Using Microsoft Office On Linux

How To Use Microsoft Office Using Linux
How To Use Microsoft Office Using Linux.
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The Major Issues With Installing Microsoft Office

Installing Latest Office Fails
Installing Latest Office Fails.

This guide will show you the best method for running Microsoft Office applications within Linux and also consider alternative applications that you could use instead.

I am going to start by telling you that trying to install the latest version of Microsoft Office in Linux using WINE, PlayOnLinux, Crossover Linux or Winetricks is a recipe for disaster.

Initially it was possible to get Office 2013 running on my machine via the Office 365 installer, but now that the version offered is Office 2016, the installer fails with the words "Something went wrong." There appears to be no fix for this.

It is therefore potentially possible to run Microsoft Office 2013 using WINE and PlayOnLinux but the results are far from perfect.

In my own personal experience, whilst Microsoft Word seems to work well, Excel produces constant "out of memory" errors and despite having an Office 365 license I am continually asked to update my license key or log in, even though I am already logged in.

Powerpoint and Access both seem to work ok but I wouldn't want to do anything too clever with them for fear of losing work.

Microsoft has released all of the office tools as free versions online and it contains all the features you might require for everyday tasks such as writing letters, creating your resume, creating newsletters, creating budgets and creating presentations.

The first few sections in this guide will therefore look at showing how to get access to the online Office tools as well as highlighting their features.

At the end of this guide I will highlight some other Office applications that you may consider as alternatives to Microsoft Office. 

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Use the Microsoft Office Online Applications

Microsoft Office Online
Microsoft Office Online.

 There are many good reasons to use the Microsoft Office Online tools within Linux:

  1. They work without crashing
  2. They are free
  3. You can use them anywhere
  4. No tricky installation instructions

Let us consider why you might want to use Microsoft Office in the first place. The truth is that Microsoft Office is still considered to be the best office suite available but most people only use a small percentage of the features especially when they are using office tools at home.

Consider what you might use Microsoft Word for. I myself tend to use Microsoft Word for two reasons:

  1. To Write letters
  2. To Update my CV (Resume)

Linux has a set of office tools that all work very well and to be honest I am just as happy using LibreOffice for Linux as I am using most of the Microsoft Office tools. 

Many recruiters like to receive a CV in Microsoft Word format because they generally edit the file before sending it on to clients. Ideally I would save my CV as a PDF file as that would look the same regardless of the application I used to create it but recruiters do not like PDF files.

For this reason I tend to use Microsoft Word for updating my CV over any other application. 

Do I really need to spend money each month as a subscription or pay a large one off fee to get the latest version of Microsoft Office for doing a task that is so simple? Probably not. 

The same is true of Excel. My use of Excel at home is very limited. Sure in the workplace I have developed many spreadsheets with large amounts of VBA code in the background but in the workplace the tools you need are almost certainly provided for you. The use of Excel in the home is definitely limited to creating budget spreadsheets or maybe some sort of tracking tool. Again do I need all the functionality of the full version of Excel? Probably not.

When it comes to PowerPoint the functionality provided by the online version is perfect for most presentations. I have helped my children to create Powerpoint presentations for school projects many times and at no point did I use any feature that isn't in the online version.

For these reasons it is worth trying the online version of Microsoft Office before attempting something drastic such as using WINE to install office.

You can access the online version of office by visiting the following link:

The tools available are as follows:

  • Word
  • Excel
  • Powerpoint
  • OneNote
  • Sway
  • Mail
  • People
  • Calendar
  • OneDrive

You can open any application by clicking on the appropriate tile.

You will be asked to log in with your Microsoft account to use the tools and if you don't have one you can create one using the link provided.

The Microsoft account is free.

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An Overview of Microsoft Word Online

Microsoft Word Online
Microsoft Word Online.

The first thing you will notice when you click on the Word tile is that you will see a list of existing documents attached to your OneDrive account.

Any existing document already installed in OneDrive can be opened or you can upload an document from your computer. You will also notice a number of online templates available such as a letter template, Resume template and newsletter template. It is possible of course to create a blank document.

By default you will see the home view and this has all the main text formatting features such as choosing the text style (i.e. Heading, Paragraph etc), the font name, size, whether text is bold, italicised or underlined. You can also add bullets and numbering, change the indentation, change text justification, find and replace text and manage the clipboard. 

You can use the Insert menu option to show the ribbon for adding tables and most of the features you could require for formatting tables are there including formatting all the headers and each individual cell. The main feature I noticed missing is the ability to merge two cells together.

Other items on the insert menu allow you to add pictures both from your machine and online sources. You can even add add-ins that are available from the online Office store. Headers and footers can be added as well as page numbers and you can even insert those all important Emojis.

