How-To Geek

What’s the Difference Between Office 365 and Office 2013?


After the hubbub surrounding the release of Windows 8 had died down, Microsoft had another software staple to unleash – the latest version of Office. But this time things are a little different from previous years. There’s not only the choice between Home and Professional to make, but also the Office 365 and Office 2013 variants; but what is the difference?

Put simply, the difference between the two different versions of the office suite is that one is owned outright while the other is rented. This is the arrival of software as a service that Microsoft has been building up to for so many years.


Office 2013

While there are many similarities between the 2013 and 365 strands of the Office family, it is Office 2013 that should be regarded as the natural successor to Office 2010. This is software in the traditional sense. You buy it for a one-time fee, install it, own it; it’s yours.

As with most software, you are entitled to install Office 2013 on one computer (unless you buy more than one copy, that is) and as has been the case in the past, there are several versions available which include different Office programs.

Clearly anticipating confusion – and it’s hardly surprising really – the Office web site includes not only a breakdown of what each of the different editions of Office 2013 includes, but also a FAQ which explains, among other things, the difference between 365 and 2013.


There is the usual raft of suite versions to choose from starting with Office Home and Student 2013. For $139.99 this includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, but if you also want to be able to use Outlook you must look to Office Home & Business 2013 for $219.99.

Top of the range is Office Professional 2013 which, for $399.99, also includes Publisher and Access. Suite components can also be bought as individual apps for $109.99, which the exception of OneNote which costs $69.99.

What’s New?

Office is a piece of software that is often criticized for the small number of changes between versions. As is to be expected, the suite boasts the Modern look of Windows 8 and features touch screen support. But there are other new options as well.


There is a strong focus on online work, with all areas of Office including collaboration, sharing or cloud options – files can be saved directly to SkyDrive, for instance. Many of the changes are quite cosmetic, with Word gaining a new reading mode and Outlook benefiting from a much cleaner look that ever before. Social networking integration is also included, as one might expect.

Excel users can take advantage of improved pivot tables as well as suggestions for charts that are best suited to different types of data. There are also time-saving touches such as Flash Fill which aims to speed up data entry by noticing lists and patterns in the data you enter and autofilling for you.


Office 365

In many respects, the big news for Office is Office 365 – this is where the big changes are to be found. Rather than buying software to keep, here you pay a monthly or annual subscription; essentially renting the software.

But this is far from being the only difference. While Office 2013 can only be installed on one computer, Office 365 can be used on up to five PCs (and Macs) for one price. If you are a business or professional user, you can use Office 365 Small Business Premium.


If you like this approach to software, Office 365 can be yours for $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year. Whether you are working with one PC or five, you pay the same price, so this is great option for households with several computers.

There’s a strong online focus with Office 365 and a subscription also includes 20GB of SkyDrive storage and, perhaps unsurprisingly following Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype, 60 minutes of Skype calls per month.

Try Before You Buy

Anyone who was interested in the regular desktop version of Office had the opportunity to try out the Office 2013 Consumer Preview, but this is no longer available. However, it is possible to try out Office 365 completely free of charge for a month so you can see how like it. While the idea of online software is nothing particularly new, moving to an online version of Office is something of major transition that you might want to test drive before committing to.


Despite the fact the trial is free, you have to provide payment details just in case you decide to keep using it – pop a reminder in the calendar to avoid getting charged if you are just trying it out for the curiosity’s sake.

Benefits and Drawbacks

If there is one thing to be said in favor of Office 365 it is that it has the potential to save you a great deal of money. Were you to buy the cheapest version of Office 2013 for two computers, it would cost you $278.98 – almost three times the price of opting for Office 365.

The added extras such as the SkyDrive integration are nice touches and are likely to prove enticing for businesses who might use it for collaborative purposes.

While we can expect to see updates released for Office 2013, new features and updates are going to be released for Office 365 more frequently, and many are likely to be exclusives.


For those occasions when you find that you are working on a computer other than one of the five you have installed Office 365 on, you can make use of Office on Demand. This feature is a nice touch which amounts to being a temporary Office installation that can be used anywhere.

If you are working in an internet café and want to make use of your purchased software you can do so by streaming it to the computer you are using. Streaming in this way can be a little slow – much like the installation of Office 365 on the whole.

It’s interesting to note that it is not possible to opt to subscribe to a single application. You might only be interested in Word, but you can’t rent this on its own. This means that some users may feel as though they are paying more than necessary for software they are not using fully.


But whichever route you decide to go, if you make the jump to one of the latest incarnations of Office, you will have the new UI to work with, complete with inexplicably capitalized menu options.

