What is Office 365, really?

In my day-to-day dealings with people and organizations, there is a common confusion on the term “Office 365.” And that confusion is fed by a few common myths that I have heard repeated by some very smart people in those organizations. So, first, let me dismiss the myths…

  • The first one is that Office 365 is online, in the browser applications only… NO! Office 365 is NOT just Excel Online, Word Online, PowerPoint Online, Outlook Online, and OneNote Online.
  • And the second myth is that the desktop applications are getting deprecated… NO! Microsoft is NOT doing away with the installed desktop applications on Windows and Mac in favor of web based versions.

So let’s get to the question:

If Microsoft is not replacing Office with web versions, then what the heck is all this Office 365 and cloud stuff then?

Primarily, Office 365 is the name of the subscription. You no longer buy the Office applications on disks and install them, then buy the next version, etc. With the subscription you always get the newest version (and much more). As you will read from the link above, there are lots of FAQ’s and other information that explain how this works.

So Excel Online, ET AL. is PART of the Office 365 subscription based platform. Office 365 still includes the traditional Microsoft Office desktop applications on the PC/Windows or the Mac. And they are not going anywhere. When you hear that your organization is moving to Office 365 it does not mean you will ONLY be accessing Office from a web browser.

Office 365 is really Office anywhere, on any device. For example, Office 365 also includes applications on iPhone, iPad, and Android. And it is not just the traditional applications. There are incredible tools such as Forms, Sway, Teams, and for developers the Graph API. It also shifts workloads like Exchange Server for mail and SharePoint server for document management from local IT servers to servers run by Microsoft in the cloud.

So when you hear Office 365, DO NOT THINK GOOGLE DOCS. wlEmoticon-smile.png The online versions of Office are only there to provide an additional avenues to access Office from anywhere, on any device. Per the Office 365 website:

Works across multiple devices

Get the fully installed Office apps on multiple PCs, Macs, tablets, and mobile devices (including Windows, iOS, and Android).

They are not as fully featured and as such you really need to consider when you might use them over using the traditional Microsoft Office desktop applications. Per this site (my emphasis added):

Office for the web (formerly Office Web Apps) opens Word, Excel, OneNote, and PowerPoint documents in your web browser. Office for the web makes it easier to work and share Office files from anywhere with an internet connection, from almost any device. Microsoft Office 365 customers with Word, Excel, OneNote, or PowerPoint can view, create, and edit files on the go. …

The following tables compare Office for the web feature capabilities to feature-rich Microsoft Office desktop apps.

So, if you like your Excel just the way it is, installed on your scientific workstation with a bazillion gigabytes of RAM, you can still run it there if you move to Office 365. What you get with the traditional Office applications is more frequent, seamless and automatic updates from the web. Per the Office 365 website:

Monthly Updates

Get the latest features and capabilities with fully installed and always up-to-date versions of Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint for Windows or Mac, OneNote (features vary), Teams, and Access and Publisher (PC only).

Hopefully, this has helped clear up and dispel the myths. And when you go back to the smart person that has told you otherwise, and continues to insist and tell you otherwise, please send them here. wlEmoticon-hotsmile.png