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Whenever a new version of Microsoft Office comes out, everyone starts trying to find either a legal or illegal way of getting hold of a cheap copy. No-one wants to pay full price.
Amazon has Office 2013 Home & Business at $178.02 – and that is just for one user and one PC! Obviously there are slightly cheaper versions for students (which we will be looking into, below), but nevertheless, it is a fair chunk of change. It would certainly bring tears to my eyes if I had to part with that kind of money.
Let’s take a wander around the web, and see what options you have if you need Microsoft Office as cheaply as possible (preferably free). Matt recently covered how to get Office for free. Here, we will also be looking at cheap and non-Microsoft products.
I want to stress right away though that we will not suggest or promote illegal downloads. So if you’re a bad boy / girl, stop reading now and go visit this page instead.
Office 365 /2013
Office 365 / 2013 is Microsoft’s newest version of Office, however there are small differences between 365 and 2013. Office 2013 has the usual suspects – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. They are available as a one-time purchase for use on a single PC. Home and Student costs $110, Home and Business $280, and Office Professional & Insane Individuals $500. Not exactly cheap, and we are looking for cheap here today.
Office 365 plans include standard Office applications and you get additional services, including 1TB of storage on OneDrive and 60 Skype world minutes per month. The big difference between 365 and Office in this respect is that Office 365 is a subscription-based service. Office 365 can be used on PCs, Macs, Windows tablets, and iPads and are available as a monthly ($7.99) or an annual ($79.99) subscription.
The great thing about Office 365 is that you can share the subscription and all of the benefits that come with it, with 4 other people in your household. So it’s great for Mum doing the household budget, Dad bringing his work home, and the kids doing their homework. $8 a month for 5 users? You can’t get any cheaper than that. And don’t forget the 1TB OneDrive space and 60 Skype minutes per month.
Extend Your Office 365 / 2013 Trial Version
The How-To Geek site has shown everyone how to extend the trial version of Office 365 or 2013, and of course we fully credit them for this. We would be totally remiss if we didn’t mention it.
As we have just explained, Office 365 comes with a 30 day free trial. But you can actually extend it for another 30 days – 5 TIMES – giving you a total of 180 days of use (that’s 6 months, in case you’re calculating). But as How-To Geek warns, you need to extend the trial version before it expires. So set a reminder on your calendar. Head on over to the How-To Geek page to see what you have to do. It involves a bit of typing in your computer, but it’s not difficult, and it gives you 5 more months. Well worth it.
Microsoft Home Use Program ($9.95)
The Microsoft Home Use Program could end up giving you an enormously fantastic deal. If your employer participates in the program (and if they don’t, hassle them to do it!), then you can get a license for Microsoft Word for the low low price of $9.95. Yup, that is NOT a typo! A measly $10!! The price of two takeaway coffees.
If your generous bountiful employer does participate, you need to enter your work email and your program code. You can then get a cheapy license for either Office Professional 2013 or Office for Mac 2011.
Be a Student (free, subject to restrictions)
Microsoft loves students – so much so that they constantly throw great offers at them. One good offer is Student Advantage, which is a scheme where students can get Office 365 ProPlus (more details here) for free, provided that the education institution that they are attending licenses Office 365 ProPlus or Office Professional Plus for staff and faculty. Just ask someone at your university or college about it, and see if they participate.
Word Viewer [No Longer Available]
If you really want to get down to basics, then Word Viewer is your guy. It’s freeware, designed to open and print MS Office documents. As well as printing the text, you can also copy text to the clipboard, and use it as a basic notepad.
As well as Word, you can also download Excel Viewer, and Powerpoint Viewer [No Longer Available]. Both are basic standbys if you are on a computer which does not have MS Office installed.
Apache Open Office (free)
This is probably the best known alternative to Word, with its claim of 100 million downloads so far. It’s open source, which means they have an army of volunteers donating their time and skills to making Open Office much better.
Files are saved as ODT files by default, but you can drop the list down and choose from many others, two of them being DOC and DOCX. Microsoft Office files can also be easily opened in Open Office.
You can also add extensions and templates to make Open Office extremely useful. So you will have only what you need, and none of the bloat that Microsoft serves up for lunch. The best extensions include dictionaries in a wide range of languages, PDF importer, PDF converter, a barcode creator, and an extension which helps you create articles on Mediawiki, without knowing any of the wiki markups.
