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6 Ways to Use Microsoft Office For Free

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Microsoft Office costs money, except when it doesn’t. From a hidden 60 day free trial that doesn’t require payment details to web apps and mobile apps, there are many ways to get Office for free.

Office is still one of Microsoft’s big cash cow, so you can’t just download a free full version of Office 2013 and use it forever. But there are ways to use Office without ever spending a dime — if only for a few months.

Office 365 Trial – 30 Days

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Microsoft offers a free month of Office 365 Home Premium, which allows you to use Office on multiple PCs and Macs. The only downside here is you’ll have to provide payment details at the time of download. You’ll  have to cancel your service before the free month ends or Microsoft will start charging you $9.99 per month.

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Office Professional Plus Trial – 60+ days

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Microsoft also offers a free 60-day trial of Office Professional Plus 2013. Unlike the standard Office 365 Home Premium trial, this free trial doesn’t require any payment information. You can also use a hidden trick to extend your free trial period and gain more time. You have to extend your free trial period before it expires, however — if you let your free trial expire, you can’t extend it further.

The Office Professional Plus Trial gives you a download link and a product key you can enter. Microsoft requires you install a download manager and you end up with an .IMG file, which isn’t a convenient format. It’s as if they want to make this process confusing so average Windows users don’t use it.

We recommend using the 7-Zip file archiver to extract the .IMG file’s contents. You don’t have to burn anything to disc — just run the setup.exe file after extracting it to install Office on your computer.

After installing Office, click Enter a product key instead in the Activate Office window and enter the product key Microsoft gave you.

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Office Online

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Microsoft’s Office Online service is completely free. It’s a web-based version of Office you can use in your web browser. It works with documents stored in your OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) account, not with documents on your computer. Word Online and its siblings are more limited and can’t be used offline, but they should offer excellent compatibility with Office document formats. Office Online gives you a way to use Microsoft Office for free on any PC, Mac, Linux system, or Chromebook.

Office Online lacks most of Office’s features, but most people don’t use all those features. It’s not all lacking, either — Office Online actually offers better real-time collaboration features than the desktop version of Office 2013 does.

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Office Mobile for Android, iPhone, and Windows Phone

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Office Mobile was previously free online on Windows Phone devices, while the Android and iPhone versions of Office required an Office 365 subscription. The Office Mobile apps for Android, iPhone, and Windows Phone are now free to everyone. Like Office Online, they work with documents stored in your OneDrive account. You can now use Office Mobile on your smartphone for free, and Office Online on your PC for free.

Office for iPad does require an Office 365 subscription to edit documents, however.

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OneNote

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OneNote is now free for everyone. Microsoft’s note-taking service offers applications for the Windows desktop, Mac, Windows 8, the web, iPhone, iPad, Android, and Windows Phone — practically any platform you’d want to use. Make no mistake, this is a note-taking application, so you won’t be composing Word documents, constructing spreadsheets, or putting together presentations. Many Office users on Windows loved OneNote, and it’s now a free and worthy competitor to Evernote.

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Windows Devices With Free Office Included

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Some Windows PCs come with a free copy of Microsoft Office. If you buy these devices, you’ll be able to use Office without paying a monthly fee or buying a boxed copy. As a general rule, Microsoft is including a free copy of Office on lower-end devices you wouldn’t want to run Office on, while you’ll have to pay for Office on higher-end devices you would want to run Office on.

  • Windows RT Devices: Windows RT is almost dead and you’ll only find it on Microsoft’s Surface 2 and original Surface (also known as the Surface RT). This version of Windows can’t run any non-Microsoft desktop applications, but it does include a free copy of Office on the desktop.
  • 8-inch and Smaller Windows 8.1 Tablets: If you buy an 8-inch Windows 8.1 tablet, you’ll get a free copy of Microsoft Office with it. Of course, it won’t work too well — Office’s natural environment is a larger display with a keyboard and mouse, not an eight-inch touch screen. Luckily, you can always connect such smaller tablets to a monitor, keyboard, and mouse and turn that tablet into a desktop PC.
  • Some Low-End Windows 8.1 Devices: Some other lower-end Windows 8.1 devices include a free copy of Office. For example, the $349 ASUS Transformer Book T100 convertible includes a free copy of Office, even though it has a 10-inch screen. On more expensive devices — for example, Microsoft’s Surface Pro devices — you won’t get a free copy of Office.

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Bonus: Other Office Solutions

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Microsoft Office isn’t the only game in town when it comes to Office software. Here are some other free office suites you may want to choose from:

  • Google Docs: Available online on the Google Drive website and in the Google Drive apps for Android, iPhone, and iPad, Google Docs allows you to work on documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. You can enable offline access and use Google Dos when you don’t have an Internet connection.
  • Apple iWork: iWork, Apple’s simplified office suite, is free to new Mac, iPhone, and iPad devices. It isn’t just for these devices, though — you can access a web-based version of iWork on the iCloud website, allowing you to use iWork even on Windows PCs.
  • LibreOffice: LibreOffice is a free office suite that sprang from OpenOffice.org. It’s a full-featured office suite that runs on your PC and provides lots of features. This office suite still looks like Office 2003 — it doesn’t have a ribbon.
  • Abiword: Abiword is a nice option if you just want the basics. It’s not fancy, but it’s small, very lightweight, and offers the basic word-processing features most people need.

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There are other considerations if you’re using Microsoft Office for business purposes. For example, the free versions of Office that come with some Windows devices are technically “Home and Student” licenses, so you’d be violating the license if you used them for business use. Office 365 Home Premium also has a license that specifically prohibits commercial use.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 04/13/14

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