Microsoft Word and its .doc and .docx files are hugely popular in and out of the business world. You can’t exactly run Microsoft Word on the Chromebook, but you can get pretty darn close.
Docs is Google’s version of the word processor. Everything’s online and it’s totally free. Docs can read .doc and .docx files, but it’s not perfect. If you have some funky formatting in your file (e.g. a particularly complex table), Docs will try its best, but the output is often illegible. Simpler documents and straight up formatting are usually no problem, and you can also save out to a Word file for anyone else. There’s one huge advantage to Docs – multiple people can edit one single version at once, even at the same time – you’ll see their cursor and what they’re doing as they type. No more horrid merge changes!
Docs on the Chromebook does work offline. It doesn’t work fantastically well, but it works well enough for you to jot down some notes when you’re on the Underground or out in the sticks.
Office web apps
If you’re used to the look and feel of Word, and you aren’t using complex documents, Microsoft provide a version of Word for the web. It’s in beta, but it works pretty well. Just head to My Office on office.com, sign in with your Microsoft account and get rolling. While it’s easy to create new documents and export them, to open existing documents you’ll need to upload it to Microsoft’s Skydrive and open it from there.
rollApp runs LibreOffice and OpenOffice on the web, so you can use them on your Chromebook. Opening Word files in LibreOffice Writer is easy – you can connect to your Dropbox or Google Drive and open them like regular files. You also have access to some more complex features that you might be used to from Word. The downsides are that, similar to Google Docs, it doesn’t interpret files perfectly, particularly for more complex documents. It’s also not hugely stable yet, being still in beta, and free accounts are limited to three documents at a time, and an automatic shutdown after 10 minutes idle.
If you’re one of the lucky few with a Chromebook Pixel, you have QuickOffice installed which can read (but not edit) Word documents. We should get editing enabled in the next few months, and a rollout to other Chromebook devices from there.
If you absolutely must have a full version of Word, you can try Nivio – it’s a web service that lets you run a remote Windows instance. It’s a paid service starting at $50 per month if you want access to Office (it’s Office 2010).