Leaving Windows behind is pretty easy. Just buy a Mac, give it a few days to settle in, and never look back. But for Microsoft Office users who don’t have a Microsoft 365 subscription, having to buy Office for Mac again can be a costly hassle.
If you work in a traditional office environment running on Excel and Word, you may have to bite the bullet to reassure your colleagues. But if you’ve outgrown this world and still need to edit and send Office documents every now and then, you have alternative options.
If you are not ready to buy Microsoft Office, here are your best free Office and Microsoft Word alternatives for Mac.
1. Google suite
If you are leaving the Microsoft world and looking for a free word processor for Mac, the best way is to join the Google Alliance. Google Docs, Sheets and Slides are the Mac and Windows equivalents and the three direct alternatives to Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint – they are essentially free Office for your Mac!
There is no real alternative to Outlook other than Gmail, and you can get OneNote on Mac for free.
Google’s suite is really good and integrates nicely with your Google account. You can open an Excel file you received via Gmail in Google Sheets, which is essentially just a free version of Excel.
You can easily import Microsoft Office files to edit them and then export them back to Microsoft Office formats to share. And if what you’re doing is pretty basic, with default fonts and formatting, you can get away with it. The other party will never find out that you are not using Microsoft Office properly.
In some ways, Google Docs is more powerful than Microsoft Word. There’s an extensive add-on gallery, beautiful templates, excellent built-in research tools, and Google search capabilities to boot. All these amazing features essentially make Google Docs a free version of Word for Mac.
There’s also the benefit of Google’s cloud capabilities. Collaborating with multiple users on a document at the same time is pure joy. It’s a small benefit, but it does wonders for productivity.
The entire suite is free and you get 15 GB of storage space included. The only problem is that there isn’t a true desktop app for any of these (although offline mode lets you work on documents offline in Chrome).
The associated apps for iPhone and iPad are also great.
LibreOffice is widely recognized as the best open source alternative to the Microsoft Office suite. That means it’s completely free and available on a variety of platforms. It is by far one of the best Microsoft Office alternatives for Mac.
If you’re used to the Microsoft Office user interface (pre-ribbon era), it won’t take long to get used to LibreOffice. Unlike Google’s apps, the LibreOffice suite includes packed offline desktop apps with all the professional features you’d expect.
To make the deal even sweeter, LibreOffice recently added an online component. So you can sync files from Google Drive or OneDrive and edit them directly in LibreOffice (but there is no collaboration feature).
LibreOffice also does a good job when it comes to formatting when importing Microsoft Office documents. Even complex Excel spreadsheets imported into LibreOffice Calc work as they should.
LibreOffice actually evolved from OpenOffice, which used to be the de facto alternative to Microsoft Office. But OpenOffice hasn’t seen any significant updates recently, and management is considering withdrawing the project. We therefore advise you to stay away from OpenOffice. Conversely, LibreOffice’s track record in the recent past has been great.
Downloads: LibreOffice (Free)
3. iWork suite
Included with your Mac is the iWork suite: Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. These are Apple’s own alternatives to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. For example, Pages is one of the best Word alternatives for Mac.
Since these are Mac-centric apps, the user interface is quite different. Instead of being top-heavy, the options are presented in a context menu on the side. And you don’t have as many options as the Microsoft Office suite. Since all three apps are now mature, all the bases are covered.
Once you get used to them, they’re actually pleasant to use (something we can’t necessarily say about Microsoft Office). While the customization options are limited, everything that’s available is pretty polished.
When you create something in Keynote, chances are you end up creating something beautiful. The same goes for Pages — moving text, images, and graphics around is a seamless experience that won’t leave you wanting to pull your hair out.
The iWork suite allows you to import and export documents in Microsoft Office formats (but it saves in iWork format by default). And as long as you’re not using a Mac-specific font, going back and forth with Office documents shouldn’t be much of a problem.
iWork also has online collaboration options, but honestly I wouldn’t recommend using them. They are not nearly as reliable as what Google offers.
4. Office Online
If nothing else will do and you still need a free version of Office for Mac, just open it Office.com. It essentially gives you access to Microsoft Office for Mac, but it’s free, albeit with limited features. Office Online is Microsoft’s free and basic Microsoft Office service that works in any browser.
Although the range of functions is limited, the basics of document editing, spreadsheet formulas and presentation options are covered. You get free access to Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. Just go to the Office link below and then select Sign up for the free version of Office.
Visit: office online (Free)
5. Edit Office documents in Dropbox
Dropbox’s partnership with Microsoft means you can open a Word, Excel, or PowerPoint document shared with you on Dropbox. You don’t need an Office 365 license, but you do need a free Microsoft account.
This option opens your document in Office Online.
Visit: Drop box (Free, subscription available)
6. Say goodbye to PowerPoint for better online tools
PowerPoint is powerful, but also pretty dated. If you want to get noticed with your presentations, try some more modern online presentation tools:
- slides: This is my personal favorite for easily creating beautiful presentations. With the free account you can create and present documents online. To export, you need to upgrade to a paid account.
- Preci: While this service is aimed more at startups, the visual tools Prezi offers go beyond anything you can achieve with PowerPoint.
- canvas: Canva is an online image editor, but it has an extensive library of presentation templates. Canva also gives you all the tools you need to create a custom presentation.
7. Accept Markdown
That’s an idea purely from left field. If you’ve abandoned Windows and embraced the Mac platform, you must have begun to appreciate the simplicity of macOS by now. If you need more of the same for creating and editing plain text documents, you should give Markdown a try.
Markdown is a syntax like HTML, but much simpler. If you’re using a markdown app for writing, don’t get lost in dozens of menu options. All formatting is done via shortcodes. For example, to italicize a word, enclose it in asterisks.
You can create a complex formatted document without ever taking your hands off the keyboard. Also, Markdown exports as clean HTML, and you can generate beautiful PDFs with apps like Ulysses.
Use Microsoft Office when you need it without paying for it
Buying the latest version of Microsoft Office will cost you a few hundred dollars (or a Microsoft 365 subscription). In most cases, the options listed above will suffice for you.
Google Docs is a great alternative to Word, and the same goes for Sheets and Excel. If you’re looking for offline alternatives, LibreOffice should be more than enough.
However, there may be times when you need to use Office for a specific task or for a limited period of time. In that case, you might be able to get a cheap Office license, or with a little research, you can get Word for Mac for free.
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