Office Mobile apps for Windows 10 will only require Office 365 on PCs and large tablets

One of the questions folks have been asking recently concerns the use of the new, universal Microsoft Office apps for Windows 10 and whether or not you'll need Office 365 to edit documents. Microsoft initially said that access would be free for mobile devices and today that is being cleared up once and for all.

In short, you can't use these, free apps on a PC or large tablet to edit documents without an Office 365 subscription.

Here's the important part:

"You may have already noticed that on PCs and tablets we've added "Mobile" to the app names (to help distinguish them from the Office desktop suite), while on phones we simply call the apps Word, Excel and PowerPoint. We will also remove "Preview" from the app names and in about one week, you will need an Office 365 subscription to edit on Windows 10 PCs and larger tablets.Similar to what we announced in March, viewing and most editing will remain free for non-commercial use on devices of 10.1" or less. Otherwise, you will need a qualifying Office 365 subscription."

In this case Microsoft is being pretty generous with what classes as a large tablet. Essentially it rules out the Surface Pro 3 and other similarly sized, or bigger tablets. For people using small Windows 10 tablets and Windows 10 phones, it'll remain free. Though what "most editing" classes as we're unsure.

It makes sense, too. If you're on a PC or something like the Surface Pro 3, Microsoft wants you to use the full, desktop Office suite. For everywhere else, these apps will do just nicely.

