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Office Learning - Improve or learn office software for free

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8th August 2018

You might want to improve your general office software skills in order to enhance your CV or prepare for a new project – or perhaps you’re thinking of career change and don’t have any office software experience?

If so, there are lots of free resources that you can use from the Internet that will provide you with experience, a grasp the basics of office applications and the opportunity move on to more advanced lessons. 

The concepts and interfaces of most office software suites are very similar – so learning and then stating some proficiency in these on your CV isn’t only good in its own right, but it will also demonstrate that you’re likely to be familiar with the basics of whatever commercial solution a potential employer may be using.

Whilst some of the software below can be installed or accessed on mobile and tablet devices to a lesser or greater degree - bare in mind that a normal office experience will almost always involve using a desktop computer or laptop with a keyboard and mouse.  Learning to use a keyboard and mouse effectively is key for lots of general administration roles so try and get access to this kind of set-up if you are practising for office-based roles.  Libraries and Internet Cafes may offer a solution if you can't access this type of hardware yourself.  (Always be careful about the information you provide and accounts you access on public computers)  

Getting the software and self-study

Most medium to large organisations use commercially available and corporately licensed Office Suites such as Microsoft’s Office 365  - but lots of people don’t have free access to these when they are learning!  That’s why we’ve listed some alternatives that use similar interfaces, commands and formatting that you can access for free.  (It is worth noting however that if you’re a student you can get free access to Office 365.  Follow the link for further details.)

Libre Office

Libre Office is free and regularly updated office software suite available for Windows, Mac and Linux computers and laptops.  If you’ve got access to a computer and have administrator rights for it – you can download and install it yourself from their downloads page: https://www.libreoffice.org/download/download/

Among other things, it contains:

  • ‘Writer’ a Word processor
  • ‘Calc’ an Excellent spreadsheets application
  • ‘Impress’ a presentation program to help you make Powerful points…
  • ‘Base’ – which gives to Access to a powerful database

The suite offers nearly all of the functionality of commercial alternatives and uses a more traditional drop-down menu system at the top, as opposed to the more ribbon-like interfaces.

Open Office

Open Office shares many of the features and concepts of Libre Office, though isn’t updated as frequently.  If you can’t access Libre Office then Open Office would be a good place to try next.  It offers at least the 4-core application types shown above. (Word Processing, Spreadsheets, Presentations and Database). You can download it here: https://www.openoffice.org/download/index.html

Google Docs

Google Docs is a cloud based office software suit which you normally access online through your internet browser – rather having to specifically install it on a machine.  It’s a good route if you are not able to install software on the machine you are using as in most cases you can access the suite through an internet browser such as Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer 11, Microsoft Edge and Safari.  The options presented to begin with are more basic – but it may be a good place to start if you have no experience of office software.  You’ll need a free google account to use it – and can then access it from any compatible machine, once you log in to your account.

WPS Office

WPS office is a full featured office suite which is very similar to some current commercial offerings, including a ribbon-like interface at the top. 

It contains at least all of the 4 core applications mentioned above.  The free version of the software does contain some advertising however – much like the way that other free apps do – so be aware.  These can be removed through purchasing a yearly license.  If you’re looking to get the closest experience to suites which some organisations use 365 days a year – this is worth a look if you are happy with the adverts and ‘fermium’ format of the application.  You can get WPS Free here: https://www.wps.com/office-free


Email clients

Most general office roles will require you to be generally proficient with Word Processing, basic Spreadsheets, Presentations and Email.  Chances are you are already proficient at using email at home or in your existing job, through phone apps or web-based mail accounts. Medium and organisations tend to use fuller featured ‘email client’ programmers for staff to manage their mail, so if you fancy practising some of the more advanced features of those, you could look at downloading one of the these fee alternatives:

Where to get training  

This one is simple as we’re considering zero budget solutions here – YouTube.  YouTube is your friend for all sorts of software tutorials and is often the best place to start to get an overview of the product you are interested in learning about.  Many YouTubers run whole series of tutorials on how to use various products which you can easily watch on a phone or tablet device whilst working on a computer or laptop.

If video tutorials are not your thing, then a local library would be your best bet for ‘Beginners guide to…’ type books.  You may find it more difficult to source books for free online applications but a librarian will be able to help you and perhaps order material in for you.  Larger libraries may also offer free self-study computer based training – so worth an ask.

Please note that neither icanbea... nor The Mason Trust is recommending any of these products or courses.  This is an information article to help people who want to learn about office software suites for use in general administration roles. 

Always check the terms and conditions for use of and download of any software you access and be aware of any payment options and advertising policies that these products or their developers use - and - make sensible use of antivirus and anti-adware when accessing and downloading material.  If you're uncertain about the legitimacy of anything you want to access, always search some alternative reviews or write-ups before proceeding.

Structured courses

Some organisations offer free*, structured online courses that can include certification. (*Please check terms and conditions for each course and provider as requirements and offerings may change) 

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