Microsoft Word (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Microsoft Office has become the go to standard for document publishing software. Most users insist that they have this software on their computer from day one. Unfortunately, most new computers only include a trial version that is good for 60 days. After this period you must purchase the software and it can be quite costly depending on which version you get. The least expensive version sells for $149 new.
Most people don’t realize that there is a way to use Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and One Note for free online. They are not as feature packed as the stand-alone versions, but for 99% of what these programs are used for, the free online versions will suffice for most people’s needs. In this article, I will describe how to access these programs and then will discuss some of the pros and cons versus the traditional desktop versions of these programs.
Microsoft Live Skydrive
To start, you will need a Microsoft Live account. If you already have one, you can skip this step. If not, then read on. To sign up for an account, go here and fill in your information. Once you have signed up, you are half way there. In addition to being able to use the Microsoft Office programs, you now have a new email account as well as a 25GB cloud storage “drive” that you can use for whatever you like (document storage, picture sharing, backups, etc.). As a bonus, you can get a Skydrive App for your phone or tablet and have access to your data wherever you go.
Accessing the Skydrive
Microsoft has made it easy to access your skydrive right from your Microsoft Live login homepage. First, login to your account here (notice that this is an https address which signifies that the data is encoded and that security measures are in place). Once you have successfully logged in, you will see a row of links at the top of the page. Simply click on the link for “Skydrive” and you’re in.
Accessing and Using Microsoft Office
Once youare in your Skydrive, you should see the familiar Microsoft icons at the top of the main window including Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and One Note. Clicking on any of these will take you to an edit page that will look very similar to the desktop equivalent. From here, anyone with any proficiency in Word etc. should find it easy to start writing, editing, and formatting in the same way you have always used these programs. In other words, there is nothing new to learn to be able to use these.
You will also find some other useful options on the main page. For instance, you can create folders to organize your documents the same way you would do on your computer. You will also see an “Add Files” link that will allow you to upload any type of file you want to your skydrive, whether it is a Word document you want to edit online or a zip file with your data backups. On the left hand side of the page you will see your current storage quota, a share link, as well as “documents” and “photos” links. For this article, we will stick with the Microsoft Office applications.
Click on the Word icon (first icon on left) to load the edit page for Microsoft Word. It will ask you to name the document. Type in a name and click on “create”. As mentioned, the online version is nearly identical to the desktop version. What is of special note here are the multiple options available when you click on “File” in the top left corner. This will give you a dropdown menu with many options that are not available in the desktop version. From here you can save, print, share, and secure your document. Note that while you can save your document, you cannot save the file to your computer. A way around this is to access the document from a computer that has Word installed on it. You can then use the first option, “Open in Word”, to get your document into the desktop version of Word where you will be able to save it as a file on the computer. Alternatively, if you don’t need to edit it anymore, you can choose the print option and use a free PDF writer program such as CutePDF to save the document on your computer as a PDF file.
That’s all there is to it. Take some time to explore the different programs and options available. There’s a lot of potential there! Of course, it’s not without it’s faults, which is what the next section will cover.
Pros and Cons of Using Skydrive Microsoft Office
Here are some of the pros and cons for using the Live version of Microsoft Office versus using the Desktop version of Microsoft Office 2010.
- It’s free!
- You can access your documents from any device with an internet connection.
- It is easy to share and collaborate on documents.
- You get 25GB of free cloud storage space which you can use for documents as well as other files.
- Since the data is stored in the cloud, it is safe from computer failures such as a hard drive crash.
- The biggest disadvantage is that you must have an internet connection.
- Documents can not easily be saved to the computer you are using unless that computer has Microsoft Office installed.
- You are limited to 25GB free storage space, which shouldn’t be a problem for most people.
- If you are locked out of your Live account for any reason, you also lose access to your documents.
All in all, I think the pros far outweigh the cons and for those on a budget, this could be the ideal solution. For those looking for a desktop suite of Office programs on a budget, you might also want to look into LibreOffice and OpenOffice, both of which provide excellent free alternatives to the Microsoft Office programs (they are also intercompatible with Microsoft Office document formats so you can open/save files in any of these programs).
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