Source: Blogging Windows

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

102 Comments
  • Awesome!!! So glad they are keeping Office apps free for Phone! I run Office 2016 Pro on my SP3 and other computers anyway.
  • Office 2016? Isn't that still in preview?
  • Yup. Been using it on all of my machines only since 7/9/15. Seems pretty dang stable aside from an occasional Excel crash. I'll be buying legit licenses (business expense) soon as it's released.
  • I don't think it is anymore. It just was announced earlier.
  • That was just for the mobile version, not the desktop 2016 version (for Windows that is).
  • Basically the intel x86-64 version is still paid while the arm snapdragon version is free
  • No. As even Atoms on 10.1 or less screens is free. Its not the CPU, its the size that defines it?
  • Which mean phone with Continuum get for free too. Finger crossed.
  • Full 2016 for Mac on jul 9, 2015 announced and released (http://www.forbes.com/sites/amitchowdhry/2015/07/09/microsoft-office-201...). PC still in preview.
  • This is exactly what I've been saying all along, except I assumed the size distinction would be 8".
  • Yeah, Microsoft is being pretty generous with that 10.1-inch size.
  • @Richard Devine:
    Yeah sorry, have to disagree here.
    The Office APPS (I'm not talking the full "classic" Office applications here) should be free with complete features on all Windows devices.
    If they apply the same 10.1 inches rule, which has been in place for quite a while, to Windows devices, where would the advantage of a Windows device over iOS/Android devices be?
    What happened to "Mobile first, Windows best"?
    Has it finally come down to what I always expected from Nadella: "Mobile first, Windows worst"?
  • So you want Microsoft to stop trying to sell Office to people then? One of its most profitable businesses? Because that's what it sounds like.
  • I dont understand why ppl expect Office to turn free. I feel that office 2013 is good enough for me and I didnt cry when i paid for it! (Tough i did wish the touch experience would be better).  
  • @Antonht:
    Please learn to read carefully, please do!
    I never demanded the classic desktop Office to be free. This a mighty application (mind the difference here: NOT an app) and Microsoft earned every penny they charge for.
    I'm only talking the (modern) Office apps, which Microsoft demands to fully unlock by buying a Office365-subscription.
  • Well office 365 is what Office is now. So I'm not sure what the argument is here...
  • @navidee:
    No, they're not. Microsoft develops the Office apps primarily for smaller form-factor touch devices, although they obviously work on every Windows 10 device.
    But for legacy form factor devices (desktopPCs, Notebooks) there's still the BIG full desktop Office APPLICATION of old, coming in a new 2016 version.
  • I think he's just delusional, he just wants everything free. Well too bad, not gonna happen.
  • @Madr Diaz Reyes:
    "Delusional"? Yeah, probably by now.
    "Everything for free"? No way. I gladly pay for an app when I think it's deserved by the developer.
    But in this case it's the other way around. This time we Windows (Phone) users of ages deserve to be treated better and Microsoft FINALLY making good on their talk that they would be nothing without their dedicated users (I might even go out of my way to say fans). But so far: Nothing but empty promises and no silver lining on the horizon which would justify the assumption Microsoft would finally not (as always) overpromise and UNDERdeliver.
  • @Richard Devine:
    Of course only with regard to consumers. Businesses should keep paying for Office just like they do right now.
    Within that confinement: Yes. Microsoft should give Windows users that are consumers the full catalog of Office app features for free (again, I'm not talking the full grown classic desktop Office here).
    I mean we're paying them anyway when we buy their hardware and let's not kid ourselves here: When you buy a Windows Phone a certain amount of that revenue will be dedicated to the development of Office (and other Microsoft products as well). So every buyer of a Windows Phone made a contribution to cross finance the development of a pretty solid and useful version of Office on iOS and Android, while we only got a cr*p Office app that does not even deserve that name, because it was leaps and bounds behind it's iOS and Android counterparts.
    So yes, I think we honest and bearing Windows users in fact deserve to be given something back by Microsoft. They refused for so long to treat us as equals to iOS/Android users, that it's about ducking time they treat us better now.
  • I have to say I agree with WindowsPhoenix. If these "Apps" are sufficiently limited, should be available across devices. That limitation should cover most case scenartios for using these apps on a phone as well. I don't imagine people are creating or using these documents on phones the same way as on desktops or other larger in between devices. Otherwise, provide all functions for the 10.1 and lower and have it limited for devices larger than that. On my Surface Pro 3, where I have Office 2013 (and hardly use it due to my lifestyle) I would appreciate being able to transition to these Touch focused apps and still be able to create documents. Don't need all the templates, macros, etc, save that for 365 subscribers. But as WindowsPhoenix hinted... Apple is giving all iOS users free Pages, Numbers, and Keynote (equivalent to Word, Excel and Powerpoint). Argue all day about how real business and real work needs office, that's fine, I agree. But most consumers just need minimal formatting and creation tool. And its free with those mobile apple products. If an iPad pro is released and is included in this free offering, it becomes another thing on the inevitable iPad Pro vs Surface Pro debate where Apple wins the checkmark and Microsoft doesnt. tldr: give limited version to devices above 10.1 similar to devices below 10.1 that arent phones. 365 for all functionality above 10.1.
  • I should also add, it very likely Microsoft will allow their limited office apps to work on an iPad pro that exceeds 10.1 inches if any such device should come into existence. I don't know if it will be because apple won't have a way of limiting to all iOS devices except an ipad pro, or if microsoft simply wants to be in that segment and wont be able to afford not catering to that ipad pro market. Where they know, more likely than any other mobile OS, a user is likely to cough up money if they feel the app/service/subscription is worth it. At that point further mockery will be made of Microsoft fans that bought Surface Pro's or other Microsoft Windows devices larger than 10.1 inches and they cannot use those Microsoft Apps in the same way the apple, or Android users will be able to. ( rest assured the android users will find a way to sideload those apps and use them on tablets larger than 10.1. Windows users will be the only ones who lose. If this scenario comes to fruition.   another TLDR, geeze, i guess what I'm trying to say android users on 10.1 or larger, or potential future iPad pro users will probably get a better deal with these Office Apps than Windows users on 10.1 or larger devices.
