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I think most of you know this problem: relatives that call you at the weirdest of times with a computer problem (oh, noes). Recently my aunt-in-law has started to seriously use her computer to write long essays and articles, but she's continually stumped by Word 2003. There's just so much cr*p in there that she never ever uses, but continues to accidentally invoke or run up against. I always thought Word was a half-way decent application (because I rarely ever use it), but getting to see the kinds of problems she has I'm starting to think that it's possibly one of the worst word processors out there.

So what I'm looking for is a nice, simple, clean word processor that I can install for her as a replacement. There are some requirements, but not many:

  • Needs to have a Japanese UI available
  • Needs features particular to Japanese text (I actually think it's easy to best Word here)
    • page needs to be lay-outable by character column and row count
    • vertical input would be nice
    • Ruby support would be nice, but not a must
  • Needs to run on Windows XP
    • Addendum: If there's an awesome Japanese Linux word processor I'd probably be happy to replace her XP install

I think a more recent version of Word with the Ribbon UI would be a good start, but I'm really looking for something that does less, that doesn't have many buttons at all. Any suggestions welcome.

UPDATE: To make it clear: Yes, this is intended for a Japanese person. This Japanese person is an old lady who's very alert but barely knows anything about computers, so the interface needs to be dead simple. Too much technical jargon or "meta-functionality" (e.g. macros, LaTeX/GUI abstractions, templates) is not good and unnecessary. Somehow she managed to invoke the "Record macro" mode, was therefore unable to click on the text and had no idea how to get out of this mode. If the stupid Office assistant pops up with a modal message that needs confirmation she ignores it and doesn't know why she can't interact with the application window any longer.

I'm looking for an app that does away with all that crap, offers only a minimal blank space to write, yet still offers (at least some of) the features she needs.

You'd think this shouldn't be so hard... ;-)

share|improve this question
what about 'windows' tag? – igorsantos07 Aug 21 '09 at 4:11
You want something for the average user, but well, is there even such a simple and clean word processor for English? – hasen Aug 22 '09 at 13:08
@hasen: Apparently not for Windows. :-/ There are a number of "focus-only-on-the-page" kind of word processors for the Mac like Schreiben, WriteRoom or Pages. – deceze Aug 23 '09 at 2:09

LaTex. With some of the GUI frontends available.

While it has a lot of options and is the best out there, really doesnt get in your way to do what ever you would want.

share|improve this answer
Sounds fine, but I'd like the "some of the GUI frontends" part a little more specific. :-) For this user, the GUI is the text. There must be no extra conversion step whatsoever. If LaTeX is used internally by the app, I don't care. The GUI must be "Click New, type what you want output, Click Print". I wouldn't even know where to start explaining what LaTeX is to her. – deceze Jul 18 '09 at 8:04
Easy. "LaTeX is a recipe for your paper." Really, (Xe)LaTeX is at least one of the best free options out there, especially for CJK. TeXWorks has a 'print' button, I believe, and there is minimal setup in a LaTeX document (\documentclass{...} and \(begin|end){document} really are all that is needed.) – Sean Allred Jul 17 '13 at 14:05


OpenOffice is a fairly robust office suite that is not as heavy as MS Office. It is free and open source. Furthermore, I have used its Japanese localization before and it is decent.


Ichitaro is a popular word processor used in Japan. Many Japanese people swear by it. However, it is commercial software, so no freebies.

share|improve this answer
OOo was of course one of the first things I thought of, but I don't think the interface is all that much better. I'd like something with the interface of Pages, but it's only on the Mac. – deceze Jul 20 '09 at 22:52
I know Ichitaro is highly praised and I'd love to recommend it, but do you have any experience with the interface? I just had a look at it once, and it seemed very power-userish. Thanks for your suggestions. – deceze Jul 20 '09 at 22:53
I guess the question to ask now - is the word processor going to be used by a Japanese person? Japanese have very different ideas about what is considered good GUI design. – Elijah Jul 20 '09 at 23:58
Yes, please see my updated question. And no, I don't think Japanese have any inherently different requirements for a good UI. Just most Japanese are used to different UIs. For a complete computer novice any cluttered UI is a bad UI though, Western or Japanese. – deceze Jul 21 '09 at 0:53

I see this Sakura editor at Sourceforge.

"SAKURA" is a Japanese text editor for MS Windows. Japanese MS Windows 95/98/NT/2000/XP/Vista is required. Most double-byte characters are not shown properly on other language versions of MS Windows.

share|improve this answer
Appears to be more targeted towards developers than writers... – deceze Jul 18 '09 at 7:42
Yes, But does that stop you from using it to write notes? – nik Jul 26 '09 at 4:02
I installed it and had a look at it. One of the first things you get when opening it is a question of which type of file you'd like to create/open with a list of a few dozen programming related file types. The dialog seems slightly buggy as well. Not quite what I'd call a word processor with a simple, good interface. – deceze Jul 26 '09 at 13:16

Why not let her use WordPad?
It's included in the operating system, and very simple indeed.

share|improve this answer
Being able to layout a page by character column and row count (specific to Asian text) is a must and alas not available in WordPad, AFAIK. – deceze Jul 22 '09 at 0:34

The best option that you have in your situation, by far, is to use Google Documents. It has a simple interface, it can be configured to use Japanese menus, will accept Japanese text, and it is not OS dependent. The extra perk is that it will allow you to login, given your obasan's permission, to inspect her settings as she sees them when something goes wrong (and no matter what you do, something will go wrong). You will even have the ability to switch the interface to English, if you prefer, to 'clarify' any misunderstandings.


share|improve this answer
Not bad, but GDocs has no asian text-specific perks, or does it? – deceze Jul 28 '09 at 4:32
Nothing specific as far as I can tell (they do allow for left to right, but no up/down - but this is Google, you never know, it could be right around the corner). Just the Japanese interface and otherwise it is plain vanilla. – akf Jul 28 '09 at 4:55

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