Free Office suite in the cloud

In the previous issue, I discussed Microsoft Office licensing options and a free alternative, LibreOffice. This week, I'll go over free offerings from Google and Microsoft that live entirely on the internet, aka the cloud, that are also compatible with Microsoft's Office.

To use Google's and Microsoft's free online offerings, aka "services," from your Windows/Mac computer or Chromebook, you will use your favorite browser (Chrome, FireFox, Safari or EDGE).

On tablets/smartphones, install and use the free "apps" from Apple's App Store (iPhone or iPad) or Google's Play Store (models other than iPhone, iPad or Amazon's Fire) instead. If your device is a Chromebook with touchscreen, google your model to find out if you can use an app too. In the respective store for your device, search and install these apps: Doc, Sheet and Show; or Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The first three apps are for Google's free services; the latter trio for Microsoft's. Of course, you can decide to use both too!

Just like needing a driver's license to drive on public streets, you'll need a Google account or Microsoft account, respectively, to use their services. Your email will be the identifier for your Google or Microsoft account. See which option applies:

  • If you have an email address that ends with, you already have a Google account.

  • If you have an email address that ends with,, or, you already have a Microsoft account.

  • If your email address does not end in any of the above, create a Google account at or a Microsoft account at  

  • If you don't have an email address, touch/click the blue "Create account" or the blue "Create one!" phrase at the above websites respectively.

Once armed with an account, the above website links also double as your "Sign In" page to use the respective free services through your browser.

Both Google's and Microsoft's free offerings give you "Doc" or "Word" (word processor), "Sheet" or "Excel" (spreadsheet), and "Show" or "PowerPoint" (presentation) services and several more useful apps for your digital lifestyle. One such useful app is the "Drive" (Google) or "OneDrive" (Microsoft) as they show the files you keep in your storage space in the cloud under your account. If you have been a Windows or Mac user, Drive is akin to "File Explorer" or "Finder" and that may make more sense.

As you may have noticed already, Microsoft's free offerings are named exactly the same as their pay versions; the free online versions have fewer features. In my opinion, free offerings sufficiently meet the needs of many people who are primarily "consuming" information but may only need to "create" at times.

We'll cover these free service offerings in detail in future columns. Since these services live entirely on the internet, please practice building the good online habits, aka Internet Street Smarts, I often talk about in my column!

Tak Sato

Strategist and technologist with over 30 years of experience in the private sector. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and Executive MBA from Cleveland State University.

As Founder of the Center for Aging in the Digital World, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit empowering seniors with digital literacy, Tak connects the dots to help people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives while using digital literacy as a tool for seniors to avoid loneliness and social isolation

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Volume 12, Issue 14, Posted 10:05 AM, 07.21.2020