Some readers may well remember the days when word processing was done offline (possibly, even with a typewriter!) but for many of today’s digital natives, it’s always been done online – and through the software offered by familiar global brands such as Microsoft.

One of the most popular packages available in recent years, however, has been Google Docs. It’s a comprehensive online document production, sharing and collaboration service with excellent features. A huge range of Google Docs add-ons also exists to offer greater scope for customization.

However, the software isn’t completely perfect and for various reasons – ongoing concerns about Google’s relationship with user privacy being just one key example – online users are keen to discover alternatives to Google Docs.

Although the perfect Google Docs alternative doesn’t yet exist, there are various excellent packages which are well worth checking out. We’ve carried out a review for you, so read on!

Our choices of alternatives to Google Docs

At the very least when choosing your Google Docs alternative, you want to be able to type, edit, share and – ideally – collaborate. So let’s take a look at what else is out there on the market.

1. Microsoft Office Online

Yes, it’s the most heavily-used and recognized office package in the world. But did you know that it offers a free version online as well? To use it, just create your Microsoft account and away you go, ready to explore the full range of Office applications – Word, Powerpoint, Outlook, and Excel, not to mention less familiar ones such as OneNote, Sway and other useful tools.

If this blog hasn’t revealed anything other than the fact you can get Microsoft Windows for free by using the online version, that seems like a good pay-off to us! Of course, there are limitations to what it can do, as you’d expect from a service you aren’t paying for.

However, a lot of people simply use the free online version rather than pay for the latest installed release. The free service also has collaborative tools now, so it really is a decent package.

Where does it fall down? Microsoft Office applications have the functionality that you’d recognize, but some main features are missing. One example is that you’ll only find a limited number of templates to use.

Secondly, you can’t make your own styles – although you can use the integrated ones provided. Basically, Microsoft gives you “half” feature sets in the free version, and you need to pay for the full shebang.

Generally speaking, this isn’t a problem. But some absences will be too frustrating for regular Office package users to ignore. So what else is on the market as a viable Google Docs alternative?

2. Zoho Office

Zoho Office has garnered a lot of fans recently as one of the best alternatives to Google Docs on the market. Its main feature is that it offers a really wide range of applications, from a central public content repository and a personal wiki through to the trusty email service.

The 4.0 release has also seen the interface smartened up and streamlined further so that the interface works beautifully with widescreen desktop monitors in particular. The Zoho Writer is superb with a huge array of editing options.

These are shown in a clean, streamlined and attractive sidebar. With Zoho Writer, you can do pretty much anything that you can do in Word. This includes creating your own electronic signature, posting documents directly to a website or blog, adding headers and footers, using integrated chat to collaborate as you edit and also carrying out a mail merge.

Of all the various web-based alternatives to Google Docs, Zoho is the one that offers the most features, and yet it is still simple to use. It doesn’t get the publicity that Google Docs enjoys, but there are plenty of reasons to look at it as a viable alternative.

3. Etherpad

This is the package to look at if you’re keen on collaboration. With Etherpard you don’t need to install anything or sign up to anything. simply choose Etherpad Lite, which operates via an encrypted connection. Select your connection, invite your contacts by email or share a link to the pad you want to collaborate on.

As each user comes online, you can work together to change your text in real time, with the changes appearing automatically. You can use the sidebar feature to chat, flag up which user has made which change and save out revision stages so that it’s possible to revert to an earlier version if needs be.

This Google Docs alternative tends to be popular with coders and programmers, but it’s also ideal for times when you need to write or edit a document, especially if you are doing so with other people.

The interface is simple and the features are light. All editing and writing is done in plain text, but the actual utility value and collaboration on offer with the package is excellent and exceeds any value that add-on features could provide.

4. Dropbox Paper

This is another online collaborative editor and it’s currently in the open beta stage of development. Simply sign up to a Dropbox account and you can give it a go. The tool has some great features. For example, its very easy to add and organize images, especially if you are familiar with Dropbox to start with.

It’s just as easy to embed other content too, from Vimeo, YouTube, Twitter, SoundCloud, Facebook, and Google Docs. Again, sharing and collaboration are key purposes of Dropbox Paper. Just click the blue button to share with selected contents, and @people to invite them to share.

Within the collaboration zone, you can also assign tasks to co-collaborators. The interface is slick and the user experience is very enjoyable. This system is well worth a look.

5. Nuclino

This online editor may be less well known, but it’s excellent with an extremely simple set-up and superb interface. The user experience overall is satisfying, but it’s important to note that Nuclino is geared towards the project and team management, rather than being designed as a replacement for Google Docs.

However, editing and writing in Nuclino is easily done with the editorial tools and clean look and feel. You’ll find a broad range of service features, with multiple boards and groups, smart tags and external content integration on offer.

In summary

There are plenty of alternatives to Google Docs if you are prepared to look around. Either try a more familiar online editing tool such as Microsoft Office online or experience a more cutting-edge mode of digital collaboration with Nuclino or Dropbox Paper. At the very least, you will find yourself with a suite of alternative tools to try – and potentially a great replacement for Google Docs.