Numbers don’t lie. Microsoft Office has over 1.2 billion users worldwide, from 140 countries speaking 107 languages. Of these users, 400 million use Windows 10. It stands to reason that a sizeable percentage of these people would rather use Microsoft Office for free – if you’re one, don’t feel alone. Even Microsoft has created many loopholes to help you achieve this goal. Let’s examine all six ways you can use Microsoft Office for free.
1. Free Office Online (formerly Office Web Apps)
If you have a Microsoft account (It’s easy and free to create one.), you can access any of the popular office programs for free. Your account grants you free access to Word, Calendar, PowerPoint, OneNote, Excel, and others. You can sign up here.
In addition to Microsoft’s free Office Online apps, your account hands you access to niche apps. You can upload and share documents over Docs.com, use People to store contacts and even access them on Skype, and create interactive reports or presentations on Sway.
Although you have access to OneDrive for cloud storage, it’s limited. Full access is granted only with a subscription. With your account you can download and use Office apps on mobile platforms like iOS and Android.
Office Online is free but limited – you can only use basic functions. If you want to do more than writing letters and term papers, Office Online isn’t for you. Advanced features, like you’d find in Office 365, aren’t accessible to users. Secondly, Office Online only works online. No Internet connection means no access to your work. These limitations are lifted in the free options as we’ll discuss shortly.
2. Microsoft Office for mobile devices
Office isn’t preinstalled on desktop computers; however, certain mobile devices come bundled with Office applications for mobile. Microsoft avails free downloadable options on their website if your mobile devices didn’t come with preinstalled bundles. Office Mobile is compatible with convertibles like Asus Transformer Book T100 and Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 10. You can download them here:
3. Free Office for students, faculty, and staff
Microsoft offers Office 365 for free to qualifying students and employees of educational institutions. Your schools must be signed up for you to access it – Microsoft extends the offer to all students. However, an administrator can sign you up directly if your school isn’t signed up for this program already. The key differences with an Office 365 trial version are:
- Class management using Class Notebook
- Options for intranet customization
- Unlimited meetings (online)
4. 30 days free trial for Office 365
Office 365 is free for 30 days. You can download it here. Remember that it’s the same product in case you see promotional offers like “Try Office 365 Personal for free.” The trial version can be used on five laptops or desktops simultaneously. Each user gets one terabyte cloud storage on OneDrive as part of the trial. This option has two downsides:
- You get only 30 days free, making this option unfit for long-term use
- Microsoft collects your credit card information before you get access to download the software
5. Microsoft evaluations for Office apps
You can participate in Microsoft’s evaluation program. The program lets you try out some Office apps within a defined period of time. These programs stop after the evaluation time elapses. Some of the products you’ll try out include:
- Test Office 365 ProPlus for 30 days
- 2016 version of Project Professional for 60 days
- 2016 version of Visio Professional for 60 days
6. Preview future Office (and other Microsoft products)
Microsoft runs public previews with their products. They are currently doing so with StaffHub, a new office app that helps remote workers organize their work, and will likely do it with their next Office upgrade.
You probably don’t need most features in a full Office suite, so Office Mobile or Free Office online should generally cover most of your needs. If you ever need more than the basics, then sign up for trials or use the other options. You qualify for a full suite of Office 365 for free if you’re a student, faculty or employee at a university. Ask if your school is enrolled or talk to an administrator.