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Upgrade Outlook to Newer Version – ANSI PST to Unicode PST

Sometimes 2 GB file size ain’t enough to store the Outlook mailbox data. So if you’re still using the older Outlook version that uses the ANSI format, you should better upgrade Outlook to a newer version. The Unicode format used by the newer Outlook versions provides enough storage so that you can store a large number of mailbox data with ease. In this article, we’re going to learn how to upgrade Outlook PST file from ANSI to Unicode format. There are two ways to do that, i.e. either you can use an easy DIY trick or a professional PST Upgrade tool.

Microsoft Outlook creates Outlook data file (PST) to store email messages, attachments, calendars, notes, tasks, journals, etc. There are two different formats used by the Outlook client to save PST file: ANSI and Unicode. The older Outlook versions (2002 and earlier) use ANSI format, whereas the Unicode format is used by Outlook 2003 and later versions.

Why should you upgrade Outlook?

The old ANSI format used for Outlook 97-2002 personal folder file has a limitation of up to 65,000 items per mailbox folder. And the overall PST file size limit of ANSI format is just 2 GB. This means you can only store up to 2 GB of mailbox data in an ANSI PST file. If you’re one of those Outlook users who receive thousands of email messages every other day along with heavy attachments, 2 GB of storage is perhaps not sufficient. There’s one more drawback of ANSI format. It doesn’t support multilingual (multiple languages) data. With the release of Outlook 2003, Microsoft started providing a greater storage capacity for PST files.

Microsoft Outlook 2003, 2007, 2010, 2013, and the latest 2016 use the Unicode format. This format seems better than the old ANSI format. There’s no such limitation for storing the items in a mailbox folder. Also, it smartly supports the multilingual data. And most importantly, the PST file size limit of Unicode format is greater than ANSI format. A Unicode PST file can save the mailbox data up to 20 GB. In Outlook 2010, 2013, and 2016, the recommended limit has been set to 50 GB.

Download a trial version of Shoviv PST Upgrade tool to know in a better way.

Outlook Corruption

And most importantly, the Outlook data file is highly prone to corruption due to its size limitation issue. Whenever a PST file reaches its maximum size, it can degrade Outlook performance and cause other issues as well. But the situation becomes more serious when the PST file crosses its maximum size limit. In such a situation, you’re likely to face corruption which may result in data loss. Since an ANSI PST file can only save up to 2 GB of mailbox data, it may quickly reach its maximum size limit. On the other hand, it may take a lot of time to fill 20 GB to 50 GB of storage provided by the Unicode format.

So it’s always better to upgrade Outlook PST file from ANSI to Unicode format. If you’re using an older version like 2002, 2000, 98, or 97, you should definitely upgrade Outlook to the newer version.

How to Convert ANSI PST to Unicode?

Alas, Microsoft doesn’t provide anything to convert Outlook PST file from ANSI to Unicode. Even if you upgrade Outlook 2002 to a newer version, the old ANSI PST files remain the same. However, you can migrate the mailbox data from an ANSI PST to a Unicode PST file.

However, you can migrate the Outlook mailbox data from an ANSI to Unicode PST file. And there are two different ways to do that:

  • You can try an easy DIY trick to import the mailbox data from ANSI to Unicode PST file.
  • Or, you can use a professional solution to upgrade Outlook PST file from ANSI to Unicode format.

Generally, a professional PST Upgrade tool is a better option for Outlook users. However, users should try the manual trick first before purchasing any such paid software. The manual tricks I’m sharing here doesn’t require any 3rd party tool or any other cost. All you need to use is just the Outlook client.

Import Data from ANSI to Unicode PST File

First, get Microsoft Office 2003 or any later version. Install the Office suite, and then run the Outlook installation. Keep the old ANSI PST file(s) somewhere in the computer. Since you want to upgrade Outlook to a newer version, you need to create a new profile. The newer version of Outlook will create a Unicode PST file and set it as the default delivery location.

Microsoft Outlook has a built-in Import feature which you can use here. By using this feature, you can copy almost everything from the old ANSI PST file into a new Unicode PST file. But before you can do that, don’t forget to take the backup of your original PST file(s). And then you need to follow these simple steps:

  • Launch Microsoft Outlook on your system. Click the File tab on the taskbar > Open > Import.
  • On the Import & Export Wizard, select Import from another program or file in the options. Click Next to continue the process.
  • On the Import a File dialog box, select the Outlook Data File (.pst) and click Next to continue the process.
  • Now browse the location where old ANSI PST files are stored. Select the PST file (one file at a time) and click Open.
  • On the Import Outlook Data File dialog box, you need to select the mailbox folder(s) to import from.
  • Finally, click the Finish button to start the process. It may take some time to be successfully completed.

In the same way, you need to import other ANSI PST files one by one to the Outlook client.

Professional Solution to Upgrade Outlook

The DIY trick shared above may require a lot of manual efforts, time, and a sound knowledge of Outlook. So if you’re looking for an effective and effortless way to upgrade Outlook PST file, you should use the PST Upgrade tool provided by Shoviv Software. Although there are many vendors in the online marketplace, this software is considered one of the best solutions to convert Outlook PST file from ANSI to Unicode.

Shoviv PST Upgrade and Downgrade tool can not only convert ANSI PST file to Unicode format but also Unicode PST file to ANSI format. Just have a look at these features which you’re getting in this PST Upgrade & Downgrade tool:

  • An instant and safe solution, i.e. no alteration is caused to the original PST files;
  • Support single as well as multiple PST files at a time for batch conversion;
  • There’s no size limitation for selecting the PST file;
  • Maintains the original folder hierarchy during the entire operation;
  • Smartly exclude deleted items as well as remove duplicate items in the output PST file;
  • No prior technical expertise is required so that even a novice user can use this software with ease

The PST Upgrade & Downgrade tool provided by Shoviv Software is available for free evaluation. Before purchasing the software, you should download the demo version. By using the demo version, you can save first 25 email items from each mailbox folder of the selected PST file into a new Unicode PST file. And if you’re satisfied with the results, then only you should purchase the software.


Microsoft Outlook 2003 and later versions don’t support ANSI format. So if you’re considering to upgrade Outlook from an older version to a newer one, you’ll need to convert Outlook PST file from ANSI to Unicode. This article explained how we can upgrade Outlook PST file by using an easy manual trick. And if the manual trick seems to be tricky, you should use a professional solution like PST Upgrade & Downgrade tool provided by Shoviv Software.

Microsoft Office is one of the best productivity tools used in homes and offices around the world. Various versions of Microsoft Office that contain different features and have been designed to work with modern operating systems. The reasons why you should buy Office 2019 or Office 365 will depend on your situation, as well as experience.

It is important to understand the difference between the two versions of MS office, one is Office 2019 and the other is Office 365 which was introduced in 2011.

Pros & Cons of Using MS Office 2019

While MS Office is one of the most widespread productivity program packages in the world, it might not be the best option for you depending on your devices, as well as the goal you want to achieve. Weigh the benefits and the drawbacks carefully and determine which option is the best for you.


– Versatile
– Productive
– Secure
– Good Native Apps


– Bulky
– Resource Heavy
– Developed for keyboard & mouse

MS Office 2019:

MS Office 2019 is a standalone version of Microsoft Office Suite that doesn’t need a monthly subscription.

To use this option, you can install applications on a single computer system where you will receive the security updates, but you will not be allowed to upgrade to a new version when it’s released. This means that if you want to upgrade your version in the future, you will have to pay a full price again.

