Microsoft Word remains the standard way to create and share text documents, whether you’re in business or in an educational setting. In recent years, the iron grip on Google Docs has definitely been loosened, but in many cases, Word is the preferred or expected software. There’s just one problem with it: 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 spending any money? Here’s how to get Microsoft Word on your Mac for free, plus the different 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 can access online through 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 ago. If you don’t, it will only take a few minutes to create.
Once that’s done, you can access the various apps and use them on your browser. This used to be called Office.com, but Microsoft is now moving it to Microsoft 365 to bring 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 need to save documents to OneDrive, but if you just need a word processor that can create and process .docx accurately 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 suite of tools Word has to offer, not to mention the ability to work offline and save files to other folders or online storage services, you’re going to have to pay. You have two options: one-time payment or subscription.
We already pay for a lot of things each month, so the idea of adding another bill to the list might not be appealing. Luckily, you don’t have to, as Microsoft still offers a one-and-done approach to buying Word. It’s not cheap, however, as you’ll get $159.99 / £149.99 back when you buy the app, although no more payments will be made after that.
The best option, in our opinion, is the Microsoft 365 subscription, as long as you don’t mind signing up for another service. This not only gives you Word, but also Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook and 1 TB of OneDrive storage. Microsoft always keeps you up to date with the latest version of apps, so you never have to deal with outdated software or miss out on new features.
For a one-year Microsoft 365 Personal subscription, you can either prepay and cost $69.99/£59.99 or $6.99/£5.99 per month, giving one account 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 increases storage up to 6 TB. This costs $99.99/£79.99 per year or £7.99 per month.
If you want to test the Office apps before committing to a subscription, there’s also a 30-day free trial.
To see how the subscription version compares to the paid version, take a look at our Microsoft 365 vs. Office 2021 buyer’s guide.
Watch out for scams and hacks
It takes about 30 seconds to find videos on YouTube that show you how to download, install and run Word (plus all other MS Office software) for free on your Mac. If the instructions are similar to those in this article, you should be fine, but many of the ones we’ve seen require some sort of serial code-cracking program to be purchased and downloaded onto your computer. While this may 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 – most likely you are the real victim.
It’s true that some hackers are benevolent and just want to release the information for anyone to use, but unfortunately others are definitely not. Downloading and installing such things on your Mac is one of the easiest ways to infect malware or spyware software that can corrupt your data. Aside from infringing on copyright, which is pretty naughty.
Our advice would be to stay away from these “free” routes to Word.
Free alternatives to Microsoft Word
Unless you specifically need Microsoft Word, you’ll find that there are many great word processors out there that won’t cost you a penny. Every new Mac comes with a free copy of Apple’s Pages software, which is an extremely powerful tool for creating and editing documents and also works well with the iOS/iPadOS companion app.
Google Docs is a perennial favorite because the web-based software is free and easy to use. You won’t find incredibly advanced features like the full-fledged Microsoft Word, but for most people it’s all they’ll ever need.
LibreOffice Writer is another program that is always worth checking out. The open-source software is completely free, yet it offers a complete solution for those who want to use MS Word’s functionality. Yes, it’s not quite the smooth and aesthetically pleasing experience of its inspiration, but there’s so much you can do with Writer that you don’t care.
For a roundup of other options, see our roundup of the best Mac word processors.