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The number of Microsoft Office users today, estimated to be over 1.2 billion, can easily form their own country. And it’s safe to say that Microsoft Word users are a big part of that productive population.
Microsoft Word (2019, 2016, or Office 365) can help you design virtually every kind of professional document - from a simple office memo to a Kindle e-book. But sometimes you could use a bit of extra oomph in your Word documents. That’s where a roster of excellent and mostly free Microsoft Word add-ins can help.
Why are Microsoft Word add-ins so important?
Google Chrome has extensions. Microsoft Office has add-ins. Earlier, they were called Office Apps. These are little assistants which help you do a few things that Word cannot do on its own.
Want to send a document for an e-signature and track its status? Maybe you are a student who wants to add math equations quickly? Or, you just want to grab some beautiful stock photos for a document?
Add-ins can do all that and make Microsoft Word seem more powerful than it already is.
Today, we will look at how to install and manage these little tools and suggest a few of the best Microsoft Word add-ins you should install to improve your productivity.
Most of these add-ins will work with Microsoft Word 365, 2016, 2019, and Microsoft Word Online.
Which add-ins should you install?
There are more than 2000 Microsoft Office add-ins. Microsoft Office organizes all add-ins in neat categories. You can also filter them by:
Microsoft Office also automatically suggests a few add-ins to you. And there’s a category called Editor’s Picks, which displays a few highly-rated selections. Work through the choices and pick the ones that fit your workflow.
How to install and manage Microsoft Word add-ins
There are two simple routes to browse and download the add-ins you want.
1. Microsoft Word has a dedicated Office Store (AppSource) which lists all add-ins available for all Office applications.
2. You can also access the add-ins inside Word (and other Office apps), and Word for other platforms, like Word for iPad, Word for Mac, and Word Online.
How to download add-ins from the Office Store
The Office Store can be browsed like any other website. Filters on the left help you drill down to the add-ins you need.
Do read the reviews for each add-in and check the ratings. The better add-ins will be strong in both areas.
1. Click the blue Get It Now button.
2. Sign into AppSource with your Microsoft account.
3. Give Microsoft permission to install the add-in.
4. Continue the installation by selecting the application you want it for.
5. The add-in will appear on the extreme right of the Ribbon. Click the add-in button and a sidebar appears on the side of your document.
How to download add-ins from inside Microsoft Word
1. Go to the Ribbon > Add-Ins > Get Add-Ins.
2. Use the Store pane to browse for add-ins and install them. All installed add-ins will be listed under My Add-Ins.
3. Give your permission to Microsoft and allow the installation to proceed.
As in the download from the website, the add-in appears as a button on the Ribbon. When you are done with an add-in, you can close it by clicking the “X” button in the sidebar.
All free and purchased add-ins are part of your Microsoft account. After you’ve added them, you’ll have quick access to them from the My Add-ins button on the menu. The Manage My Add-ins link on the window will also take you to a page where you can see more details.
For e.g. an option to hide an add-in if you don’t want to see it on your list.
If you don’t use an add-in, then you can always delete them to clean up your list.
How to delete add-ins you don’t want
1. When you want to remove an add-in, go to Ribbon > Add-ins > My Add-ins. If you don’t see your add-in, then click on the Refresh link at the top of the window.
2. In the Office Add-ins window, click the menu option (three dots) for the specific add-in and click on Remove.
With this basic process covered, let us move on to select a few choice add-ins that can set you up for productivity.
The best free Microsoft Word add-ins for everyday productivity
It’s a tough job selecting add-ins from a stock of 2000+. But let’s look at a few which can cut across all sections of users -- from the layman to the white collar worker.
Also, the focus of the list is on free add-ins. A few excellent add-ins with trial accounts have been thrown into the mix to demonstrate how you can extend Word when your needs demand it.
Key Benefit: Improve your English with AI.
When English isn’t your first language then you should welcome some help. Writing Assistant is an artificial intelligence powered text checker that flags errors in your grammar. It claims to adapt to your context and offer suggestions.
