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Office 365 or Office 2016?

Explore the differences and similarities between Microsoft Office 365 and desktop versions of Microsoft Office.


Product/Version: Microsoft Office
OS: Windows 7 or Mac OS X (and higher)

Office 365 is a well-known brand for Microsoft now. But you may have also heard about their other different, but still similar product offerings such as Microsoft Office 2016, or other versions for the desktop, for both Windows and Mac. Are the desktop versions the same as Office 365? Well, there is no straight yes or no answer! But it does matter because many people can’t understand where the distinctions are. Let's first find out what’s confusing with all this terminology:

  1. Office 365: Is Office 365 a name of a web site? Or is it also a subscription product? If it is a subscription, is that for using some online applications? Or for some standalone Office apps that can be run on your desktop machines or tablets? Or is this some fancy stuff that is called a cloud these days? Or is Office 365 all of these?
  2. Microsoft Office for Windows: This seems less complicated -- is this not the desktop version of Microsoft's Office suite that includes familiar programs such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, etc.? Then why do you see Office 365 mentioned everywhere on Microsoft's web site – even on the pages for Microsoft Office? Is there a connection?
  3. Microsoft Office for Mac: Yes, this is the Mac version of Office -- but the Office for Mac pages on Microsoft’s site contains so many references to Office 365, and you’ll see that Office 365 includes Office for Mac as well! Will this work on your Mac computer?

If you echo even half the doubts raised in the preceding section, then you are not alone. Nowhere have we found content that describes the distinctions between these different terms well. Maybe the descriptions themselves kept changing as the product lines evolved, and many people were as confused as we were. Clearly, there needs to be a resource explaining these distinctions -- that's the reason we decided to create this plain English guide to explain what Office 365 means, and how it relates to desktop versions such as Office 2016, Office 2013, and Office 2011. By the end of this article, we hope you will understand these concepts clearly.

Sometimes, oversimplification can help – so broadly speaking, there are two ways through which you can buy Microsoft Office -- the first of these is how you have bought Office products typically: as a box that contains a product key – or even a product key that you buy online – and then install the product on your computer. The second way is through a subscription -- think of this as renting the software. Let's explore these in detail.

The Perpetual Versions, Office 2016, 2013, and 2011:

These are the familiar versions of Microsoft Office that get installed on your computer through an online installation (in some cases, you may get to use an Office install DVD or an ISO file). When you buy these versions, you typically also get a product key that you enter when the installation routine prompts you.

At the time of updating this page, Microsoft Office 2016 is the current version for both Windows and Mac. Office 2013 and Office 2011 are the older versions for Windows and Mac respectively. Both these older versions still have millions of users who have not upgraded to Office 2016 yet.

Office 2013 ProThere are 3 types of Office bundles available for Office 2016 for Windows:

  • Office Professional 2016 : This suite includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, and Access – and is intended for business use.
  • Office Home & Business 2016 : This package includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote – and is intended for home and business use.
  • Office Home & Student 2016 : This package includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote – and is intended for home and educational use.

Office 2011 home-businessThere are 2 types of Office bundles available for Office 2016 for Mac:

Additionally, there may be other bundles available for both Office 2016, 2013, and 2011 from other channels such as MSDN, TechNet, etc. Also, some Office family products including Visio and Project are no longer included in an Office bundle – you need to buy them separately.

Tip: Want to get a free or cheaper copy of Microsoft Office? You may be eligible – to find out more, explore our Get a Free or Cheaper Copy of Microsoft Office (and PowerPoint) page.

The Subscription Version, Office 365:

In the simplest terms, just think of the 365 suffix for Office as a version of Microsoft Office that never gets outdated. You may be using the perpetual version of Microsoft Office today – but you would not be auto-upgraded to the next desktop version of Office when that is released, or even any interim release that Microsoft rolls out. And you will have to spend more dollars (or any other currency) to get a licensed version of the newer Office! And that’s probably something most of us have been doing for more than a decade already – Microsoft now wants to change our attitude and their revenue by making us all move to a subscription model, where your Office version will never get outdated – that’s what Office 365 is! And now that makes even more sense since Microsoft has a complete roadmap for features in Office that only Office 365 subscribers will get.

Ofice 365

Is Office 365 for everyone? Is it affordable? Do you even need it? Those are all valid questions, and let us explore these answers in our Office 365 Versions page.

PowerPoint Keyboard Shortcuts

PowerPoint Keyboard Shortcuts and Sequences:
PowerPoint 2016, 2013, 2011, 2010, 2007 and 2003 for Windows
PowerPoint 2016 and 2011 for Mac

Have your ever used keyboard shortcuts and sequences in PowerPoint? Or are you a complete keyboard aficionado? Do you want to learn about some new shortcuts? Or do you want to know if your favorite keyboard shortcuts are documented?

Go and get a copy of our PowerPoint Keyboard Shortcuts and Sequences ebook.

Microsoft and the Office logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.

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since November 02, 2000