What is Office Online? Is It Free?

April 13, 2023 1.9K views

Office Online is the ultimate free solution for all your document needs. With Free Office Online, unleash the power of your true productivity with cloud-based on-the-go editing, viewing, and sharing document software.

What is Office Online?

Office Online is a free alternative to Microsoft Office, a cloud-based productivity suite that allows users to perform all the basic functions of Microsoft’s Office desktop version, typically including creating, viewing, and editing Microsoft Office documents. It includes four applications: Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and OneNote. All the basic features are included in these applications. However, to unlock premium features, you have to inculcate Microsoft 365 subscription.

With Office Online, you can have various features for desktop versions of Microsoft Office, like auto-correction, versatile formatting options, and collaboration tools. Free Office Online has an intuitive user interface with powerful editing features. It offers seamless integration with Microsoft Office, so you can simultaneously work on the same file. Moreover, you can access your documents saved in OneDrive from anywhere worldwide; you only need an internet connection, a web browser, and a Microsoft Office ID.

Advantages of Office Online

As Microsoft Office Online is an optimized version of a desktop application with limited features, it has multiple advantages. Let us explore its major benefits to knowing why it is an excellent choice for basic office tasks.

Accessibility and Convenience

Its ease of use is the most prominent feature of all. Office Online doesn’t need any heavy applications installed on your PC. Thanks to its web-based architecture, it only requires a web browser and internet connection; you can use it anywhere. It makes an excellent choice for people who travel frequently and work remotely. Additionally, no application on the desktop will save space on your PC and keep it as light as possible.


Don’t worry if you can’t afford to pay for the Microsoft Office desktop version because Office Online is absolutely free to use. Suppose you are a student, a fresh start-up, a non-profit organization, or a small business looking to keep its operational costs to a minimum. In that case, Microsoft Office Online is a perfect choice. It is a gift from Microsoft to use for free and only requires a free Microsoft ID.

Collaborative Features

One of the best features of a free Office suite is its collaborative nature. With Office Online, multiple partners can work on the same document in real time. This feature is an important factor for people working in a team that will enhance communication effectively.

Security and Privacy

Being a Microsoft product, it is obvious to be safe and secure. For the safety of its users, Microsoft has included different security features in Office Online, like encryption and two-factor authentication ensuring the protection of users’ data from cyber attacks.

Compatibility with Desktop Version

Microsoft never fails to amaze its users regarding productivity; the same is true with Office Online. Both the version, offline and online, is fully compatible. Documents, presentations, and spreadsheets created on one platform can be opened on another. This compatibility is very handy in switching between platforms, so documents created on your Office PC with the MS Office desktop version can easily be viewed on your laptop without having MS Office’s application.

How to Use Office Online?

There are no high-end requirements for using Office Online. You just need to open a browser and start using it. Below is the stepwise process to get started with using Office Online.

1. Visit the official website of on any browser on your PC.

2. There, they will ask you for a username and password. If you already have a Microsoft account, input your email and password, or click sign up.

3. Once you create your Microsoft account, sign in using your credentials.

4. You will land on the welcome page of Office Online, where you can see all four applications on your screen.

5. You can instantly start using applications by simply clicking on them. The interface is quite simple and intuitive. Unlike the desktop version, it has limited features, but these features are more than enough for your routine tasks.

6. Once you complete your document, you can save it online in your OneDrive. Moreover, you can also export it to your PC’s memory. There are multiple formats where you can save Word documents.

Main Applications of Office Online

Microsoft Office Online is a limited pack of applications containing only Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and OneNote. Let us explore the features of each web-based application.

Word Online

Word Online is a replacement for Microsoft Word, which is a powerful tool for creating, editing, and viewing documents. It has almost all the basic features of MS Word’s desktop applications, including formatting, auto-correction, spelling checker, and more. Like all Office Online applications, it also supports collaboration allowing you to work on the same document from anywhere. Creating the document in Word Online is compatible with MS Word; you can edit it.

Excel Online

Excel Online is a cloud-based version of Microsoft Excel where you can create, edit, and view spreadsheets. It works on collaborative principles where multiple people can work on the same spreadsheet. Moreover, once saved in your OneDrive, you can access and edit your spreadsheet worldwide. Excel Online has all the basic functions like cells, calculations, pivot tables, pivot charts, data connections, external references, formatting, sparklines, and pre-defined functions. It also supports multiple Excel formats, and both versions are compatible.

Powerpoint Online

Powerpoint Online is used instead of MS Powerpoint, where you can create eye-catching presentations. Once you create a presentation with Powerpoint Online, you can instantly share it with your friends or colleagues using OneDrive. Multiple features resemble in online and offline versions of Powerpoint. Both support multiple formats, and you can make them password protected. You can also add media, including images, videos, and sound notes in your presentation. Presentations created in the Powerpoint desktop version can be viewed and edited in Powerpoint Online and vice versa. All the basic features are available in Powerpoint Online, like animation effects, transitions, custom or predefined themes, and background formatting.

