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Microsoft 365 vs. Office Desktop Version

The difference between the subscription and desktop versions

The differences in branding and nomenclature between traditional Microsoft Office for desktop and Microsoft 365 can be perplexing. When you hear about these products, you may wonder how they differ and how they are similar?

However, one significant change to Office in recent years is that you can now choose between Microsoft 365 and Office 2019. Microsoft 365 is a subscription service that includes enhanced cloud integration and the most recent updates. Office 2019 is a one-time purchase that can be less expensive in many cases, but it does not have any upgrades.

Fortunately, by considering a few key ideas, the perspective on these products becomes evident.

So, which Microsoft Office version is best for you? We’ll highlight what’s different and the same between Microsoft 365 and Office 2019 in this guide to help you decide which is best for you.


The significant difference between Microsoft 365 and Office 2019 is how they connect to the cloud. Both suites include OneDrive, Microsoft’s cloud storage service. However, Office 2019 does not include any OneDrive storage space. You do not have access to online versions of apps such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Microsoft 365, on the other hand, comes with 1 TB of free storage and allows you to edit all of your files online.

Microsoft 365 vs. Office 2019
Both Microsoft 365 and Office 2019 include OneDrive access, but only Microsoft 365 contains 1 TB of free storage per user. (Image credit: Microsoft)

Even if Office 2019 does not work well in the cloud, you can still edit files on the go by using iOS and Android mobile apps. If you don’t pay for OneDrive storage, you’ll have to manually transfer your files between devices, which is far from seamless. You can easily sync your files with Microsoft 365 via the OneDrive cloud.

It’s also worth noting that Office 2019 does not contain all of Microsoft’s office software. Office 2019 includes only the essentials, such as Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Access, OneNote, and Skype. Microsoft 365 has almost every app developed by Microsoft, including newer ones like Microsoft Teams, Editor, and Money in Excel.


There should be no discernible difference in performance between Office 2019 and Microsoft 365 if you use the desktop versions of Microsoft’s Office apps. The desktop apps for both services are essentially the same for the time being. However, this may change in the future as Microsoft 365 users receive automatic updates, and Office 2019 remains unchanged.

What operating system your company is currently using may be one of the essential factors in deciding between Microsoft 365 and Office 2019. Microsoft 365 is compatible with Windows operating systems dating back to Windows 7. However, Microsoft plans to discontinue support for that OS in 2023.

Only Windows 10 and the three most recent versions of Mac computers (macOS 10.15 or later) are supported by Office 2019. So, if your company is putting off a significant upgrade, you may be forced to use Microsoft 365.

That said, Microsoft 365 makes it easier to stay up to date in the future. Microsoft Office 365 is linked to Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure and receives automatic bug fixes and security updates. Microsoft will send security update notifications to Office 2019 users, but you must install these patches manually.

Microsoft 365 vs. Office 2019 2
Microsoft 365 will install updates automatically, whereas you must manually install patches for Office 2019.

The Different Versions of Microsoft Office

Microsoft’s offerings can be, shall we say, perplexing at times. Microsoft Office is no exception. The full desktop version is available for purchase or subscription. Access to their mobile apps for iPhone, iPad, Android, and (in turn) Chromebooks are also included with the subscription option. You can also use a free online version in your browser.

Microsoft 365 (or Office 2019) Desktop

The desktop version of Office is the full-featured version you’re probably used to from years ago. These are the standard desktop applications you install on your Windows or Mac computer. This version is available in two formats:

  • Office 2019: This is the classic standalone app. You pay the upfront payment, get a license, and install it on one Windows PC or Mac.
Microsoft 365 vs. Office 2019 3
Pricing options for Office 2019. (Image credit: Microsoft)
  • Microsoft 365: This is the more recent cloud-based subscription model. You pay a subscription fee on a monthly (or yearly) basis. As long as your subscription is active, you will always have the most recent version of Office, including new updates. The subscription also includes some extra benefits, such as a large amount of OneDrive storage, up to 6TB, a monthly allotment of free 60 Skype minutes, and access to the Office mobile app versions. Also, you can share Microsoft 365 Family with up to 5 people.
Microsoft 365 vs. Office 2019 4
Pricing options for Microsoft 365. (Image credit: Microsoft)

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

Microsoft appears to be using these two different product names interchangeably at times to persuade consumers to switch from desktop versions of Microsoft Office to the cloud-based Microsoft 365.

Product evolution has also contributed to the blended approach. The lite versions of program apps previously available under the name ‘Microsoft 365‘ have now evolved into a cloud experience that includes full desktop versions.

As you might expect, Microsoft 365 subscriptions are generally more expensive in the long run than purchasing individual or standalone Office versions: you get the traditional Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other programs and also additional cloud features.

The Greater Context of Cloud-Based Environments

Cloud computing introduces a new dimension to how we think about computer organization. It is similar to adding a new drive to which you can save files, but it is much more.

The cloud can also host entire computing functions, which goes far beyond thinking of it as an extra storage unit in the sky. In that sense, cloud computing is more akin to a virtual computing community that you can join.

Some of OneDrive’s Moving Parts

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

Many of these productivity apps sync across multiple devices. Others may be of interest to you for your organization or household.

Microsoft 365 Goes Beyond the Traditional Desktop Version

While Microsoft 365 subscribers have access to the full desktop version of Office apps, they also have constant access to the most recent version of Office because it is hosted on Microsoft’s servers.

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

Microsoft 365 subscription also includes cloud file storage. Those files should be available on all of your devices. The amount of OneDrive storage you receive depends on the plan you select.

The Role of Time in This Name Game

You may be more familiar with Microsoft 365, but if you aren’t, you will be soon.

That is probably your best bet if you can put aside the need for precise terminology. Keep in mind that both Office for desktop and Microsoft 365 are in the process of evolving.

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