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Get Microsoft Office: Free vs. subscription, top alternatives

About Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office provides industrial-strength productivity tools across a variety of platforms, including Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, and the Web. The Office suite is available for download as part of an Office 365 subscription, as a one-time purchase, or as a free trial. You can also use Office Online for free. If you are part of a group, or if you hop between devices as you work on documents, Office is invaluable.

Microsoft Office

Which apps are in the Microsoft Office suite?

Microsoft's burly suite includes these industry-standard productivity applications:

Many of the apps are available across platforms and devices, letting you view and edit files on PCs, Macs, tablets, and phones. The newest versions have hooks into the cloud, so you can store, edit, and sync your Office files through the OneDrive cloud storage service.

Microsoft Office FAQs

  • Can you get Microsoft Office as a free download?
    You can download a free one-month copy as part of an Office 365 trial. The trial version gives you full access to all the Office 365 apps and features. If you don't need all the bells and whistles, try Office Online, the browser-based version, which provides many of same capabilities as the Windows and Mac productivity apps. Office Online is free and lets you edit, share, and store your documents in the cloud.
  • Other ways to get Microsoft Office

    Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook (and Publisher and Access with the Windows collection) come with an Office 365 subscription, which includes 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage and 60 monthly Skype minutes. Subscriptions start at $6.99 per month.

    Alternatively, you can buy Office 2016 as a one-time purchase, which comes with OneDrive and Skype. However, it's probably more cost-effective to subscribe, and you get better cross-device benefits, too -- check out the cons of buying vs. subscribing.

  • Can you download an older version of Office?
    As you might expect, Microsoft would like to you download and use the most recent versions of its software. But if you have an existing product key for an earlier version of Office, you can still grab a copy of Office 2007, Office 2010, and Office for Mac 2011.

    If you are looking for Office 2013, you can download it with an existing product key and then, if you want, upgrade to Office 2016.

    Be aware that Microsoft products have a support lifecycle -- keep that in mind when thinking about whether to upgrade.


Google Drive


The Google Drive suite of tools lets you create, edit, and collaborate on text, spreadsheet, and presentation documents in the cloud for free.


The popular and free LibreOffice productivity suite offers features similar to Microsoft's Office tools.


The OpenOffice collection of apps does a good job of matching up with Microsoft's Office productivity software.

Clifford Colby follows the Mac and Android markets for He's been an editor at Peachpit Press and a handful of now-dead computer magazines, including MacWeek, MacUser, and Corporate Computing.