Access files when your Office subscription has expired

I first looked at how to cancel your Microsoft Office subscription and then what happens when the subscription expires. Now I will look at some of the ways to continue to access your Office documents without a subscription.

I am on day four of my expired Microsoft Office 365 subscription and Word and Excel continue to work. Three things have happened since the expiry date. First I got an email from Microsoft notifying me of that my subscription has expired. The second is a pop-up message when I start an Office application that prompts me to buy a new subscription or log in to an active subscription. The third is a small red subscription expired notice just under the ribbon bar.

Apart from these minor changes, everything is working fine. I doubt this will continue forever and at some point Word, Excel and the other applications should become read-only. Loading documents for reading or printing only. At least that's what Microsoft says.

What happens to your documents when Word, Excel and the other apps stop working?

As I pointed out last time, they are not locked in any way and you could use an alternative office suite or Office web apps, both of which are free. To see how good these were, I created some complicated Word documents and Excel spreadsheets from the Office templates to see what would happen.

Here is a fairly complex Word document created from one of the templates. It has images, text in multiple columns, boxouts and more.

 Microsoft Word

Here is the same file loaded into LibreOffice, a free office suite.

 LibreOffice

The window and toolbars are different, but the page is almost identical to the original. The word processor module in LibreOffice does quite a good job of importing Word files. This isn’t the most complex document you could create, but you can see that for a free program, LibreOffice word processor is pretty good.

What about Excel? I performed the same task in Excel and created some new spreadsheets from one of the Office templates. Here is one in Excel.

 Microsoft Excel

And the same spreadsheet loaded into LibreOffice.

 office-files-6a

It mostly looked OK, but certain features that were available in Excel were not understood by LibreOffice and did not work. Excel spreadsheets are where you will have the most trouble when switching from Microsoft Office to an alternative office suite.

If you have created the spreadsheets yourself, you will know how they work and you can probably find alternative ways of working in LibreOffice. If someone sends you an Excel spreadsheet file and you load it into LibreOffice and it does not work, you might have great difficulty in fixing it.

One solution is to load Excel spreadsheets into Microsoft Office web apps at onedrive.com. These are free for anyone to use whether you have an Office subscription or not. The Excel file loaded OK.

 office-files-6b

The amount of pain you will experience when abandoning Microsoft Office depends a lot on the documents you create. Some people will find it easier to carry on paying the subscription because, after all, nothing is quite as good as Word and Excel.

For others though, using an alternative office suite like LibreOffice for word processing and spreadsheets for new files and using Office web apps in a browser to access old files will be an option.

I actually switched to Google Docs almost a year ago and have now cancelled Office 365. I just wasn't using half the features and my documents are really simple ones that don't do anything advanced. Everyone is different though and Office may suit some while LibreOffice or Google Docs suit others. Can you live with a free alternative?

Related: How to cancel or change Microsoft Office subscriptions

Related: What happens when you cancel your Office subscription?


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