Use it alongside Word’s own Grammar and Spell Checker to improve your writing.
Also: Grammarly is popular and it also has a powerful add-in for Word and Outlook.
Key Benefit: A math equation editor that works like a scratchpad.
In Word, go to Insert > Equation. You can use the gallery of equations in Word or manually type it out (or use Ink Equation). If this seems like hard work, try the MyScript Math Sample add-in now.
Use the side panel to write an equation with a finger, stylus, or the mouse. The add-in supports more than 200 symbols. Thanks to real-time handwriting recognition, your input is instantly converted to a clear typed equation. It just feels more intuitive, and you can combine it with Word’s own equation features.
Key Benefit: Use it like a built-in calculator for Microsoft Word.
There could be a calculator sitting in your taskbar. But Handy Calculator saves you a few seconds as it works alongside your open Word document in a task pane. The calculator supports all common functions and the usual memory keys to recall any value stored in memory.
If you work a lot with Word and Excel, then use the Select button for quick cell calculations.
Key Benefit: Keeps you motivated with a timer and a word count tracker.
Writing is a lonely job and sometimes you just have a word count to aim for. This simple add-in does this well by allowing you to set a countdown timer or a word count goal.
A Write with Others setting nudges your motivation with a live word count of other users or your team.
Key Benefit: Simplify the search for facts.
It can be a college essay or a research paper. The world’s favorite encyclopedia is often the first source for facts. So, don’t jump between your Word document and the browser.
The Wikipedia add-in can work alongside Word’s Researcher function to help you crosscheck information and improve accuracy.
Key Benefit: Automatically generate a table of abbreviations.
You have to refer to abbreviations and write them in a specific way. This handy add-in makes sure you do it correctly. It produces a table of abbreviations with their definitions in your document and mentions any undefined ones.
If you come across a lot of abbreviations, then the scan will help you review them quickly.
Key Benefit: Search and use high-quality symbols in your documents.
Microsoft Word has a nice Icons gallery on the Ribbon to help you communicate with symbols. But it’s always useful to have quick access to more. Symbol Search has a categorized lineup and a handy search box to find a unique symbol.
Click on More (three-dot menu option) and find the registered symbol, double asterisks, subscript numbers etc.
Key Benefit: Select from 300+ professionally designed templates for Word and Excel.
There’s a sameness to the default templates in Microsoft Office. Vertex42 specializes in templates for Word and Excel and it shows in the variety they offer.
The collection of 431 documents is organized in neat categories that cover personal, educational, and professional templates.
Also: Look at Spreadsheet123 and its collection of 200 templates for Word and Excel.
Key Benefit: Visualize your text and get your point across.
Word clouds add a visual element to any document or presentation. If it’s text dense then you can use a word cloud to check the frequency of your main keyword. It can also help summarize the core idea of any document for your readers.
You can customize the word clouds with different sizes, fonts, layouts, and color schemes.
Cost: Free for 7 days, $5.00/month after.
Key Benefit: Find the right photo or clipart to use from a vast image bank.
Pickit is a stock illustration site that can complement your documents with beautiful photos and clipart. PowerPoint designs aside, you can create impactful Word documents too by breaking up text with a photo that sends a visual message.
The add-in is free to download but you have to subscribe for premium features after seven days.
Also: Looking for a completely free alternative with Creative Commons licensed photos? Try the excellent Word add-in that sources images from Pexels.
Cost: Free trial, $6.00/month after.
Key Benefit: Edit, sign, and share PDF files stored in OneDrive.
Word can open PDF files and even edit them. But it’s not perfect as lines and pages can break. PDFFiller opens a fillable, printable PDF in its own editor from OneDrive. Edit, sign, and share the files again from the same window within Word.
You can save a lot of time as you do not have to download or upload the files from the desktop.
Cost: Free with a limited number of scans.
Key Benefit: Check if any document is original.
No one wants to be called a plagiarist. And Copyleaks has built its reputation as a search engine for avoiding that charge. The cloud based app uses its algorithms to scan any document and ensure its integrity. Copyleaks also supports multiple languages.
