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Understanding the Microsoft Office offerings

By Eric Geier (Our Founder & Owner)

Originally published by Cox Media Group on 5/3/21

Microsoft Office is the popular suite of productivity applications, like Word for word processing, Excel for spreadsheets, PowerPoint for presentations and Outlook for email. Microsoft has offered these since the ’90s. Until 2011, they used to only offer the traditional suites where you buy a version and you get to keep using that particular version forever, though they cut off support and updates eventually. But for the past decade, they keep pushing their Microsoft 365 subscription service more and more. And now they are starting to push another product type: a web version of their main office programs.

Microsoft 365 basically rents you whatever the latest software version is and can install and use the software for as long as you keep paying the subscription. Currently, they charge $69.99 per year (or $6.99 per month) to cover a single user/device and then for up to 6 users/devices it’s $99.99 per year (or $9.99 per month).

Both editions include the five most popular Office applications (Word, Excel, Power- Point, Outlook, One- Note). They also give you more storage and backup space for their online/cloud service called OneDrive.

Although Microsoft doesn’t always make it apparent, you can still purchase the traditional Microsoft Office suites outright with a one-time purchase and keep that version forever.

The latest version is Office 2019 and the list price for the Home and Student edition (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) is $149.99 or for Home & Business (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote) it’s $249.99.

But you can usually find a store to purchase these for less than list price.

If you do the math, you can see that signing up for the Microsoft 365 subscription for a single user/device starts costing you more money after two years compared to just purchasing the 2019 edition outright.

However, if you have many users/devices that need the software, the Microsoft 365 subscription seems like the most cost-effective option.

For many years, Microsoft has also offered a free limited web version of their main office programs if you have a free Microsoft account.

Just within the past couple months, Microsoft is starting to push these web apps more.

They started automatically downloading the web app shortcuts to Windows 10 computers and devices via the regular Windows Updates.

Some users might find this convenient if they understand what the web apps are, but it may confuse many more users.

For instance, if you already have Office 2019 you’d then see two shortcuts for each of the Office apps.

Clicking on the 2019 shortcut should still open the program like usual, but if you click on the web app shortcut, it will look and function different than what you’re used to. Microsoft will also likely try to push you to signup for the Microsoft 365 solution too when in the web apps, so some users might not understand and buy something they don’t truly need.

To tell if your computer has the traditional applications of Office installed or the new web app shortcuts, open them and take a look at the top of the Office window.

If it’s a web app, you’ll see some type of website address on top, like https://www. or https:// If it’s the traditional application (whether it’s 365, 2019 or older version) you shouldn’t see any website address up top. You should see the program name (like Word or Excel) and also the filename if a file is currently open.

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