Licensing Microsoft Office

By Martin Edwards

Published November 2017, last updated May 2018

Word, Excel and PowerPoint are typically sold together as Microsoft Office. There are multiple options for buying Office, which can be frustrating when you just want to get started with your work. So let’s review the key facts without delay!

Computers don’t come with Office

Office is not included when you buy a computer.

Office isn’t free

Someone might have offered you their ‘spare’ Office license, or said they can get it from their employer, but this is usually not legal. You have to buy your own.

Business licenses are different

If you’ve seen an advert for Office under £120, or for use by up to five people, it’s probably only for you or your household’s personal, non-commercial use — like homework, noting down recipes, or making a poster for the school fete. If you’re doing commercial work, including if you’re self-employed, you need a business license.

Shops may try to sell you a subscription

Office is available as either a one-off purchase or a yearly subscription called Office 365. The benefit of the subscription is that you’ll be kept up to date with new versions as they are released. Also, if you want Publisher and Access for home use, the Office 365 Home subscription is the only way to get them without stretching to a business license.

It’s my experience that major retailers will push you towards buying Office 365, and may not even tell you that a non-subscription option exists. Also, when you see a deal to buy Office discounted along with a computer (at PC World, for example) that’s usually Office 365, too: the price is for one year only. I’ve encountered several customers who didn’t realise they’d bought something that would stop working after a year without continued payments.

It works on Macs

I still hear people say ‘I can’t use a Mac because I need Office’, which hasn’t been true since 1989. Office works on Macs.

You might not actually need it

Alternative word processors, spreadsheets and presentation applications are available — for free. If you have files already created with Office, you can still open them:

License options

Time to buy Office? Here are the most popular options, with typical prices as of May 2018:

UseYearly priceOne-off price
Home / student
1 computer
£59 (365 Personal)£119 (Home & Student 2016)
Home / student
5 computers (family)
£79 (365 Home)
Business
1 user
£114 (365 Business)£229 (Home & Business 2016)

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