Why Should you Buy MS Office 2019:

This version is designed specifically for commercial clients with a volume license needing specific requirements and are using different applications of Suites on their premises. If you are a person who prefers the traditional Office experience, then this would be the best option for you.

If you want to install it on an individual device without having to upgrade to new features, or if you are ready to go with the application based on the Cloud then it is also the right choice. Office 2019 includes Office Home and Business or Office Home and Student. The price ranges from $150 and $250 per device.

You can buy an activation card for Microsoft Office 2019 from Amazon and get it shipped by mail. The code will work for both Windows and MacOS users.

Office 365:

365 offers the same apps that are available in MS Office 2019 and is offered by Microsoft through its subscription service. However, this version includes more features, apps, tools, and benefits that you will not get in Office 2019.

To access applications such as Word, Excel, Outlook, Publisher, PowerPoint, and Access you must pay the monthly or yearly subscription fee. You can have up to five devices access your office 365 account at a time depending on your plan. In this version, you do not need to worry about new versions because it always runs the most up to date one of the applications available.

Why Should you Buy MS Office 365:

If you want access to the Apps Suite, then MS Office 365 is a good option for you as it is providing guaranteed upgrading and updating at a lower cost. You can access all the applications of Office 365 that are installed on your devices such as Windows 10/8.1/7 or MacOS as well.

This version comes with different subscription plans. For instance, if you are a person who is using the apps for personal use then you can buy “Office 365 Personal” cost $70/Year but if you want to share it with your roommates, fellows or family then you can buy “Office 365 Home” Cost $100/Year.

Getting a subscription plan is easy, as you can buy a Key Card from Amazon and start using Office 365 Personal right away.

Each version will provide you with different and unique features.

Microsoft’s Office 365 service has been a great deal for a long time, and it’s getting better. Starting October 2, 2018, Office 365 Home will let six users install an unlimited number of Office applications.

What’s New for Office 365 Users

Microsoft just announced improvements for Office 365 users. Currently, Office 365 Home allows up to five users. Microsoft is raising this limit to six, so each Office 365 Home account gets an additional user.

Each user will also be able to install Office applications on an unlimited amount of devices. Users can only be signed into five Office applications at the same time, however. This is an improvement from now, where those five users can only install Office on up to 10 devices in total.

These changes take effect starting October 2, 2018. Microsoft isn’t raising the price of any Office 365 plans, either.

Microsoft has made a few account changes that are taking effect immediately. After signing up for Office 365, all user accounts in your Microsoft Family will be automatically given access. You can manage your subscription directly from the Microsoft account website, too.

What is Office 365?

Office 365 is essentially a Microsoft Office subscription. You can still buy traditional boxed copies of Microsoft Office, but Office 365 is a much better deal.

The family plan, named Office 365 Home, costs $100 per year. For that price, five (soon six) people can install the latest versions of Microsoft Office on their PCs, Macs, tablets, and phones. Each person gets 1 TB of OneDrive storage, too.

Office 365 includes Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook. Publisher and Access are also included but are only available on Windows. These are the same full desktop Office applications you’d get if you purchased the standard boxed copies of Office, but they also have the advantage of getting more frequent feature updates. And yes, you can use them offline—your PC or Mac just has to appear online once every 30 days to keep them activated.

You can download the apps by heading to, signing in and clicking “Install Office apps.” On a phone or tablet, download the Office apps from Apple’s App Store or Google Play and sign in with your Microsoft account. You can also use the “My Office” app that comes with Windows 10 to sign up and download the apps.

RELATED: What’s the Difference Between Office 365 and Office 2016?

Apps for All Your PCs, Macs, Tablets, and Phones

The boxed copies of Office aren’t a great deal anymore. Office Home & Student 2016 and Office Home and Student 2016 for Mac are separate products, and each has a suggested retail price of $150. If you switch from a PC to Mac or vice versa, you have to buy a new copy.

Meanwhile, Office 365 Home costs $100 per year. Office 365 Home lets five (and soon six) people, each with his or her own Microsoft account, install Office apps on up to ten PCs or Macs (or any combination of the two). Each person can also install Office on up to five tablets and up to five phones.

In other words, with Office 365 Home, you could share ten copies of Office among a household of people for only $100 a year. You would have to pay $1500 for ten traditional Office licenses.

You’ll Always Have the Latest Version of Office

Office 365 is always up to date with the latest versions of Microsoft Office. So, when Microsoft releases Office 2019, you won’t have to pay extra to upgrade. You’ll be automatically updated to the new software. Meanwhile, people who bought Office 2016 will be stuck with the old version, or they’ll have to purchase an Office 2019 license at full price.

Microsoft has been updating the Office 365 version of Office more regularly than the standard boxed version of Office, too. In fact, Office 365 ProPlus users basically already have Office 2019. Microsoft will at some point take this code, put it in a box, and call it Office 2019.

RELATED: Office 365 ProPlus Users Basically Already Have Office 2019

1 TB of OneDrive Storage Per Person

Microsoft also includes 1 TB of OneDrive storage for each user with Office 365. In other words, with an Office 365 Home plan, you get a total of 5 TB of space for five users. In October, that will become a total of 6 TB for six users.

That’s an excellent value. It’s a great deal for the storage alone, even ignoring the Office applications.

Dropbox charges $100 a year for 1 TB of space, and that’s just for one account! Buying Office 365 costs the same amount of money every year, but it gets you six 1 TB accounts—6 TB in total—and you also get the Office applications. This would cost you $600 a year from Dropbox.

Google will sell you 2 TB of storage for $100 per year as part of Google One, which is a better value than Dropbox. However, Google’s offering still pales in comparison to Microsoft’s offer of 6 TB of storage plus Office apps at the same price.

OneDrive is now pretty good, too! It’s integrated into Windows 10, which is convenient. You can store a significant amount of data in OneDrive and use the “Files on Demand” feature to only download files to your Windows PC as you need them. Apps are also available for iPhone, iPad, Android, macOS, and Windows 7. You can view your OneDrive files in a web browser, too.

Paying for Office 365 unlocks extra features in OneDrive on top of the storage. You can share links to files and set those link to expire after a certain period, or require a password to view the shared file. You can also restore all your OneDrive files to a state they were in at some point in the last 30 days, which can help you recover from a ransomware attack.

Bonus Skype Minutes

As a bonus, Office 365 includes some Skype minutes. Every month, each user on your Office 365 plan will get up to 60 minutes to place phone calls to landlines and mobile phones around the world. Here’s the full list of eligible countries you can call.

If you’re prepared to use Skype, you can even save money on international long distance calls thanks to Office 365. It’s just another bonus that makes Office 356 a good value.

How to Save Money on Office 365

While you’ll pay $100 per year if you get Office 365 Home from Microsoft’s website, you can save some money by getting it elsewhere.

Amazon sells a one-year subscription to Office 365 Home for just $80. Amazon also offers a one-year subscription to Office 365 Personal for $63. These are digital products, too, so you don’t have to wait for shipping. Amazon will give you a key you can enter on Microsoft’s website to activate the subscription.

If you’re interested in Office 365, you can also start by signing up for a month-long free trial on Microsoft’s website.

Why Does Microsoft Still Offer Boxed Copies?

Office 365 is such a good deal that it makes the boxed copies of Office 2016 look like a bad deal. But many people still want to buy boxed copies, so Microsoft still offers them as an option.

The boxed copies of Office have always been kind of expensive, though. For example, the standard version of Office XP cost $479 when it was released back in 2001. Even if you were upgrading, you had to pay $239—and that was just for the entry-level version of Office. Those prices would look even more expensive if you accounted for inflation. It’s not like Microsoft is jacking up the cost of the boxed copies—it’s just been making Office 365 a better deal!