The Word add-in allows you to scan 10 pages a month for free. If you are a heavy user, then go for an additional purchase.
Cost: Free with a limited number of diagrams.
Key Benefit: Draw flowcharts, mockups, mind maps, and business process charts easily.
Sometimes, a flowchart or a business process diagram can make a complex concept simpler. Lucidchart is an industry leading software that offers this add-in for Word users. Use the library of shapes and lines to quickly create your own diagrams. The learning curve is shallow.
Lucidchart also supports collaboration and version control. You can download the add-in for free and create a limited number of free documents. Additional upgrades need to be purchased.
Cost: Free to try. Additional purchases required.
Key Benefit: Sign or request eSignatures for important documents without leaving Word.
Digital signatures have become foolproof and legally binding identification tools for critical documents. In many countries, they are the same as physical signatures on paper documents. Sign in with your Office 365, Microsoft, or DocuSign account. Email a completed copy of the signed documents, automatically save them in DocuSign, or on a cloud platform for collaboration.
DocuSign offers a free trial (sign and send 5 documents with a Microsoft account and 10 documents with an Office 365 account).
Cost: Free to try. Additional purchases required.
Key Benefit: Make business documents effortlessly.
Qorus is a business document builder. It works seamlessly across Outlook, Word, and PowerPoint to create personalized business documents like request for proposals, pitches, and NDAs. Qorus includes tools that can quickly create fresh documents from templates, answer queries with a bank of reusable content, and even collaborate on documents with a team.
Qorus is a bid and proposal management solution on its own. The advantages can outweigh the costs if your enterprise needs it. Try it with a 14-day trial.
Key Benefit: Show locations on documents quickly.
Making an event flyer in Microsoft Word? Why not help your guests by displaying a small map that shows exactly where it will take place. There is Google Maps, but this little touch saves everyone a few seconds.
The add-in allows you to customize the appearance and size of the map.
17. Read My Document
Key Benefit: Go easy on your eyes.
Read My Document is a text to speech converter that reads your Microsoft Office documents aloud. It can be an invaluable editing aid when you are proofreading a document. Pick a voice and the speech speed to begin.
Alternatively, you can multitask by letting it read a document while you do something else. But don’t use it for confidential documents as the engine can send data over the internet.
Key Benefit: Reuse your most important legal documents.
Legal documents should always be standardized. It makes it not only easier to understand them, but also saves a lot of time when you need to reuse them. Woodpecker is an easy to use add-in that removes the chore of re-creating legal docs everytime you need to change a minor detail.
Woodpecker also promises secure document management and collaboration with your own account. Project managers can try this add-in to enhance the role of their Word templates.
19. Font Finder
Key Benefit: Select and save your favorite fonts.
It is surprising that a desktop publishing software like Microsoft Word still does not have an adept font management system. For instance, you cannot save your favorite fonts. You can create styles for them, but that is a roundabout way. Font Finder makes it easier.
Use the add-in tab screen to browse through the categorized fonts. Search for the font you want to use and set them as favorites with a click on the star. However, a small pitfall is that it seems to ignore fonts that do not come with Word.
20. Emoji Keyboard
Key Benefit: Give your communication some color.
Microsoft Word add-ins shouldn’t be all sober and somber. Why not give it a bit of color with the Emoji Keyboard. After all, emojis are stuck to our digital tongues. And this keyboard gives you 1300 to choose from.
There’s also a skin tone modifier if you have to send a culturally sensitive message.
Bonus: Word Training and Tips
Key Benefit: Become a better Microsoft Word user.
This add-in gives you access to GoSkills “how-to” cheat sheets from the popular Microsoft Word course. Get handy step by step instructions on formatting, styles, and more, right within your Word document.
Get more work done today with these add-ins
We hope these useful and mostly free Microsoft Word add-ins help you plug a few productivity gaps, reduce a few steps and add up to a more efficient workflow at the end of your day!
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