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Free Microsoft Office in Windows 10? Sort Of

Is Microsoft Office free in Windows 10?

No.

But then again, yes.

In fact, there’s a free version for anyone, on any version of Windows — or indeed, almost any operating system.

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The online versions of Microsoft Office apps are completely free, surprisingly capable, and compatible with their desktop counterparts. You may not even need Office installed on your computer. The installed version is not free, and requires either a one-time or subscription purchase. The “Office” app pre-installed on Windows 10 is the gateway to whichever you choose.

The Office App

When you run Windows 10 for the first time (or if you’ve not modified your Start menu to make it go away), there’s a tile for an app called “Office”.

The Microsoft Office app in the tiled Start menu
The Microsoft Office app in the tiled Start menu.

This little app is free. It’s intended to be your “home base” for Microsoft Office use moving forward. If you never intend to use Microsoft Office, you can right-click on the tile and select Uninstall.1

Choices

The first time you run it, you’ll be given a choice: Office 365 or Office Online.

Choosing which version of Office to use
Choosing which version of Office to use.

The wording may change, but the choice remains the same.

Office 365 is the traditional version of Office that you download and install on your computer. It is not free, and requires a subscription purchase to download and install. It includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access, and Publisher.

Office Online is the online, web-based version of many of the Microsoft Office programs. It includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and more. Office Online is free to use, and since these versions are web-based, they can be used from any version of Windows, and any computer running any operating system with a compatible web browser.

Is Online enough?

The online version of Office is, of course, a somewhat less feature-rich version, but it’s more than adequate for many, many uses.

For example, Office Online compares favorably with the other big player in the free online space: Google Docs. Given that it’s Microsoft Office, Office Online also doesn’t suffer from many compatibility issues found in exchanging documents with other free solutions, like Open Office or Libre Office.

Whether it’s right for you depends on your needs. If you frequently exchange documents with other Microsoft Office users, you may want to check out Office Online. If you find it has the features you need — and it’s very possible it will — it may be enough.

If you need more features and don’t really have a compatibility issue with other Microsoft Office users, Libre Office or Open Office may be right for you.

And if only the real thing will do, a subscription to Office 365 might be the best solution.

Keeping the Office app or not

After you’ve made your decision, the Office app remains. When you want to run, say, Word, you open the Office app and select Word. If you’re using Office 365, the installed program will be run. If you’re using Office Online, a web browser will open to Microsoft Word online.

The Office app isn’t required. You can uninstall it if you like, even if you use Microsoft Office. If you’re using Office 365, the individual Office applications will appear on your Start menu, and if you’re using Office Online, you can simply visit office.com and log in with your Microsoft account.

So, no, what we generally think of as Microsoft Office installed on your computer is not free, but the online version is.

And it may be enough.

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The Office app in action

Footnotes & References

1: If you change your mind, you can find it again in the Microsoft Store, still free, and re-install it.

24 comments on “Free Microsoft Office in Windows 10? Sort Of”

  1. I downloaded the app, it supposedly installed, but I can’t find in anywhere. when I search for it, it opens the microsoft store page showing Top Free Apps.
    How do I find this app in my computer?

    Reply
  2. Naawwww ,, I have a newer version of 10 installed by an authorized service center ,, when I click it shows up as; 1. Try (365 for free) that is a limited time offer pending a subscription 2. Buy (Office, the latest version) 3. Activate (enter product code)

    Reply
  3. I have Office 365 and I never saw the Office App in the Start Menu. Is it possible that when you install 365, the App is replaced by the 4 icons of Office? Personally, I would be satisfied with Libre Office except, I find the OneDrive storage worth the $99 year and MS Office is a little easier for some tasks.

    Reply
  4. For anyone not accustomed yet to using the Microsoft Store, either updating Apps through it or using the Windows 10 Applications themselves (seems for some strange reasons many do seem to get into some habit of either deleting or uninstalling the live tiles, ignoring them completely or even just ignore a Microsoft Account altogether to seemingly remain locally accounted only), a real easy way to get free Office is simply to bookmark the office.com website instead. Pin the webpage to Start, stick a bookmark on the desktop to it or just open the specific webpage itself. Obviously as with any other vendors services you simply sign into the page to use it with an appropriate Microsoft Account and you can then use the free 5GB OneDrive storage for your files along with it. The expense of any subscription version of an actual Office install really accounts toward 1GB of OneDrive and the ability to open its office files locally on your PC or offline should you ever require to, along with a dose of healthy Skype minutes per month which can be used on all your devices even to replace otherwise expensive mobile call minutes for example.

    Reply
    • Or Libre Office which started out as Open Office and branched off. They are both similar. Some prefer Libre Office and others prefer Open Office.

      Reply
    • I do not know for certain, but I would not expect macro/VBA programming ability to be included — that’s pretty advanced stuff.

      Reply
  5. Thanks Leo.,

    btw I signed up for the newsletter but have not received the eMail confirmation on both my email client or the service provider server.

    Reply
  6. I checked my contacts, you’re already in there! leo@askleo.com but then I guess as I receive the newsletter anyway and it’s only being renamed there is nothing new to receive on the newsletter front? Apologies – My one remaining brain cell has been feeling the strain lately!

    Reply
    • Outlook.com is an email service provider. It’s not an email program. It works similarly to Yahoo mail or Gmail and the emails are only online unless you download them using an email program. You can use it to download email from your other accounts, so in a way, it does act like an online email program. Yahoo Mail and Gmail can also do that. In any case, you should periodically download your email via IMAP using an email program so that your emails are in more than one place as a backup.
      Back Up Your Email Using Thunderbird

      Reply
  7. I just bought a new HP laptop with Windows 10 Home, and sure enough it has an Office tile (and tiles for Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc). I clicked on the tile. From there it is nothing like what Leo has described. It wanted me to sign in to my Microsoft account, which I did. I was at a recent documents page with the option of also choosing from the different Office apps. I clicked on Word and it asked if I wanted a 30 day trial of Office 365, or buy Office 365, or enter my product key.

    I don’t want to buy. I don’t want a trial. I just want to use the online apps that work with a Microsoft account. I just need the basic features. Will the online option appear at the end of 30 days?

    Reply
  8. My stingy hubby didn’t want to pay for the real Microsoft Word, when he had to fix my almost new laptop with a factory reset, I downloaded to free online version. NOT going to work, I can only open and read, can’t edit my docs, can’t even highlight and copy sections, which I do ALL the time!!!!

    Reply

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