s software is not compiled to run on this device.

The operating system issue

The first problem is that Microsoft Office is a commercial product release on Windows and macOS. As Raspberry Pi devices run on Linux 99% of the time, there is no way to buy it from Microsoft and install it on your Raspberry Pi.

Even if you have a PC running with Linux, there isn’t an official way to run the program on Linux. Unfortunately, it’s the same problem for Raspberry Pi OS.

You can run Windows 10 on Raspberry Pi (as explained here), but the system is slow without doing anything. I don’t recommend adding heavy applications like Microsoft Office on it, even if it works (I haven’t tested this). Maybe new Raspberry Pi models and better optimizations on Windows 10 for ARM will fix this, but it’s not ready yet.

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Different architectures

The main issue is the architecture. If there was even a complicated solution to install Microsoft Word on Raspberry Pi, I would explain it to you. However, Microsoft Word (and Office in general), is meant to run on specific architectures like x86 and x64. Raspberry Pi devices have ARM processors, so it will not work.

When developers create big applications like Microsoft Office, they compile a bunch of code to create a file that can be executed on most systems. Sadly, this doesn’t include the Raspberry Pi users in general. The code is often compiled for Windows on Intel and AMD processors only, and sometimes for Mac users too.

With Apple creating new products based on ARM, we may expect better compatibility in the future with Raspberry Pi, but it won’t be magical. It will always be complicated to run applications that the developers have not created for Raspberry Pi.

Can you run some x86 programs on Raspberry Pi?

I see what you are thinking. There are ways to run some x86 programs on Raspberry Pi. For example, Wine is a tool that allows us to run Windows applications on Linux. It can be installed on Raspberry Pi (the easiest way is to use Pi-Apps to do this) and can offer a solution to run some x86 programs on Raspberry Pi OS.

However, the tool comes with many limitations. Some small apps can work well, but overall, it’s often way slower because applications are not built with the Raspberry Pi specifications in mind. Also, it’s rare that big programs like Microsoft Office run correctly with Wine. Even if the app seems to start correctly, there are generally many bugs as soon as you start really using the app features.

Microsoft Office is a pretty heavy office suite, and even if you find a version that starts on Raspberry Pi OS, I’m pretty sure you won’t be able to work well with it.

Alternatives applications to Word on Raspberry Pi

LibreOffice

With the latest version of Raspberry Pi OS, LibreOffice is included free of charge, so no installation is required. This is one of two word-processing alternatives I have found that actually run on the Raspberry Pi computer.

If you currently use MS Word, it should be no problem to use LibreOffice as they are very similar with menu options at the top of the screen and icons that perform a variety of actions below it. I have been using LibreOffice and its two predecessors OpenOffice and StarOffice for years, so it’s a solid alternative to Microsoft Word (on Raspberry Pi but also on PC).

libreoffice office alternative

LibreOffice will save files in either Open Document format (ODT for Writer files) or as an MS Word DOCX file. It also saves PDF files either with a button or a menu option, and EPUB from a menu item.

Complete documentation is available here if you need a few tips to get started and change the habits you had with Word.

Abiword

Abiword is available in the Raspberry Pi repository and can be installed by using the “Add / Remove Software” tool or with the command:
sudo apt install abiword

This will download and install Abiword on your Raspberry Pi computer. It will create a new option on the start menu called “Office”. Clicking on this option will bring up another option called “Abiword”.
Clicking on it to run the application:

This program will load and save your files in a number of formats including DOCX, ODT and others.

In addition to Abiword word processor, there is also a spreadsheet program available that installs with the command:
sudo apt install gnumeric
This will create two new options in the “Office” menu:

  • Gnumeric is a spreadsheet application you can use as an alternative to Microsoft Excel on Raspberry Pi.
  • The document viewer can open many document types, including PDF.

Documentation is available here if needed.

Online alternatives to Word you can use on Raspberry Pi

But other options are available online now, which might be the best choice, especially if you need to work with other people who are using Windows.

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Office 365

Office 365 is the cloud office suite created by Microsoft, it can be accessed online from your browser at Office.com. You’ll have to create an account, and then you will be able to access the full Microsoft Office online equivalent.

Beware, Office 365 is not a free product like the two previous options. At the time of writing, the Family edition (for 2 to 6 people) costs approximately $100 per year, while the Personal edition (1 person) is $70 per year.

So, that’s the best option if you are used to Microsoft Word and can’t switch to another application, but it comes at a cost. That’s not so expensive, but all other options are free.

Google Doc

Finally, Google Doc is a free online editor program where you can create and share your documents.  This site has a number of templates to help you start your documents. The format is quite different from Word, but you can do the same things that you can with Microsoft Office:

  • Google Doc replaces Microsoft Word.
  • Google Spreadsheet for Excel documents.
  • Google Slides for PowerPoint presentations.
  • etc.

If you have a Gmail account, you can test this solution for free. Just go to your Google Drive folder and create new documents. You will have 15G of storage available for free, and premium plans are available if you need more (a few dollars each month to expand your storage).

By the way, you can even mount your Google Drive on Raspberry Pi by using a tool like RClone. This will feel like if you are working on local files :).


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Patrick Fromaget

I'm the lead author and owner of RaspberryTips.com. My goal is to help you with your Raspberry Pi problems using detailed guides and tutorials. In real life, I'm a Linux system administrator with a web developer experience.

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