Microsoft 365 vs. Office Desktop Version

The difference between the subscription and desktop versions

The branding and nomenclature between the traditional Microsoft Office for desktop and Microsoft 365 can feel unclear. As you hear about these products, you may wonder, how do they differ and in what ways are they similar?

Luckily, the perspective on these products comes into focus when you consider a few key ideas.

Microsoft's Marketing Challenge Got Desktop Users to Adopt Microsoft 365

It does seem that Microsoft is at times using these two different product names interchangeably to lead consumers to switch from desktop versions of Microsoft Office to the cloud-based Microsoft 365.

The blended approach is also due to product evolution. The lite versions of program apps previously available under the name 'Microsoft 365' have now grown into a cloud experience that includes the full desktop versions.

As you might guess, that's why Microsoft 365 subscriptions are generally more expensive in the long-run than buying versions of Office one time: because you get the traditional Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other programs along with additional cloud features.

The Greater Context of Cloud-Based Environments

Cloud computing adds a new layer to how we think about computer organization. It can be thought of as adding a new drive you can save to but is more than that.

Entire computing functions can also be hosted in the cloud, which goes way beyond thinking of this as an extra storage unit in the sky. In that sense, cloud computing is more like a community of virtual computing that you can opt into.

Some of OneDrive's Moving Parts

OneDrive refers to the entire Microsoft cloud and Microsoft 365 is the portion of that cloud for productivity solutions, one of which is the latest Office suite (the Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Publisher, Outlook, or OneNote software bundle, depending on the plan or subscription you are using).

You can sync many of these productivity tools across different devices. You may be interested in other for your organization or household.

Microsoft 365 Goes Beyond the Traditional Desktop Version

While Microsoft 365 users have access to the full desktop version of Office programs, it also includes access to the latest version of Office at all times, because it is housed on Microsoft's servers.

Also, extra tools are available to subscribers only, such as Microsoft Planner. Also, the mobile versions of Office are more comprehensive and have more features with a subscription.

With a Microsoft 365 subscription, you also get cloud file storage. The amount of OneDrive storage depends on the plan you choose. Those files should be accessible from each of your devices.

The Role of Time in This Name Game

You may be more used to hearing about Microsoft 365, but if not, you likely will be as time goes on. 

If you can suspend the need for exact nomenclature, that is probably your best strategy here. Keep in mind that both Office for desktop and Microsoft 365 are evolving products.

Was this page helpful?