Licensing Microsoft Office
By Martin Edwards
Word, Excel and PowerPoint are typically sold together as Microsoft Office. There are many
options for buying it, which can be frustrating when you just want to get on with your work. So
let’s review the facts without delay!
Computers don’t come with Office
Office is not included when you buy a computer. The apps are there, but won’t work without a
Office isn’t free
Someone might have offered you their ‘spare’ license, but this is usually not legal. You need
It’s available on subscription
Office is available as either a one-off purchase or a subscription. Benefits of the
subscription, known as Microsoft 365, are that:
- You’ll receive every future version as it is released.
- You get 1,000 GB of OneDrive storage to back up your computer
(for non-subscribers, it’s only 5 GB and lacks
- You get Outlook, Publisher and Access.
Business licenses are different
The versions of Office advertised in shops are usually only for you or your family’s
non-commercial use — homework, recipes, posters for the school fete. If you’re self-employed
or otherwise working commercially, you need a business license.
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 need it
Alternative word processors, spreadsheets and presentation applications are available — for
free. They can open files created with Office:
Time to buy? Here are the popular options, with prices as of January 2021:
Buy your chosen edition as a download
directly from Microsoft.
*A subtle complication is that the annual subscriptions for one person allow use by that
person on multiple devices, while the one-off purchase options allow use on just a single PC or
A word of warning
There are many websites selling product keys for Office at suspiciously low prices. As you
might imagine, these keys are typically counterfeit, stolen, or otherwise obtained in ways that
mean they cannot legitimately be used. Be sure to buy Office either directly from Microsoft or
from a reputable retailer like Argos or Currys PC World.