Microsoft 365 buying guide: Which version should you buy?

    Microsoft Office was created in 1990, long before the internet was widely available. It has experienced a number of changes since then, but has retained the same moniker – until now. keep reading our Microsoft Office 365 buying guide.

    Microsoft stated in October 2022 that standalone versions of Office applications would be rebranded as ‘Microsoft 365’. This is consistent with the company’s productivity-focused membership program in 2020, which was renamed the same.

    Paying on a regular basis grants you access to Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, and Publisher, as well as Teams for collaboration and Outlook for messaging. You also get OneDrive online storage and frequent updates, but expert and business versions include even more software.

    While this piece is intended to help you choose between them, it is by no means your only choice. Microsoft, as has always been the case, releases independent versions of Office applications every few years. The most recent edition was published in 2021, but you will not receive any upgrades other than software fixes.

    Some individuals may also be able to obtain Microsoft Office for free or at a reduced cost. Everything you need to know is right here.

    How to get Microsoft Office on your laptop or PC

    Previously, the easiest (and only) method to obtain Office was to purchase a CD-ROM and put it on your PC or laptop. That would be a bit of a hassle nowadays, with many computers lacking disc drives, but it was one method to guarantee you had a tangible backup.

    Office is now accessible as a download, but you can also acquire it directly as a one-time purchase or as a monthly subscription. Both alternatives have benefits.

    Any Microsoft product under the ‘365’ label is subscription-based, with the number of days in a year alluding to the number of days in a year. Any Microsoft product that does not include the word “365” in its name is likely to be a one-time buy – great if you only want to pay once, but you won’t be able to improve the software through web updates like you can with 365 subscriptions.

    There are also several versions of Office accessible, and you should select the one that best meets your requirements. While this purchasing guide includes every platform, Mac users may want to check out our sibling site Macworld’s specific Office for Mac buying guide.

    We’ll start with Office choices if you’re purchasing for personal, residential, or student use, and then move on to alternatives if you’re buying for work or a small company.

    Microsoft 365 buying guide

    Which version of Microsoft Office do you have?

    If you want to update, you can easily determine which version of Microsoft Office you have loaded. If you got all of the applications at the same moment, they should all be the same version.

    We’re going to use Microsoft Office for this essay. The procedure may differ slightly based on your device and program, but it should be simple to find:

    1. Open the Office app of your choice. You should be presented with a home screen similar to the one below
    2. From the bottom-left corner, click ‘Account’Microsoft 365 buying guide
    3. Under the ‘Product Information’ section, look for ‘About Word’. Here, you should see ‘Version’ followed by a four-digit numberMicrosoft 365 buying guide
    4. To find out when this version was released, a quick web search will tell you

    However, the procedure varies for older Office apps. In Word 2010, go to ‘File’ and then ‘Help’. The data will then be presented on the right side of the device, as shown below.

    Word 2007 is once again unique. Click on the round Microsoft Office symbol in the upper left corner, then select ‘Word Options’ from the drop-down option. Next, select ‘Resources,’ which is the last choice on the left-side menu. At the foot of the list, you should see a ‘About’ button, which will give you more information about the edition you own.

    In the 2003 edition, select ‘Help’ from the upper navigation bar, followed by ‘About Microsoft Office Word’. The MS Office World edition, as well as the package it belongs to, will be displayed in the pop-up, such as the Microsoft Office Professional Edition 2003.

    Does Windows 11 come with Microsoft Office?

    That is not the case. Windows 11 was launched in 2021 and is a free update for most Windows 10 users, but it does not include Microsoft Office applications. However, all of your current data and applications will be carried over, so if you already have a standalone edition (such as Office 2019 or Office 2021), it will remain accessible.

    Do I need Microsoft 365 to use Outlook?

    If Outlook is your preferred email client, you may be thinking if you need to join up for Microsoft 365 to use it.

    No, it does not. Office comes pre-installed on all Windows 11 and Windows 10 computers, so you can get started right away.

