There are a lot of different versions of Microsoft Office and it can be more than a little confusing to the average consumer. There is the traditional desktop version that you purchase with a one time payment and install on your computer. Office Home and Student 2016 comes with the core office apps – Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and One Note and retails for around $129. If you need Outlook you’ll have to but Office Home and Business 2016 for $229. If you also need Publisher and Access, you’ll have to shell out $399 for Office Professional 2016.
In 2011 Microsoft began offering their Office applications as a subscription based platform branded as Office 365. As long as you maintain a subscription you get updated versions of all of the applications. Once you end the subscription, however, you have nothing. Office 365 Personal comes with Word, Excel, Powerpoint, One Note, Outlook, Publisher, and Access for $69.99 per year or $6.99 per month on 1 computer. Office 365 Home comes with all of the same for $99.99 per year or $9.99 per month and works on up to 5 computers. There are also several Business editions that offer even more options and plans.
What about that free version? Yes, it’s real and there is no catch as long as you have an internet connection. Microsoft offers a browser based version of Word, Excel, Powerpoint and One Note. Browser based means it’s online and you access it through your web browser (Edge, Internet Explorer, Chrome, etc.) You can create and save documents just as the other versions. Microsoft uses their cloud storage service One Drive as the saving point which means your documents will be backed up to the cloud. As long as you have One Drive syncing to your computer you’ll also have a local copy. This free version of One Drive comes with 5 GB of storage. Of course once you create something you can also take it off of One Drive and store it somewhere else like another folder on your computer or a flash drive. The online version of Word is missing some of the advanced formatting features and the ability to mail merge but for the average user these advanced features aren’t important. If you need to write the occasional document or open the occasional Word or Excel file, this is a very workable option.
The online versions can be accessed here: