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Life on lockdown looks just a little different. If you’ve been fast-tracked to remote working, your home computer might not be ready for all the action it’s getting. One of the key tools you’re going to want is Microsoft Office 365. The price tag has probably been putting you off, but there are some tricks to getting Office 365 and the associated apps for free.  

Image credit: malavida.com

We’re all familiar with Microsoft’s suite of productivity software, like Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, Excel, OneDrive, Microsoft Teams, and SharePoint, and you probably know about the hefty price as well. A one-time installation normally costs $150 and an annual subscription will set you back $70 to $100 for access across multiple devices or across your family. Alison DeNisco Rayome explored some ways to get the suite for free, in an article that originally appeared on cnet

She notes that there are changes afoot. March saw the announcement of a rebrand; Office 365 will change to Microsoft 365, a whole new service that comes with new features tagged on to the current software. As of April 21, you can pay $7 per month for the individual plan or $10 for a plan to cover up to six people.  

Don’t want to wait? Not a fan of subscription services? Here are some free online versions of the software that you can take advantage of.  

Educational necessities

Teachers, faculty members, and students are usually eligible for free access to Office 365, providing you’ve got a valid school email address. The education package gives you access to Word, Excel, OneNote, Microsoft Teams, PowerPoint and some extra classroom tools thrown in, too.  

To get the free deal, you need to enter your school-based email here and the website will guide you through the process. It’s pretty standard to be given immediate access because of the automated verification process they have in place. If your educational institution requires verification, you might be waiting a full month to get access. 

If you’re recently graduated, you can stick with using Office 365 Personal for a knockdown price of $12 for a year, as long as you’ve still got a school email address. 

For the rest of us

Microsoft will give a free, one-month trial for Office 365 to anyone who wants to give it a blast. Be careful with the process: you’re asked to enter your credit card details when you sign up and it’s up to you to contact them to cancel before the trial is over and they start to charge you. Forgetting to cancel will mean a charge of $100 on your card that covers a full year subscription. 

Don’t trust yourself to remember to cancel that trial? If you only want to use a few of the available apps, you can get some of them for free already. You can use Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneDrive, Calendar, and Skype at no cost with these simple steps:

  • Head over to Office.com
  • Use your Microsoft account to log in, assuming you have one. If you already use Skype, Windows, or Xbox accounts then you use the same account details
  • Choose which app you want and your work gets saved on Microsoft’s cloud service, OneDrive

Everything I need is free, what’s the catch? 

When all the basic functions that you need for your new remote working life are already available for free, what are you actually paying for with your Office 365 subscription? When you use the free versions you might notice that you don’t get absolutely all of the functionality of the apps. You also have to run them through your browser so there’s no offline working, plus the features are much more limited when you don’t pay.  

It’s not awful though. You can still share a link to the work you’ve done and your colleagues can collaborate in real time. Think G Suite functionality. For basic versions of the apps that you’d normally use in the office,  taking advantage of the free versions should do what you need.

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