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For many users, not having native support for Microsoft Office is the only reason why they do not switch to Linux.
Yes, Microsoft Office is not available to install on Linux.
For some existing users, not having Microsoft Office on Linux creates additional pain.
Sure, there are several good open source office suites available and they are sufficient for most users.
But there are situations when you are compelled to use MS Office.
If other people at work send you Office documents with complex macros, it may not work well with LibreOffice.
Similarly, if your university or workplace requires you to write in .docx or .xlsx and you use LibreOffice, there might be compatibility issues if tables, macros and other elements are involved.
These are practical difficulties that are encountered by people who have to collaborate with MS office users.
If you are in a situation where you must use Microsoft Office, you don’t need to ditch Linux altogether.
Here are a few suggestions on how you could use Microsoft Office on the Linux desktop.
There are various alternative methods you can use to access Microsoft’s Office on Linux.
Sure, it’s not the same using MS Office on Windows, but at least it allows you to work with Office documents.
Yes, you can use Microsoft Office applications in your web browser. And this works on any operating system. That includes Linux, of course.
This is the best way to access Microsoft Office apps if you have a stable internet connection.
Do note that the online Office version doesn’t have all the features you get in the desktop version. Still, it’s a good enough choice in many cases.
If you have a Microsoft account, you can sign in to Microsoft 365 directly. If you don’t have one, you must create a Microsoft account.
Without any paid subscription, you can use a lite version of all the essential office tools like Microsoft Word, Excel, and more, right on your web browser.
Sounds good, right?
The best part of this service is you can utilize free 5 GB of OneDrive storage to keep your documents online, and it integrates well will all the apps available in the suit. Not to forget, you can also use the mobile app on the go.
Note that there are some feature differences between Office Online and its native desktop applications. You can know more about it in its official documentation.
Moreover, if you want to make the most out of it, with more cloud storage, and some premium features, you may opt for the Microsoft 365 subscription as well.
What if you would like to experience the desktop app of Microsoft Office from within your Linux system?
You can use a virtual machine to install Windows, but we discuss that next, considering it is time-consuming.
Instead, you can use Windows compatibility layers for specific software, by which you can run them on Linux machines.
I’ll suggest two ways to install Microsoft Office desktop application on Linux
Let me give you a brief overview of how to use them
PlayOnLinux is one of the best ways to run Windows applications on Linux.
On Ubuntu, you can install it using a command through the terminal as follows:
After installation, launch the program and click on the Install button which will sync available packages and will allow us to install MS Office (desired version).
Now, you’ll be given a prompt where we will be searching for our desired software.
If you already purchased Microsoft Office earlier, you can have the installation media or the ISO file ready from their official download page.
Enable the option labeled as “No-cd needed” if you do not plan to use your installer, and search “Office”.
It will list all compatible Microsoft Office programs. Select your desired version and click on the Install button to download/install it automatically.
It will automatically create a virtual space for MS Office and will install Wine through the installer. Once you are done with the basic steps, it will show you a prompt where you have to choose the installation method between the setup file and DVD.
We’ll be going with the first option for convenience. After selecting the first option, locate the setup file and all the other processes will be handled automatically.
Soon the installer will start the installation process and in no time you will get your favorite office suite installed on your system. You can directly access it without PlayOnLinux from your Linux system or from within the application as well.
For example, let’s try launching MS Word. Here’s what it looks like:
Note that you won’t find the latest version of Microsoft Office with this method, and probably not the best experience in terms of performance.
CrossOver is a paid software that lets you run Windows applications on Linux in the best way possible.
It is built on top of Wine, and several open-source projects. The CrossOver developers contribute heavily to the WINE project.
You just need to purchase it once and use it as long as you want. Unfortunately, you still cannot get the latest Microsoft Office version 2021 to work with it. The ratings are poor. The newest that works well with CrossOver is Office 2016 at the time of writing this article.
Oh, yes! CrossOver has a compatibility database. You can search for the desired Windows software and see if it is well supported or not.
If you want convenience, and a tool to run Windows applications on Linux (not just Microsoft Office) and you don’t mind paying for it, you should try it out.
Thousands of Windows games and programs to run on your favorite Linux distro.
