Leaving Windows behind is pretty easy. Just buy a Mac, take a few days to get used to it, 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 that runs on Excel and Word, you may have to bite the bullet to appease your coworkers. However, if you've outgrown this world and need to edit and send Office documents every now and then, you have alternative options.
If you don't want to buy Microsoft Office just yet, here are your best free Office and Microsoft Word alternatives for Mac.
1. Google suite
If you want to let go of the Microsoft world and are looking for a free word processor for Mac, your best bet 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.
There's no real Outlook alternative beyond Gmail, and you can download OneNote for free on Mac.
Google's suite is really good and it integrates nicely with your Google account. You can open an Excel file that you received through Gmail in Google Sheets, which is essentially just a free version of Excel.
You can easily import Microsoft Office files for editing and then re-export them to Microsoft Office formats for sharing. And if you are pretty easy with standard 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, superior built-in research tools, and Google search capabilities.
There is also the benefit of Google's cloud capabilities. Working with multiple users on one document at the same time is pure joy. It's a minor benefit, but it works wonders for productivity.
The entire suite is free and you get 15 GB of storage space included. The only problem is that there is no real desktop app for this one (although you can work on documents offline in Chrome in offline mode).
The associated apps for iPhone and iPad are also great.
visit: Google Docs | Google Sheets | Google Slides
LibreOffice is widely recognized as the best open source alternative to the Microsoft Office suite. This means that it is completely free and available on a wide variety of platforms. It's 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 doesn't take long to get used to LibreOffice. Unlike Google's apps, the LibreOffice suite includes fully functional offline desktop apps with all of the professional features you would 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 function).
In terms of formatting, LibreOffice also does a good job of importing Microsoft Office documents. Even complex Excel spreadsheets imported into LibreOffice Calc work perfectly.
LibreOffice actually emerged from OpenOffice, which used to be the de facto alternative to Microsoft Office. But OpenOffice hasn't seen any notable updates recently, and management is considering shutting down the project. We therefore advise you to stay away from OpenOffice. Conversely, LibreOffice's track record has been great in the recent past.
Download: LibreOffice (free)
3. iWork suite
Your Mac comes with the iWork Suite: Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. These are Apple's own alternatives to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Pages, for example, is one of the best alternatives to Word for Mac.
Since these are Mac-centric apps, the user interface is very different. Instead of being top heavy, the options appear 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 basics are covered.
Once you get used to them, they are actually pleasant to use (which we can't necessarily say about Microsoft Office). While the customization options are limited, everything available is pretty polished.
If you create something in Keynote, chances are you'll end up creating something beautiful. The same goes for Pages – moving text, images, and graphics is a seamless experience that you won't want to pull your hair out.
The iWork Suite allows you to import and export documents in Microsoft Office formats (but it is saved 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 has online collaboration options too, but honestly I wouldn't recommend using them. They are nowhere near as reliable as what Google offers.
Download: Pages | Numbers | Keynote (free)
4. Office Online
If nothing else works, just open Office.com. It essentially gives you access to free Office for Mac. Office Online is the free and basic Microsoft Office service from Microsoft that works in any browser.
Although the feature set is limited, it covers the basics of document manipulation, spreadsheet formulas, and presentation options. You get free access to Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.
visit: Office Online
5. Edit Office documents in Dropbox
Dropbox's partnership with Microsoft means you can open a Word, Excel, or PowerPoint document that has been shared with you on Dropbox. You don't need an Office 365 license, but you do need a free Microsoft account.
When you use this option, your document will open in Office Online.
PowerPoint is powerful, but it's also pretty old-fashioned. If you want to get noticed with your presentations, try some more modern online presentation tools:
Slides: This is my personal favorite for making beautiful presentations the easy way. With the free account you can create and present documents online. You will need to upgrade to a paid account to export.
Prezi: While this service is aimed more at startups, the visual tools Prezi offers go beyond anything you can get with PowerPoint.
Canva: Canva is an online photo editor, but it has an extensive library of presentation templates. Canva also offers you all the important tools to create an individual presentation.
7. Embrace Markdown
Here is an idea purely from the left field. If you've given up Windows and embraced the Mac platform, you must have come to appreciate the simplicity of macOS by now. If you need more of that for creating and editing plain text documents, consider using Markdown.
Markdown is a syntax like HTML, but much simpler. When you use a Markdown app to write, you won't get lost in dozens of menu options. All formatting is done with shortcodes.
For example, to italicize a word, enclose it with asterisks.
You can create a complexly formatted document without ever removing your hands from the keyboard. Plus, Markdown exports as clean HTML, and you can use apps like Ulysses to generate beautiful PDFs.
Use Microsoft Office when you need to, without paying for it
It will cost you a few hundred dollars to buy the latest version of Microsoft Office (or a subscription to Microsoft 365). In most cases, the options listed above will be sufficient for you.
Google Docs is a great alternative to Word, and the same is true 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 amount of time. If so, you might be able to purchase a cheap Office license or, after doing some research, get Word for Mac for free.
6 ways to get a Microsoft Office license for free
Free Microsoft Office licenses are hard to come by, but they are available. So you can use Microsoft Office for free.
About the author
(118 published articles)
Khamosh Pathak is a freelance technology writer and user experience designer. When he's not helping people get the most out of their current technology, he's helping customers build better apps and websites. In his spare time, he watches comedy specials on Netflix and tries one more time to read a long book. He's @pixendetective on Twitter.
From Khamosh Pathak
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