These are the best free alternatives to Office

Why pay for an expensive Microsoft Office license, when you can also do it for free? Google, LibreOffice and even Microsoft offer office programs for free. For the vast majority of consumers, these packages are fine. In this article we take a closer look at the (online) possibilities of free alternatives to Office.

A family subscription to Office 365 costs ten euros per month or 99 euros annually. Since there are quite a few free office programs out there, this recurring release may be unnecessary. After all, most people only use the basic functions of the Office programs to create texts, spreadsheets and presentations. Free applications such as Office Online and Google Docs do not require specific software because you use them directly in the browser. Handy, because you have access to your documents on different systems. If you ever work in places without an internet connection, you can call on LibreOffice if you wish. This software is also free.

01 Office Online

Microsoft offers a free office package under the name Office Online. It concerns the applications Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Although they are stripped-down versions, you can perform frequently used tasks without any problems. Surf to with a computer or laptop and click To register. As soon as you log in with a Microsoft account, the online apps are ready for you. Conveniently, Office Online automatically saves your documents in the cloud, so that you can access the files on any computer, laptop, tablet and smartphone. Those who are familiar with the regular MS Office programs need little time to get used to the online apps. The user environment shows great similarities, with of course the recognizable Ribbon above the work field. Incidentally, the online version unfortunately contains fewer design options, but average users will not miss these functions so easily.

02 Formatting documents

Word processing in Word Online is excellent, because all frequently used formatting functions are within reach. This way you make words italic (also simply via the key combination Ctrl + I) and you give the letters a color. You can also add bullets and numbers and indent your text. Keep in mind that the online version has fewer fonts, although there are still more than forty. You have access to styles to give the text a logical structure and there is an extensive search function. Through the tab Insert you can upload images from the hard drive if desired, although you can also add images via the cloud environment OneDrive and search engine Bing. For the latter option, go to Online Images / Photos from Bing and enter a keyword. You transfer found images directly to the document. Anyone who is afraid of making language errors subjects the text to a play check. Unfortunately, you will not find functions to add web videos and artistic WordArt letters in Office Online.

In addition to the online version of Word, the web editions of Excel and PowerPoint are also quite extensive. Creating advanced formulas and attractive presentations are no problem at all. For example, the spreadsheet program has the well-known AutoSum function. Unfortunately, the Formulas tab is missing to easily add all kinds of units.

upload file

If desired, you can edit local Office files in the cloud. This is useful, for example, when you have received a document by e-mail. Access at Become, Excel or PowerPoint and click at the top right respectively Upload document, Upload workbook or Upload presentation. Select the file on the hard drive. Then a copy of the original document opens in the online editing window.

03 Collaborate

You can share documents from Office Online, after which several participants can even adjust the content simultaneously, without running the risk of multiple versions of one document. In a text document, spreadsheet, or presentation, click at the top right To share. Then enter one or more email addresses of the desired participant(s). Add a short note at your discretion. Would you rather not have the person in question edit the document? Then click at the bottom Recipients can edit and choose the option Recipients can only view. You can adjust the rights later if necessary. Confirm with To share.

When a contact decides to open the text document, spreadsheet, or presentation in edit mode, you can edit simultaneously. It is useful that you immediately see which changes other people are making. At the top right you will see the name or names of online people appearing. Thanks to the integrated Skype function, interim consultations are no problem at all. To do this, use the button in the menu bar To chat to start chatting right away. In addition to exchanging text messages, you can start a video call just as easily. Ready to edit? By default, Office Online saves a version in its OneDrive cloud environment, but you can also save the file locally. In that case, choose File / Save As / Download a Copy / Download. Alternatively, you can also save a PDF of the document.

04 Version history

You can easily work on documents with multiple people in Office Online, but that is also a pitfall at the same time. What if someone completely messed up a text or presentation while you were away? No worries, because manual correction is fortunately not necessary. Sign in with your Microsoft account and open the folder Documents. Then right-click on the relevant document, after which you open the Version history section in the context menu. In the right column you will see previous versions. Check the time and date carefully to restore things. Use the options To recover and/or Save to keep the correct version. That way you can go years back in time if necessary!

Free Mobile Office?

On mobile devices with a small touch screen, you cannot open Microsoft's online office applications in a browser. Fortunately, the American software company developed apps for iOS and Android. You will also find Word, Excel and PowerPoint applications in the App Store and Play Store. Take into account a significant attack on the storage space of your smartphone, with a size of hundreds of MBs per app.

After installation, log in with a Microsoft account. Open a document in edit mode and modify the content as you see fit. The navigation structure of the mobile Office apps takes some getting used to, especially on small screens. Furthermore, the functionality without a paid Office 365 subscription is somewhat limited. For example, in Word you cannot add headers and footers or change the orientation. The best-known formatting functions are available to everyone for free!

05 Google Drive

In addition to Microsoft, there is another major provider of online office applications, namely Google. You need a Google account (Gmail address) for this. Surf to with a desktop browser and log in via To Google Drive with your account information. If you have saved documents in Google Drive before, you can find them here. You can just as easily create a new document. Click on the top left New and choose between Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides. Through Empty document a blank work area appears. Alternatively, choose Based on template, so you don't have to build the document all by yourself. Useful in case you want to prepare a resume, cover letter, travel planner or budget. In terms of functionality, Google's online office suite can compete with Office Online. You can choose from hundreds of fonts and calculation formulas. Unlike a few years ago, Google supports all common file formats from Microsoft. You can store files in MS Office format both online and locally. So you can use both online packages side by side if necessary, although there is still a chance of errors, especially in documents with a lot of formatting.

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