Is Microsoft Office Mobile really free for tablets? It depends

This site may earn affiliate commissions from the links on this page. Terms of use.

Microsoft released its Office Mobile suite (Word Mobile, Excel Mobile, PowerPoint Mobile, and OneNote) on July 29 along with the much anticipated Windows 10. These apps are intended to provide a touch-friendlier functional bridge between the browser-based Microsoft Offline Online web apps and the full featured Office 365 components. However, all is not what it seems here.

The Office Mobile apps are supposed provide “core editing” functions for free on Windows 10 tablets with displays that are 10.1 inches or smaller. However, in testing, this is not what I experienced. These mobile Office apps gave me basic editing features on a Dell tablet with an 8-inch display as promised, which is fine. However, when I tried to use the same apps to edit a Word document on a Asus tablet with a 10.1 inch display, I was greeted with the pop-up window you see here below, advising me that I need an Office 365 subscription to edit the file.


That was confusing, so I initiated an Office web support chat to learn what is going on. I asked about editing using the free version of Word Mobile for Windows 10 on a tablet with a display of 10.1 inches or smaller. The apparently ill-informed support person told me that there is no free version of Word Mobile that supports editing documents. This is, of course, contradicted by Microsoft’s own and my experience with Office Mobile apps on a tablet with an 8-inch display.

Ignoring this support issue for the moment, how are the Office Mobile apps on a Windows 10 tablet? They are relatively finger friendly on an 8-inch Windows 10 tablet. However, you might have noticed that the icons and buttons on the right side Word Mobile’s ribbon area (screenshot above) are relatively small for an interface that is supposed to be touched with a fingertip. Overall, I’d say the apps are not as finger-friendly as any number of productivity apps for an iPad or Android tablet.


The apps also seemed to have extremely limited access to my Microsoft OneDrive cloud storage account. In fact, I could not find a way to navigate to any OneDrive folder. And, the apps frequently reported that it could not read the files it listed from OneDrive.

If you want to use features beyond basic editing, it turns out you might need to pay for an Office 365 subscription. For example, you’ll need a subscription if you want the ability to track and review changes, change page orientation, insert section and page breaks, or enable text columns in Word. Customizing Excel pivot table layouts and viewing PowerPoint speaker notes while presenting are also tied to an Office 365 subscription.

In my experience, even the relatively low-powered and low-priced tablets for Windows 8 work reasonably well with the regular desktop versions of Microsoft Office. Since the Office Mobile apps are merely good, but not great, for use with touch screens, I’m not sure there’s much incentive to use these minimally featured Office apps.

View more information:

Articles in this category: software

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button