As far as word processors go, Microsoft Word is still the king. Even today, we keep discovering hidden Word features that make our lives easier. And just as surprising, we keep discovering new ways to get Microsoft Word for free.
Here are all the ways to access Microsoft Word and almost all of them are free.
Do you just want to be able to view, copy, and print Microsoft Word files offline, but don’t want to pay for it? Microsoft’s Word Viewer is what you need. It’s an officially supported free download, which lets you open any Word file format like DocX, copy the text to another word processor, or print it. You will need the Office Compatibility Pack with it (retired as of April 2018).
Warning: Microsoft will prompt you to download and install other files along with this; make sure you deselect everything except Word Viewer and the Office Compatibility Pack.
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux
The first thing you need to know is that you don’t have to pay for Microsoft Word. If you have an active Internet connection, you can use the free Office Online instead.
We can think of a few reasons why you should use free Office Online instead of paying Microsoft to use Word. For starters, you can access documents through a web browser on any computer. It also accurately retains Microsoft Word formatting, unlike other apps. It’s an easy step to cloud computing for anyone who is already hooked into the Microsoft Office ecosystem.
However, you can’t use Office Online without an Internet connection. When you need an offline office suite, fully installed on your own PC, then good old Office is still your best bet.
Platforms: Windows, Mac
Price: Free Trial on Windows (expires in September), Requires Office 365 Subscription for Mac
Right now, you can actually download Microsoft Word for free on Windows, thanks to the company’s beta test of the upcoming Office 2016. The Office 2016 Preview can be downloaded and installed to your Windows or Mac computer, without paying anything or even having to save your credit card information somewhere for a future payment. Along with Word, you will also get Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote.
However, the Office 2016 Preview is only available on a trial basis for a limited amount of time—120 days from when you install it. The program won’t be accessible once the trial period expires, or after Office 2016 is officially released in September.
That said, Office 2016 is a more powerful application than ever before. Particularly, the new “Tell Me” Box is a great addition, which gives you vital tips and help when you need it most. And in Word, you will also get real-time co-authoring, for actual collaborative work.
If you’re on a Mac, you can just grab Office 2016 as long as you have an Office 365 subscription. More on that at the end of this article.
Microsoft Word Mobile
Platforms: Android, iOS, Windows 10 (touchscreens)
Recently, Microsoft is making great apps for Android and even on iOS. The Redmond giant has separated its Office suite into individual apps on mobile operating systems, so you can actually download a full-fledged version of Microsoft Word without needing to get Excel, PowerPoint, and the others. And yes, it’s a completely free version of Microsoft Word.
Perhaps the best part about Microsoft Word on mobile is how well it represents documents filled with charts and graphics. This has historically been a problem on most mobile office suites, but such files show up perfectly on Word Mobile, scroll through smoothly without lagging, and are smartly optimized for mobile screens. Indeed, the new Word Mobile apps show why Microsoft is king of the office suites and not Google Docs.
Note: If you are on an older version than Android 4.4 Kit Kat, you will need to download Microsoft Office Mobile for Android instead.
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Windows tablets
Price: Free Trial and Paid Subscriptions (prices starting at $6.99/$9.99 per month)
If you temporarily need the full version of Word installed on your PC or Mac, you should go with an Office 365 subscription. Until a few years ago, buying Microsoft Office was a one-time cost, but a hefty one. Now, Microsoft has embraced the subscription model, which actually increases the price but makes a lot of sense if you are using Office on multiple computers for your whole family. Plus, there are some cool freebies packaged with it.
So why should you be willing to pay more? The new Office 365 subscription model not only gets you Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, Outlook, Access, and Publisher, but it also adds 1TB of OneDrive storage and 60 Skype world minutes.
The Office 365 Home package is available for $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year. If you plan on sharing your Office with members of your family, this is the best value-for-money deal you can get. It basically applies to five users; so you can install Office offline on five computers (PC or Mac), five tablets, five phones, and get the aforementioned 1TB storage and 60 Skype minutes for five users each. And you also get some additional features for Word Mobile on your smartphone:
The cheaper Office 365 Personal package costs $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year, but supports only one user for the storage and Skype minutes, and offline installation on one computer, one tablet, and one phone.
If you don’t like the new subscription model, you can purchase Office at a one-time cost varying from $139.99 to $399.99. Here’s the difference between the Office packages.
Students can get Office 365 for free, if your school supports it. You can check out eligibility on the official site. However, be warned that the 1TB of OneDrive storage is associated with your school’s account, which means a school administrator can change permissions and access.
Have You Left Word Behind? Are You Coming Back?
Microsoft Word has always been a fantastic word processor, but its price meant that several users moved away from it. Microsoft seems to be correcting that now, with several ways to use Microsoft Word for free. If you’re using Word or another Microsoft Office product, it’s time to re-consider which Office suite is right for you and possibly look into free Microsoft Office alternatives.
Are you a Word user who left and is happy with his new home? Are you tempted to come back, with all these new features?