Microsoft Project is one of the most popular project management applications. Used by organizations of all sizes, MS Project allows users to plan and track projects with ease. For schedulers, MS Project is generally a required tool for day to day work. Whether you need to plan a schedule, cost load, or perform status updates, MS Project can help you get your work done.

If you plan on using Microsoft Project for your work, you may want to trial the program before purchasing it. MS Project is available as an on-premise solution or as a cloud-based solution. The version you choose will be dependent on your organization’s needs and payment preferences.

  • Purchasing an on-premise version of MS Project allows you access to Microsoft Project Standard or Micrsoft Project Professional. These are desktop applications that you can only install on one computer. This is a one time purchase – once you buy the program, you have access to it forever with no additional cost. This is the solution often used for organizations that will be using a shared server for their projects.
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  • Purchasing a cloud-based version of MS Project allows you access the program via a monthly subscription plan. All cloud-based MS Project subscriptions give users access to Project for the web (also known as Microsoft Planner). If you purchase Project Plan 3 or 5, you will also get access to Project Online and the MS Project desktop app. The desktop app available from these subscriptions is the same as the on-premise version. The only difference here is how the payment plan is structured. This is the most popular solution, as it allows for more accessibility.
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If you are planning on purchasing a cloud-based subscription, you can download a 30 day free trial of the program. This free trial allows you to test the program and ensure it meets your needs. This trial can also be useful if you sign up for a MS Project training course. As long as you take the course within 30 days, you’ll be able to follow along with the program.

In this article, we will cover how to download Microsoft Project for free as a trial version. If you need the desktop application, we will also go over how to install this application from the Microsoft 365 website.

Step 1: Creating a Microsoft Project Account

To download Microsoft Project for free, you will need to access the MS Project plan comparison page here. First, you will need to decide which version of MS Project you want to trial. For most CPM schedulers, I recommend trialing Project Plan 3. This version of MS Project gives access to all standard scheduling features, including cost and resource loading. If you need to access the desktop application, you can do that with this plan. If you are an intermediate user who plans on using portfolios, you should opt for Project Plan 5. Project Plan 5 will allow you to work with portfolios along with projects for an overall view of organizational efforts.

Once you choose a project version, select Try free for one month under the Buy Now button.

 

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If you aren’t already logged in to a Microsoft account, you’ll be prompted to create one for the trial. This is a free account – you will not be charged for the trial or the account you create. First, enter in your Email address. Make sure you have access to the email address you enter in.

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If your email has already been used for a Microsoft account, you’ll be prompted to log in instead. If you do not have an account, select Set up account to continue.

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On the next page, enter in your personal details. You will need to enter your First and Last Name, Business phone number, Company name, Company size, and Country. If you are not a part of a Company, you can enter in N/A as the Company Name and set the Company Size to 1 person. Under Business phone number, you can instead enter in your personal number. You will need to have access to this phone number – this is how you will be verifying your account next.

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On the next page, you will need to enter in a verification code for security purposes. You can choose to either have Microsoft text or call you to provide this code. By default, the phone number you entered into the Business phone number field will be listed. If you don’t have access to that phone, you can enter an alternative number in the field. Then, press Send verification code.

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Once you receive your 6-digit verification code, enter it into the set field and press Verify. If you don’t receive the code, you can always press Try again to resend it.

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Under Sign-in details, you’ll need to set a Username and Domain name. By default, Microsoft will set your username to your name. The domain name will be set to your company’s name – followed by .onmicrosoft.com. You can choose to adjust either of these fields if desired – but you can not remove the ‘onmicrosoft’ domain. You will need to remember this username, as you’ll use it to log in to the program later on.

Then, enter in and confirm a password for your account and press Next.

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Under confirmation details, you’ll see you order number and username listed. There’s an option here to Save or print this username – if you press this, your browser’s print console will open. You can print this username to a physical printer or to a PDF – but it’s a good idea to make sure it’s saved one way or the other. This username will be necessary for logging into the program.

Then, select Start using Project Plan 3 Trial.

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The Microsoft 365 homepage will open. It’s from here that you can access Project online and download the desktop application. Additionally, this free trial allows you access to other online Office apps – such as Excel and Powerpoint.

 
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Step 2: Accessing Project Online

At this point, you can now access Microsoft Project for the web. To access any of the apps available to you, select the Apps button on the left side of the screen.

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On the Apps page, you can find all apps available within your Microsoft 365 trial. Beyond Project, you’ll also have access to Word, Excel, Visio, Sharepoint, and any other 365 product. To access Project Online, select Project under the Productivity tab.