The Page Layout ribbon shows formatting options for margins, page orientation, page size, indentation and spacing.

Word Online even includes a spell checker via the Review menu.

Finally there is the View menu which provides option for previewing the document in print layout, reading view and immersive reader.

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An Overview of Excel Online

Excel Online
Excel Online.

You can switch between any of the products by clicking on the grid in the top left corner. This will bring up a list of tiles for the other available applications.

As with Word, Excel starts with a list of potential templates including budget planners, calendar tools and of course the option to create a blank spreadsheet.

The Home menu provides formatting options including fonts, sizing, bold, italicised and underlined text. You can format cells and you can also sort data within cells.

The key thing about Excel online is that the majority of the common functions work correctly so you can use it for the more common tasks.

Obviously there are no developer tools and there are limited data tools. You can't for instance connect to other data sources and you can't create Pivot tables. What you can do however via the Insert menu is create surveys and add all manor of charts including line, scatter, pie charts and bar graphs.

As with Microsoft Word Online the View tab shows various views including the Edit View and Reading View.

Incidentally, the File menu on each application allows you to save the file and you can see a view of recently accessed files for the tool you are using.

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An Overview of PowerPoint Online

Powerpoint Online
Powerpoint Online.

The version of PowerPoint provided online is excellent. It is bundled with lots of great features.

PowerPoint is a tool that you can use to create presentations. 

You can add slides to the project in the same way as you would with the full application and you can insert and drag slides around to change the order. Each slide can have its own template and via the Home ribbon you can format the text, create slides and add shapes.

The Insert menu lets you insert pictures, and slides and even online media such as videos.

The Design menu makes it possible to change the styling and background for all of the slides and it comes with a number of pre-defined templates.

For each slide you can add a transition to the next slide using the Transitions menu and you can add animations to items on each slide via the Animations menu.

The View menu lets you switch between editing and reading view and you can run the slide show from the beginning or from a selected slide.

Microsoft Office online has many other applications including OneNote for adding notes and Outlook for sending and receiving email.

At the end of the day this is Microsoft's response to Google Docs and it has to be said it is a very good one. 

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Alternatives to Microsoft Office

Linux Alternatives To Microsoft Office
Linux Alternatives To Microsoft Office.

There are plenty of alternatives to Microsoft Office, so don't be disheartened if you can't use it. Like with MS Office, you can choose from running applications natively or using online apps.

Native Apps

  • LibreOffice
  • WPS Office
  • SoftMaker

Online Options

  • Google Docs

If you are using Ubuntu, LibreOffice is already installed. It includes:

  • LibreOffice Writer
  • LibreOffice Calc
  • LibreOffice Impress

LibreOffice offers key features that has made MS Office so popular: mail merge, macro recording, and pivot tables. I would bet that LibreOffice is just what most people most (if not all) need most of the time.

WPS Office
WPS Office claims to be the most compatible free office suite. It includes:

  • Word processor
  • Spreadsheet
  • Presentation package

The compatibility is often a key issue when choosing a different word processor especially when you are editing something as important as a resume. In my experience the major failing of LibreOffice is the fact that text seems to shift down to the next page without any obvious reason. Loading my resume into WPS certainly seems to resolve this problem.

The actual interface for the word processor within WPS is fairly simple with a menu at the top and what we have become accustomed to as a ribbon bar underneath. The word processor within WPS has most of the features you would expect of a top package including everything that Microsoft Office's free versions have to offer. The spreadsheet package with WPS also seems to include all of the features that Microsoft's free online version of Excel offers. While not being a clone of MS Office, you can clearly see the influence MS Office has had on WPS.

Before we get into this, here's the deal: It's not free. Price ranges from $70-100. It includes:

  • TextMaker
  • PlanMaker
  • Presentations

To be honest, I don't see anything in Soft Maker that would make me want to pay for it. The word processor is certainly compatible with Microsoft Office and my resume loaded perfectly. TextMaker uses a traditional menu and toolbar system instead of ribbon bars and it looks more like Office 2003 than Office 2016. The older look and feel is persistent in all parts of the suite. Now, that's not to say there it's all bad. The functionality is actually very good and you can do everything that you can do in the free online versions of Microsoft Office, but I'm not sure why you would pay for this over using the free version of WPS or indeed LibreOffice.

Google Docs
How could we leave out Google Docs? Google Docs provides all the features of the Microsoft Online office tools and is largely because of these tools that Microsoft had to release their own online versions. If absolute strict compatibility isn't on your list, you'd be silly to look elsewhere for an online suite.

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