Ask LH: What Can I Use As Temporary Office Substitutes?

Dear LH, I recently bought a new desktop for my work and a new laptop for my son (both PC). Because they're new, I would have to buy Office again. But with Office 15 arriving soon, I was wondering if there were any good cloud office solutions I could use until Office 15 is available because I don't want to buy two different copies of Office for two computers. Thanks, Officeless

Dear Officeless,

An important first point. While it seems likely that Office 15 (or Office 2012; the name isn't fixed yet)will make an appearance soon, it doesn't have an official release date yet. It might come out with Windows 8 (expected in late October, though that's not confirmed either), but it might not. It could appear earlier, but it could well be delayed. There's clearly sense in not buying new software when you know an upgrade is imminent, but you don't know how long you'll be waiting.

The second point: if you take advantage of your son to buy the Home & Student edition of Office, that runs to $239 for a copy that workson three machines. I'm not saying that's free, but it isn't massively expensive compared to earlier incarnations of Office. (It's a pity you didn't look into getting Office bundled with your new PC; that sometimes works out cheaper, but the moment has passed.)

If you're happy to wait, there are solid options to tide you over. As an existing Office user, the obvious choice is the Office Web Apps that are part of SkyDrive. They're not as full-featured as their desktop equivalents, but they're more than ample for basic work. More to the point, since you're already used to working in Office, there'll be a smaller learning curve.

The other obvious alternative is the Docs suite found in Google Drive. It's a good suite of basic apps and excellent for collaboration, but it lacks many of the additional features found in desktop applications. Whether that matters to you will depend largely on which apps you use and how. Basic documents? No problem. Complex spreadsheets? You'll find the experience frustrating.

Either way, those will tide you over if you want to wait for Office 15. And since they're free, if you do decide you have to buy a full copy of Office, you won't have wasted any money in the meantime.

Cheers Lifehacker


    libre office!!

      Unbelievable that this wasn't option 1! Especially for the son.
      What about Office Starter Edition?
      And finally, surely if the son is a student that $79 single license for Office is still available?

    Never looked back.

    As someone who was stuck using Libre Office for a year... ugh. It's not a good Office substitute.

    The public beta of Office 15 should be available soon (it's meant to be available "this summer", which means winter for us in the southern hemisphere).

      Depends on your needs. Libre is fine for most things, unless you need 101% compatibility with MS Office.

        Or you need things like a good equation editor.

          Given that 90% of people only ever use 10% of the available features on office, libreoffice is usually OK. Just make sure you set it to save in doc format instead of odt.

            If you're in that other 10% though, it's frustrating being stuck using it.

      While it's for tricky for an office power user to migrate over to nowadays, libre office is still pretty decent and has made some impressive improvements since forking from

      My favourite is the performance. A few weeks I installed it on some old P4's and was pleasantly surprised - It's much faster than openoffice was in 2004 while running on the same hardware.

    Might be worth pointing out (given Officeless indicated one of the computers was for 'work') that Office Home & Student has restrictions on commercial usage. As per the listing on the Microsoft Store:

    Licensed for installation on up to three home PCs. Not for use in any commercial, nonprofit or revenue generating business activities, or by any government organisation.

    I'm sure if you were only working on the occasional work document at home it wouldn't be a problem, but definitely something to be aware of.

    Alternatively, if all you needed is basic Word/Excel functionality you could consider Office Starter 2010; it's basically a stripped down, ad supported version of the two programs developed to replace the Works suite.

    If you must have MS Office the $AU99 deal from Microsoft's "It's Not Cheating" website[email protected]&rests=1327940596476 is fantastic... if your a TAFE or UNI student or Staff.

    i do NOT (*wink*) recommend that you head on over to and download yourself a copy just until office 15 comes out...

    Try Kingsoft Office I have found it free, remarkably compatible with MS Office, very fast and, did I mention, free.

    Besides downloading it off the interwebz, try open office it has the almost exact identical layout that we are all used to and comfortable with and its free and legal. ?

    i simply do not understand why companies the world over havnt jumped onto open office. the money to be saved.

    Lotus Symphony is compatible with office documents and totally free....

    If you want to write essays, dissertations or whatever then LaTeX is far superior to MS Word of Libre Office.
    You can also use LaTeX to create presentation slides.

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