Microsoft Word remains the standard way to create and share text documents, whether you’re in a corporate or educational organisation. In recent years, it’s definitely had its iron-clad grip loosened by the likes of Google Docs, but in many instances Word is the preferred or expected software to use. There’s only one problem with that: it’s not free. So, if you don’t want to add another monthly bill to your account, how can you still use the software without shelling out? Here’s how to get Microsoft Word on your Mac for free, plus the various paid versions and some useful alternatives.
How to use Microsoft Word for free on the web
Microsoft offers completely free versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, all of which you access online at its Microsoft 365 hub. You’ll need a Microsoft account, but these are free and you may find that you already have a Hotmail or Outlook account that you created a while back. If you don’t, they only take a few minutes to create.
Once this is done, you’re free to access the various apps and use them in your browser. This used to be called Office.com but Microsoft is now transitioning it to Microsoft 365 to keep it in line with its other productivity software.
It’s true that you don’t get the full suite of tools that the paid versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint possess, and you have to save documents to OneDrive, but if you just need a word processor that can accurately create and handle .docx file types, this is a handy way to get it for free.
How to get the paid version of Microsoft Word
If you need the full range of tools that Word has to offer, not to mention the ability to work offline and save files into other folders or online storage services, then you’ll need to pay. There are two routes open to you: one-off payment, or a subscription.
We already pay for plenty of things each month, so the idea of adding another bill to the list might not appeal. Thankfully, you don’t have to, as Microsoft still offers a one-and-done approach to buying Word. It’s not cheap, though, as buying the app outright will set you back $159.99/£149.99, although there are no more payments afterwards.
The best option in our opinion, so long as you don’t mind signing up to another service, is the Microsoft 365 subscription. With this you not only get Word, but also Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook and 1TB of OneDrive storage. Microsoft keeps you on the latest version of the apps at all times, so you never need to deal with outdated software or miss out on new features.
For a one-year Microsoft 365 Personal subscription you can either pay up front, costing $69.99/£59.99, or $6.99/£5.99 per month, which allows one account to use the Office apps on up to five devices, including an iPad.
If you want more accounts, there’s the Microsoft 365 Family tier which allows 2-6 people to use the service and boosts the storage up to 6TB. This costs $99.99/£79.99 p/a or £7.99 p/m.
If you want to give the Office apps a test run before committing to a subscription, there’s also a 30-day free trial.
To see how the subscription version compares to the bought one, take a look at our Microsoft 365 vs Office 2021 buying guide.
Watch out for scams and hacks
It takes about 30 seconds to find videos on YouTube that will show you how to download, install and get Word (plus all the other MS Office software) up and running on your Mac for nothing. If the instructions are similar to the ones in this article, then you should be fine, but many of the ones we’ve seen require some sort of serial code-cracking program to be bought and downloaded to your machine. While this might seem like a victimless crime to some–Microsoft is a multi-billion-dollar company while the user is just a single person with no money–the real victim is most likely to be you.
It’s true that some hackers are benevolent, wanting only to free the information so that anyone can use it, but sadly others are most definitely not. Downloading and installing things like this on your Mac is one of the easiest ways to contract malware or spyware software that can cause havoc with your data. That’s aside from the fact that you’re contravening copyright, which is rather naughty.
Our advice would be to keep well away from these ‘free’ routes to Word.
Free alternatives to Microsoft Word
Unless you specifically need Microsoft Word, you’ll find that there are plenty of great word processors out there that won’t cost you a penny. Any new Mac will come with a free copy of Apple’s Pages software, which is a hugely powerful tool for creating and editing documents, and also works well with its iOS/iPadOS counterpart app.
Google Docs is a perennial favourite as the web-based software is free and easy to use. You won’t find incredibly advanced features like those on the full-blown Microsoft Word, but for most people it’s all they’ll ever need.
LibreOffice Writer is another one that’s always worth checking out. The open-source software is completely free and yet offers a complete solution for those who want the functionality of MS Word. Yes, it’s not quite the smooth and aesthetically pleasing experience of its inspiration, but you can get so much done on Writer that you won’t care.
For a roundup of other options, check out our Best Mac word processor roundup.