I was asked if there is a Microsoft Office portable version so that it can be used on another computer and the simple answer is no, but it is a bit more complicated than that. The answer is yes and no!
What is portable software?
Portable software is the name given to programs that firstly, do not need installing, and secondly, will run from anywhere. A portable program is often supplied as a zip archive, but it could be an executable program.
If it is supplied as an executable program, it is really just a self-extracting archive that unpacks itself. The result is a folder containing the program and all the files it needs to run. It is self-contained and that folder can be stored anywhere on the disk with read/write permission (some areas of the disk are off-limits because they are for the operating system or administrators only).
A portable program can be kept in the Downloads folder for convenience and run from there using Explorer to click on the program. Alternatively, you could create a folder for portable apps like C:\Users\Public\Portable and keep all your programs in it.
Right click this folder and select Pin to Quick Access adds it to the sidebar in Explorer windows to make it easy to access. When portable programs are running, right click the icon in the taskbar and select Pin to taskbar to add an icon. Having a few portable apps in the taskbar makes them as easy to run as regular software.
Portable apps can be as convenient to run as installed apps, but there are extra benefits.
The whole portable program folder can be copied or moved to another computer and a thumb drive (flash memory drive) is a convenient way to transfer it. In fact, it can run from the thumb drive because it runs from anywhere, so you can carry the program in your pocket and plug it into any computer to run it.
- Customize email views in the new Outlook for Mac
- Customize email alerts in Outlook see only what you want
How can you tell if a program is portable?
The developer will tell you. Often when you go to download a program from the developer’s website they will offer a link to download the standard version or a portable version. Sometimes it is not obvious if or where a portable version of a program is on a developer’s website and you sometimes have to hunt for it.
A portable program will always run directly or extract to a folder. You then open the folder and double click the program to run it.
Some websites specialise in providing portable software and PortableApps.com is one of the best, but there are several others if you want to search for them. PortableApps.com does not contain every portable app, but it does contain a lot, so it is often the first place I look when searching for portable software.
Is there a portable version of Office?
When people talk about Office they usually mean Microsoft Office or Microsoft 365 as it is called these days. Strictly speaking there is not a portable version, but there are alternatives and a sort of portable version of Office that is completely free. Yes, Microsoft gives away a free portable version of Office!
There are alternatives to Microsoft Office and some of these office suites are indeed portable or have portable versions that can be downloaded. LibreOffice is one of the best known and most powerful Microsoft Office alternative and if you go to the website and click the Download menu at the top of the page, there is an option to get the portable version of LibreOffice.
Apache OpenOffice Portable is another alternative to Microsoft Office. It is a great office suite and both LibreOffice and Apache OpenOffice were once one program. It split into two a while back and have since taken different, but similar development paths. Some people say LibreOffice is the better of the two.
Install Microsoft Office everywhere
Microsoft Office itself is not portable and so it cannot be transferred to another computer. However, if you have a Microsoft 365 subscription you are allowed to install Office apps on up to 5 computers, which can be Windows PCs or Apple Macs. Do you need portable software or do you simply need to install Office on more computers?
Check your subscription by going to any Microsoft site, like OneDrive.com or Outlook.com and click your name/picture in the top right corner. Click My Microsoft Account. Click Services and Subscriptions in the menu bar at the top to see the details. You cannot move Office once it is installed, but if you have unused licenses you can install extra copies on other computers.
Web apps are Microsoft Office portable!
If you need to edit Office documents on another computer, an alternative to a portable version of Office is to open the OneDrive website in a web browser and drag the document you want to edit to the browser window to upload it if it is not already online. Click the Office file – Word, Excel, PowerPoint – to edit it within the browser using the online Office Web Apps.
You can also create new Office documents too. Instead of using OneDrive, try office.com. It offers the same Office web apps, but uses a different interface. You might prefer it. The online apps at the OneDrive and Office websites are almost as good as having a portable version of Office. They can be accessed everywhere you use a computer.
- Access Office web apps quicker and easier on Windows PC
- How to get more from the toolbar in Word web app
The online Office apps do not have every feature of the Office suite of apps installed on a computer, but they have all of the most commonly used functions. This article is being written in the Word web app for example, before being copied and pasted into WordPress and it works fine.
Word Online and it is pretty good for something that runs in a web browser, but it is not the only app and there is Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and more.
The web apps are great for computers, but there are also Microsoft 365 apps for Android phones, iPhones and iPads and those devices are truly portable in that you can carry them anywhere and use them on the go. Like the web apps online, they don’t have every feature of the Office apps installed on a computer, but they have the most common ones.
You can, of course, mix working with the installed Office suite with working online with the web apps and working on the go on your iPhone or Android phone. They all work with OneDrive and your files are accessible everywhere.