Supported Windows apps will run at native speed, play games at full fps all while maintaining the Linux OS integration. Simply magic!
Your purchase supports WINE development as well.
So if you are someone with enough system resources to spare, this option will enable you to use a wide range of exclusive software. It’s because, you will be using Windows from within Linux, as a virtual machine.
If you are not familiar with it, the virtual machine mechanism allows you to use another operating system (like Windows) inside Linux like a regular application.
You can choose to use options like Quickgui, VMware, GNOME Boxes, or VirtualBox.
As an example, you can follow our guide on installing Windows 10 using VirtualBox on Linux.
It can be exciting, you know! But to run a virtual machine, you need to have a computer with enough system resources. It will struggle miserably if you try to use it on a 4 GB RAM and i3 processor.
It’s not perfect. As you may have trouble sharing clipboards and files between the guest OS (Windows) and host OS (Linux).
Another thing is about Windows licensing. If you have a new system that came preinstalled with Windows, your license is linked to your machine on BIOS/firmware level. You should be able to use Windows in the virtual machine without issues. But if that was not the case, you may have to activate Windows.
So if you are using Linux for a while, the chances of your distro being shipped with LibreOffice are quite high. But LibreOffice is not always compatible with MS Office file formats.
I would suggest two office suites which are known for better compatibilty with your Microsoft Office files:
If you are looking for an office suite that is identical to Microsoft Office with several essential features, OnlyOffice can be a great choice.
You can download the desktop edition for free on Linux, Windows, and macOS.
If you have a Nextcloud instance or similar, you can also integrate it with that for usage.
WPS Office was previously known as Kingsoft Office. The Chinese developers of WPS Offices are unabashed about imitating the look and feel of the MS Office products.
This is not open-source, though.
WPS is fine-tuned for personal use and provides good compatibility with Microsoft Office documents.
Being one of the best alternatives to MS Office, you can follow our guide for easy installation and get WPS running in no time on Linux.
Microsoft has clarified that it loves open-source as much as everyone. But, we still need to resort to numerous ways to run Microsoft Office on Linux. Instead of bringing its Office suite to Linux, Microsoft gifted its calculator to the community.
Linux users always find a way around things. Though MS Office is not officially available for Linux, you can still employ one of the workarounds I suggested here.
In my opinion, Office 365 is a pretty good option if you are always connected to the internet.
What do you think?
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It’s slightly more nuanced than that … Office Online is a separate product that predates Office365. But they both use the same account and storage. There are 2 Office365 account types – Free and Premium. When Office365 rolled out, they migrated the Office Online accounts to Office365 Free accounts (I started using Office Online 10 years ago, when I worked at MS). If you buy the premium you get a lot more storage, and you can still access it from Office Online as well as Office 365.
Office 365 ‘the product’ is a desktop app you purchase separately, and you need Wine or similar to run it, but be’ware – YMMV.
Good article, this actually does include every option that I have tested and would consider comprehensive listing of people’s options.
That said, the one big caveat about O365 Online for me is that a lot of the times the formatting aren’t rendered correctly for some reason, hence why I couldn’t really use it.
Also, I can confirm that Office 365 offline does work decently well with CrossOver- it has problems with stuff that requires other Windows dependencies like VBA macros, but it works well enough. In fact, I use its Outlook for my mail after Thunderbird messed my formatting after sending too many times.
There is a free alternative to using CrossOver, though, by compiling winecx yourself to get Office 365 working via PlayOnLinux: https://github.com/DonutsBl/office365-pol . I haven’t tested it, as I do have a CrossOver subscription (thanks to it being dirt cheap during sales), but it’s an option.
Lastly, while pointing towards WPS is a good for giving people choice, I would say it’s better to have WPS be installed in Flatpak and then use Flatseal to disable its network access. Yeah, WPS is non-FOSS, but I think you’d be safe if you sandbox it and Flatpak is the easiest way to do so (also was the easiest way to deal with the black-text-on-black-background issues WPS Spreadsheet had with dark themes, up until latest update).
Try using Microsoft Edge for Linux to access Office Online. It enables features that don’t work in other browsers, such as copy formulae. I’ve actually started using Edge for all my browsing – it works better than most others on Linux.
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