While Microsoft Office is offered at a few different prices, none of them are considered budget-friendly. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: The scarce stand-alone versions of the office suite start at around $150, while subscriptions run $7 per month or $70 annually.
Thankfully, there are ways to get it for free, despite the fact Microsoft wants to charge a premium for its well-known word processor.
None of the methods will land you a suite as robust as the professional version, but if you don’t require all the latest features, there are ways to save a considerable amount of cash on Microsoft Office. Here, we look at four ways to do exactly that.
Use the free web apps
Microsoft has been gradually expanding the number of apps you can use online for free and now offers an impressive suite that can easily merge with downloaded apps, with plenty of functionality for the average project.
It’s also really easy to sign up. Go to this webpage, pick the app that you want (scroll down for all options), and log into your Microsoft account to get started. (If you don’t have a Microsoft account, signing up for one is easy.) This method allows you to use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Calendar, and other traditional Microsoft apps. It also gives you access to more niche apps, like Sway, an interactive report/presentation app; People, an advanced contact list; and OneDrive, a cloud storage service where you can access and save your files.
So, if this is all here and available for free, why does the rest of this article exist? Because while these apps are useful, they’re also limited to only very basic functions. They don’t offer the full features that Microsoft 365 (previously known as Office 365) provides, and you need an online connection to use them. It’ll work for simple tasks, like putting together a simple document, but it won’t work for more complicated ones.
Get Office apps through your school
If you are part of an education organization (student, faculty, or staff), enter your school email address on this site and see if you can get a version of Office for free. Microsoft extends the Office 365 Education program to all students, but your school needs to be signed up first. The benefits include access to the Office apps you expect (such as Word and Excel), plus other apps, such as Microsoft Teams, Access, and Publisher.
If you just graduated, you may not be able to get Office apps for free, but you can get them at a very low cost. The alumni discount allows you to get Office 365 Personal for just $1 per month for 12 months, a great deal for those starting out in their professional environments.
Try a free 30-day trial of Microsoft 365
Free trials are still a thing, and Microsoft Office apps are no exception. If you want to experience Microsoft 365 for free, you can — for a full month. Just head to the free trial page and sign up. The trial allows you to download Microsoft 365 for up to six users and across Windows, Macs, and mobile devices. Plus, you get 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage for each user to experiment with. The trial includes the latest versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and other apps.
The downside is that you only get a month of service, which obviously isn’t beneficial if you need long-term access. Another caveat is that Microsoft requires your financial account information before the download and will start automatically charging you after the month is up, which can make disentangling yourself from Microsoft 365 a little difficult (which is the point). It’s a good way to try out the full version of Microsoft 365 to see if it offers enough to be worth the price tag, but be ready to cancel if you don’t want to be charged.
Note: Some product offers can be a little tricky, like the “Try Microsoft 365 Personal for free” hook on the Microsoft Store. Be warned that this is still referring to the one-month trial version, even if it doesn’t come right out and say so. And don’t try those “free product key” websites, which tend to be pretty sketchy and rarely deliver.
Sign up for an evaluation (30 to 60 days)
Microsoft’s Evaluation Center is a program that allows you to test out certain Office apps for a limited period. The only Office Evaluation program Microsoft offers is for Office 365 ProPlus. The test session lasts 30 days. It’s essentially another way to get a free trial, but this option provides specific and full-featured software.
Microsoft knows that some folks will milk the evaluation period for all its worth. As a result, they limited access to the service to a 30-day period. Not ideal for a long-term solution, but a great solution if you need to knock out a one-off project in Microsoft Office.
Users may also experience some flaws during their 30-day trial. Microsoft developers use this service as a testbed to work out bugs in newer apps and features. It’s a great solution for evaluating Microsoft Office, but it doesn’t feature the level of stability and support of the paid version.
Don’t forget that you can use free Microsoft Office alternatives
If you need Office-like apps and need them fast, free alternatives can look especially appealing. Developers typically design these apps to emulate many of the features of Microsoft Office, with just a few subtle differences. Plus, their files can often transfer over to the Office suite with little to no hassle. Just be aware you may run into a few compatibility issues.
While some may use these alternative apps in a pinch, plenty of users rely on them as their everyday productivity software. If you want the authentic Office experience, though, it’s doable on a budget. Microsoft’s web apps are handy, and especially for students, free access through your educational institution might be your best bet.
Whether you grab a free trial to get a presentation in on time or download an Office alternative for long-term use, you’ll be in good company.
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