The Secret to Free Microsoft Office, Collaboration, and Mobile Access


I thought I would use Microsoft Office less once I graduated college. So not true.

As a mom, I’ve got group writing projects with siblings, and some with friends on other continents. I share documents with my hubby for short term and long term goals, plans, lists and finances. I have my personal writing projects and lists that I need to access on the go, or just from different computers. Then there is blogging. And it will be a whole new game once my kids are of word processing age.

For many-a-year I made do with “Microsoft Office compatible” apps and online drives to enable collaboration on documents, or to be able to access and edit stuff from my devices. I loved that I could collaborate with others, but great were the woes in other areas.

I know that I’m not the only one who gets frustrated with a certain online drive’s limitations. It screws up your formatting, especially when trying to switch the document to or from Microsoft Word and Excel. And it is even worse with some “Office compatible” mobile apps. In fact, I know somebody whose company has forbidden him to even open his business documents using “Office compatible” apps because it jacks up the original document’s formatting so much. Which sucks for him since he uses his iPad as a laptop, and he doesn’t have official Office Web Apps installed. He didn’t even realize he was using an “Office compatible” app instead of the real thing until I told him what was happening.

After getting the collaboration over with, I, like many others, always trotted back to Microsoft office to create the final version of the document. Office just has such fine-tuned formatting options, and it’s so much easier and more intuitive to use.

Newsflash: You can skip the middle man and collaborate on documents straight from MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. Even if the other co-authors don’t have Office, they can still edit the real live Office document in Office, right from their browser.

Friends don’t let friends live in ignorance of this fact.

I’m talking about sharing your documents people. It’s so easy. So easy. No more resorting to collaboration alternatives just because you don’t know it’s possible or how it’s done in Office. See below? Do you see? I made a nice little info graphic to show you how in Office 2013.

Microsoft Office Document Share path file

For us home users, it’s as simple as File>Share>Invite People. Or if you want to create a link that you can share with everyone you want to include. Go to File>Share>Get Sharing Link. Starting at step three you can choose to allow viewing only, or editing.

Microsoft Office 365 document sharing link

Either way, you can all co-author the same document. Every time you save, Office Online updates everyone else’s new contributions and allows them to see yours. And if you have Office 365 you can do live sharing as well. In both cases you get to choose between allowing collaborators to view only, or you can enable editing.

Keep in mind that for businesses and government organizations, a better alternative to sharing individual documents will be to create a SharePoint Server library, which is also awesome, but not what we are focusing on today.

Office Online co-author photo Word

Now that you are on your way to collaborating in peace, take a moment to peruse Office Online. It’s a beautiful thing. You can access Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote right from your browser. Even if you don’t own Microsoft Office. Boom. Instant Microsoft Office. Free. Even from your phone or tablet browser. If you don’t have a Microsoft Account, just create one for free, and you’re in!

Office Excel Mobile Android
Office Web Apps come with subscription to Office 365

And if you want to have access to the full version of Office and official Microsoft Office mobile apps, not apps that are merely compatible with Microsoft Office that will destroy your careful formatting, check out Office 365. You get access to your documents from most of your devices. And not only do you have mobile apps to access your documents, but a one year subscription includes five Microsoft Office licenses for different computers and different users, and 20 GB cloud storage per user.


By way of disclaimer: Yes, I received a free subscription to Office 365 to facilitate this post, but I’m the one who contacted Microsoft about the possibility of doing a bit of Office how-to-ing. My Microsoft Office love-fest began many years ago and has only grown since getting to know Office 365.




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About the author

Cecilia Harvey

I'm a technological enthusiast with a completely unrelated degree in English Literature. I've also been known to dabble in photography and DIY furniture refinishing, with occasional stints of fitness sprinkled among all of the above.

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