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Some of the most commonly used programs are Microsoft Word, Excel, and Outlook (for checking email). Some people also use PowerPoint for presentations. The online version of these programs are free for anyone with a Microsoft account (also free).


To have the software installed on your computer, you will need to pay Microsoft for rental or a one-time purchase of the software. The rental cost is about $70 per year for one person, or about $100 for six people. The one-time purchase is about $150. These options are explained on the Microsoft website. [View Here]

If you purchase the $150 option, it only includes Word, Excel and PowerPoint. [Learn More] You may need to purchase again every 3-5 years to stay current.

In addition to the familiar Word, Excel, and PowerPoint programs, the Office subscription includes Outlook (software to check email accounts), Access (database software), and Publisher (for creating calendars, greeting cards, and other publications). Those last two are for Windows computers only.

The cumulative value of all the software, for six people, on up to more than 20 computers, is about $15,000, but costs only $100 per year. So, it’s a good deal if fully utilized.

When Your Microsoft Office Subscription Ends

Because the Microsoft Office billing is annual for most people (it’s the least expensive option), people will sometimes see the charge on their credit card and not remember what they are being billed for. They may cancel the service or dispute a payment to get a refund. When this happens your subscription will end and the software on your computer will be limited. You will be able to open and print documents, but not edit or create new ones.

This is explained on Microsoft’s website:

If you don’t respond to the notification, Office will eventually run in reduced functionality mode and will show Unlicensed Product notifications. You’ll still be able to open and print your documents but you won’t be able to edit them or to create new ones.” [Read More]

Share and Save

If you know someone who is paying the $100 annual fee, but not using all of their six licenses, they may be willing to let you use one of the licenses they are paying for. This would be one way to have the software installed on your computer for free, or perhaps you could help share the cost. If you are paying the $100 per year rental, you might consider sharing the license with someone to save them money. The sharing program is explained on the Microsoft website. [View Here] Anyone wanting to share their Microsoft subscription can login and visit the share page on the Microsoft website. [Share Here]

The Free Online Version of Office Software

If you choose the free online version of Microsoft Office, you will want to put your documents in the Microsoft OneDrive cloud storage included with your Microsoft account. Using an email with would help make communications with others more efficient. You could easily attach files or download files. The OneDrive storage would become your virtual hard drive in the cloud. That way it will be easier to access your files. The online versions of the Microsoft Office software will have many of the features available with the full paid version, but not all the features. The free Microsoft Office programs and OnDrive cloud storage are similar to the Google Docs and Google Drive services.

Free Alternatives

As mentioned above, Google Docs and Google Drive would offer similar functionality as the free online Microsoft Office products. [Learn More]

A free alternative to the paid Microsoft Office software would be LibreOffice software which offers word processing, spreadsheets, presentation software, graphic design software, and more. The LibreOffice software is similar to Office and can save documents in Word, Excel, or PowerPoint formats. The software can run on Windows, Apple, or Linux computers. [Learn More / Download Free]


Whatever option you choose will take some learning and adjustment. If you are regularly collaborating with people, you may want to use the software and services being used by those people — perhaps even using multiple systems to facilitate file sharing. If you don’t frequently exchange and work on documents with many people, then you can choose whatever options best fits your needs and budget.