Can You Use Microsoft Word on a Chromebook?

One of the best parts about using a Chromebook is that you don’t have to install anything to be productive, since Chrome OS is designed to work mostly with web apps. But what if you need to edit a Microsoft Word document? Fortunately, it’s easy to do so, with both Microsoft and third-party solutions.

Use the Official Microsoft Chrome App

The simplest solution is to just use Office 365, Microsoft’s online version of Office, which includes Word. While you’ll need a paid Office 365 plan for more storage, the five gigabytes on the free plan should be adequate for occasional users, since text documents are so small.

Word Online on a Chromebook

To use the app, you could just navigate to the website, but if you want something that behaves more like an app, you can install Microsoft’s extension from the Google Web Store. Remember that Google Chrome apps are going away in 2021 (2022 for enterprise users). It’s just a link to the online version anyway.

Download: Word Online

Use Office 365 on the Web and Android

As previously mentioned, you can use the real Microsoft Office on a Chromebook or even any other Linux computer, albeit on the Web. If you need to just read and share simple Word documents, you might be able to get by with alternatives, but with more complicated formatting, you could need the real thing.

As previously mentioned, Google is phasing out Chrome apps in favor of Progressive Web Apps, which are regular websites that you can “install” just like other apps on your system. Just click the “Install” icon in the URL bar and it will show up in your Launcher and open in its own window.

Since most new Chromebooks support Android apps, you can also install the app that way. If your Chromebook has a touchscreen, it might come in handy if you want to use it in tablet mode.

Download: Microsoft Word

Alternatives to Microsoft Word on Chromebook

Sometimes, you don’t really need the actual Microsoft Word program as a program that lets you read and write Microsoft Word files.

1. Google Docs

Google Docs saving as a Word Document

Google Docs has long been the go-to for people wanting to send and receive Word documents on a Chromebook. With the generous amount of storage that Google allows even on a free account, it’s not hard to see why.

It’s good enough that college students will write their term papers in it without even considering installing Microsoft Office, which is often available for free or at a reduced cost from universities, as Harvard history Ph.D. candidate Jake Anbinder discovered when grading student papers.

All you have to do to send someone a Word version of a Google Docs document is to export it.

2. LibreOffice With Linux

LibreOffice running on a Chromebook

A more advanced option is the other longtime go-to in the Linux world: LibreOffice. If you want to use it, you will have to install Linux on your Chromebook first. Then you can install LibreOffice in the default Debian installation using APT.

sudo apt install libreoffice

To launch LibreOffice Writer, just look for it in the app launcher, as you would with any other app. When you launch it, you’ll see the standard OpenOffice Writer interface in all its clunky glory.

You can then compose your document as on any other system. When you save it, don’t forget to save it as a Microsoft Word document (DOCX), not the standard OpenOffice format (ODT).

Yes, You Can Read, Edit Word Documents on a Chromebook

While a Chromebook doesn’t natively support reading and editing Word documents right out of the box, with a little know-how, you can share Microsoft Word files with other users when you need to. Maybe your professor only accepts Word documents, or you work from home with colleagues who use Word. Anyway, you’re covered.

You can just use Microsoft’s official web-based Word app or install the Android app. If you lean more toward Google, you can also export Google Docs files to Word. If you’re willing to install Linux on your Chromebook, you can even use LibreOffice. You have options on a Chromebook.

Chromebook laptop being used on bed
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