Tsega Tsega Hawaz, General Manager @ ITSC PLC, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Clear your doubts on Office 365

Office 365 includes Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook. Publisher and Access are also included but are only available on Windows. These are the same full desktop Office applications you’d get if you purchased the standard boxed copies of Office, but they also have the advantage of getting more frequent feature updates. And yes, you can use them offline – your PC or Mac just has to appear online once every 30 days to keep them activated.

Currently, Office 365 Home allows up to six users. Each user will also be able to install Office applications on an unlimited amount of devices. Users can only be signed into six Office applications at the same time, however. This is an improvement from now, where those five users can only install Office on up to 10 devices in total.

What is Office 365?

Office 365 is essentially a Microsoft Office subscription. You can still buy traditional boxed copies of Microsoft Office, but Office 365 is a much better deal.

The family plan, named Office 365 Home, costs $100 per year. For that price, six people can install the latest versions of Microsoft Office on their PCs, Macs, tablets, and phones. Each person gets 1 TB of OneDrive storage, too.

You can download the apps by heading to Office.com, signing in and clicking “Install Office apps.” On a phone or tablet, download the Office apps from Apple’s App Store or Google Play and sign in with your Microsoft account. You can also use the “My Office” app that comes with Windows 10 to sign up and download the apps.

Apps for All Your PCs, Macs, Tablets, and Phones

The boxed copies of Office aren’t a great deal anymore. Office Home & Student 2016 and Office Home and Student 2016 for Mac are separate products, and each has a suggested retail price of $150. If you switch from a PC to Mac or vice versa, you have to buy a new copy.

Meanwhile, Office 365 Home costs $100 per year. Office 365 Home lets five (and soon six) people, each with his or her own Microsoft account, install Office apps on up to ten PCs or Macs (or any combination of the two). Each person can also install Office on up to five tablets and up to five phones.

In other words, with Office 365 Home, you could share ten copies of Office among a household of people for only $100 a year. You would have to pay $1500 for ten traditional Office licenses.

You’ll Always Have the Latest Version of Office

Office 365 is always up to date with the latest versions of Microsoft Office. So, when Microsoft releases Office 2019, you won’t have to pay extra to upgrade. You’ll be automatically updated to the new software. Meanwhile, people who bought Office 2016 will be stuck with the old version, or they’ll have to purchase an Office 2019 license at full price.

Microsoft has been updating the Office 365 version of Office more regularly than the standard boxed version of Office, too. In fact, Office 365 ProPlus users basically already have Office 2019. Microsoft will at some point take this code, put it in a box, and call it Office 2019.

1 TB of OneDrive Storage per Person

Microsoft also includes 1 TB of OneDrive storage for each user with Office 365. In other words, with an Office 365 Home plan, you get a total of 5 TB of space for five users. In October, that will become a total of 6 TB for six users.

That’s an excellent value. It’s a great deal for the storage alone, even ignoring the Office applications.

Dropbox charges $100 a year for 1 TB of space, and that’s just for one account! Buying Office 365 costs the same amount of money every year, but it gets you six 1 TB accounts—6 TB in total—and you also get the Office applications. This would cost you $600 a year from Dropbox.

Google will sell you 2 TB of storage for $100 per year as part of Google One, which is a better value than Dropbox. However, Google’s offering still pales in comparison to Microsoft’s offer of 6 TB of storage plus Office apps at the same price.

OneDrive is now pretty good, too! It’s integrated into Windows 10, which is convenient. You can store a significant amount of data in OneDrive and use the “Files on Demand” feature to only download files to your Windows PC as you need them. Apps are also available for iPhone, iPad, Android, macOS, and Windows 7. You can view your OneDrive files in a web browser, too.

Paying for Office 365 unlocks extra features in OneDrive on top of the storage. You can share links to files and set those link to expire after a certain period, or require a password to view the shared file. You can also restore all your OneDrive files to a state they were in at some point in the last 30 days.

Bonus Skype Minutes

As a bonus, Office 365 includes some Skype minutes. Every month, each user on your Office 365 plan will get up to 60 minutes to place phone calls to landlines and mobile phones around the world.

If you’re prepared to use Skype, you can even save money on international long distance calls thanks to Office 365. It’s just another bonus that makes Office 356 a good value.

How to Save Money on Office 365

While you’ll pay $100 per year if you get Office 365 Home from Microsoft’s website, you can save some money by getting it elsewhere.

Amazon sells a one-year subscription to Office 365 Home for just $80. Amazon also offers a one-year subscription to Office 365 Personal for $63.  These are digital products, too, so you don’t have to wait for shipping. Amazon will give you a key you can enter on Microsoft’s website to activate the subscription.

Why Does Microsoft Still Offer Boxed Copies?

Office 365 is such a good deal that it makes the boxed copies of Office 2016 look like a bad deal. But many people still want to buy boxed copies, so Microsoft still offers them as an option.

The boxed copies of Office have always been kind of expensive, though. For example, the standard version of Office XP cost $479 when it was released back in 2001. Even if you were upgrading, you had to pay $239—and that was just for the entry-level version of Office. Those prices would look even more expensive if you accounted for inflation. It’s not like Microsoft is jacking up the cost of the boxed copies—it’s just been making Office 365 a better deal!

We expect Microsoft to stop producing new boxed versions of Office at some point in the near future. Office 2019 is already on the way, but we’re not sure what will happen after that. Office 365 is the way forward, and it’s a great deal if you need Office—or even just a good chunk of storage.