What do you think of the redesigned Office interface and the feel of the suite in general?

Does the idea of renting software sit comfortably with you, or do you view it more cynically? Let us know your opinion.

Mark Wilson is a software fiend and a fan of the new, shiny and intriguing. Never afraid to get his hands dirty with some full-scale geekery, he’s always trying out the latest apps, hacks and tweaks. He can be found on Twitter and Google+.

  • Published 02/8/13

Comments (38)

  1. Smokex365

    I like the idea of Office 365 (I’ve been using and enjoying the Consumer Preview) but I wish you could have a little more flexibility in your purchasing options. I mainly use Word and Powerpoint but may use Excel. The other apps I have no use for. It’d be nice to pay something like $3/$36 for those 3 apps alone with the chance to add others if I need.

  2. TechnoGeek

    The capitalized menus are also present in Visual Studio 2012. Interesting trend here… not that I personally give a care what the menus look like, but I’m sure others do. Maybe someday CAPITALIZED MENUS will be THE NORM and everyone will be USED TO IT and it WON’T LOOK SO WEIRD anymore.

    We’ll see.

  3. Macro Hard


    Microsoft sees us as nothing more than cash sheep who need to be fleeced of our money and then herded with no other alternatives than to feed on their offerings. It’s business as usual for Microsoft where we “sheep” will be paying for Steve Balmer’s golden parachute. (Or should I say platinum parachute since platinum is even more expensive?)

    The thing is, you DON’T need this stuff. NONE OF IT!!!

    There are tons of free alternatives even for businesses! And just because something is free doesn’t mean it’s bad. And just because something doesn’t come from Microsoft doesn’t mean that’s bad either! Of course, I’m not saying everyone should stop using Windows and mover over to Ubuntu (although I would encourage it). I’m saying there isn’t one single thing in Microsoft Office that ANYONE “needs.” Not Office 2013 and certainly not Office 365!

    Nice info though. But can HTG PLEASE stop being such fan boys of Microsoft and get back to being true Geeks? I mean, don’t you think real geeks will always have an alternative to the status quo? Or is everyone here just a bunch or NERDS?! (Subtle difference, I know. But a difference nonetheless.)

  4. Mike

    Pretty gutsy…considering there’s an alternative out there. I get the feeling M$ is putting all their eggs in two baskets. Personally, I haven’t used a M$ Office product in years. Why pay when you can get = > for free.

  5. andrea johnson

    There is a severe flaw in your thinking. Yes, one year of Office 365 would cost $99 but how many update their office software every year? I am still working my copy of Office 2007. Nearly six years now. Under your assumption, the cost would not only be $99 a year but also $99 for each subsequent year as well. And I have no plans of moving to a new version.

    So for seven years, $693 for Office 365 vs. Office 2013 at $278.98 – it’s a no brainer. I don’t plan on moving but for those not comfortable with the free alternatives, they would be better off going with Office 2013.

  6. DiAnne

    I’ve tried the free alternatives and I’m always significantly happier with the paid version of Office. I skipped version 2010 but will do this one.

    Outlook is an absolute priority, so I’m torn between the rental or the midgrade purchase.

    Has anyone heard if there will be discounts with an .edu email as has been the case in the past?

  7. DiAnne

    Okay, I discovered that there is indeed “Office 365 University” which would save me a considerable amount of money. Yay for paying tuition!

    Now here’s a question for anyone who has actually used this newest version of Word. Are there going to be compatibility issues if I create a Word 2013 document if I share the document with someone who only has Word 2007? (There were problems with 2007 trying to share with 2003, but that’s the only time I recall it happening.)

    I looked on the MS website and the only compatibility pack information I could find still only dealt with Office 2003 and previous. I’d appreciate any input.

  8. William Henry

    I have Office 2010, and I do not see any notable differences between the 2. I have been so aggravated that Excel can’t even do engineering notation directly. Less costlier calculators can perform more complex functions with very little tweaking. Excel 2013 does not have engineering notation and it still operates like 2010. The one Word feature that is a plus, a user can strip a PDF document and edit contents, so all PDF documents now should be locked if you want to keep exclusive rights. I have 20 more trial days left, and it is not really impressible as advertised. I would like to see Front Page revamped and give it a ribbon interface.

