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Office 365 Subscriptions

Learn about different Office 365 subscriptions.


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Product/Version: Microsoft Office
OS: Windows (versions 7, 8, and 10) or Mac OS X






Office 365 is Microsoft’s cloud-based subscription offering that lets you run always upgraded and updated Office applications on the desktop, on tablets and smartphones -- and also online. This is different from the perpetual versions of Office – find out more in our Office 365 or Office 2016 article. Additionally, some plans also include extra niceties like a subscription to the Skype for Business web conferencing tool, hosted email via Microsoft’s Exchange Online, online storage through OneDrive, plus phone talk time via Skype.

Office 365

However, there are various Office 365 plans available—and deciding which subscription plan works best for you can be a decision that needs some thought. This page will help you understand these subscription plans better.

You should first know the different subscription plans that Microsoft offers for Office 365. These subscriptions can be broadly split into two categories:

  1. Consumer Level – Home, Personal, University, and Education Subscriptions: Although the names suggest these subscriptions are intended for home, personal, and academic use—many home and small businesses subscribe to these plans.
  2. Business Level – Business, ProPlus, and Enterprise Subscriptions: Again, these names suggest use in commercial environments, but non-profit organizations could also subscribe to these plans.

Although it is important how you use your subscription, it is more important to understand which Office 365 plan you are subscribed to.

We will now explore both the consumer and business level subscriptions:

Consumer Level

  • Office 365 Home: Includes access to several Office applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Access, and Publisher) for home and non-commercial use. Notably, both InfoPath and Skype for Business are excluded in this subscription plan. On the plus side, you can install Office on up to 15 devices (5 licenses on Windows and Mac systems, 5 tablet devices, and 5 phones). You also get 1 TB of OneDrive (previously known as SkyDrive) storage for 5 users, and 60 minutes of international Skype calls per month. This subscription typically costs $9.99 per month, and you can save 16% by paying $99.99 for twelve months (annually).

  • Office 365 Personal: Includes access to mainstream Office applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Access, and Publisher). You can install Office on just 1 computer device (either Windows or Mac) -- plus you can also install on 1 tablet device (either Windows tablet, Android, or iPad), plus 1 phone (Windows, Android, or iPhone). You also get 1 TB of OneDrive storage, and 60 minutes of international Skype calls per month.

  • Office 365 University: Essentially, this is a highly discounted version of Office 365 Home Premium intended for full- and part-time enrolled university and college students, faculty, and staff in accredited institutions. Alumni of these institutions are ineligible. Although the applications and access to OneDrive storage and international Skype calls available within this plan are identical to Office 365 Home Premium, you need to buy this on a discounted four-year plan, and you are limited to install Office on up to two devices (both Windows and Mac are supported). Having said so, the 4 year subscription for Office 365 University costs less than the 1 year plan for Office 365 University.

  • Office 365 Education: This replaces the earlier Academic version of Microsoft Office, and is intended for school staff, faculty, and students. You cannot buy this subscription individually since this is only sold to schools. This subscription typically only includes access to Office web apps, but a subset plan (A) also includes core Office applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Access, and Publisher). Additionally, web conferencing is also included within this plan.
  • Office 365 Education

Business Level

  • Office 365 Business: This plan is intended for businesses with 10 to 250 employees – provides access to most Office applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Access, Publisher, Skype for Business, and InfoPath) -- you can install Office on both Windows and Macs. You also get access to Office Mobile Apps. Additionally, you get hosted Exchange, SharePoint, and Skype for Business services. You can also stream the most up-to-date version of Office to any Internet-connected Windows 7 or 8 PC with Office on Demand.
  • Office 365 Business Essentials: This plan is intended for businesses with 1 to 300 employees. Provides access to Office Web Apps. Additionally, you get hosted Exchange, SharePoint, and Skype for Business services.
  • Office 365 Business Premium: A souped-up version of Office 365 Small Business – provides added access to several Office applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Access, Publisher, and Skype for Business) -- you can install Office on up to five devices (both Windows and Mac are supported). You also get access to Office Mobile Apps.
  • Office 365 Enterprise E1: Geared towards enterprise environments, this plan provides access to Office Web Apps. Additionally, you get hosted Exchange, SharePoint, and Skype for Business services, plus enterprise-specific compliance and support.
  • Office 365 Enterprise E3: A souped-up version of Office 365 Enterprise E1 – provides added access to most Office applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Access, Publisher, Skype for Business, and InfoPath) -- you can install Office on up to five devices (both Windows and Mac are supported). You also get access to Office Mobile Apps.
  • Office 365 Enterprise E5: The highest level enterprise offering costs $35 a month with an annual commitment and includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Publisher, Skype for Business, and Access. You can install Office on up to 15 devices (5 licenses on Windows and Mac systems, 5 tablet devices, and 5 phones). Additionally, you can broadcast Skype for Business meetings online for up to 10,000 attendees. Moreover, there are tons of more abilities and options!
  • Office 365 Nonprofit: Similar to Enterprise E1 and E3 plans – but these are free or discounted for eligible nonprofit organisations.
  • Office 365 U.S. Government Plans: Similar to Enterprise E1 and E3 plans with some differences.
  • Office 365 ProPlus: This plan provides access to several Office applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Access, Publisher, and Skype for Business) – you can install Office on both Windows and Macs. You can also stream the most up-to-date version of Office to any Internet-connected Windows 7 or 8 PC with Office on Demand.
Note: There are more differences -- if you wanted to get into the minute details, then the Office 365 - comparing P, M and E plans page on TechNet gives you all the nitty-gritty of the plans. Additionally, most Office 365 subscriptions allow you to use Office Mobile on your iPhones (or compatible iOS devices) – read our Which iOS Models are Supported? and Will my Office 365 subscription support Office Mobile? pages.

When you sign up for any of the Office 365 plans, you get a license to use the current version of Microsoft Office on your desktop or laptop – it does not matter which current version you choose – you can opt to install either Office 2013 for Windows or Office 2011 for Mac. If your plan provides 5 licenses, you can use a combination of Windows and Mac licenses – for example, you could install 3 licenses of Office 2013 for Windows, and 2 licenses of Office 2011 for Mac.

Additionally, when Microsoft releases a new version of Office for either Windows or Mac – and you have an active subscription to Office 365 – then you pay nothing to upgrade to the newest version of Office – that’s the best part!

However, typically people like to wait a while before they upgrade their Office versions, and we typically have at least 2 versions of Office installed on both our Windows and Mac computers. In fact, we often have PowerPoint 2007, 2010, and 2013 installed on the same computer even though we do run them all at the same time. Will Office 365 let us retain our Office 2013 when Office 2014, 2015, or 2016 releases? We haven’t found any convincing answer anywhere.

What is Office 365 Developer?

Office 365 Developer is not really another subscription category although it does include Office Professional Plus 2013 – rather it is a pre-built site that lets you develop, test, and deploy apps for Office and SharePoint. If you are a current MSDN subscriber (Visual Studio Ultimate and Visual Studio Premium), you are entitled to a one-time benefit of a year’s subscription to Office 365 Developer. Also, if you are signed into Office 365 Enterprises plans (E1 or E3) – then you can provision an Office 365 Developer site from the Office 365 admin center. Alternatively, you can sign up for a free 30 day trial, or a $99 yearly subscription.

Update: Although it may appear that Office 365 Developer is a site and app development option, people have been successful in using this subscription to activate Office apps on the iPad as well. Thanks to Kapil Arya for this information.

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