There are plenty of reasons to pay for Microsoft Office, but if you don’t have any, don’t immediately buy it. Try LibreOffice first– it’s legitimately free and can do almost everything that Word, Excel and PowerPoint can. You might just save $150 (for Microsoft Office 2019) or $70/yr (for Microsoft 365).

LibreOffice has been around for years, and is maintained by a non-profit company and nice tech community members. You can install LibreOffice on Windows, MacOSX and Linux machines. If you want an app for your mobile device, it looks like The Document Foundation recommends a partner company, Collabora, for that.

But to be absolutely clear: LibreOffice is a full-featured program that can stand-in for Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. It can open your existing Office files without changing or harming them. LibreOffice will open Word, Excel and PowerPoint files that are sent to you, allow you to edit & save them, and send them off to other Microsoft Office users.

There is no risk here, and if for any reason you don’t want LibreOffice after using it, you haven’t burned any bridges! You may uninstall LibreOffice at any time and move to another Office suite, without consequence.

Changing the File Type Defaults

Once you install LibreOffice, though, you should tweak a few settings, so that it saves your new files in Microsoft formats. By default, Libre offers to save your files in Open Document formats, which aren’t widely used. Follow these next steps to make sure that all of your new work will be compatible with everyone else:

  • Open LibreOffice and go to the Tools menu, then to Options.
  • On the left, click the Plus Sign next to Load/Save, then click General.
  • To the right, change ‘Document Type’ to ‘Text Document’.
    Set the ‘Always Save As’ field to ‘Word 2007-365 (*.docx)’.
  • Next, change ‘Document Type’ to ‘Spreadsheet’.
    Set the ‘Always Save As’ field to ‘Excel 2007-365 (*.xlsx)’.
  • Lastly, change ‘Document Type’ to ‘Presentation’.
    Set the ‘Always Save As’ field to ‘PowerPoint 2007-365 (*.pptx)’.
  • Click OK at the bottom, and you are done.

PS: MacOS users cannot go to Tools -> Options in these programs. Instead, go to LibreOffice -> Preferences, and then the rest of these instructions should line up.