Oh and don’t forget the excellent portable version on PortableApps (although the site claims that the portable version is outdated. This doesn’t matter though as it still works perfectly).
LibreOffice is another free open-source office suite, which isn’t that different from Apache Open Office. This is because LibreOffice is a version of OpenOffice, which was made in 2010. But for some reason, I like this one more than Open Office. I couldn’t say why – I just do. The suite has software for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations (like Powerpoint), database management, a vector graphics editor, and an application for creating and editing mathematical formulae.
The suite is cross-platform, and is the standard word processing suite for most Linux versions. Like Open Office, it also has extensions and templates, and it too has a portable version over at PortableApps.
Opening DOC files is a breeze, and saving files as MS Office files is also drop-dead easy.
This one is another one that I personally enjoy using. It is described on its website as a program which:
….allows you to collaborate with multiple people on one document at the same time. It is tightly integrated with the AbiCollab.net web service, which lets you store documents online, allows easy document sharing with your friends, and performs format conversions on the fly.
I just like it for being a nice, simple, light, and straight-forward word processing program. As with the others, you only get what you need. No crap, nothing to clog up your computer. It is cross-platform, has its own plugins, and its own portable version. And it supports numerous file formats, including DOC files.
Thinkfree [No Longer Available]
ThinkFree is slightly different in that it is not free. After the free trial, you need to pay $60 to keep using it. It consists of a word processing app, a spreadsheets app, and a presentations app.
Thinkfree describes itself as :
……the most accurate MS Office-compatible productivity suite on the market today. Use ThinkFree Office™ to create word processing documents, spreadsheets, and graphic presentations, or open and edit Word™, Excel™, and Powerpoint™ documents in ThinkFree Office™.
And they also have a mobile option, but it seems to be solely confined to Android. Thinkfree is nice enough, but with the free options out there, I personally would be hesitant to shell out $60 to get the full version. However, Thinkfree markets the price as something which is vastly cheaper than Microsoft Word (and it is). Why pay $178 for Office, when you can pay $60 for something virtually identical?
The Cloud Options
If you want to get the real Microsoft experience – but not pay for it – then Office Online is the next best thing. All you need is a Microsoft account, and if you use Windows 8, then you probably use one to log into Windows. Just use that one, if you don’t want to make yet another email address.
As you can see in the screenshot above, the Microsoft services Word, Outlook, OneNote, Powerpoint, Excel, and OneDrive are covered. You can also access your contacts and calendar. With the contacts, you can sync your friends lists from Skype, Facebook, Yahoo, and LinkedIn.
Here is what the Word interface looks like. What I like about it, is that it has just the features you are likely to need. Be honest with yourself – when did you last use everything on the Word toolbars? “Bloated” doesn’t begin to describe it.
All documents created with Office Online are saved in your OneDrive account. This makes the whole thing truly portable and in the cloud, and is actually a pleasure to use. In fact, it is so good that I would go as far as to say that you can uninstall any old installed versions of Office you may have on your PC and just use this. Save yourself a couple hundred dollars and avoid buying the 2013 desktop edition.
Google was the first one to introduce and promote word processing in the cloud with their Google Docs service. Over time, they have improved the service and you can now also get apps for spreadsheets, presentations, forms, app scripts, and more. When it comes to finding a favourite cloud word processing service, I struggle between Google Docs and OneDrive, as they are equally good. But the one thing that lets Google Docs / Drive down is that the desktop sync app is not great. It feels slow and clunky.
Google Docs supports Office apps, and you can export new files as Office apps. The formatting is the bare minimum, so again, you only get what you need and no more.
Go To The Library & Use The Computers There
Yes, we are promoting going to the library. Not enough people go to their local library and you would be amazed at what you would find if you did go. Computers with Internet and word processing software. Books, even.
Now tell us in the comments where else you can get a reduced price or free legal copy of Windows. Or maybe there is a non-Windows alternative we missed out? Let us know and educate us all.
Image Credit : Woman sleeping on a notebook, student or night work, tiredness – Shutterstock / Subscription Expired Screenshot – How To Geek