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Project Online – also known as Microsoft Planner – is a basic, online version of Project. This app has limited functionality compared to the desktop application. In Project Online, you can create projects, add tasks and logic, and collaborate with other users. You can even import in .mpp files from MS Project for access on the cloud. However, many features from the desktop app will not translate to the online version. For example, Project Online does not support baselines, constraints, or resources. For many projects, baselines are a contractual requirement – therefore, you may not be able to use Project Online for all project schedules. It is recommended to only use the online platform for simple, short projects.

Within the online app, you can access any projects available to you under Recent. You can also create new projects by selecting New project.

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You can choose to create a new project from scratch, use a template, or import in a project. If you receive a project file from someone who utilizes the desktop version, you can access it online by importing it in. Again, it should be mentioned that some data within the .mpp file, such as costs and resources, will not import in.

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You can now work with your project by adding tasks, adjusting details, and updating progress. Because you can access the online platform from any browser, you can update your project file from anywhere, at any time.

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Step 3: Installing the Microsoft Project desktop application

To explore all that Microsoft Project has to offer, you may want to install the desktop application. This desktop application gives you access to the most updated version of Project. For larger scale projects, the desktop application is recommended. Many contracted projects will require features only available in the desktop app – such as baselines. Additionally, if you plan on attending a Microsoft Project training course, the desktop version is often required. Luckily, the free trials of Project Plan 3 and Project Plan 5 allow you to access the desktop application.

To install the desktop version of Microsoft Project, navigate back to the Microsoft 365 home page here. In the upper right hand corner of the screen, select Install apps. In the dropdown menu, select Other install options.

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Step 3: Installing the Microsoft Project desktop application

To explore all that Microsoft Project has to offer, you may want to install the desktop application. This desktop application gives you access to the most updated version of Project. For larger scale projects, the desktop application is recommended. Many contracted projects will require features only available in the desktop app – such as baselines. Additionally, if you plan on attending a Microsoft Project training course, the desktop version is often required. Luckily, the free trials of Project Plan 3 and Project Plan 5 allow you to access the desktop application.

To install the desktop version of Microsoft Project, navigate back to the Microsoft 365 home page here. In the upper right hand corner of the screen, select Install apps. In the dropdown menu, select Other install options.

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This will take you into a backstage view of your Office account. Here, select View apps & devices.

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Under Apps & Devices, you’ll see apps available for you to install. If you signed up for a trial of Project, select the option to Install Project.

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Under Apps & Devices, you’ll see apps available for you to install. If you signed up for a trial of Project, select the option to Install Project.

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The Office installer will download to your computer. This download should appear in the upper right hand corner of the browser. You can also access this file within the Downloads folder on your computer. Double click on the installed file, OfficeSetup.exe.

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The Microsoft Office installer will open to install the program. This process should take a few minutes, and you’ll receive a notification once the installation is complete. Once done, select Close to exit out of the installer.

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Project will now be available as a desktop application. You can find the program within the Start Menu or Searchbar at the bottom of your desktop. Select the Project icon to open the program.

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Step 4: Logging in to Your Microsoft Account

When MS Project opens, you may be prompted to activate the program. You can do this by logging When MS Project opens, you may be prompted to activate the program. You can do this by logging in using the credentials you set earlier. First, enter in the username that you had previously set – the one ending in .onmicrosoft.com.

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You’ll also need to enter in the password that you set. If you forgot your password, select Forgot my password. Otherwise, enter it into the field and select Sign in.

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Lastly, you’ll need to accept the license agreement before continuing. Once done, you can use Microsoft Project to create and manage your project schedules. 

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The desktop application will give you access to all features available. With this version of Project, you can cost load schedules, save baselines, and create custom views and reports.

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MS Project is a very powerful and complex program with many capabilities. If you are a new user to the program, we recommend attending an MS Project training course to fast track your learning.

Remember that the free trial version of Microsoft Project can only be used for up to 30 days. Once the 30 days are over, you will no longer be able to use the program without a license. If you are interested in purchasing a license of Microsoft Project, we are happy to help! For purchasing assistance, you can view the product in our store here or contact us for more info.

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, please use the comment section on the bottom of this page, and don’t forget to subscribe to our blog to get more scheduling tips & tricks directly in your inbox!

Lauren Hecker is an Microsoft Project, Primavera P6, and Oracle Primavera Cloud Instructor who teaches onsite and virtual scheduling courses. To see her next open enrollment course, please visit our calendar. To schedule an onsite or custom course, please contact us!

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