We expect Microsoft to stop producing new boxed versions of Office at some point in the near future. Office 2019 is already on the way, but we’re not sure what will happen after that. Office 365 is the way forward, and it’s a great deal if you need Office—or even just a good chunk of storage.

Office 365 vs. Office 2019: which one should you pick?

Ever wondered what the difference is between Office 365 and Office 2019?

For starters, don’t let the name similarity fool you.

Although both give you access to the desktop apps we’re familiar with (Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.), many aspects set one apart from the other.

Lean in, my friend. After reading this post, you’ll be able to identify which one will help your business make a big leap forward.

Let’s dive in.

Learn how to sell Office 365 the right way with our FREE Sales Guide

Office 365

Office 365 is Microsoft’s subscription service offering the most updated modern productivity tools with the latest core features to make your life easier. It provides web-based access to the traditional apps (Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint), as well as other web-based apps and services like Teams, Yammer, Stream, and Sway, to name a few.

There are several Office 365 plans—for home and personal use—as well as plans for small and mid-sized businesses, enterprises, schools, and non-profits.


  • All plans include up to 1TB cloud storage (about 300,000 images or 1,000,000 documents)
  • Each user can install it on five PCs or Macs, five tablets and five mobile devices
  • Users can share their subscription with up to six family members (depending on their subscription plan)
  • Easy user management with features that help you add, remove, and administer Office 365 accounts
  • Regular security updates, improvements, and access to the latest features
  • Ongoing tech support and security fixes
  • No need to pay upfront: choose between monthly or annual payment and save by paying for a full year
  • Free monthly credits to make calls to landlines using Skype


  • New changes can be overwhelming
  • You may pay for unnecessary features

Who should buy Office 365?

Given the rich amount of cloud-based tools, features, and functionalities, Office 365 enables a new way of working, increasing productivity in the workplace. It’s ideal for companies that want to take their business several notches higher and enjoy the latest features and security updates along with ongoing tech support.

Office 2019

Office 2019 follows Office 2016, and it’s the standalone version of the suite of office apps. It requires a single purchase with upfront payment for one PC or Mac—and you own the copy forever.


  • Pay once, use forever
  • In the long run, it will be cheaper to own the license rather than subscribe


  • One device per license
  • Only runs on Windows 10 and macOS
  • You only get this version without upgrade options (you’ll have to buy it again at full price when the next version comes out)
  • Mainstream support is limited to 5 years
  • Installation requires some know-how
  • Limited security updates

Who should buy Office 2019?

Office 2019 is designed for commercial customers who aren’t ready to join the cloud and only need the must-have apps: Outlook, Excel, PowerPoint, and Word. If you plan to install the suite on one device and opt for a more traditional experience, Office 2019 is a good bet.

What’s the difference between Office 365 and Office 2019?

Check out the main differences between the two products to help you decide which one suits you best.

#1 The payment model

First things first: you buy Office 2019, and you subscribe to Office 365.

In other words, you make a one-time purchase vs. you pay a monthly or yearly subscription.

#2 The range of products and services

When you buy Office 2019, you get the classic Office apps like Excel, Word, and PowerPoint.

Subscribing to Office 365 means you’ll enjoy the fantastic array of cloud- and AI-based features you can use on any device.

#3 The update frequency and functionality

Office 2019 only gets security updates and no new features.

With Office 365, you’ll get monthly quality updates, so your version will always be improving. You also enjoy additional functionality (i.e., PowerPoint Designer tool uses AI to analyze your content, suggesting better layouts, so you look more professional.)

Jared Spataro, Microsoft 365 Corporate Vice President, picked his favorite a long time ago:

“Office 365 includes fully-installed Office applications—the latest versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. But those apps keep getting better over time, with new capabilities delivered every month. Most importantly, Office 365 is connected to the cloud, so you can access your content from any device, coauthor with anyone in real-time (regardless of whether or not they’ve purchased a copy of Office) and use the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to create impactful content with less effort.

Here’s what he has to say about Office 2019:

“On the flip side, Office 2019 also delivers full installs of the Office apps we know and love—but they’re “frozen in time.” They don’t ever get updated with new features, and they’re not cloud-connected. Also, Office 2019 doesn’t support real-time coauthoring across apps, and it doesn’t have the amazing AI-powered capabilities that come with Office 365.”

Over to you

There’s no doubt Microsoft wants you to go for Office 365. But at the end of the day, you’ll have to assess your own needs before making a purchasing decision. To do so, ask yourself how you plan to use the tools and what’s your budget.

If you want to move with the times, we recommend switching your staff to a modern workplace on Office 365. You’ll get better business results if your users have access to the latest productivity tools.

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Though there are free alternatives available, for many people, there’s nothing quite like the familiar, comfortable workings of Microsoft Office, from Word’s superior spell and grammar check to the ease and sense of security of storing files locally on your own PC and not online.

If you want to buy Microsoft Office, there are two main variants: Office 365, which gives you constant updates but requires a monthly or annual subscription fee, and Office 2019, which is a fixed package of software, but you only have to pay for it once. Microsoft really wants you to use the subscription-based Office 365 service, of course.

The Office 2019 package is slightly different than Office 365. On top of that, there are companies besides Microsoft selling both Office 2019 keys and Office 365 subscriptions for lower prices than Microsoft. And you can even run Office apps for free online. So what’s the best and cheapest way to get your productivity on?

From free, to $150, to subscriptions, here’s a breakdown of the best and cheapest ways to get Office in 2019 (we focus on personal versions, rather than business ones).

Office 2019 vs. Office Online vs. Office 365

Buying Office 2019 From Microsoft: $149.99

Despite shifting focus to Office 365, Microsoft still sells Office Home & Student 2019 for a one-time charge of $149.99. This includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote but lacks some solutions Office 365 has. However, these may or may not be relevant to you: Outlook, Publisher (PC only), Access (PC only) and the OneDrive and Skype cloud services.

You can buy some pieces of the Office suite individually, but with Word 2019 priced at $129.99, if you plan on using even 1 more Office app, it’s a better deal to buy the whole platform.

No matter where you get Office 2019 from, it’s not updated monthly like Office 365 is, so you’ll never see new features added; what you buy is what you get. However, you will get security patch updates “as required,” Daniel Vargas, Microsoft director of product marketing, told Tom’s Hardware.

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However, it’s very possible that you don’t care if your Office software is updated regularly. Heck, you may even be okay with an older version of Office, say Office 2016, which you can still find keys for from third-party sellers for cheaper than Office 2019. However, Office 2016 will reach end of life (EoL) for most on October 13, 2020, meaning Microsoft won’t provide security updates for it anymore. If you can settle for the 2016 version of Office, you can, as of this writing, get it from Kinguin for $23.08 or PCDestination for $35.

Remember, to use Office 2019, you need to be running Windows 10. Luckily, we’ve already detailed how to get Windows 10 for free or cheap.

If Office 2019 is your preferred choice, you can get it for significantly cheaper than the $149.99 Microsoft charges by buying it from a reliable third-party retailer.

Buying a Third-Party Office 2019 Key: ~$45

Microsoft charges $149.99 to download Microsoft Office Home & Student 2019, but you can save a lot of money if you’re willing to buy it from a different store.