  • You've got it backwards.   Office is where Microsoft makes money.  Windows is now the loss leader for Office not the other way around.
  • The reason they have decided 10.1 inch is so that they can continue to offer free Office apps on iPads...
  • The regular size iPad is 9.7 inches, right? And the mobile version of Office including most editing is available for it for free. So it wouldn't have made sense to restrict Windows devices to 8 inches. 
  • So that wouldn't include the Surface 3 then right? (10.8")
  • @TonyRAnderson:
    Exactly. And don't assume this was a mistake, it was a deliberate decision by Microsoft to make the cut at 10.1 inches. Because someone who is rich enough to buy a Surface can afford to buy an Office365-subscription as well, while "poor" iPad owners (which runs for at least the same price or more, mind the irony) get Office for free.
  • Looks like I'm good to go since my HP Omni 10 is only 10.1 inches. :)
  • HP Omni 10 included Office for Students for free. Didn't you activate it?
  • Office was/is free on the Surface RT devices too :)
  • Yes i did but it's good to know that I can use the new Office mobile(touch) apps for free. I can free up some space by removing the Office for students suite.
  • I apparently used by license for my Asus t100 because when I got my tablet back from getting repaired it said my office license was still in use even though it wasn't. I didn't feel the need to call em up.
  • I uninstalled my free Home version (2013) from my Dell Venue 8 Pro (came with it for free), and installed it on my Surface Pro 3.  Now I can access the free Office versions on my Dell, so WIN-WIN situation - pun intended....
  • @Richard Devine:
    Can't you reach out to Microsoft for clarification regarding devices with a screen smaller than 10.1"?
    You Windows Central folks at least have a chance of getting a decent answer.
  • It's in the post.
  • @Richard Devine and BaritoneGuy:
    Thank you. If I'm asking for clarification I should've made myself clear as well. ^.^
    I want to know what that "most editing will remain free" passage means exactly or, alternatively, which features are NOT included in the free usage?
  • From the announcement. Similar to what we announced in March, viewing and most editing will remain free for non-commercial use on devices of 10.1” or less. Otherwise, you will need a qualifying Office 365 subscription. If you don’t have an Office 365 subscription, you can sign up for a free trial at www.office.com/try. You can also always edit your documents for free in Office Online at www.office.com. The full featured OneNote Universal App will come installed with Windows 10 and similar to OneNote on all other devices, editing is free.
  • it's in the article
  • Nice :)
  • Why would anyone on a desktop use the mobile apps instead of the full x86 suite?
  • Because, free? (if they were actually free)
  • My desktop has a touchscreen. It's friendlier to use a touch friendly app. It's nice to sit close to a 24" monitor and let my fingers do the point and click. Depending on what I'm doing, it can be more efficient. Wireless keyboard conveniently moves out of the way when not needed. My wife has been using Office 2010 and saw me using Word Preview. She was all like, "Wow! I really like that!" Now she wants to convert over, but she'll need a subscription. Right now I just have a personal subscription, so only one PC can be installed. Perhaps I'll upgrade it to home so we can both get full editing on the touch versions. She wants it on her laptop, which is a 15.6".
  • My desktop also has a touch screen. I would never use the Mobile version of Office programs in it over the full one even so. Specially not in things like Word.   To each their own, of course.
  • If somebody has a convertible they might start the document on desktop, flip the keyboard back and have it turn into tablet mode and continue editing/reviewing on the go then switch back to keyboard when they're back at a desk. Convenience and it all happens automatically.
  • I noticed you can't use the track changes in the preview without a 365 sub. I'm hoping that wont be true for windows phone but for iOS or android it will be necessary :P.
  • If we have academic office 365, do the apps count as one of our two installs? I want to run both versions on my surface but not if that uses up my allotment.
  • No, they are independent of the install allotment for your 365 subscription.
  • Usually desktop counts as one and tablet has its own allocation.
  • So my 10.8" tablet is buggered then. Need the £99 a year sub after this expires. So that I can get up to five devices.
  • So, no more freebie for Windows RT (10.6")?
  • Surface RT has Office free. I use it everyday.
  • So if I currently have the apps does hat mean I'm still eligible? Or do I have to wait till December?
  • Can't even use it on microsoft own surface pro? Smh
  • Because Microsoft would rather you bought the full Office package.
  • Well this is kinda what they said before...it's not like they would have these mobile office hidden from big screens. but I expected them to ask for a 365 suscription because that's what they have been doing, but not on phones and small tablets because it's less frequent to do big editing on them, not everyone will write a full essay on a small phone. they could, but it should feel strange. There is always webapps, they work nice and don't need anything but Internet connection.
  • W8 w8 when i want to edit excel files its telling me i need office 365 on my lumia 1520
  • Are the mobile apps now 100% free to use all features on iPhone and iPad versions? Or is the free part exclusive to the Windows versions? I know at one point you needed Office365 to edit in the iOS apps
  • damn my Surface 3 just barely doesn't make it at 10.8...
  • So it looks like Surface 3 at 10.8" misses cut off. I guess that makes sense since 1 year  Office 365 is included with the Surface 3. However even though the iPad is not in the same league as the Surface 3 but I do consider those two devices similar in class category and on the iPad the Office Mobile apps are free and allows viewing and light editing. So I was hopeful that the Surface 3 would have free limited viewing and editing functionality without having to subscribe to Office 365.  
  • Please see my screenshots in the forums which show which features require a subscription on small tablets/phones. http://forums.windowscentral.com/windows-10-mobile/367093-2.htm
  • what if I have a 5 inch phone that can continuum to a larger than 10 inch screen? ​ ​ ​ ​