  9. William Henry

    Dianne the incompatability issue was 2003 or later Word users could not read documents created by 2007 or 2010, mainly because 2007 and 2010 documents were given an extension DOCX. I have been able to read old Word documents including PDF documents using Word 2013 and there is no problems except the PDF documents sometimes get loaded as tables, but they are editable and can be saved with the Word extension. Good Luck with your studies

  10. michel

    “I’m saying there isn’t one single thing in Microsoft Office that ANYONE “needs.” ”

    grow up. First, how the hell do you know what people need? Second, as a working writer who works with real newspapers and other publishers, I need MS Office, just as everyone else in the business does.

    calm down. It’s software. no one’s forcing anyone to use it. Those of us who need it and find it obviously superior to every other option will continue to do so.

  11. TWRuble14

    If I did not get these for free from Microsoft through school, I would not use them. There are great alternatives that are all free and incredibly easy.

    With that, I would be tempted to purchase OneNote as a standalone. Not for the single license per. It is a great application for organizing anything and everything. Very convenient for school, screenshots, organizing receipts, recipes, etc. and link them between all my computers and my phone. Multiple PCs, I would not spend $70 for each.

    Outlook is annoying at best. Access is nice, but not really a necessity for the price. Excel needs to spell-check. Publisher is nice to have, but unnecessary on the whole.

  12. Nina

    Re “I’m saying there isn’t one single thing in Microsoft Office that ANYONE “needs.”

    That statement is just wrong. I’m a freelancer, working with institutions who use MS Office, and if they need something created with Access, I can’t do it in some other program that looks like Access, I need to use Access. Same applies to Publisher.

  13. Pratyush Nalam

    @William Henry, Front Page was transformed into Expression studio which has now been folded into Visual Studio

  14. Marcia Smyth

    I realize MS is a profit making company, we all have that right to be but since computer technology is a must today it stinks that MS is as greedy as it is. I am going for every alternative I can from now on.

  15. Melanie

    Like others, I also have to use mainstream software to share my files with other entities. My concern…how secure are files in the cloud…or sky?

  16. le_flyer

    I do not want everything on the cloud as an individual. I see where in a business environment this would be useful. However, I want my software on my PC. I ike some of the new features of Office 2013, however, it cannot customize the background – only GRAY!

    The new look and feel of Office is good. I still do not understand by MS took the start button away from the start up screen. You do not need tiles on a desk top PC!!!!!

  17. Bob Scott

    Everybody seems to skirt around a major difference between these two, as I understand it. Office 365 REQUIRES internet access and if you are not connected, you can’t use the program. So then you have to have license to BOTH programs to have an offline option, increasing cost, not decreasing.

    For those of us that live in the country with slow internet at best, we don’t have the options you do in tech connected cities.

    Have I misunderstood the capabilities?

  18. Rick Bishop

    Since 1997 I have use MSOffice. I have tried ALL the free alternatives and they don’t match up. A couple come close. When I first started working with Office 2013 as a beta tester, it annoyed me. But, after a time (3 months), the changes make sense. The Ribbon is a lot friendlier and more to the point, more customizable than with 2007 and 2010. Each application in Office 2013 is better. But, if you have Office 2007 or 2010, there is no real need to upgrade until support for those editions is dropped, by which time, Office 2020 will be out and be strictly voice operated, as will Windows 2020, which will come as a ROM Card on the new Credit Card sized drives (in thickness as well as length and width) that use photonic memory cells and are written to by light photons. These new drives will interact with all new electronic hardware, TV’s, Microwave Ovens, Automobiles, etc. The card will hold approximately 20 terabytes of info and gamers will have special systems that can use ten such drives in a parallel configuration.

    This is all providing some Chuclelope (or group of them, they run in herds) hasn’t blown up the planet …

    Nice article and informative for of us who have grown weary of all who tend to think Microsoft is the Anti-Christ. Thanks for the posting HTG.

  19. cam2644

    If you like paying out cash then that’s your choice but the open source Libre Office Suite would easily satisfy most people.Zoho can’t trumpet itself like Google but for online office requirements it’s probably the best.

  20. cr

    Ok Marcia, so what are you going to use?

  21. rKiller

    I am happy with my MS office 2010

  22. Loren

    It might help to categorize the users.
    1. Power users. Programmers, geeks, et.
    2. Big companies
    3 Small companies
    4. Schools, students, trainers
    5. Home users
    The needs of each group are quite different. I am a home user, a small business user and I help others learn to use the computer. In all of these I use Word a lot and Excel occasionally. In my small business I have way too much data to use a “cloud” without paying an arm and a leg.
    I live in the city with High speed Internet access and it still fails occasionally but too often to depend on using an “on line” office suite.
    With Windows 7, MS dropped the free Works program in favor of a “Trial” version of Word that required you to have Internet connection in order to use it. That really sucked for home users. Too bad MS dropped the Works program but I understand the economy reasons for the decision.
    The compatability problem has always been around. Files created on a newer version of most programs cannot be read by older versions. Word did not have this problem until 2010 when it created the DocX format. I just set Word on all my computers to default to the standard Doc format & then my files can be read by any older version of Word. But for Power users who use features only available in DocX, this does not work.
    But no one mentioned that the older versions of Word can download a compatability reader for the docx format.
    This compatability problem is much worse in Adobe and Corel porograms. However most newer versions willl save in previous formats with a loss of new features. Anyone that complains about compatability just needs more education.
    For the home user, there are alternatives. Open Office works well. The new Wordpad also works fine for home users. The old Works was great if you can get a copy of it.

