There was an interesting question asked in a writer’s group I’m part of. One of the members needed a laptop – stat. Their trusty Dell had finally given up the ghost. The problem was that she didn’t have a whole lot to spend.  What she needed was a laptop that would allow her to do Internet research, manage social media, receive email, and access publishing site. And a good word processing program was also a necessity.

But her budget was only around $200. Is there hope?  Let’s take a look.  If being able to use office apps and access the Internet were the only criteria here I could suggest an inexpensive Android tablet with a keyboard case. But I know from first-hand experience that some of the publishing sites she needs to access don’t play well mobile browsers.

A Windows 10 tablet would be a good solution. With the addition of a keyboard, it can function like a laptop and even run the full version of Office. There are models available for less than $100. Plus, unlike Android tablets and iPads, these devices do have a USB port.

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One good option is to find a nice refurbished laptop.  There is a variety of Windows 10 laptops, some even certified refurbished by the manufacturer, for between $150 and $200.

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But there are also quite a few lower-priced new laptops out there in the $200 range. They tend to have small hard drives and be designed more for web connectivity. But for simple needs like writing and using the Internet, they work fine. These are not the PCs to buy if you need to do any heavy-duty graphics work like run Photoshop or a video editing program.

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There’s also the option of a Chromebook. Chromebooks can be inexpensive, really more like a tablet in a laptop’s body. They are designed specifically for use with the Internet. You don’t install PC programs on this device. You find apps in the Chrome store.  This will pretty much limit you to using Google Docs for your word processing .  You can access Microsoft Office apps online, but the online app is not as fully featured as actual Microsoft Word.

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When it comes to word processing options for writers, I really do prefer Microsoft Word. I find that it is the easiest to convert to the formats needed for publishing and I also like the ease with which things like table of contents and page breaks can be added.

But there are a lot of great free options as well. You can use Microsoft Office Apps Online, though it isn’t as full-featured as the paid version of Office. There are also great free Office suites like LibreOffice and Open Office as well the option of free Google Docs online.

A great backup plan is to keep the portable version of LibreOffice on a USB drive.  In a true PC emergency, you can tote your work and your office suite to the nearest library PC or over to a friend’s and work without having to install anything on their PC.

For my personal writing needs, I use a Microsoft Surface Pro (certainly not a cheap option) with an Office 365 subscription. A deciding factor for me was size. I needed something portable that wouldn’t pull my arm off. It fits right in a large purse. After years of having a laptop attempt to wrench my shoulder out of the socket, it’s a welcome change.

~ Cynthia