How Do Microsoft Office 365 and Office 2016 Differ?

PowerPoint Presenter View in Microsoft Office 365


The branding and nomenclature between the traditional Microsoft Office for desktop and Office 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 Office 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 (2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016, for example) to the cloud-based Office 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 Office 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 Office 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.

Office 365 Includes and Goes Beyond the Traditional Desktop Version

These product names can feel particularly misleading because the apps and services previously known as Office 365 are only one part of what you will get with new Office 365 Subscriptions.

While Office 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. Here are a few examples you may be interested in: 

  • 6 Ways Cortana Helps You with Office 365 Documents and Productivity Tasks.
  • Office 365 Users Get Incredible New PowerPoint Features: Morph and Designer.
  • Office 365 Users Get a New Project Management Tool: Microsoft Planner.

Also, the mobile versions of Office are more comprehensive and have more features with a subscription.

With an Office 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

By now, you may be more used to hearing about Office 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. Knowing that the products are distinct yet overlapping will help you cringe less when you see 'Microsoft 365' on a screen associated with the traditional, desktop version of Microsoft Office, and vice versa.

Keep in mind that both Office for desktop and Office 365 are evolving products. For more information on either, check out additional resources with Microsoft Office 2016 Tools and Tips.