Newegg sometimes sells the same download key for $123.99, although at the time of writing the price is the same as Microsoft’s, but it’s still worth checking before buying. If you can wait for a physical key, however, Newegg sometimes has it for just $124. Meanwhile, Walmart currently has it for $114, Amazon sometimes has it for $122.92, and Kinguin has it for a shockingly low $46.18.

The Downsides

Saving up to $100 for Office 2019 sounds like a no-brainer. However, since you’re not buying from Microsoft, you’ll have to exert some caution. You’re probably comfortable shopping at a well-known retailer like Amazon or Newegg comes; however, you’ll want to check their return policy on software.

You may be more hesitant to buy from key reseller website like Kinguin. Many question their legitimacy or morality behind such deals. To learn more about its Office 2019, we spoke with Kinguin directly.

“Only the original developer or publisher of a digital product can generate keys, so all of the Office 2019 keys come from this source. From there, either a seller buys them directly from the publisher or from the wholesaler, who also got them directly from a publisher, and sells them on Kinguin for a fair market price,” Michał Puczyński, PR Manager at Kinguin, told Tom’s Hardware.

Puczyński admitted there are “a few bad apples” in its marketplace but said this is inevitable since there are “tens of thousands of Office 2019 keys sold by thousands of sellers on Kinguin.” However, he claimed that only one out of 700 postings aren’t legitimate, and an even smaller percentage of shoppers actually get scammed.

“Our fraud prevention team manages to stop nearly 100% of these attempts before they take place. When a scammer is detected through our custom fraud technology, that person is banned for a lifetime from selling on Kinguin,” Puczyński explained.

Kinguin also offers a $5.69 “Buyer Protection, ”which guarantees you a refund if you get a bum key.” However, even if you don’t buy this protection, Kinguin is willing to work with you for a potential refund if your key doesn’t work.

“We always put the customer first and work to find a solution for any problem the customer has encountered, which may include issuing a refund,” Puczyński said. “The Kinguin Buyer Protection is an optional feature designed to provide added protection while purchasing in our store, as well as additional services, but that doesn’t mean the customer will get inadequate treatment without it. Kinguin does reserve its right not to accept any returns of already delivered items or game keys to protect itself from scams.”

Microsoft Office Online and Mobile Apps: Free

All Office Online apps ( (Image credit: Microsoft))

As its name implies, Microsoft Office Online doesn’t live on your PC. Instead, you can only access these services with an Internet connection. You also have to have a Microsoft account. You can get to Office Online by signing in with your Microsoft account here.

However, the service is free and a good alternative to G Suite, especially if you don’t like some of that platform’s limitations. Your files will still be at the mercy of the web, but you’ll be able to use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, plus OneDrive, Skype, Flow, Forms and Sway without paying any money. Plus, since everything is Internet-based, you can access it from any computer connected to the web.

Microsoft recently announced it’s consolidating Word, Excel and PowerPoint into a single mobile app on both Android and iOS smartphones (a tablet version is en route, no release date yet). You can access the Android public preview here, but the iOS public preview is already full.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

However, Office Online may not be a good fit for your largest or most complex projects, since features are more limited than what’s offered in Office 365. It has less menu options, with tabs like Draw and Design removed from Word online, for example.

Office Online does come with 5GB of OneDrive storage, but that’s actually skimpy compared to the 15GB of free storage you get with Google Drive.

Similarly, there are free iOS (varies from iPhone to iPad) and Android (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneDrive, Outlook, OneNote and SharePoint.) versions of Office software that are also available for free but offer less features.

Buying Office 365 From Microsoft: $69.99 or $99.99/year

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Office 365 is a great option if you don’t mind paying for your productivity suite on an annual or monthly basis. It won’t be long until you’ve paid more for Office 365 than you would have for Office 2019, but it does come with more apps than Office 2019. In addition to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, Office 365 includes Outlook, Publisher (PC only), Access (PC only), OneDrive and Skype.

Perhaps the best part is you can install Office 365 on an unlimited number of devices and log into your subscription on up to 5 of those devices simultaneously. Additionally, Office 365 Personal subscribers get 1TB of OneDrive storage for up to 1 user, and Office 365 Home users can share their cloud storage with 6 users. You also get 60 minutes of Skype calls to real phone numbers for 1 or 6 users, depending if you get Office 365 Home or Personal. You can get a free trial for Office 365 Home (only), but it’ll last a mere month.

Another advantage Office 365 has over traditional Office 2019 is its monthly updates, which vary but can include new features, functionally and security updates, “ and often it is all of those each month,” Microsoft’s Vargas told us.

“Most importantly, Office 365 is connected to the cloud, so you can access your content from any device, coauthor with anyone in real-time (regardless of whether or not they’ve purchased a copy of Office) and use the power of artificial intelligence to create more impactful content with less effort,” he added.

Buy Office 365 From a Third-Party: $49.99 or $79.99/year

For slightly less money, you can also buy or renew your Office 365 subscription from a third-party retailer in one-year packages that are cheaper than what Microsoft charges for its one-year subscriptions. At the time of writing, the best deals come from Newegg, which has a 15-month Office 365 Personal subscription for $69.99 if bought with another product or $55.98 for a 12-month key card, (which will have to be delivered).

Sometimes Amazon charges $49.99 for Personal and $79.99 for Home, and Newegg sometimes charges $49.99 and $79.99, respectively.

Note that you still get free Microsoft technical support for the duration of your subscription, even if you buy your subscription outside of Microsoft. But Microsoft won’t handle subscription or billing issues, such as cancellations or refunds. This is because “Microsoft has limited access and visibility over subscription purchased through a third-party retailer,” according to Vargas.

Office 365 Education: Free for Students and Teachers

If you’re a student or teacher, you can actually get an Office 365 subscription for free, if your school qualifies. The subscription includes SharePoint, Sway, Forms, Stream, Flow, PowerApps, School Data Sync, Yammer, which aren’t included in regular Office 365 subscriptions. However, you miss out on Outlook, Publisher and Access.

To see if you’re eligible for free Office 365 Education, head to Microsoft’s website.

Bottom Line

Microsoft Office is a productivity staple. If you insist on the traditional procurement method of buying and owning the software for life and don’t need the software to be updated monthly, you should stick with Office 2019, just know that EoL will eventually come. You can also buy a legitimate key from a key reseller for as low as about $45, saving you around $105 from Microsoft’s pricing.

If you’re not doing big projects but instead just basic documents, spreadsheets, presentations etc., you may be able to get away with free Office Online or mobile apps. Just be sure you have an Internet connection.

But for heavy-duty productivity, the world is moving toward subscription-based software. Office 365 comes with more offerings than Office 2019, monthly updates, the ability to share among multiple devices, plus a heaping 1TB of free cloud storage. You can get it for cheaper if you buy it outside of Microsoft, for as little as $50 for a year. But make sure it’s a retailer you trust, in case of billing or subscription questions. If you’re okay with making monthly or annual payments to continue creating and editing files, Office 365 is tomorrow’s productivity suite.

I remember when I bought my last copy of Office in 2007. It was an upgrade, naturally, because it’s always been an upgrade. I also remember I first bought Office sometime before Bill Clinton was president. After that, every three to five years, when Microsoft revved the product, I’d pull out my wallet and pay Redmond for the new shiny bits.

At least until about eight years ago. That was when Microsoft turned Office into a subscription service. I’ve been making regular payments on Office 365 ever since. Apparently, I’m not the only one. In July 2017, Microsoft announced that revenues for Office 365 beat out that of traditional Office licenses. Then, in October 2017, the company predicted it will have two-thirds of all Office users in the cloud by this coming summer.

