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Making sense of Microsoft Office 2016, 2019, 365

Microsoft is notorious for their product segmenting and confusing naming.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, they have multiple subscription services under the banner of “Office 365” — which they are renaming to “Microsoft 365”. These services can include Office software (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook), email hosting (Exchange), or both.

Most Office 365 plans available include Exchange email hosting, with or without Office software included, depending on the plan. But the following three plans are just for the software, without hosting. All of them also include Word, Excel, and Powerpoint for mobile devices.

  • Office 365 Personal: the software, for one computer, for $70/year.
  • Office 365 Home: the software, for six computers ostensibly in the same household, for $100/year.
  • Office 365 Business: the software, for one computer, for $100/year.

For those who want to buy the Office software, rather than subscribe to it:

  • Office Home & Student 2019: the software, for one computer, for $149. Outlook and mobile devices are not included.
  • Office Home & Business 2019: the software, for one computer, for $249. Mobile devices are not included.

What’s the relationship of 2019 to 365? Well, 365 is the subscription. 2019 is general name for the software version, though you probably won’t see it labeled that way if you subscribe. That’s because the software is updated every month (e.g. version 16.33, 16.34, and so on), so that’s the version you see. That means there’s really no one big new version every few years any more, it’s more like one small new version every month.

But they still brand the one-time purchase options like it’s a big new version — 2016, 2019, etc. If you buy these, what really happens is that you still get the monthly updates, until Microsoft cuts you off from new ones (except for security updates, which are still delivered monthly, though those will eventually get cut off too). So, the correspondence is:

  • Office 2008: version 12.x, and 13.x for Entourage Web Services Edition (no longer updated)
  • Office 2011: version 14.x (no longer updated)
  • Office 2016: version 15.0 through 16.16.x (security updates continue to increment monthly, for now)
  • Office 2019: version 16.17 onward (currently 16.35, increments monthly)

Office 2011 was really a big new version compared with 2008, and Office 2016 really was a big new version compared to Office 2011. But Office 2019 isn’t really a big new version compared to 2016 — it’s just a continuation of the monthly updates that 365 subscribers also get, but which 2016 purchasers have now been cut off from. They’re frozen at version 16.16.

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