A Complete Guide to Microsoft 365 (Formerly Microsoft Office)

What you need to know about the most popular package of apps in the world

Microsoft Office was a collection of office-related applications. Each application serves a unique purpose and offers a specific service to its users. For example, Microsoft Word is used to create documents. Microsoft PowerPoint is used to create presentations. Microsoft Outlook is used to manage email and calendars. Microsoft has since switched to the Microsoft 365 app, which replaced the separate suite of programs.

What Is Microsoft 365?

Microsoft 365 logo.

The last version of Microsoft Office was Microsoft Office 2019, although the web-based Microsoft 365 is the version that Microsoft would prefer users to adopt. Various versions of the suite have been around since 1988, including but not limited to Microsoft Office Professional, Microsoft Office Home and Student, and various collections of Microsoft Office 2016. Most people still refer to any version of the suite as Microsoft Office, though, which makes distinguishing among editions difficult.

What makes Microsoft 365 stand out from older editions of MS Office is that it integrates all aspects of the apps with the cloud. It’s a subscription service, too, which means users pay a monthly or yearly fee to use it, and upgrades to newer versions are included in this price. Previous versions of Microsoft Office, including Office 2016, didn’t offer all the cloud features that Microsoft 365 does and were not subscription-based. Office 2016 was a one-time purchase, just as other editions were, and as Office 2019 is.

Packages Available

Microsoft 365 has several different versions: The 365 app is a monthly service, but standalone Office apps are still available. Every version has the same general features (that is, all of the same apps are available), and they both work on Mac, PC, Android, iOS, iPadOS, and other tablets. You'll see some differences regarding price, storage, and the number of users, however.

Microsoft 365 Home Plans

The following table shows your options for Microsoft 365 family and personal plans.

  Family Personal 
Price (monthly) $9.99 $6.99
Price (annually)  $99.99 $69.99 
Free trial 1 month None
Users 1-6 1
Apps Access, Clipchamp, Defender, Editor, Excel, Family Safety, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint, Publisher, Skype, Teams, Word Access, Clipchamp, Defender, Editor, Excel, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint, Publisher, Skype, Teams, Word
Cloud Storage Up to 6 TB (1 TB per user) 1 TB

Microsoft 365 Business Plans

365 also has options for businesses, large and small, but it gets a little more granular.

  Basic  Standard  Premium Apps for Business
 Price (monthly) $6.00/user $12.50/user  $22.00/user $8.25/user
 Free Trial 1 month 1 month 1 month 1 month
Cloud Storage 1 TB/user 1 TB/user 1 TB/user 1 TB/user
Apps Excel, Exchange, OneDrive, Outlook, PowerPoint, SharePoint, Teams, Word Access, Excel, Exchange, OneDrive, Outlook, PowerPoint, Publisher, SharePoint, Teams, Word Access, Azure Information Protection, Excel, Exchange, Intune, OneDrive, Outlook, PowerPoint, Publisher, SharePoint, Teams, Word Access, Excel, OneDrive, Outlook, PowerPoint, Publisher, Word
Extra Features None Desktop apps, webinar hosting Desktop apps, webinar hosting, more security, data control, cyberattack protection None

Microsoft Office Plans

Microsoft is still offering limited-function Office plans for both home and business use. These options only require a single purchase, but they are desktop-only and don't have the cloud integration of Microsoft 365 (although they do work with Microsoft Teams).

   Home/Student Home/Business 
Price   $149.99  $249.99
Users 1 1
Cloud Storage None None
Apps Excel, PowerPoint, Word Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Word
Compatibility macOS, Windows 11, Windows 10 macOS, Windows 11, Windows 10

Who Uses MS Office and Why?

Users who purchase a Microsoft Office suite typically do so when they discover that the apps included with their operating system aren’t robust enough to meet their needs. For example, it would be nearly impossible to write a book using only Microsoft WordPad, the word processing app that is included free with all editions of Windows. But it would certainly be feasible to write a book with Microsoft Word, which offers many more features.

Businesses also use Microsoft Office. It’s the de facto standard among large corporations. The apps included in the business suites include those that can be used to manage large databases of users, perform advanced spreadsheet calculations, and create powerful and exciting presentations, complete with music and video.

Microsoft claims that over a billion people use their Office products. The Office suite is used all over the world. 

Which Apps Are Included in Microsoft Office?

Microsoft 365 homepage.

The apps included in a specific Microsoft Office suite depend on the Microsoft Office package you select (as does the price). Here’s a short description of the apps and their purpose:

  • Word – to create documents, flyers, publications.
  • PowerPoint – to organize and manipulate data including formulas, graphing tools, and more.
  • Excel – to store, organize, and manipulate data.
  • OneDrive – to store data online.
  • OneNote – to organize data you collect including handwritten notes, drawings, screen captures, audio clips, and more.
  • Publisher – to create extensive publications, posters, flyers, menus.
  • Outlook - to manage email and calendars, to-do lists, and contacts.
  • Access – to compile and organize large amounts of data.

Microsoft has designed the applications in the suites to work together seamlessly. If you take a look at the list above you can imagine how many combinations of apps can be used together. For instance, you can write a document in Word and save it to the cloud using OneDrive. You can write an email in Outlook and attach a presentation you’ve created with PowerPoint. You can import contacts from Outlook to Excel to create a spreadsheet of the people you know, their names, addresses, and so on.

Mac Version

All Mac versions of Microsoft 365 include Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.

Android Version

Includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint as a unified app; Outlook and OneNote are separate apps. Word, Excel, and PowerPoint can also be downloaded separately.

iOS Version

Includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint as separate apps or a unified Office app, Outlook, and OneNote are separate apps only.

  • What is Microsoft Office Click-to-Run?

    Click-to-Run is the Microsoft Office installation technology that allows you to download and begin using an Office app right away, even before the whole suite is installed. For example, if you try to access a feature before the suite finishes installing, Click-to-Run will begin installing that feature right away. Click-to-Run is available in Microsoft Office 365 and Office 2013 and newer.

  • What is Microsoft Office OneNote?

    OneNote is a part of the Microsoft Office Suite. It's similar in function to Evernote, and OneNote lets users track to-do list items, take notes, and more in a digital notebook interface. Share your OneNote documents or keep them private, and use Word-like tools and functions to organize your work.

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