Also: What is Microsoft 365? Microsoft’s most important subscription bundle, explained

But what if you don’t want to be part of the cha-ching flow that keeps Clippy in caffeine? Sure, you could look to one of the excellent Office alternative distributions, like LibreOffice. But what if you want to use real Office, but for free?

As it turns out, there are a few legitimate ways to use Office 365 without paying for it. Not all solutions apply to everyone, but for some of you, the following words may get you to the point where you can excel.

1. Free, online Office apps

If you’re willing to use slightly feature-limited online versions of the venerable Office applications, you can. Just open your browser and point it to .

As you might imagine, this free offering is Microsoft’s direct response to the various free Google Docs offerings. If you’re OK with the reduced feature set in Office Online (which is still impressively complete compared to Google’s versions), you can be sure your files are absolutely Office-compatible using just your browser.

2. Free Office mobile apps

If you use a phone or a tablet, you can get the mobile version of Office for free. We’ve looked at these versions before, and they’re excellent implementations of the full Office applications — again with some minor feature limitations.

One note: size does matter when it comes to Office mobile apps. If your screen is larger than 10.1 inches, you will have to pay for Office 365. That means that if you’re running one of the cheaper iPads, all’s good. But if you’re using a 10.5-inch or 12.9-inch iPad Pro, you’ll need to pay your tithe to the House That Bill Built.

3. Educational versions

If you have one of the right .edu email addresses, whether you are a student, a teacher, or possibly even an alum, you can get the full Office 365 product for free. That includes the full, download-and-install applications, an Exchange account, Teams, and more.

The gotcha is that your school has to buy an educational license to Office. If you want to see if your educational email address will help you win the free Office lottery, go to this page and enter your .edu address. Good luck!

4. Trial version

If you don’t need to make Office into a career, and all you need to do is crank out one PowerPoint or Excel spreadsheet this month, a trial version of Office might do you.

There are some downsides to this approach. You’ll have to give M$ your credit card — and remember to cancel the trial before the month runs out. Otherwise, your free trial will turn into a year’s payment for Office 365 Home edition.

5. Try again

People have reported, undoubtedly in violation of the terms of service, using a different email address and credit card to get another month trial of Office 365. That’s a lot of work to avoid paying for a pretty exceptional software suite. I wouldn’t advise it, but apparently, it’s been done.

6. Try, try again: the ProPlus trial

Because the idea of doing something only one way is a cultural anathema to the Redmond folk, there is a second legitimate way to get a trial version of Office. In this case, we’re pointing you to the Microsoft Office ProPlus trial. This is another 30-day trial, aimed at potential enterprise customers.

Since this is an enterprise trial, if you qualify for the evaluation download, you can share it with up to 25 of your friends. I know. Way to be the life of the party, right?

7. Free with a PC purchase

OK, I know getting Office free with a PC purchase doesn’t seem like the best way to save money, but hear me out. A lot of PCs come bundled with a year of Office 365, which is worth, generally, about $99.

The thing is, some of the PCs that come with a free year of Office 365 are ridiculously cheap. Go to Amazon’s laptop section and then type in “with free office” into the search bar. You’ll see some inexpensive laptops (like the little $162 Lenovo gem shown above).

Yes, you’re spending money, but if you think about it, you’re getting both a laptop and a year of Office for less than two hundred bucks. You could keep the cheap laptop or even possibly resell it and get most of your money back.

Also: Microsoft Office 365: The smart person’s guide TechRepublic

Look, I know it’s far from ideal, and I pay my Microsoft tax every year, but if you want to save money and get a deal, spending an extra hundred bucks on top of the price of Office — and getting a full laptop out of the deal — is a pretty good compromise.

8. Look (carefully) for deals

While not everyone can qualify for one of the free opportunities listed above, there’s always the possibility of a deal out there. But you need to be very, very careful. eBay (especially) is chock full of suspicious deals for inexpensive copies of Office (on disk) or Office 365 subscriptions. My recommendation is to stay away from eBay deals.

However, we did find a good deal from Amazon with an Office 365 license sold by Microsoft for about $20 off. One of the benefits of buying from Amazon is that if you do get a scammy product, you can contact Amazon, and it’ll give you a refund. So, you’re much better off with an Amazon purchase (even if it’s more expensive) than an eBay deal. Also, don’t forget to click all the options. In the deal above, the “key card” option was full price, while the download version had a nice discount.

What else?

Have you found any other ways to save money on your computer or software purchases? What good (legitimate) deals have you seen? Go ahead and share with your fellow readers in the TalkBacks below. If I find any new deals for Office, I’ll update this article, so bookmark it and check back regularly.

You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at, on Instagram at, and on YouTube at

Many different online resellers market and sell Microsoft products without Microsoft’s approval. SoftwareMedia is committed to making sure you get exactly what you paid for: legitimate software recognized by Microsoft as a valid purchase forever.

The current Microsoft Office family of products no longer includes an installation disc with purchase. This means that you must go to and enter your 25-digit key code to download and activate the product. Many software resellers have found loopholes in this activation process, allowing them to sell fraudulent software at incredibly low prices. If a price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

With the release of Office 2016, Office 2013 downloads are no longer available at all. Unless a reseller has copies of older retail boxes, you cannot purchase Office 2013 legally. The only way to get an official Electronic Software Delivery (ESD) product is to buy the actual SKU from an authorized ESD reseller. ESD products have different part numbers than their retail counterparts. Retail software comes in small boxes containing product key cards with activation codes.

While SoftwareMedia does offer the option to deliver software electronically, we do so by providing ESD SKUs for current products or opening a retail boxed product, scanning the product key card, and emailing the activation code to you so you may use the software immediately, rather than having it shipped to you. We then keep the physical product in our secured storage facility and save the activation key in our system if you need the key for reinstall, transfer, or an audit. Simply call 1-800-474-1045 and have your order number handy, and our customer service team will locate your product key for you.

Resellers offering these inexpensive downloads cannot provide you with an actual image of the Product Key Card and Certificate of Authenticity, nor can they provide a proof of purchase for an ESD SKU from Microsoft. Based on purchase information provided to us by customers who purchased from these resellers, what you are in fact being sold is:

  • Academic Product: Licensed for student use only. In some cases, we found these products were already activated multiple times.
  • Home Use Product: Large organizations that purchased licenses with Software Assurance via the Open Business or Enterprise channels have the ability to assign an employee a key code for use of the products on the employee’s “Home” PC. If you were sold one of these keys and call Microsoft for tech support, after you give them your product key they will ask for your Microsoft Authorization Number, which of course you do not have as that key is assigned to another organization.
  • Used OEM Product Codes: OEM products come from PC makers and allow for more than one install to make sure the end user doesn’t have any issues. OEM products do not receive any technical support from Microsoft. Based on our findings, when the Microsoft Activation Center finds a key that has been abused, they turn the key off, rendering the key invalid. When testing these products, we found that some of the codes had been activated up to five times. Also if Microsoft chooses, like it has with Windows, to run a genuineness test on these products and finds they key code you have is invalid, you will no longer be able to use the product you purchased. Microsoft will refer you to your place of purchase, and if the company no longer exists, you’re stuck with the invalid product key.
  • MSDN Abuse: MSDN is for developers who write programs using Microsoft products, MSDN allows them to get product keys for whatever Microsoft products they need, but these licenses are for development only. Many resellers sign up for these MSDN subscriptions to get access to these products keys, then sell the keys to unsuspecting customers.

