Let's be honest: The Office Store isn't the most vibrant app store out there, which no doubt plays into Microsoft's decision to open Office data to third-party apps (and vice-versa). But it’s still worth exploring to find handy apps to use with Office. We’ve collected five here, plus tips to help you navigate the Office Store.
As with any app store, keep these common-sense caveats in mind:
- Many apps listed as “free” are just trial versions.
- Read the reviews posted by other users before you download an app, and watch for reports of bugs or other defects.
- A link to the provider’s website is listed below the Overview. Before you download anything, check the website for hidden or additional fees such as subscription services required for the app to function.
- If the provider’s website is gone, then you should probably avoid this app.
App installation tips
You have to sign in (login) with your Microsoft ID before you can download apps. If you wait until later, it’s more of a hassle with multiple steps. Here’s how it works when shopping for apps from within Word:
In a blank Word 2013 document, click Insert > Store and the Apps for Office window opens. If you select an app from this page, click Add, then Trust, and it installs from this window.
To see additional apps, click More. The website Apps Store opens on the Editor’s Choice page. Click All under Category to see all the Word apps that are currently available.
Select an app, then click the Add (Free), Buy, or Free Trial button. The App Store responds with: Confirm that you wish to add this app. If yes, click Continue, and the site takes you directly to the Start Using Your App for Office Instruction page. Follow these instructions to begin using this app.
My Apps and the App Store are grayed-out (do not work) in Compatibility Mode. If your document is in Compatibility Mode (indicated by these words following the filename at the top of the screen), click File > Convert, OK to convert your documents to the current version (.docx).
The following apps are rated between three and five stars by users, and all are free except Selection Diff Tool.
1. Wikipedia, FREE, 5 stars:
Not surprisingly, this popular app is already included on the Apps group menu in Word, and it downloads the first time you select it. This app is a must-have for pretty much anybody who writes anything.
2. HTML Tag Store, FREE, 5 stars:
This app is perfect for the novice HTML user who needs to make minor modifications to a website. You can select different tags, such as the meta, img, title, or link, from the HTML Tag Store menu displayed on the left, then fill in the applicable information between the tags. For example: Click <img src= /> The image filename (plus other information such as height, width, and alternate text goes between the equal sign and the closing symbols /> like this:
<img src="images/JDoe.jpg" width="100" height="150" alt="Photo: John Doe" />
3. Selection Diff Tool, $4.99, 4.5 to 5 stars:
Word has a built-in Compare/Combine feature that—yes—compares, then combines two documents. It works great, but it’s a bit complicated, with many steps and lots of options. The Selection Diff Tool is designed for quick, immediate results when comparing short documents, a few paragraphs, or a couple of pages. It works great for rewriting or updating resumes, proposals, letters, and brochures, or tweaking advertising templates for sales, marketing, and public relations.
4. Percentage Calculator, FREE, 4 to 5 stars
This app handles often-confusing percentage issues with ease. Basic percentages? Of course. Percentage growth (changes in values over time) and percentage changes (variance between two percentages)? Check. Percentage markups (e.g., the difference between wholesale price and retail price)? Check. The ever-tricky increased and decreased values by a percentage? Absolutely. A very useful app for quick calculations within a document.
5. Translator, FREE, 3 to 5 stars
Go ahead, sprinkle your prose with a few phrases from other languages—this app ensures that you sound like a pro. It also translates phrases you don’t recognize. Note: This is a Microsoft app, so it has better support than much of its competition in the Office Store, plus more frequent updates.