Microsoft Office Software

Microsoft Office: which version should I buy?

Microsoft Office
Down to work: choose the right version of Office for you

There are now so many different versions of Microsoft Office that choosing between them is tricky. Here, we not only reveal how to work out which version of Microsoft Office is best for you, but whether you should buy it at all.

Should you buy Microsoft Office?

Many people shouldn’t buy Microsoft Office, and for a number of reasons. First, there’s LibreOffice. This is free to download and will never cost you a penny. It also looks remarkably similar to Office from a few years ago, so you may find you prefer it.

Second, Google Docs is also free for personal use, and includes a strong set of word processing, spreadsheet and database tools. If you use Google Chrome, you can also download documents to work on offline. Plus, it’s much easier to share Google Docs documents than it is with Microsoft Office.

Third, you can use Microsoft Office Online for free. This will look 100% familiar and only needs you to sign in with your Microsoft account (or create one). The drawback, as the name suggests, is that you can only use it online: if you want downloadable apps, you’ll need to buy Microsoft Office.

One last thing to consider is that, if you have children of school age, they may be entitled to a free subscription of Office 365. See our “How do I get a free copy of Office for my kids?” article for more details.

Microsoft Office 365 vs Office Home & Student 2019: what’s the difference?

Microsoft Office 365

Head to Microsoft’s Office website and you’ll be heavily pushed to subscribe to Office 365. You pay a fee every month (or every year, which is cheaper) that entitles you to download a number of Office apps, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook.

Office 365 bundles in subscriptions to Skype (up to 60 minutes of calls to mobile and landlines) and 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage. And if you buy for a PC, the deal includes Access database and Publisher layout software.

As it’s a subscription, though, the moment you stop paying you also lose access to all the software and services. All your documents remain intact, though.

Alternatively, you can buy Office Home & Student 2019 for £120, which is a one-time purchase. Note the software only works if you’re running Windows 10 or macOS Sierra or later, and includes full version of Word, Excel and PowerPoint – no Skype minutes, no extra OneDrive storage, no additional apps. Except that Windows users also receive a copy of OneNote.

Which version of Office 365 is right for you?

For home use, there are two versions of Office 365 on sale. Office 365 Personal costs £60 per year or £6 per month, and only works for one user. You can use it on up to five devices, though, including Windows systems, Macs, tablets and phones.

If you want to share your Office 365 subscription then Office 365 Home is the better choice. This allows up to five other people to share your subscription (so six users in total), but don’t worry about inadvertently sharing documents – they will each have their own login and won’t see your personal files.

It costs £80 if you choose the annual payment option and £8 per month if you pay monthly (so £96 in total over a year).

As such, any household that contains two or more people who would take advantage of Office 365’s products and services should choose Office 365 Home.

Where should I buy Microsoft Office from?

If you buy from John Lewis, you can get a £20 discount if you buy any version of Office at the same time as you choose a laptop. We provide a guide to which laptops to buy from John Lewis here.

If you’re buying a subscription on its own, then you have two choices. Buying from a retailer such as John Lewis means it’s still a one-off payment, so it won’t automatically dock your money after a year.

Or you can buy direct from Microsoft, in which case the subscription will be automatically renewed unless you cancel. Here are the links:

Does this answer your questions? If not, please send us a tweet or leave a comment below.

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About the author

Tim Danton

Tim Danton is editor-in-chief of PC Pro magazine and has written about technology since 1999. He enjoys playing with gadgets, playing with words and playing tennis. Email

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  • Microsoft hasn’t put out an office useable version of Microsoft Office since version 2003. Microsoft Office 97 was the last office ‘intense’ version of an office ‘relatable’ product.