While these were the four main areas we found, there are more ways to circumvent the rules. You may be wondering why Microsoft allows these products to be activated. The response we received from our dedicated Microsoft representatives is that it’s about the customer experience. Microsoft wants customers to have the ability to reinstall products if necessary. The problem of the Electronic Software Delivery world is that it opened the door to many illicit resellers that have found ways to circumvent the activation process and unlock full versions of the software.

We hope that Microsoft will stop allowing many of these illicit product keys to work. Until then here’s what you can do to make sure you get what you paid for:

  • Buyer Beware/Common Sense. If you google a product, e.g. Project Professional 2013, and all of the sponsored listings show a price of $200 (the product retails at around $900) and all the resellers offer is a download, we can say with 99.9% certainty you are getting an illegal copy. These companies do not receive product keys from retail boxes. SoftwareMedia has the actual factory key card and emails you the image. If you call Microsoft with a question, the first thing they’ll ask is how much you paid for the product. If you are a business and bought five illegal copies of this product you’ll receive the all-too-familiar audit letter and go through the audit process. The auditors will not give you a pass for thinking you bought legitimate products. They demand a new purchase, and we’ve had hundreds of orders from businesses trying to pass an audit. Many times, the resellers that sold the products are out of business or simply refuse to issue a refund. Then you’ve paid for the products twice and are in the record books at Microsoft as having purchased illegal software. Think of it like an IRS audit: if you get caught cheating you pay, and more likely than not you will get audited again. We don’t know the inside scoop at Microsoft, but we’ve been told they will audit thousands of small businesses in the near future.
  • Send SoftwareMedia the product key you were sold. As Microsoft Gold Partners, we have a direct communication channel with the Microsoft piracy team. They can provide us with a complete analysis of the product that you can take back to your place of purchase to demand a refund.
  • Yes, you really have to pay for Software. You would certainly question someone selling a Surface Pro 4 for $200 when it retails at $1500, and the same goes for software. People want the best hardware devices, then realize the software can cost even more than the device, and they start searching for the cheapest option online. Illicit resellers know this and cater to people who just want something that will work. Do the right thing and get a legitimate copy so you don’t have to worry. Every day, we receive calls from people who purchased software elsewhere and need to reinstall on a new device, only to find out that their product key is no longer valid.

Navigating the online software market can be difficult. SoftwareMedia is committed to providing authentic software at the best possible price. Call us at 1-800-474-1045 or email [email protected] to request a quote.

Both at home and at work, Microsoft Office has been a staple part of computing for decades. Pretty much all of us will have have used it at some point to create Word documents, Powerpoint presentations or Excel spreadsheets. It’s so popular that in 2016 Microsoft Office was used in some way, shape or form by a whopping 1.2 billion people. But with packages starting at £60 a year, it doesn’t come cheap.

If you’re an Office user, before you next splash out to renew your subscription, it might be worth thinking about whether you really need Office at all. Almost 30 years after Microsoft Office launched, there’s finally a free alternative worth considering. Google has its own similar set of apps, and they’re all available online right now, completely free!

Here’s what you need to know to work out whether or not you really need Microsoft Office.

We earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article.

Related Story

What does Microsoft Office offer?

There are a few different ways you can use Microsoft Office. The first is to buy a subscription to Office 365 which lets you use the latest full versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Outlook on your PC as well as on any tablets or smartphones you own. You also get Publisher and Access but you can only use these on a PC. You also get 1TB of storage space on Microsoft’s cloud service, OneDrive (everyone can get 5GB free). It costs £59.99 a year for personal use for one user, but for £79.99 a year, you can get Office 365 Home which lets you have six different log-ins – a better deal for a family. With both options you’ll get every new update such as new tools and features, as well as security updates and bug fixes.

The second option is to make a one-off purchase of Office Home & Student 2019 for £119.99. You’ll have access to Word, Powerpoint and Excel to use on one PC or Mac, but you can’t use the software on a tablet or smartphone and you won’t get the extra online storage or the updates.

Caiaimage/Sam EdwardsGetty Images

It is possible to use Word, Excel and Powerpoint free of charge, though. Visit from any web browser to access limited versions of these programs (you can also download free apps for your smartphone or tablet). You’ll need to sign up for a free Outlook account but it’s worth noting that there are lots of features missing and you won’t be able to save documents to your computer’s hard drive – they’ll be stored in your OneDrive space instead.

Can I use Google Docs instead?

Just like Microsoft, Google offers a similar service to Office that lets you create and edit documents, spreadsheets and presentations from your PC, tablet or smartphone. The difference is: it’s free. Again, your files are saved to a secure area online, known as Google Drive. All you need is a Google login to use it.

What are the pros of Google Docs, apart from cost?

  1. It’s simple to use. Microsoft Office comes with tonnes of features (some suited to more advanced use, such as Word’s References menu which helps you write in an academic format). This can make Office seem a little cluttered. Google ditches all but the most necessary features, which makes its programs easier to use. You can even remove any features you don’t need. No more scrolling through endless menus looking for the spell checker!
  2. You get extra free online storage space. Google Drive gives you 15GB of free storage space – that’s triple the amount Microsoft offers free of charge.
  3. Google autosaves everything you do to Google Drive by default, which means you’ll never lose any work because every click and keystroke is saved. Although the web version of Microsoft Office does this, if you use the PC version it autosaves to your local hard drive after a specified number of minutes. If you want it to save more often – or automatically – to OneDrive, you’ll have to tweak the settings.

GHI TIP: To open a new document, sheet or slide, type, or into the address bar of your Chrome browser.

Related Story

What are the pros of Microsoft Office?

  1. There are loads of templates to choose from. Whatever kind of document you’re creating, Microsoft Office has a template for it. They come in handy when you’re creating files like CVs, flyers or letters, in particular. In comparison, creating documents like these on Google can be tricky and you won’t have as much control as you would with Microsoft.
  2. You don’t need to rely on an internet connection. A big problem with using Google’s free service in your web browser is that it relies heavily on an internet connection. If you suddenly lose web access, you won’t be able to access your files or load the services in your browser at all. Google Docs can be used ‘offline’ but this is fiddly to set-up and has to be done in advance. That won’t be a problem with Microsoft Office because everything is available both online and offline.
  3. There’s a wider range of apps on Microsoft Office. With your paid subscription, you don’t just get Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint. You’ll also have access to Outlook for your emails, Publisher to build more professional documents and files, as well as the Access database software.
  4. Microsoft Office lets you edit more files types. A major downfall of Google Docs is that it won’t let you edit PDFs, whereas Microsoft Word will. This could be particularly important for students and professionals who need full control of a wider range of file types.

Willie B. ThomasGetty Images

GHI TIP: If you have an Apple Mac or iPad from 2015 or later, iWork comes pre-loaded, and includes the programs Pages, Numbers and Keynote. These have a lot of the same features as the Word, Excel and Powerpoint apps in Microsoft Office but you’ll struggle to open the files you’ve created using Pages in Word – as will anyone you share your files with.

Our verdict

Buying a Microsoft Office subscription will be unavoidable for those who have a lot of more complex files to create and edit, like students or professionals. But if you need software for light word processing and data entry then we would recommend switching to the Google Docs Suite.

If Microsoft Office sounds like the better option, buy it online here.

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Microsoft Word and other Office apps do not always come preinstalled on Windows 10, and for some users it can come as a shock that they must pay out for the very apps that they consider to be what makes their computer usable.

A full Office 2019 licence can be expensive, but there are many ways to get Microsoft apps for free, whether you’re wanting to access Word from your phone, tablet, laptop or PC.

