Microsoft Office Suite — Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook, OneNote, Access and Publisher — is the standard when it comes to digital office software. It set the precedent of what organization and presentation software should be, and continues to be the software set you need most for basic computer and work tasks. Sadly, it’s now also very expensive, but we know some ways you can get Microsoft Office for free.
In the past few years, instead of letting people purchase Office once on CD or via digital download, Microsoft has moved the Office programs to a subscription service called Office 365. For $69.99 a year, you can have access to the Suite as a single user, or you can pay $99.99 a year for up to six users.
You can also buy Word, Excel and Powerpoint for a one-time purchase of $149.99, but that doesn’t come with additional services like cloud storage, or other programs in the Suite. None of these options are cheap, but Microsoft Office is the one collection of software every computer should have — even if only to be able to open the most common file formats. Thankfully, there are ways to get the Suite for free.
Go directly to the source
For people with Microsoft user accounts (which you generally set up when you get a Microsoft device, but can still set one up for free whenever you want) and internet access, Office.com is a great way to access Microsoft Office suite programs at absolutely no cost.
Just log in to your Microsoft account on Office.com, or go to the app you want to use on the Office Products webpage and you’ll be able to use any of the Microsoft Office suite programs you want — so long as you have an active internet connection.
That is the trade-off with Office.com — you can’t access Microsoft Office programs or the documents you create in them, without being connected to Wi-Fi or Ethernet. Similar to Google Docs, everything is stored in the cloud, but you can save in more Microsoft file formats (files in Office.com default to the Office.com file type when you save and you must save separately to make them .DOC or .DOCX).
If you can be on Wi-Fi while you’re working though, and stay on it, Office.com is perhaps the best way to have Microsoft Office as you don’t have to worry about programs taking up space on your hard drive.
Plus, you can access files on any device — you just need your Microsoft login to reach them. Certain editing features are only available to people who pay for Office 365, but Office.com gives you the most bang for no bucks. If you want other options though, keep reading below.
Use mobile apps
You can get Microsoft Office on basically any device these days — desktop computers, laptops, tablets and even phones. Devices can all access the same documents on the same account at different times, so you can work from basically anywhere using the Office Suite — and you can do it for free if you download the mobile apps.
Microsoft Office mobile apps are free to download and give you access to basically all of the Suite’s programs, though the particular programs available to you are slightly different between Android and iOS, and between iPhone and iPad (though all give you Word, Excel and PowerPoint).
You can download as many or as few of the programs you want, and access or share them anywhere thanks to cloud-based sharing and saving. The mobile apps themselves will take up some space on your mobile device, but the documents won’t, so you don’t have to worry about overloading your phone or tablet with documents and spreadsheets.
The downsides to the Microsoft mobile apps include the inability to edit without an Office 365 subscription. On top of that, editing documents won’t be available to you at all if you’re using a mobile app on a device with a screen larger than 10.1 inches.
You have to buy Office 365 if you want to actually type in and edit documents on the iPad Pro, or access Office.com via your web browser. Otherwise, you’ll just be able to view them (although again, on a smaller device you’re fine to use it).
Since the mobile apps won’t get you free Microsoft Office on your desktop, depending on what devices you regularly use, this might not be the preferred way to get yourself free access to Microsoft Office programs. But if you just need to read a lot of Word documents, this could work quite nicely and not cost you a penny.
Be a student, or know one
If you really want the downloaded Microsoft programs on your computer for offline use (which can increase your storage capacity over Office.com, as you’ll be able to save things to your hard drive in addition to the cloud), depending on your age or where you are in life, you might be in luck.
Microsoft had the forethought to create Office 365 Education, a system that gives students with valid school email addresses (who are also of legal age to sign up online) free access to the entire, downloadable Microsoft Office Suite for the entire time they are students.
Office 365 Education lets students share files and applications between devices, so they can access their work anywhere and use Microsoft Teams and Skype to coordinate class projects online or offline — all at no cost to them.
If you’re a student, make sure you’re taking advantage of this offer. It can work for late high school students, as well as college students, as well as for both undergraduate and graduate degrees.
That could be a long time of free Microsoft Office use if you stay in school, so enjoy this perk while you can! Occasionally, Office 365 Education will send a prompt to make sure you’re still an active student — once you no longer are, you’ll have one more month of free access, then you’ll have to buy Office 365 or use one of the methods in this article.
Worst case, use the free trial
If you just need Microsoft Office for a single project, the 30-day free trial of Office 365 could be exactly what you’re looking for. There’s no limited usage in the trial, and access between devices is even easier than any of our above suggestions, as they have no limits either once you’ve logged in to mobile apps properly.
You’ll be able to work on or offline, you get 1 TB of OneDrive cloud storage and you can even share the trial with multiple users (up to 25 people, which is a ton!) so multiple people can work together.
Again, it’s a great option so long as you don’t need access beyond one month. The first-month trial is available to you only once, and once it’s over, you lose access to Office 365 altogether, unless you start paying for a subscription or purchase the Word/Excel/PowerPoint bundle.
Ultimately, we would recommend signing up for a free Microsoft account and using Office.com for free Microsoft Office access. It’s just as convenient for working and sharing as Google Docs, but you get more file extension options, so it might be more useful for sharing with people who use offline Microsoft products as well.
Any of these options might suit you best though, so think about what you want and go for whichever one your gut says is best. Free access to Microsoft Office is nothing to sniff at, so even with limited capabilities, these are pretty great options.
Bonus: Free alternative to Microsoft Office
If you're not someone who just has to have brand name products, there is a free alternative to Microsoft Office that would work well for you.
LibreOffice is an open-source office suite that features six programs that are similar to Microsoft's Excel, Word, and Powerpoint and Google's Docs, Sheets and Slides. And the best part is, Libre's programs are free and its files work with Microsoft and Google programs.
LibreOffice allows you to edit documents you made in Office and save new files in Office formats. For example, if a friend emails you a Microsoft Word document but you do not have Microsoft Office on your computer, with LibreOffice you can edit the Word document and still save it as a Word file.
LibreOffice is free, but the software developers will ask for a donation upon downloading the file. Also, keep in mind that this is a large file so it may take some time to download.
Why just uninstalling apps isn't enough to keep your data safe
Despite how it looks, getting rid of an application from your device is only the beginning. The developers of these apps don't just benefit from the users they attract, but the data they provide as well — and purging an app without considering your data could put your private information at risk. That's why you won't want to miss our insider tips on how to cleanly break away from any app you delete — no matter how much data you may have shared with it.