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Microsoft 365 Subscriptions

Learn about different Microsoft 365 subscriptions. Broadly, there are consumer and business level subscriptions.


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Microsoft 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 Microsoft 365 product differs from the perpetual versions of Office, and you can find out more in our Microsoft 365 or Office 2021 article. Microsoft 365 was previously known as Office 365, and some branding may still show up as Office 365. In fact, some editions are still known as Office 365, and not Microsoft 365. We will tell you when the name differs.

Significantly, some Microsoft 365 plans also include extra niceties like a subscription to Microsoft Teams, hosted email via Microsoft's Exchange Online, online storage through OneDrive, plus phone talk time via Skype.

Office 365

Since there are various Microsoft 365 or Office 365 plans available, 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 Microsoft 365 or 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 also subscribe to these plans.

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

We will now explore both consumer and business level subscriptions:

Consumer Level

Let us explore the various consumer level subscriptions available for Microsoft 365:

Microsoft 365 Family

Includes access to several Office applications including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Access, and Publisher for home and non-commercial use. Notably, both Access, and Publisher are included only for Windows users in this subscription plan as those programs do not exist for the Mac platform. On the plus side, 6 people can install Office, and each individual can install on either a Windows and Mac system, plus on a tablet device and phone. You also get Microsoft Teams, 1 TB of OneDrive storage for each user, 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).

Microsoft 365 Family and Personal

Microsoft 365 Personal

Includes access to mainstream Office applications including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Access, and Publisher. Again, both Access, and Publisher are included only for Windows users in this subscription plan as those programs do not exist for the Mac platform. 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 Microsoft Teams, 1 TB of OneDrive storage, and 60 minutes of international Skype calls per month.

In this video, we cover off some of the reasons why you might be better off going for a subscription to Microsoft 365 instead of buying Home & Student. 10 reasons why Microsoft 365 INSTEAD of Home & Student 2019

Microsoft 365 Education for Schools & Students

Essentially, this is a highly discounted version of Microsoft 365 Business plans 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 Microsoft 365 Business plans, you cannot buy this edition of Microsoft 365 individually. Your educational organization needs to connect with the folks at Microsoft so that teachers, faculty, staff, and students can get access to this Microsoft 365 product for no cost.

Microsoft 365 Education for Schools & Students

Office 365 Education

Do note that this is one of those versions, which is still known as Office 365 rather than Microsoft 365. Office 365 Education replaces the earlier Academic version of Microsoft Office, and is intended for school staff, faculty, and students. You can get this free version of Microsoft Office, as you are enrolled in an eligible educational institution. This subscription typically only includes access to Office web apps (plan A1), but other plans (A3 and A5) also include core Office applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Access, and Publisher. Additionally, Microsoft Teams is also included within this plan.

Office 365 Education


Business Level

Let us explore the various business level subscriptions available for Office 365:

Microsoft 365 Apps for Business

This plan is intended for businesses with up to 300 employees, and provides access to most Office applications including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Access, Publisher. You can install Office on both Windows and Macs, although there's no Access or Publisher available on the Mac. Tablet and mobile versions of Office and individual apps is covered, wherever they exist. You also get 1TB of OneDrive storage and access to Microsoft Sway, a digital storytelling tool.

Microsoft 365 Business Basic

This plan is intended for businesses with up to 300 employees. You are provided access to Office for the Web apps, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote. Additionally, you get hosted email and Teams services with 1 TB of OneDrive cloud storage per user.

Microsoft 365 Business Standard

This plan includes everything in Microsoft 365 Business Basic, and adds desktop versions of Office programs such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Access, and Publisher, with the last-two programs not being available for Mac users.

Microsoft 365 Business Premium

A souped-up version of Microsoft 365 Business Standard provides advanced security with Defender, access and data control, and cyberthreat protection. Plus, you also Azure Virtual Desktop support, with multisession Windows 11 and Window 10 and Office and support for Remote Desktop Services environments.

Microsoft 365 Apps for Enterprise

This plan provides access to most Office applications including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Access, Publisher. You can install Office on both Windows and Macs, although there's no Access or Publisher available on the Mac. Tablet and mobile versions of Office and individual apps is covered, wherever they exist. You also get 1TB of OneDrive storage, Microsoft Teams for webinars, and access to Microsoft Sway, a digital storytelling tool.

Office 365 Enterprise E1

Geared towards enterprise environments, this plan provides access to Office for the Web apps. Additionally, you get hosted Exchange, SharePoint, Kaizala Pro, Microsoft Stream and Teams services, plus enterprise-specific compliance and support.

Office 365 Enterprise E3

A souped-up version of Office 365 Enterprise E1, the E3 provides added access to most Office applications including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Access, Publisher. You can install Office on both Windows and Macs, although there's no Access or Publisher available on the Mac. You can install Office on up to five devices, and both Windows and Mac are supported. You also get access to Microsoft Bookings and Azure Information Protection.

Office 365 Enterprise E5

This highest level enterprise offering costs $35 a month with an annual commitment and includes everything that's part of Office 365 Enterprise E3. Additionally, you get Microsoft Teams Phone system, Power BI Pro, Office 365 Cloud App Security, and tons of more abilities and options.

Microsoft 365 and Office 365 Nonprofit

These are similar to Microsoft 365 Business and Office 365 E1 and E3 plans. However, these are free or heavily discounted for eligible non-profit organisations.

Office 365 Government Plans

The Office 365 Government plans are mainly for use in the US government, and are similar in structure to the Enterprise E1, E3, and E5 plans with some differences. They are known as the G1, G3, and G5 plans.

Differences and Similarities

Although the Office programs included in most editions and versions of Microsoft 365 or Office 365 are the same, the differences lie elsewhere. 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 to understand better.

When you sign up for any of the Microsoft 365 or Office 365 plans, you get a license to use an updated version of Microsoft Office on your desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone. 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 for Windows, and 2 licenses of Office for Mac.

Additionally, when Microsoft releases an update 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 earlier times, we often had PowerPoint 2007, 2010, and 2013 installed on the same computer even though we did not run them all at the same time.

What is Office 365 Developer?

Office 365 Developer is not really another subscription category although it does include Microsoft Office. 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 Microsoft 365 Enterprises plans (E1 or E3), then you can provision an Office 365 Developer site from the Microsoft 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.

Further Update: MSDN no longer grants access to Office 365.


People Also Ask:

What's the difference between Microsoft 365 and Office 2021?

Microsoft 365 is a subscription service that gives you access to the latest Microsoft productivity tools. There are different plans depending on whether you're using it for personal or business purposes, and whether you're an individual, small or midsized business, large enterprise, school, or non-profit. With Office 2021, you only have to pay once to get the apps for one computer. This is opposed to other versions of Office where you have to keep paying every month or year.

Can you help me choose between Microsoft 365 and Office 2021?

Microsoft's Office 2021 is sort of like a new car. You can either buy it outright or lease it through Microsoft 365. If you go the subscription route, you get the newest version as soon as it comes out. Just like how a new car lease means you're driving a new model every few years, an Office 365 subscription ensures you always have the latest and greatest version of Microsoft Office.

Is it worth upgrading to Office 2021?

If you're stuck trying to decide between Microsoft 365 and Office 2021, it's kind of like picking out a new outfit. Office 2021 is like that plain black dress that you can always count on - it's simple, classic, and always in style. The only downside is that it might be a little pricey upfront. You have to pay for it all at once and there aren't any extra bells and whistles. But if all you need are the basics - Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook - then Office 2021 is probably your best bet.

01 02 03 - Buying and Installing PowerPoint: Microsoft 365 Subscriptions (Glossary Page)

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