We’ve outlined some free workarounds below, as well as significantly discounted offerings, but should you go through all this and decide you don’t want Microsoft Word at all there is also plenty of free alternative office suites that are compatible with Microsoft’s software.

Download the free Office apps for iOS, Android and Windows

In a shift towards embracing the cloud, Microsoft’s current strategy for Office means that you can download its mobile apps for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for free on a wide range of devices including Android and iOS as a part of its Office Online option. You can download these apps for iOS, Android and Windows 10 using the links below.

iOS apps

  • Word for iOS
  • Excel for iOS
  • PowerPoint for iOS

Android apps

  • Word for Android
  • Excel for Android
  • PowerPoint for Android

Windows apps

  • Word for Windows 10
  • Excel for Windows 10
  • PowerPoint for Windows 10

While these are free for any device, they don’t simply allow you full access to all the functions, with the full functionality held back for Office 365 subscribers. See our full Microsoft Office buying guide.

You’ll always be able to open and read documents for free, but can only create and edit them for free on a device with a screen smaller than 10.1 inches. That means you can edit Word documents from a smartphone or small tablet, but if you’re on a larger tablet, laptop, or desktop PC you can only view them.

On iOS, the distinction is simpler at least: you can create and edit documents for free on any iPhone, regular iPad, or iPad Air or Mini, but iPad Pro users can only view files.

It’s worth noting that even on a device with a smaller screen, you only get what Microsoft calls the ‘core’ Office experience, with some editing tools and features held back from free users.

Try Office 365 for free

Being able to view documents alone isn’t much use of course, so anyone on a PC, laptop or tablet with a screen bigger than 10.1in will want something more than that.

The easiest option is just to sign up for Office 365, Microsoft’s cloud-based subscription service, which costs from £5.99/US$6.99 per month for a personal account. It offers the same apps listed above, but simply unlocks their full feature set on any device, while saving your work in the cloud so that you can access it wherever you are. You also get access to programs like Exchange Online and SharePoint Online.

The good news is, there’s a one-month free trial of Office 365, so you can try it for free without committing to paying a penny.

Get Microsoft Teams for free

If you often collaborate with other people you can also sign up for Microsoft Teams for free which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote Online apps. Teams lets you chat, share files and start video calls from within the platform. There are premium plans as well starting from £3.80/month per user.

Get Office 365 Education for free

Teachers and students can get Office 365 Education for free, which includes Office Online (Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote) and Microsoft Teams, as well as unlimited personal cloud storage.

You need to be a full-time or part-time faculty or staff member or student with a valid school email to be eligible. Check if you qualify here.

You can find additional information about Office 365 Education here, and .

Microsoft Home Use Program Discount

While it’s not completely free, you can save 30% on an Office 365 subscription through your employer via Microsoft’s Home Use Program for either a 365 Home or 365 Personal subscription.

You would need to check your eligibility by entering your corporate email address. If your employer qualifies, you would receive a verification link via email to authenticate your Microsoft account which enables access to the 30% discount. See if you qualify here.

Note that the Home Use Program is only available in the UK right now.

Free Office alternatives

If you need more functionality than the Office apps give you for free, but don’t want to pay for Office 365, there are various alternatives to Microsoft Office out there that are completely free.

Our recommendation is LibreOffice which is a full suite that’s regularly updated and allows you to open and save documents in Microsoft formats. You can .

Should you happen to dislike Libre Office, you can also check out free alternatives such as WPS Office, Free Office and Google Docs which is now simply a part of Google Drive.

Otherwise, check out our guide to the best free alternatives to Word for more options.

Google Docs Vs. Microsoft Word: Everything You Need to Know

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In recent years, Microsoft Word and Google Docs have been quietly waging a war for the title of best word processor. While most of us have been using Word for decades to draft everything from school essays to resumes to important work documents, Google Docs web-based platform is a total game changer for editing and sharing documents in the connected age.

So which is better? That depends entirely on what you need from a word processing program or mobile app. Today we’re going to cover the benefits and downsides of both Microsoft Word and Google Docs so you have the intel you need to decide for yourself.

Learn more about Word

Download our print-ready shortcut cheatsheet for Word.

How to use and access Microsoft Word and Google Docs

You cannot purchase Microsoft Word as a standalone program.

It comes as part of the Microsoft Office 365 package, which includes other programs like Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Publisher, and Access.

Once you purchase this suite, you can only install Word on a select number of computers, depending on the plan level you choose.

So if you install Word on your desktop, you’ll need to bump up your plan to get a copy for your laptop, which can get pricey.

It wasn’t until 2010 that Microsoft finally launched Word Online as part of its Office 365 package.

Though Word Online boasts enough features for casual users, it is not the full version of Word by any means.

Select ribbons and toolbars were removed from the online version to help it load and run faster. It offers a more streamlined experience though it leaves others wanting more.

For instance, Word Online isn’t able to handle large or more complex documents and users find it clunkier to work around these bugs than using their regular Word program from the start.

All of that is different with Google.

As an internet-based company, Google Docs started out as a cross-platform word processor that works entirely online.

You don’t have to download any software or purchase a suite of programs you don’t want/need to use it.

Simply log in to your Google account from any browser and head over to

That’s it.

Unlike Microsoft Word, which can only be installed on Windows and OS X computers, you can use Google Docs from any computer and browser, including:

  • Windows
  • Mac OS X
  • Linux
  • Chrome OS

The Google Docs app is available for both iOS and Android devices—but not on Windows-based phones like BlackBerry.

The Word app comes pre-installed on Windows Phone devices and as a free (very bare) app for iOS and Android.

Our winner: You can access the full version of Google Docs, with all its features, from any browser.

You have to purchase the entire Microsoft 365 software package just to receive a full version of Word. And the online version of Word lacks certain features which may render it useless for you.

Unlike Microsoft Word, Google Docs is free to use…

Google Docs is free for the average user.

If you want to purchase a “Business” version of G Suite, monthly plans start at $5 per user.

It’s going to cost you more to get started with Microsoft Word.

You’ll need to pay either a:

Business plans are priced differently.

Most of these packages include the desktop versions of all the Office apps and online access for their web-based counterparts.

Our winner: You can’t beat free — Google takes the cake here.

… But free comes with limitations and a lack of control

We know Google Docs is entirely online.

You access your docs online, you write and edit in-browser, and your documents are saved to your online Google Drive cloud.

But what happens when your internet goes out thanks to a big thunderstorm?

Or Google’s servers go down right before your huge AM presentation?

Though you can work in Google’s offline mode (after following a series of steps), you can’t normally access the platform when Google’s servers are in chaos or when you lack Internet.

Google lets you check for outages using their G Suite Status Dashboard tool.

At the time of this screenshot, all the Google apps were running without problems:

But when there’s a service outage or reported service disruption, you’ll see a bar like in this example:

The most commonly reported problems with Google Drive, according to Down Detector, include:

  • Not being able to access files online (53%)
  • Apps (like Docs and Sheets) not loading (36%)
  • File syncing (10%)

This could cause major stress if you’re unprepared.

You’ll need to download or email physical copies of your documents for times you won’t be connected to the internet.

Microsoft may have the upper hand here since you can get your work done in the offline desktop version of Word.

Plus, your Word documents will be saved locally on your computer or device instead of in the cloud so you’re always in control of them.

Our winner: MS Word removes the “what if” factor of relying on Google’s servers and lets you work without an internet connection.

Similar layouts and interface: Google wins on user-friendliness, but Word has tons of features

Seasoned Word vets know there are SO many options and features built into Word that it can be exhausting navigating all the ribbons and toolbars just to find the one button you need.

