Microsoft Office is the de facto productivity suite. But did you know that Microsoft Word and other applications are free for most people? Microsoft Office Online makes it possible to get simplified versions of most popular Office applications for no cost.
These versions of Office are sufficient for the majority of users. Let’s examine some of the benefits to using Word Online, Excel Online and other free offerings.
Office Online Is Available for Free
Office Online has the greatest advantage: you don’t have to pay anything. This is the easiest method to legally get Microsoft Word.
You used to have to pay an upfront fee for the standalone version of Office 2021, or Office 2019, which could run $100 or more. Microsoft 365 subscriptions are now possible. While this subscription is less expensive at $7 per month than the standard, the cost of an annual subscription adds up quickly.
Office Online allows you to access online versions for Word, Excel PowerPoint, OneNote and Teams. Office Online also offers less frequently used apps, such as Microsoft Teams and Forms. Access and Publisher do not have online versions.
You can try it by signing in to your Microsoft Account on Office.com. Next, visit your Office Apps page. This page will show you all the available apps, and you can jump to any one of them.
Access Documents Anywhere With Cloud Storage
If you have files that are only saved to one computer, it can lead to problems if you need them on another computer. Although you can save your files to the cloud in Office Online, it is enabled by default in desktop versions.
Everybody gets 5GB of OneDrive storage free with their Microsoft Account. This is sufficient for personal documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and other files. Office Online saves all your changes to your OneDrive account. This means that you won’t lose hours if something crashes, even if you haven’t manually saved.
With the OneDrive app on your phone, you can easily pull up your documents anywhere. And if you need to edit them in a pinch, you can simply sign in to Office Online on any computer.
Even better, Office Online is device-agnostic. It can be accessed on any device that has a web browser, Linux or Mac. Get free Office apps for Android and iPhone to access Word, Excel and PowerPoint with similar functionality.
Sharing and collaboration made easy
Many people email their desktop Office documents to other people via email. This is fine in moderation but it can make it difficult to keep sending documents back and forth. To send a link to someone, you can use Office Online by clicking Share on any file. This menu allows you to choose whether the link is available to anyone, or just you. You can also decide whether other people have editing rights.
Office Online also makes collaborating on documents a cinch. Whether you want to edit a large paper together or both work in a spreadsheet, doing so only requires both parties to have the document open. While a similar function is available in desktop Office with OneDrive, there are more barriers to entry when using the desktop edition.
Office Online Provides an Enhanced Workflow
Online Office apps may not be as feature-rich as desktop counterparts. They lack some of the most powerful tools like Word’s advanced formatting, Excel’s detailed graphs, or macros.
Office Online may not be suitable for professional purposes but the apps can still be used for personal purposes.
Office Online’s lack of features for power users may actually be a plus. It’s possible to feel overwhelmed by all the tools and settings available in desktop Office. Perhaps you feel overwhelmed by the number of tools on the Ribbon and options to tweak in desktop Office. If this is the case, Office Online may be the right choice for you.
Office Online can work faster on older computers with slower HDDs or limited RAM. Although the desktop Office apps can be quite bulky, Office Online isn’t as heavy and will not cause any problems.
Office Online provides many organizational benefits. It saves all your files to OneDrive and doesn’t take up any storage space on your machine (if they aren’t synchronized).
OneDrive allows you to store all Office files. They are not mixed up with any other files on your computer. Each app lists the most recently edited and pinned files for their type (spreadsheets/presentations, etc.). You can access them directly from the app, rather than searching through many folders.
Finally, using Office Online lets you save documents in the standard Office file formats, such as DOCX and XLSX. Because so many people use Office, this is important for compatibility with others. Many free Microsoft Office alternatives don’t work perfectly with these formats, which scores another point for Office Online.
Office Online Gets Feature Updates
Microsoft 365 is not for you? You can buy a standalone version like Office 2021. These standalone Office versions are not recommended.
Microsoft 365 gets new features first. Each year, Microsoft releases a standalone version with all the latest Office features. However, these versions are only updated with security fixes and do not receive new features as Microsoft creates them.
Office Online may not receive all the new features that Microsoft 365 has to offer, but they do receive more new features than the standalone Office versions. The web versions have more functionality than the standalone Office releases, so why not stay with them and get new features?