First, a quick Microsoft Office history
Many are familiar with Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook and other programs used in day to day home and office operations. These are stand-alone programs that have been around forever.
In the past and up to present day these programs are typically purchased in a suite called Microsoft Office, such as Microsoft Office 2003, 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. Each version number is composed of various sub-versions available with different programs.
For example, ‘Office 2016 Home and Student’ has Word, Excel and Powerpoint in the package. Nearly all versions of Office since the beginning of time have those three programs as part of the package. The ‘Office 2016 Home and Business’ version adds Outlook to the offering. Both are 2016 vintage but come with a different selection of programs. If you don’t use Outlook, which is used for reading email, Home and Student is the way to go. The more expensive the package, the more stuff that comes with it.
There are more suites available with additional programs such as Access and Publisher. But, for the most part, ‘Home and Student’ and ‘Home and Business’ are the most popular. They were normally purchased with a CD, but with recent versions all you get is a card with a number on it. That number is registered with Microsoft after creating an account with them or using an existing account. After it’s been committed to that account, the Office suite is downloaded to your computer and installed. It’s a process that seems simple enough, but things go wrong in a hurry and it’s tied to your account for life.
The license described here, as in the past, is typically a one time purchase for one machine. No subscription to renew.
Alas, the venerable CD with the yellow sticker on it has long since been retired.
The single license described earlier is still completely valid and popular. It’s been rumored for some time now that Microsoft might do-away with the one time purchase of Office programs and go strictly with subscriptions. We’ll see, but for now no announcements have been made as we type this.
Office365 is a subscription typically paid annually for eternity or until you no longer want to use Office365. Cost can average $5 – $20 dollars a month or more. Once signed up, Microsoft will allow you to download the Microsoft Suite to your computer, install and run it as you normally would just like in the old days. From that standpoint, using Microsoft Office is no different than the single license described earlier.
However, Office365 does have some advantages that may be useful.
- One subscription license can be used on multiple devices.
- The single license described earlier is a one machine, one license deal.
- Depending on the subscription chosen, an entire corporate email system can be built.
- Also, depending on the subscription chosen, you may get a full suite of the normal Office programs or you get none as is the case with just the Exchange Email subscription.
- Outlook works seamlessly with Microsoft’s email system. It’s remarkable.
- Reading and creating documents and sharing email among multiple users is seamless.
- Single point of management for all sharing and email accounts and configuration.
- Excellent Outlook app for Android and Apple phones and tablets.
- Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc have online versions that are pretty good and have many of the features found in the downloaded, desktop versions.
- And much more!
Microsoft offers so many packages with a variety of services, it can be very difficult determining which one to go with. What is chosen as your subscription service depends on what you are currently using and what the future holds. Businesses using Exchange email services will go with an Office365 package that includes the Outlook program. Going further, you may require encrypted email for HIPAA compliance, which pushes you to a different subscription.
A single user on a single machine at home using Gmail will typically go with the standard Home and Student, single use license described earlier.