Microsoft Office remains the gold standard of office applications. Sure, there are plenty of awesome free Microsoft Office alternatives out there, but nothing comes close to the real deal.
That said, if you want Microsoft Office, you’ll have to reach deep into your pockets. The continued popularity of Microsoft Office hasn’t seen Microsoft take a soft stance, either. The price remains high—but it is an extensive, quality product.
Microsoft Office 2019 Home & Business currently retails for $249 for a single PC license. If that makes your wallet weep, check out these methods to use Microsoft Office for free.
1. Use Microsoft Office Online
Microsoft itself offers a substantial collection of free Microsoft Office utilities. Office Online is essentially a browser-based version of the latest Microsoft Office suite.
It currently includes:
There is a catch, however: The online versions of Microsoft Office apps only provide a limited Microsoft Office experience.
Word Online, for example, does not include text boxes, WordArt, equations, charts, and more. You can still write a term paper, but you won’t be able to compile a company report. Similarly, you’ll be able to open and view your Excel spreadsheet, but your custom macros won’t load.
While Office Online does lack some functionality, it is a versatile free alternative to a fully paid license. The free versions will happily open your files, allow editing, and importantly, keep your document formatting in place at all times.
2. Microsoft Office Mobile Apps
Office Mobile is exactly as it sounds: Microsoft Office, in mobile form. It is an extremely similar experience to Office Online. The functionality is there, and editing and creating documents on the go is easy—but it is extremely screen size dependent.
For instance, editing a Word document on my Samsung Galaxy S8 is reasonable, but attempting to navigate an Excel spreadsheet is fiddly and frustrating. Conversely, editing a Word or Excel document on a larger, tablet-sized screen is actually quite enjoyable.
I’m still not convinced you’ll be running your company accounts from Office Mobile, but it’ll certainly do in a pinch.
Microsoft offers individual mobile apps for Android 4.4 (KitKat) and onwards. For a long time, Microsoft offered users of Android 4.3 or lower the older Microsoft Office Mobile app. However, this all-in-one Office app is no longer available.
Android users post-4.4 should download the newer, individual apps:
Microsoft phased out the iOS Microsoft Office Mobile app long before the Android version. Like Android, there is no legacy version of the app. Note: iPad Pro users need a qualifying Office 365 subscription to create and edit documents.
I’m not going to list the individual apps like I have done for Android as there are differences between iPad and iPhone versions. But you can find the Microsoft Corporation App Store page here, and that contains the individual download links. Like Android, Microsoft is actively developing its iOS apps, bringing new Office features and updates to Apple’s mobile operating system.
3. Sign Up for the Office 365 Trial
Office 2019 introduced numerous changes across the suite. If you haven’t already signed up to Office 2019 elsewhere, you can give it a try before emptying your pockets. As such, you can take a free one-month Office 365 trial.
The trial will grant you access to the full Microsoft Office 2019 suite. Also, you get 1TB OneDrive cloud storage and 60 minutes of Skype credits per month. Of course, there is a “catch.” You must provide a valid credit, debit, or PayPal account during the sign-up process. Microsoft will automatically charge your account once your trial expires.
4. How About the Office 365 ProPlus Trial?
Once your 30-day Microsoft Office 365 trial comes to an end, you’ll either be sold or ready to try something different. Alternatively, why not try another trial? This time using the Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus trial.
You get another 30 days to test Microsoft Office 2019, and access to the same range of Microsoft Office programs as before.
5. Buy Hardware With Office Bundled
Microsoft Office rarely comes bundled with a new desktop or laptop. Unless it is a specific introductory deal, you’ll be purchasing Microsoft Office as an add-on. And if you’re building your own PC, well, you’re straight out of luck.
That said, these types of deals aren’t impossible — you just have to strike while the iron is hot. Unfortunately, that means you need a circumstantial trifecta: new hardware with a bundle deal, the money to take advantage of said deal, and the need to actually upgrade your hardware.
One option is the Acer Aspire One Cloudbook series. The majority of these laptops come with a Microsoft Office 365 Personal 1-Year Subscription. While this is handy, you’ll have to keep up the subscription to continue accessing Microsoft Office.
Similarly, there are some Dell Inspiron 2-in-1 Laptops that come with a full Microsoft Office 2016 installation, without a subscription.
6. Ask Your Employer or School
Everything we’ve covered so far allows you to grab Microsoft Office for free, but also comes with limitations: availability, functionality, hardware. This penultimate option, however, offers some of you a very good chance of acquiring a full version of Microsoft Office 2019 or Microsoft Office 365 completely free.
First, you’ll have to check in with your employer, or if you’re a student, your school. Many companies and schools can offer either a free or extremely low-cost Microsoft Office license for one reason: the people working or studying there need it. Businesses will have to pay, but bulk licenses may mean your employer can provide a free or cheap option.
Furthermore, Microsoft has long supported schools with free Office 365 Education packages. It might be that you simply have to ask directly.
The Best Things in Life Are Free
Grabbing a full version of Microsoft Office for free isn’t possible for everyone. But you’ve got some excellent options, nonetheless. The combination of free Office 365 and Office 365 ProPlus trials grants you 60 days of Microsoft Office.
After that, the choice is yours. I think 60 days is actually an excellent amount of time to decide whether you need the entire Microsoft Office spectrum, or whether a free option like Office Online will suffice.