    It was previously restricted to Microsoft 365 users on a Mac, but Microsoft has lifted this limitation. Outlook is now available in the Mac App Store, and it has always been free on iOS and Android.

    However, if you use Outlook frequently, a Microsoft 365 membership has some advantages. They are as follows:

    • 50GB of email storage rather than 15GB
    • No ads
    • Email encryption
    • Extra email security tools for detecting phishing and malware

    You can also establish a personalised email account right now, but this option will be removed on November 30, 2023.

    Will Microsoft 365 be getting new AI features?

    It appears probable. Microsoft unveiled a new version of its Edge browser and Bing search engine with an embedded AI chatbot built on ChatGPT in February 2022.

    At the time of writing, it is still in the testing process, but comparable functions will almost definitely be introduced to Microsoft Office apps. Potential use cases include being able to compose a particular style of story or write an email for you, but there will almost certainly be many more.

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    According to The Verge, Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook will be first in line, with an announcement conceivable at an event planned for March 16, 2023. If this is accurate, it won’t be long before the technology appears in final editions of Office apps. In that case, it’s probable that they’ll be exclusive to Microsoft 365 subscribers rather than accessible as standalone copies at first.

    Microsoft 365 (previously Office 365)

    From its original debut in 2011 until 2020, Microsoft’s productivity-focused subscription program was known as Office 365. Since April 2020, it has been known simply as ‘Microsoft 365,’ but the rebranding has had no effect on operation other than a few new features.

    The options intended for the particular consumer come first (i.e. probably you). If you subscribe, you have two options: Personal (for one person) or Family (for multiple users) (for up to six users). You can pay either regularly or yearly for both:

    • Microsoft 365 Personal – $6.99/£5.99 per month or $69.99/£59.99 per year – one person, 1TB of cloud storage
    • Microsoft 365 Family – $9.99/£7.99 per month or $99.99/£79.99 per year – up to six people, 1TB of cloud storage each, extra Family Safety features

    There is also a free edition for students and university employees, which we will discuss later.

    The primary advantage of using Microsoft 365 is that you’ll receive regular updates for as long as you’re a user, eliminating the need to move from one version to the next every few years and eliminating file compatibility problems.

    You can also save your work to the server in the same way that Google Documents does. Microsoft also includes some perks, such as 1TB of online storage and complete access to Microsoft Teams.

    Microsoft 365 – Family vs Personal

    If you’re subscribing, there currently two main options to choose from: Personal (for just one user) or Family (for up to six users). For both, you have the option to pay monthly or annually:

    • Microsoft 365 Personal – $6.99/£5.99 per month or $69.99/£59.99 per year – one person, 1TB of cloud storage
    • Microsoft 365 Family – $9.99/£7.99 per month or $99.99/£79.99 per year – up to six people, 1TB of cloud storage each, extra Family Safety features

    If you choose to share the subscription expenses among pals, the additional £20/$30 per year or £2/$3 per month for the Family subscription is a fantastic bargain. The annual memberships also save you two months of payment.

    Additionally, there is no device restriction on Microsoft 365 installations, which means that both Family and Personal users can run the program on as many devices as they need. However, you are restricted to operating on five devices at the same time.

    However, Microsoft stated on 11 January 2023 that a new third tier would be introduced on 30 January. Microsoft 365 Basic will supplant the current OneDrive 100GB storage plan while maintaining the same price – $1.99/£1.99 per month or $19.99/£19.99 per year. More information on what it provides is provided below.