After all, you’ll probably click on ribbons like References, Mailings, and Acrobat, which will replace your toolbar with even more buttons, maybe twice in your whole life.

Google Docs solves that problem by drastically simplifying the layout and toolbar situation to create a more user-friendly, easily manageable workspace.

Just check out the differences to see what we mean.

Here’s what Microsoft Word’s ribbon looks like in both Windows and OS X versions:

Now check out the Google Docs toolbar:

Pretty big difference, right?

Google places all your most frequently used buttons right in your easy-access toolbar. Everything else, like inserting images or tables, can be found in one of the dropdowns.

With Word, any time you change one of the ribbons, like if you clicked on Layout, all the buttons in your toolbar change as well.

Though Word does let you customize your toolbar so all your most-used buttons are in reach, narrowing down these options can be overwhelming for a novice or casual users.

The less time you have to spend hunting for the exact tool you want, the quicker your work will be accomplished.

Our winner: An easy-to-use interface doesn’t mean much if the tools you need aren’t available. Choose Google if you need light word processing features; stick to Word if you’re on a more advanced features level.

Google saves the day when it comes to saving your files

Ever forget to hit the save button on your Word doc before you lose power or accidentally close out of the program?

Though you’ve crossed your fingers and recovered several Word documents in your lifetime, wouldn’t it be great if you never had to replay this terrible nightmare again?

Google Docs not only automatically saves your work every few minutes or so, it also continually saves as you’re working.

This means you can log in on your desktop and see the changes made live from your smartphone at the same time.

Plus, Docs backs up your saved files to Google Drive instead of your local hard drive.

So Google saves your work — and backs up your work — to give you extra protection should you spill coffee all over your laptop and wreck your hard drive.

Our winner: Google is the automatic save hero you never thought your docs needed.

Comparing document compatibility and file formats

You can use Google Docs to open and edit Microsoft Word documents. You can even download your Google doc as a Word document so it has a standard Word extension (.docx).

But that’s not the only file format Google Docs will let you export.

You can download your docs with the following extensions: ODT, PDF, RTF, HTML, TXT, EPUB.

However, you can only download your Word Online documents as PDF, ODT, or DOCX files.

And if you want to open a Google doc in Word, you’ll need to convert it first.

One area Word has Docs beat is PDFs.

You can open PDFs in Word on your desktop, edit them, and then save them as PDFs again; you can’t do this in Google Docs.

Our winner: Google gives you more file format compatibility. But Word may be your go-to if you require PDF editing.

Collaborate remotely using real-time editing and doc sharing

We live in an ever-connected world, which means many of us have to collaborate with teams and coworkers remotely.

Both word processors will let you track the changes made by editors you shared your document with.

While you can download your Word doc and email it to others for collaboration, you can invite collaborators directly from your Google doc or send them a link to access your document.

When you’re in Google’s “Suggesting” mode, all the edits made are merely suggestions which accompany the highlighted text as comments in the sidebar.

You can choose to accept these changes (and they’ll happen in the doc) or ignore them without harming your original text.

If someone deletes part of your text during editing, Google will strikethrough the text in the document like this:

Edits made in Word will remove the original text from the document and place it in the sidebar along with the other comments:

You’ll be able to read an edited version of your document without your original copy to distract you from the final product (unless you click into the sidebar).

Here’s the best perk about Google Docs: real-time collaboration.

When your recipients click the link to your document, you’ll be able to view their name (or anonymous Google-assigned animal avatar) and their unique identifying color in-doc live.

Watch your collaborators mark up your doc or open up the Google Docs messenger feature and chat with each other — right in your document — about the changes you want to make together live.

Google will track the changes — along with who was responsible for them and the time they made them — so contributions are always recognized.

You could literally have an entire department working on the same doc together in real-time wherever in the world they happen to be working from.

While you can email your documents to your collaborators with Word, you can’t actually work together on it at the same time like you can with Docs.

You can only do this in Word with Microsoft’s Office 365 online Word app, which isn’t a full version of the program anyway.

Plus, you’ll need an account or subscription for Word online and your teammates might not have one.

Here’s an interesting study to note:

When Creative Strategies surveyed over 350 college students across the country, they discovered:

  • 12% use Google Docs to write papers alone; 80% use Microsoft Word instead
  • 78% use Google Docs to write papers in a group collaboratively; just 13% use Word for group work

So you may want to follow in the footsteps of today’s millennials and use Word for your personal work and Docs for your teamwork.

Our winner: Google Docs shines in collaboration mode with its universal access and real-time editing features.

Is there a better mobile candidate?

Google Docs started and lives online so you’ll always have access to its full features when you’re signed in on the browser version. Though the mobile apps have fewer features, you can still write and edit docs on-the-go without any hiccups.

Since the mobile-based Word app isn’t Microsoft’s core business, it’s not as robust or comprehensive as their standalone program or what Google offers their mobile users.

While you can insert charts, drawings, and even spreadsheets with the online version of Docs, you don’t have these abilities with Word Online.

Mobile users will have their documents saved to OneDrive, Microsoft’s version of Google Drive, so working remotely is just as secure as when they’re in the office.

Our winner: Google Docs was made for the web and mobile working; MS Word is stronger offline.

Google has more third-party app integrations

Visit the Google Apps Marketplace for add-ons from third parties that fit your and your business’ needs.

Missing something from Word?

Check the marketplace and see if you can not only replace it, but find a better version.

From label merge tools to automatic contact plugins, these apps can be seamlessly integrated with Docs for a fully customizable program.

The most popular add-ons for Google Docs include those that replicate Microsoft Word features, such as:

  • Extensis Fonts which adds thousands of free fonts to Docs
  • Template Gallery an add-on that gives you additional templates for Docs and Sheets
  • Styles apply styles to jazz up Docs to give them a more sophisticated look
  • Insert icons for Docs imports icons to help you illustrate your Docs

Microsoft has their own Office Store with integrated third-party apps, but it’s not as stocked with choices.

Additionally, Google Docs works with the other programs in the G Suite. So you can create or access files from your Google programs right from the File menu in Doc:

Each document or app will open in a separate tab within the browser you’re already working in so you don’t have to wait for all those separate programs to load on your computer like you would with Microsoft.

Our winner: MS Word doesn’t need as many add-ons because it’s bursting with features, but Google’s basic skeleton allows for total customization with add-ons you specifically choose.

So are you a loyal Windows fan or a new Google devotee?

Microsoft Word has been the only name worth mentioning in the world of word processors for the last 30 years, but now Google aims to knock the crown off its head.

With its easy-to-use features cleverly designed for the growing cloud-based workforce, many people find Docs easier to use on a daily basis than Word.

Others in the business realm who rely on Microsoft’s constantly evolving features will be let down by Google’s basic approach and slim tools offering.

So after assessing the specifics of both companies, you’ll need to decide what’s right for you.

If you have a Gmail account and take your Chromebook coffee shop hopping to work remotely with your team, Google Docs may be the best choice for your limited hard drive space and high collaboration needs.

But if your business does everything using Microsoft and you have an Outlook email, you may not want to rock the boat by switching from Word.

We think you should give each program a test run for a week to try them out yourself.

You’ll learn which features you can’t live without (and which you could use less of), work out the kinks and quirks between them, and have a solid answer based on your own real-world use.

If you need help getting started with Microsoft Word or Google Docs, we can point you in the right direction. Take a Word online course to learn the basics or refresh your knowledge, then master the advanced features and become a bona fide pro.

Learn more about Word

Download our print-ready shortcut cheatsheet for Word.