A friend of mine called me the other day and asked how they can quickly view a PowerPoint presentation on their computer without using Office since it is not installed. I told her not to worry because there are many ways to view Office files without the need for Office.
Thanks to Google and cloud computing in general, you now have full-featured office office suites that you can launch right from your browser. When Google released Google Docs, Sheets and Slides, it kind of forced Microsoft to rethink its entire Office strategy. Microsoft now has a free version of its Office suite that you can use online to create and edit files.
In this article, I’ll show you a few different tools you can use to open PDFs, Microsoft Office files, Photoshop files, and more for free. Now, the main catch with anything free is that the options are limited. Word Online Office, for example, allows you to do basic editing tasks, but cannot do more complex tasks like merging letters, footnotes, etc. However, if you just need to view the file, these solutions will be just fine.
Microsoft Office Online is free
If you’re trying to view an Office, Word, Excel, or PowerPoint document, your best bet is Office Online Just go to www.office.com and sign in with your Microsoft account. This is the only requirement for using their free tools.
With the Office Online Apps, you get the core Microsoft Office apps: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. However, you cannot use these tools to view an Access database, Visio diagram, or Microsoft Project file.
For core apps, you can create new files to be automatically stored in your OneDrive folder, or you can upload new documents from your local computer.
As you can see in the picture below, the online version of Word does not have all the tabs that the ribbon interface of the full version of Word has. It completely lacks links and mailings. Also, all other tabs only have a few basic options and the rest are missing. The free version is enough for most people, but that’s why Microsoft has Office 365 subscriptions for those who want all the features.
The same information applies to the online versions of Excel and PowerPoint. Great for viewing Office files, good for editing, but not fully functional. Overall, you should try them if you need to view Office files and make simple changes to them.
Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Drive
Besides Office online, Google’s online toolbox can also open Microsoft Office files. So if you are in the Google ecosystem and just need to view some MS Office documents, try opening them in Google Docs, Google Sheets, or Google Slides.
I opened my fully formatted resume in Google Docs and it looked exactly like it did in Word! Then I was able to edit it as needed without any problem. I could also save the file back to Word format from Google Docs.
What I love about all of Google’s tools is that they support add-ons that can add more functionality to the underlying program. For example, Google Docs can handle citations and bibliographies using add-ins that Office Online does not support.
If you need to open a PDF file, you can simply use Google Chrome instead of downloading a free PDF reader Google Chrome is a great choice for viewing and printing. Just drag the PDF to an open tab in Chrome to view the PDF.
If you need to view other file types with different extensions, I suggest you try using Google Drive. Google Drive can be used to view Adobe Photoshop files and many other files that usually require a specific application. Obviously, you cannot edit a PSD file or anything like that. If you want to do this, you will need other programs like GIMP or Paint.NET. However, Google Drive is great for viewing files.
Even though these tools have been around for a while, you may not have been aware of all the different functions they can perform. Both companies are always adding new features, so it would be a good idea to check them out now if you haven’t added them in a long time. Enjoy!