OneNote Online

Microsoft OneNote is an excellent application for making your office notes digitally. It is very easy to use, and it is handy for creating quick notes rather tha using sticky notes. You can take short notes and organize note pages in a web browser. When you save the notebook in OneNote, it is saved on the website where you opened it in OneNote for the web. Unlike Microsoft OneNote, OneNote Online has limited features, but since it is free to use, it is worth it. All the basic features, including shapes and equations, font and text formatting, co-authoring, and Outlook integration, are available in the web-based version of OneNote.

Comparison between Office Online and Locally Installed Microsoft Office

Both have exquisite features, but one is free and has limited features compared to the premium version. Let us compare these applications regarding pricing, compatibility, and features.

Features and Functionality

The premium version of Microsoft Office that is locally installed on a computer has more advanced features than the free version. The desktop version has applications like Outlook, Publisher, Teams, and Access. Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, and Excel are common in both versions.

The common applications between the two versions have different features. The locally installed Microsoft Office provides advanced features like formatting options, mail merge, macro creation, and VBA programming. In contrast, Office Online offers limited features like basic editing and formatting, and the Online version is more suitable for simple tasks and people who prefer on-the-go editing.

Accessibility and Compatibility

Microsoft Office Online is a web-based application you can access from any device with an internet connection. On the other hand, for the Microsoft Office desktop version, you have to download and install it on your PC. It occupies considerable space and requires a PC with decent specifications to run properly. However, the Online Office is limited regarding compatibility with certain OS and browsers. On the other hand, Microsoft Office’s desktop version is compatible with multiple operating systems like Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. Additionally, with locally installed Office, you have offline access to your files, while Office Online requires internet access.


One of the most prominent features distinguishing the Online Office from locally installed is its free nature. All you need is a Microsoft account, and you are good to go with using it. In comparison, Microsoft Office requires a one-time or subscription-based payment. It has different plans, and all the paid plans come with their own features and functionality. Advanced features like data analysis and management tools are only available in higher-tier subscriptions. Well-established businesses and big organizations use the Office Professional version, which is the most costly.

Common Issues with Office Online and How to Fix Them

Like any other application, there are certain issues while using Microsoft Office Online. Let us discuss the most common issues with Office Online and guide you on how to fix them.

Slow Performance

You may experience lag in the performance of Office Online if your internet connection is slow or your web browser is not optimized for it. It can frequently happen if you are not using a compatible browser. To fix this, it is recommended to close all other tabs running on your web browser. This way, all the bandwidth will be allocated to Office online only, and it will work comparatively faster. You can also clear the cache of your browser.

Issues While Saving File

Sometimes, you may encounter issues with saving your files on Office Online. It can be due to multiple reasons, like you may have turned Auto-Save on or activated track changes. One big reason can be your internet fluctuating, thus stopping your file from saving. You must turn off the auto-save feature and disable track changes to fix this. Moreover, refresh your web page and try again. If the issue is still persistent, try connecting to another internet source.

Limited Storage

Office Online only provides you with 5GB of free storage. While it may be enough for basic editing if you want to use it on a big scale, 5GB space is absolutely not enough. For this reason, you have to upgrade your plan, which typically means you have to opt for the paid version of Microsoft Office 365, which has multiple plans catering to specific requirements.

Error Messages

While using Office Online, it is possible for error messages to appear. There are different error messages like “Application Stopped Working” and Office Online will crash. It is recommended to clear your web browser's cache and then try again. You can also clear cookies because some cookies might not be compatible with Office Online. If the issue persists, you can contact Microsoft Support, who will guide you.

Best Alternative to Office Online

Office Online is undoubtedly a blessing because of its free nature, but did you know tha you can find better free Office applications compatible with Microsoft Office? WPS Office is a productivity Office Suite that you can use for daily office tasks. Like Office Online, WPS Office is absolutely free. You can either use it on the web or install its application, which is compatible with Microsoft Office.

The user interface is very engaging and an easy-to-use application packed with basic to advanced features. Below is a list of available WPS Office features you can’t find in Office Online. WPS Office has three main applications: Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. There are whopping 500 million active users of WPS Office.


WPS Office

Office Online

Local Installation

Install on PC and use without internet

It can’t Install on a PC, requires internet

PDF Tools

Powerful PDF Editor

No PDF tool

Customizable Interface

Can customize the interface with themes and skins

No Interface customization is available

Cloud Integration

Cloud integration with OneDrive, Google Drive, DropBox, and Box

Integration only with Google Drive and OneDrive


Office Online is an excellent office productivity suite you can access using your web browser. Without installing heavy applications on your PC, you can access almost all the features of the locally installed version. Its collaborative features allow multiple users to work on a document simultaneously, enhancing the team’s productivity. All these features are free, and you don’t need to spend a dime. The compatibility with Microsoft Office allows its users to view, edit, and create files within the online and offline versions of the software. If you haven’t tried Office Online yet, try this free Office suite from Microsoft, and you will never regret it.

15 years of office industry experience, tech lover and copywriter. Follow me for product reviews, comparisons, and recommendations for new apps and software.