Many people seem to have a love-hate relationship with add-ins. Do they make Word clunkier or extend its functionality? In part, that depends on the add-ins you choose. This article takes a look at a few free or inexpensive Word add-ins you may want to consider.

1: Microsoft Mathematics Add-in

Do you struggle with getting equations and formulas to look right in your Word documents? (Are you, like Nicolas Cage, saving the world with math?) If you’re tired of struggling with using superscript and subscript to give you just the right look, consider using the Microsoft Mathematics Add-in from the Microsoft Download Center. This add-in works for both Word and OneNote and gives you a huge collection of mathematical symbols you can insert in your equations, as well as features that help you calculate sophisticated functions, work with algebraic expressions, plot 2-D and 3-D graphics, and much more.

2: Classic Menu for Word 2010

If you long for the good-old days, when finding what you needed in Word was just a matter of knowing which menu to open, you can go back in time by adding the Classic Menu for Word 2010. The new features available in Word 2010 have been included in the classic interface, so you’ll be able to get to all the new functionality the latest version offers, but in a comforting, familiar screen design. This add-in offers a free 30-day trial, and then you’ll pay $15 if you decide you’d like to keep it.

3: More Add-in 4.2

Do you wish there were a simple way to embed optional content in your Word documents? For example, suppose you’re creating a training document, and you want it to be as concise as possible, but you also don’t want to skip information that new users might need. You can use the More Add-in 4.2 to create collapsible content in your Word document. The information remains hidden unless users click to display the additional text they need. The More Add-in offers a free trial download, which allows you 10 uses of the software. After that, if you think it’s a keeper, you’ll need to purchase a licensed copy online for $19.99.

4: Chemistry Add-in for Word

Here’s another add-in for those using Word to accomplish left-brain functions. The Chemistry Add-in for Word gives you the symbols you need to add and work with chemical information in your documents, which could include formulas, element labels, and more. You can also create 2-D diagrams of chemicals and view a panel of inline “chemical zones” so that you can see at a glance the various chemical depictions in your document. (I hope this is enough detail for you, because writing this way makes my right brain hurt.) You can download the Chemistry Add-in for Word for free from Microsoft Education Labs.

5: PowerWord 1.0

If you are an information hunter-and-gatherer, you may enjoy PowerWord 1.0. This add-in makes it easy to do a quick search using of your favorite sources — Wikipedia, Google, YouTube, etc. — for articles, photos, and news stories related to specific keywords you enter. You can also use the To-Do List Manager to create a task list of items you need to finish before the document is ready to be finalized, which is a cool feature whether you’re working solo on the file or you’re collaborating with a team.

One odd quirk about this freeware: There’s a misspelling in the Easy Research group of the PowerPack tab (Reference Search is misspelled as Reference Serach). But the functionality is there and the tool is free. Now, on to saving the world with spelling!

What free/cheap Word add-ins do you like?

What are your favorite free Word add-ins? Share your recommendations with TechRepublic readers.