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Office 365, Office 2016 - an attempt at clearing the fog

Microsoft has bewildered most of us with all the confusingly named variations on the Office 2016 theme. Here's our (probably doomed) attempt at explaining it all.

This is the bare bones, just the facts version. If you'd prefer a more casual, fun read that covers more of the history and context of all the Office 2016/365 variations, get a free copy of PowerPoint MVP Heather Ackmann's Conversational Office 2016

Subscription vs One-Time Purchase

You can either purchase Office 2016 outright or subscribe to it on a monthly or yearly basis.

Most of the one-time-purchase (OTP) versions are intended for businesses and involve multi-user license agreements, but an OTP version is available for individual users as well.

OTP versions generally have names like Office XXX 2016 and will receive security and bug-fix updates, but will not get any new features until the next major version is released.

Subscription versions are generally named Office 365 XXX and will receive security, bug-fix and new feature updates.

NON-Subscription versions

Office Standard 2016
Includes Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Publisher

Office Professional Plus 2016
Includes Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Publisher, Access
(ie, same as Standard and adds Access)

Office Standard 2016 for Mac
Includes Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote

All of the above are volume licensing products intended for businesses. See Microsoft Office Volume Licensing Suites Comparison for prices and more details.

For the individual user, theres:
Office 365 Home & Student 2016 for PC ($150)
Includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote (note: Outlook is NOT included)

Subscription versions

Volume license/business editions
There's a bewildering array of subscription options for both volume purchasers/businesses and for individuals. Volume license purchasers can choose from:

You'll find more details about these business subscription editions here

Personal versions

Individual users chan choose from:

Office 365 Home

Office 365 Personal

Find more details and purchase/subscription links here.

About those updates

When Microsoft split Office into subscription and OTP versions, they said that subscription users would be in line for new features as they're released, and they've certainly delivered on that promise. Since it shipped, Office subscribers with personal versions have been updated with features like:

Volume licensed version user may or may not receive these updates; it depends on how their IT department has deployed Office (MSI vs Click-to-run installs) and on what group policies IT has set. Short version: WAY too complex for us to tackle here; ask the IT department for more info.

Updates! New features! I want them! Now!

Microsoft turns new features loose gradually, first to a small group of users, then gradually to ever wider groups of users and finally to all current Office 365/subscription users.

You can simply wait and eventually you'll be updated to the new features. If you're anxious to get them NOW, you can enroll in the Office Insider Fast program in order to get new features as soon as they're released. New bugs too, sometimes, but Microsoft has been very good about fixing these quickly. If you'd rather take a more measured approach, you can sign up for Insider Slow, which gives you new features ahead of most of the crowd but after any glitches have been found and fixed, generally.

Ready to take the Insider plunge? Here's how:

About those neat new features

Even though you've got the latest, greatest toys, other people may not. And nobody with an OTP or pre-2016 version of Office will have them. And the new features tend to arrive in Mac PowerPoint later than in the PC version. That AMAZING Morph effect you created might turn into a simple dissolve when your client plays the presentation.

Test carefully out there.

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Office 365, Office 2016 - an attempt at clearing the fog
Last update 15 September, 2017
Created: 21 August, 2017