Free Microsoft 365? Yep, you really can use Word, Excel and more without paying
Chances are you've been spending more time on your work or personal computer this year due to the pandemic, so you might be in need of some basic tools like Microsoft 365. Formerly known as Office 365, Microsoft 365 is a service that adds more features to the traditional office software. But if you don't want to shell out the money, there are a few ways you can get the service and its popular apps for free.
Microsoft's suite of productivity software -- including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Microsoft Teams, OneDrive and SharePoint -- typically costs $150 for a one-time installation (as Office 365), or between $70 and $100 every year for subscription service access across devices and family members (as Microsoft 365). Microsoft is also planning to release a new standalone version of Microsoft Office for both Windows and Mac -- for a flat price, no subscription required -- at some point later this year.
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Here are the versions of Office 365, Microsoft 365 and their apps that you can find online for free right now.
If you're a student or a teacher
If you're a student, teacher or faculty member with a school email address, you are likely eligible to get access to Office 365 for free through Microsoft -- including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Microsoft Teams and additional classroom tools.
All you have to do is enter your school email address on this page on Microsoft's website: Get started with Office 365 for free. In many cases, you'll be instantly granted access thanks to an automated verification process. If you attend an institution that needs to be verified, it might take up to a month to confirm your eligibility.
Recent graduates who want to stick with Office 365 can also get Office 365 Personal for $12 for 12 months, with a valid school email address.
If you're anyone else
Anyone can get a one-month free trial of Microsoft 365 to try it out. However, it does require you to enter a credit card, and if you don't cancel before the month is up, you'll be charged $100 for a one-year subscription to Microsoft 365 Family (formerly called Office 365 Home).
The good news is, if you don't need the full suite of Microsoft 365 tools, you can access a number of its apps online for free -- including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneDrive, Outlook, Calendar and Skype. Here's how to get them:
Read more at TechRepublic: Microsoft 365: A cheat sheet
Is there a catch for the free version?
You may be saying, wait a minute -- if I can get all of those apps for free, why pay for Microsoft 365 in the first place? The reason is that the functionality of these apps is limited: They only run through your web browser, and you can't use them if you aren't online. There are also fewer features than the full Microsoft 365 versions.
There are still a number of benefits, however, including the ability to share links to your work and collaborate in real time, similar to G Suite tools. If you're looking for basic versions of each of these apps, the free version should work well for you.
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