Ever since people have been using Linux, questions about using Microsoft Office on the platform have been prevalent, and new users have been puzzled as to how they can get this popular office suite running for themselves.
Over the years there have been many different ways to get Microsoft Office working. In this article we’ll cover the easiest way to get Microsoft Office on your Linux machine.
Getting the installer
Microsoft Office 2013 is what this tutorial will focus on. This is because Office 2016 does not work well with Wine. Go to this link, make a Microsoft account (or log in), and download the Office 2013 program. Make sure to download only the 32-bit version, even if your system is 64-bit.
Using the Wine tools to get Windows programs is not a difficult process. With enough effort and Wine tinkering, anyone can get a Windows program up and running on Linux. Though, for many new Linux users, Wine can be tedious and irritating to use without any direction.
This is where PlayOnLinux comes in. It is a “wine wrapper” and makes things easier. Basically it’s a tool that takes the underlying technology of Wine and adds some easy-to-use GUI tools for installing a myriad of Windows-based games and even programs (like MS Office).
The PlayOnLinux tool is available in most modern Linux distribution package repositories. Install it by opening your package manager or software store and searching for “playonlinux” or from the terminal (in Ubuntu):
sudo apt install playonlinux
Using PlayOnLinux to install Microsoft Office
Inside PlayOnLinux there are many different buttons and options. The only one that matters at the moment is the “Install” button. After you click it, what follows is a window with a search box. In the search area, type “Microsoft Office.”
Searching for this term brings up several versions of Microsoft Office. Each result is an installation profile, and once the user clicks on one, PlayOnLinux will create a Wine environment and walk through the installation process.
Within the results, select “Microsoft Office 2013” and then the “Install” button. What follows is a warning that “this program is currently in testing.” This means that the PlayOnLinux profile for Office 2013 is under testing and may experience some hiccups. Select OK to continue.
This brings up a Windows-like installation wizard. Read the directions and select the “Next” button to be brought to the next part of the installer. PlayOnLinux asks the user to provide the installation file.
Provide the installation program from where it was downloaded earlier in the tutorial or click the “Use DVD-ROM(s)” option, and install MS Office 2013 that way instead.
Once the install process starts, PlayOnLinux will set up a contained Wine environment and place Microsoft Office inside of it. From here, Microsoft Office will be accessible from the Linux desktop.
Known issues with Office 2013
At times Office 2013 may fail to install. This is because the 64-bit version doesn’t work. For Office 2013 to work on Linux and Wine, the 32-bit version must be used.
Additionally, the Office installer may fail to install with PlayOnLinux and even crash. This isn’t necessarily the fault of the Office installer and most likely a problem with the Office 2013 PlayOnLinux script that installs the program itself. If this happens, it is best to just restart PlayOnLinux and try again.
Installing Windows programs on Linux is never a foolproof process. Issues often come up. This is why when using Wine, users should pay attention to WineHQ. It is a website that catalogs hundreds of Windows programs, how they work on Wine and how users can fix issues they may be having to get programs running correctly.
Though it is possible to get Microsoft Office running on Linux with the help of Wine, it is not the only way to use the Office Suite. If you’ve had trouble getting any version of this office suite running, there is an alternative.
For a while now Microsoft has had a Google Docs alternative known as Office 365. This program is not perfect and isn’t as good as its desktop counterpart. However, if this method of installing Microsoft Office has failed you, this is another option.
If Office 2013 and 365 has failed for you on Linux, and you’re looking for better alternatives, check out Libre Office. It’s a well known Linux-first alternative to the Microsoft Office suite, and the developers work really hard to make it familiar and compatible with Microsoft technologies.
Additionally, there is WPS Office, a suite that is designed to look much like Microsoft Office, and there is also FreeOffice. Along with all of this, here is a list of five free alternatives to Microsoft OneNote (a note-taking app) and five good alternatives to Microsoft Outlook.
Switching to Linux doesn’t mean you have to give up your Windows applications. The existence of Wine (and PlayonLinux) has made installing and using Windows applications (in this case, Microsoft Office 2013) very easy. Unless you really need some proprietary features that are specific to Microsoft Office, we do recommend you try out alternative office suites, like LibreOffice, as they are quite stable and capable as well.