    Microsoft 365 Family

    • For 6 users at at time across unlimited PCs/Macs, tablets and phones
    • 1TB cloud storage per user for 6 users (6TB total)
    • Ongoing access to updates
    • Includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher (PC Only), Access (PC Only), OneDrive, Microsoft Teams

    Microsoft 365 Personal

    • For 1 PC/Mac across unlimited PCs/Macs, tablets and phones
    • 1TB cloud storage for one user
    • Ongoing access to updates
    • Includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher (PC Only), Access (PC Only), OneDrive, Microsoft Teams, Family Safety

    Microsoft 365 Basic

    • For 1 PC/Mac across unlimited PCs/Macs, tablets and phones
    • 100GB cloud storage for one user
    • Web and mobile versions of apps only
    • More features to be added

    US: $19.99 per year or $1.99 per month

    UK: £19.99 per year or £1.99 per month

    Office 365 Education – Free options for students

    Office 365 Education is (as the name implies) a variant of Microsoft 365 designed specifically for students and institution teachers or employees. Under the Office 365 A1 plan, students and instructors can join up for free online access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Microsoft Teams.

    To claim it, you’ll need an academic email address or other evidence of your position. See our complete guide to obtaining Microsoft Office for free.

    If you want desktop access to the apps, the Office 365 A3 package costs £2.20/$2.50 per month for each pupil and £2.85/$3.25 for each instructor or other member of staff. The most expensive Office 365 A5 package, which costs £5.30/$6 per month for students and £7.05/$8 per month for instructors, includes desktop and web access as well as additional protection measures.

    Office Home and Student 2021

    Office Home and Student 2021 is the correct bundle for you if you prefer to pay a one-time fee. You loose Microsoft 365’s automatic software upgrades, but you can use the software for years without being bound to a subscription. It is compatible with one computer operating Windows 11, Windows 10, or any current macOS version.

    However, you don’t get full access to the mobile and tablet apps (anyone can still use them for free to view documents, but not edit or create them), there’s no cloud storage included, and you don’t get access to the full suite of Office programs included in Microsoft 365 subscriptions.

    New features in Office 2021 include a dark motif in Word, new learning tools, new charts and graphs, new transitions in PowerPoint, and much more. However, unlike a Microsoft 365 subscription, it will not be updated with new features over time.

    It’s also worth noting that Microsoft Office will soon be rebranded as Microsoft 365, but it will continue to function in the same way.

    Microsoft 365 Business

    Microsoft also provides commercial copies of its tools. We’re concentrating on small company choices here, but Microsoft also has Enterprise plans for bigger corporations. There is yet another distinction between the 365 subscription options and the one-time buy edition of Office 2021.

    There are three primary versions of Microsoft 365 Business accessible, each with very distinct software packages, so choose wisely. Keep in mind that Microsoft 365 Business Basic (from $6/£4.50 per user per month) does not include desktop versions of essential Office applications such as Word and Excel, but only Microsoft’s online and cloud tools.

    Also, keep in mind that the Microsoft 365 Apps for Business plan ($8.25/£7.90 per user per month) contains both desktop and smartphone versions of the apps but not other productivity tools like email, calendar, or Teams conference call features.

    Here’s a rundown of the four major business-focused programs we’d suggest:

    Microsoft 365 Business Standard

    • One licence for 5 PCs/Macs plus 5 tablets and 5 phones per user
    • 1TB cloud storage per user
    • Allows up to 300 users
    • Ongoing access to updates
    • Desktop versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, Access, OneDrive
    • Web versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint

    Microsoft 365 Business Premium

    • For 5 PCs/Macs plus 5 tablets and 5 phones per user
    • 1TB cloud storage per user
    • Allows up to 300 users
    • Email hosting with 50GB mailbox and custom domain address
    • Ongoing access to updates
    • Desktop versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, Access
    • Access to OneDrive, Exchange, Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, Yammer
    • Web versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook

    Microsoft 365 Business Basic

    • 1TB cloud storage per user
    • Email hosting with 50GB mailbox and custom domain address
    • Allows up to 300 users
    • Ongoing access to updates
    • Video conferencing with up to 250 people
    • OneDrive, Exchange, Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, Yammer
    • Web versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote

    Microsoft 365 Apps for business

    • For 5 PCs/Macs plus 5 tablets and 5 phones per user
    • 1TB cloud storage per user
    • Web versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote and OneDrive
    • Ongoing access to updates
    • Allows up to 300 users

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