I just purchased a new computer that did not include Microsoft Office; are there any free alternatives or am I stuck paying $100 a year from now on?
This question was answered on June 22, 2023.
A common misnomer for new computer buyers is that Microsoft Office is part of Windows, which has never been the case.
This confusion is further heightened because of trial versions of Microsoft 365 that often come preloaded on new computers.
Microsoft 365 (formerly known as Office 365) is Microsoft’s subscription version of its productivity suite.
Pros and Cons of Office 365
The primary target market for Office 365 is corporate users as much of the value isn’t very important for average home users. Subscribers get additional features and tools along with security and feature updates and more robust customer support.
The biggest downside is that you’ll be on the hook for an annual subscription if you want to keep using the various programs.
If you primarily use Word and Excel and not much else, there are several alternatives that are entirely free to use.
Microsoft offers a free online version of Office (https://bit.ly/46h3CnG) that could be all you need if you’re a basic user.
It includes Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, but it will only work if you have an Internet connection, so this isn’t a good option if you are frequently without Internet access.
The good news is that since it’s free to use, you can try it for yourself to see if it’s good enough.
Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides
Google has a free online version of Word (Docs), Excel (Sheets), and PowerPoint (Slides), and it can be used without an Internet connection by setting up offline access: https://bit.ly/3PnS8sn
It won’t have the exact look and feel of Office, nor will it have all the features so there may be a learning curve especially if you like some of the advanced features of Office.
Open Source Options
A category of software known as ‘open source’ provides many powerful but free alternatives that are compatible with all the Office file types.
Open source refers to software code that is publicly accessible allowing anyone to modify and distribute the code in any form they so choose.
Think of it as sharing a recipe of your favorite dishes with others. Anyone can start with your recipe and make simple or dramatic changes and reshare their version. This community sharing allows open source programs to be updated with new features or fixed by any of the volunteer developers and shared with everyone through version updates.
This is one of the most popular open source Office alternatives (https://libreoffice.org) It has a large developer community providing ongoing support and features as evidenced by the extensions, documentation, and templates available: https://bit.ly/43UwBfg
This is a popular option for those that want to work with other users as it allows for real-time collaboration and its design is familiar to Office users: https://bit.ly/42VscYf
It also has its own mobile apps for Apple and Android devices (https://bit.ly/3NFumqB) and it tends to have fewer formatting errors when it tries to open elaborate documents that were originally created in Microsoft Word.
About the author
Posted by Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on June 22, 2023