  • I heard rumours that that would require Office 365 subscription as Continuum is targeted for business users
  • you won't be able to maximize the app beyond 10"
  • I got rid of the mobile versions over a month ago when they started locking me out unless I signed up for a 365 subscription. I'm not buying a paid subscription when I already have Office 2013. No use in it.
  • This is a great point. If you've purchased a standard license, I would think it would make sense to also give access to the mobile apps for a 3-year period or something along those lines.
  • great!!!!!!
  • great!!!!!!
  • Didn't they make editing free on the Android and iOS tablets?
  • It's free on Windows tablets too. 
  • So that means you'll have to buy Office on the Surface 3? That kind of stinks but I get it. The Surface 3 including Office for free (Mobile or Full is fine but I'm sure the mobile version would be plenty) would be the ultimate Student-friendly machine. University students can get Office for cheap but K-12 is kind of left out.
  • They have to make money somewhere.
  • My question is: as far I own a 2010 MS Office suite licence, how would I upgrade (if it'd possible) this old desktop application? Will it be a free upgrade?
  • When you purchase an Office 365 license you will automatically be able to download the lastest version of Office. For 2015 is still Office 2013, but Office 2016 Preview is alreadyh there and is free for about 6 months. My advice for you would be to download the Office 2016 preview or get an Office 365 license. See my comment below, you can purchase a tablet with Windows 8.1 and get Office 365 for 1 year for free.
  • Thanks Gabriel, good to know!
  • Here is a tip for all the people that don't have Office 365 yet. Purchase a small tablet with Windows 8.1 and you get 1 year of Office 365 for free. I purchased a tablet last weekend for $59, I am able to install Office 365 on 3 devices (1 PC, 1 tablet and 1 smartphone). I didn't choose the tablet since it only has 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, however I installed Office 365 on my new Dell laptop. I can't be happier, this is the best puchase I have made. BTW my tablet has Atom CPU and has Miracast so I am glad that technology today is much less expensive than 2 or 3 years ago.
  • Good idea.
  • that version of Office is worthless if you need it on a PC and a Laptop and the only way yo upgrade it is to spend $99 for a full year of home, so you may end up wasting money going that route.   here is what i did: didtch office on Windows and gonto WordPerfect Office. OneNote is free and i dont need Access, Publisher, or Outlook on a Windows PC as i dont use Exchange n   then use Office Home on OS X.  set workperfect office to save in Office format and profit.   you can get it for $50 or so on Amazon, and the word processor is much superior to Word.   examining NroOffice and others on OS X at the moment  may be ablr to drop office completely 
  • Should not require subscription, if you install the touch apps on a machine already licensed for x86/x64 Office.
  • Makes sense.
  • Who cares I'm never gonna buy office. Torrent is available for people like us. :D
  • Criminals?
  • But this is a modern app. you can't get it from torrents.
  • So for instance my Surface Pro 1st gen can use the "modern apps" for free? :D
  • Nop. Your SP1 is 10.6". You're 0.5" over the limit for the Mobile version.
  • Great news, but where does that leave the RT devices when they get the "some of Windows 10 improvements" update in September?
  • Aeesome
  • Size DOES matter.
  • I really don't understand why Office Mobile apps aren't free to use --- as it's basically an app based version of the Office.com apps. You get nothing close to the functionality of full Office.
  • totally agree especiall when it is fully free online.
  • Any word on when Excel for windows 10 mobile will work with active x controls??? I get sales reports for work emailed to me each night. On windows phone 8.1 i could view them, but they won't open on windows 10 mobile. Means i need to use my PC. Kind of an inconvenience for me, as im not always near a PC, but always have my phone with me
  • i doubt that will happen
  • That's great! So it will be Office mobile on my phone and Office 2013 on the desktop!
  • Same here lol
  • Editing on a phone, got luck. I can barely read a doc let alone edit it :)
  • workarounds, use an android emulator on your PC and use office in it :D.. or connect your phone/tablet to PC monitor/TV. 
  • I really don't get all the whining. If you have a device with a screen larger than 10 inches, chances are you are doing actual work with it. In that case, there is no reason not to use the full office suite. Smaller devices are mostly consumption centered, so it makes sense to have free versions there for small editing and viewing. For those complaining that the iPad will have the free versions and the Surface Pro 3 or the Surface 3 doesn't, try to run full Photoshop on both devices and you will see why it makes sense to treat the iPad like a phone. Because that is really all it is. A phone with a big screen. If you bought a SP3 purely for consumption and light editing, you wasted your money. The recent surface devices are powerful ultra books in a tablet form factor, not consumption toys.
  • Soooo Surface 3 owners can use it for free but not SP3 owners?
  • Who's gonna use Office mobile if they have 365 on a PC?  No one, because they'll use the desktop version.  Who's gonna use Office mobile on a Large tablet like S3/SP3? Possibly, but why would you if you have the full desktop version available?  This makes no sense.
  • I think maybe something has gone wrong in communication some where, as the Mobile Office apps are veiw only on devices 10.1 or higher so in effect mobile version is free basic functions for devices with screens less than 10.1 and not including 10.1, guess what size most tablets are...yes thats right 10.1
  • strongly recommend you go to www.aakeys.com after i used it, my windows works well, very good 
  • Hope someone still reads this old thread. ​I have a Nokia 930 with WinMo 10 (Fastring) version 10.0.10586.107. It has Excel (17.6769.0092.0) installed as a service, not from the store. When I open a small worksheet it shows the content but to change it, it tells me to purchase Office365. Any idea how to solve this as it does seem to contradict the title?    
  • I don't think you can activate your system without a product key either with a free one. In fact, you can just buy a genuine product key from the site. It's very cheap and guaranteed. Choose one key from the site www.Microsoftkeystores.com   and place the order. The email will be sent to you at the first time. The whole process is very simple and easy to follow. Next time, when you or your friends encounter with the same problem, directly tell them to place the order onsite and you will let your system activated in short time.