We compared the word-processing capabilities of four popular office suites.

Tesco Write (£20)

The Tesco Write word processor has a pared-down interface, but it retains the familiar feel of Microsoft Word. Finding different features is simple. If you make a selection from the Format menu, you'll be given a list of other options – so you can easily swap between them.

One reason it's so easy to access all the features is that there aren't as many as there are in Word. You get all the basics, but there are very few preset shapes or pre-drawn diagrams. This is worth bearing in mind if you have to share documents that contain these objects, as Write can't open them. And when you import data from other sources, the original formatting will be lost.

You must save documents in a generic file format, such as RTF (rich text format), for other word processors to be able to open them.

Separate spellcheck and grammar functions are included, but we had only one language in the dictionary and thesaurus.

tesco write

Access formatting options from the lefthand pane

Bottom line: Tesco Write's easy-to-use interface will open most documents, but it won't retain much formatting. It has limited features too, but the basic word processor features are there, and the price will attract many entry-level users.

Microsoft Word 2003 (£296 for full suite)

Word is the mother of all word processors, and its pedigree shows. The range of formatting options is extensive, from the simple bold and italics through to animated text effects.

But this amount of formatting tools is unnecessary for a home user and getting at them can be complicated. The beta version of Word 2007 recognises this and makes options easier to access.

Not only is Word excellent when it comes to adding your own formatting, it can retain formatting when text or objects are pasted in from other sources, too. When you paste in an object, a Tool Tip pops up asking you what level of formatting you wish to retain.

Word can create complex charts and graphs and provide you with the means to edit them. There is no need to use extra software. Spelling and grammar options are impressive, too, with many dictionaries to choose from, including foreign languages. Spelling and grammar checking is simultaneous, which saves time.

Microsoft Word

Tool Tips helps you decide how much formatting to retain

Bottom line: Word features a range of formatting tools and Tool Tips – and it will retain source formatting. But some of the features are a little too advanced – and the Office package is expensive.

Microsoft Works 8.0 Word Processor (£28)

Works is the closest competitor to Tesco’s Complete Office – and it reflects its target market of home users by concentrating on ease of use. First time users are presented with a help panel. The interface is similar to Word, although it's simpler and has fewer features. Many of the high-end features of Word are gone. Some, such as multiple dictionaries, you probably won't miss, but Tool Tips and the ability to retain formatting would have been welcome.

When it comes to formatting documents, Works Word Processor offers similar basics to Tesco Write. But it lacks the ability to switch between them from the same window. Spelling and grammar checking is similar, but you have a thesaurus thrown in, too.

You can insert a spreadsheet directly into a document and the corresponding toolbars instantly appear. You can create tables within the application and there are several designs to choose from, which is an improvement on the simple table tool in Write.

Microsoft Works

Creating tables is easy

Bottom line: Works is low-cost and sports a thesaurus, help function and table designs. It is easy to use with a simple interface, but it's still pretty basic and won’t retain complex formatting.

OpenOffice.org 2.0 Writer (free)

One thing sets OpenOffice apart from the crowd – it's free. The drawback is there's no formal support. Instead it’s offered in the form of online forums posted by other users. (Tesco also offers online support at www.tescosoftware.com.)

Although Writer's interface is similar to Word, menu structures aren't the same, so it will take some getting used to. And its native file format .ODT can't be read by other processors. But it's easy to set the software to save files in a generic format such as RTF.

Writer offers a good range of formatting tools, although not as many as Word. It can retain basic formatting, but Word beats it here, too. OpenOffice's roots lie in the business market, as it's based on Sun's StarOffice. This is evident with its high-end feature set, such as support for Digital Signature and XML filters. And it betrays its origins when it comes to ease of use – it's not that intuitive and complicated features will leave novices baffled.


It may take some time to find everything

Bottom line: for freeware, it offers a good range of formatting options and features. But it isn't easy to use, there's no support and its native file format is unsupported by other processors.

Click here to read our verdicts on the spreadsheet capabilities of four popular office suites.