You can access Microsoft's Office suite a number of ways across devices including their desktop apps, but you can get access to Microsoft Office for free if you're on the right device. The mobile versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are free on Windows devices that are 10.1 inches or smaller, including the new Surface Go.
In addition to being free versions of popular Office applications, they're also lightweight and touch friendly. The question is if they're good enough to be the only Office applications on your Surface Go or other smaller Windows devices.
You can use the mobile Office apps on any Windows 10 PC using the links below but if your device is over 10.1 inches you'll need to have an Office 365 subscription to make edits.
- See Word Mobile in Microsoft Store
- See Excel Mobile in Microsoft Store
- See PowerPoint Mobile in Microsoft Store
What you get
The mobile versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint look a lot like their more powerful siblings, but there are a few design choices that make them easier to use on smaller screens. First, the crowded top of the desktop apps is gone in the mobile version. You instead get to different options and features by tapping between subheadings. You can hide the ribbon on the desktop versions, but the mobile versions do it more elegantly. This gives you more functional space on your smaller screens rather than taking up large portions with just the user interface.
You also get a more modern design. When you hover over different elements of the apps you get reveal effects following the Fluent Design language. I think the mobile versions of the apps are much more attractive and feel great when used with touch.
You also get the majority of the features that most users will use. Composing documents, creating spreadsheets, and navigating presentations are all easy to do in the apps. And the files you create and edit within the apps can sync across other devices to all you to continue your workflow elsewhere.
In addition to all of this, you get a few more dollars in your pocket. If you're using the Surface Go as your primary device, you don't need to pay for an Office 365 subscription.
What you give up
Some people love or even prefer the mobile versions of Office, but you do give some things up if you use them instead of a full Office 365 membership. First, there aren't mobile versions of apps like Microsoft Publisher and Access. You also won't get access to some of the more complex features from Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. How much of a sacrifice this is depends on your workflow.
You aren't giving up that much in terms of function when using just the mobile apps, but for some people, the switch would be a challenge.
Can they be your only Office apps?
The Surface Go might not be the cheapest tablet available, but it is a great value. The fact that you can use Mobile Office to create, edit, and read through documents, spreadsheets, and presentations for free is a significant boost to the Surface Go's bang-for-buck factor.
The mobile versions of Office aren't as powerful as the desktop versions you've likely used in the past, but they aren't hobbled apps that stop you from getting work done. The majority of students and lighter users could use the mobile versions of Office without feeling restricted.
As an added benefit, the mobile versions of the Office apps are lightweight on your PC and more touch-friendly than standard desktop Office. Not only could you get by with the mobile versions of Office on your Surface Go, but you might also actually prefer them over their desktop siblings.
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Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at email@example.com.