  23. Krsi

    Dear Friends,

    I was a huge fan of microsoft. Even when richard stallman said that they are corporates chargig for every f###ing software they own. I didnt believe. but now they r trying to makeus pay every uear for theor office…S8888….don’t fall for them ise open software…try free softwares instead…Even theoir windows 8 sucks…i have installed in my 3 machines…they are not mush worth it…Windows 7 is good…Microsoft should now start their descend…

  24. wgr

    Does Office 2013 and its Excel have floating toolbars?

    I have never forgiven Microsoft for doing away with them and still use Excel 2003 for many things.

    The 2010 Ribbon and its fixed interface suck on the big screens we now have. You are forever swishing the mouse to get from one end of the screen to the other and everything take more clicks as you go through multiple levels to get to the function you want. The small concession of the customizable Quick Access Toolbar, which is fixed in the upper left corner, is still the farthest point from where you want to use it, just doesn’t cut it.

  25. Mike

    With office 365, if I don’t have net access, am I SOL, say on a plane?

  26. joe

    It is the same difference as either buying a car or leasing one. ‘Nuf sed.

  27. DiAnne

    Loren – I was the one who asked about the compatibility issue. I’m quite aware of the option for a compatibility download, which I mentioned. However, since I send my work to 6 different options, I do not want to force them to download software just so they can view my work. Because of that, I’ve saved my work in “compatibility mode” (i.e. 2003’s “.doc” type), but by now, most offices HAVE upgraded to at least 2007, but few will have upgraded to 2013, so I don’t want to finally save my files in the new version just to have them ask me what is wrong with them. As I said, the website really only mentioned a compatibility download for 2003 and before, so I don’t anticipate this to be an issue, but the website doesn’t make it easy to find the information.

    When reading the article, I didn’t see anything that led me to believe that having the 365 version meant you could only use the software via Internet. I got the impression that you need the Internet to download the software and then it is on your computer. You CAN use it to save things to the cloud but you can also work offline and choose to send to the cloud only when you want. Since two people in this thread have mentioned thinking it is only Internet-based software, I hope that I didn’t read it wrong. I definitely will not use any Internet-only based software.

  28. Jory

    Mike brings up the issue that I also have – how do you use the software if you don’t have an internet connection?

    I love Outlook even though I have tried various other programs, free and not. One thing I really miss from Outlook 2003 is coloring the mails that come in according to rules you create (like personal, business, etc) so with a full inbox you could very quickly get a handle on what you have waiting and where from and how important (to you) it may be. I wish Microsoft would put that back into Outlook. (or if I could ever find a nice to look at, polished piece of alternate software that does that).

  29. Kenny S

    Kingsoft office free has word excel and powerpoint alternatives and is good. Office 2013 is a monolithic peice of garbage

  30. DL

    I was talking to a sales guy at Staples and he said the Office 2013 release now includes the ability to not only produce .pdf but also make edits. This would eliminate the need for Acrobat perhaps. Do you know if this is a feature? Thanks for the post.

  31. Davey126

    Office 365 does not need internet access except for activation, renewal (after subscription expires) and incremental upgrades which MS promises to deliver frequently. Oh yes – and if you leave Skydrive as your default storage location.

  32. IanRG

    I can confirm that there is absolutely no requirement to be on the net whilst using Office 365. I have used it on a plane.

    As Davey126 points out it does need periodic access. Even if you keep your files in Skydrive, so long as you have the files in you sync folder you can work on these till you get access.

  33. David Chandler

    It’s clearly high time for the world to wake up to Libre Office (the most active “fork” of the Open Office project. Download here:

  34. tagyawat2003

    The Office365 looks like a good option if you’re in a small office/group of students consisting of more less 10 computers. With microsoft releasing a new version of MSoffice every 3 years, you will only pay $600 for all 10 computers instead of $1399 if you buy the full suite. You will only pay for half the amount before a new version comes

  35. ron

    I had a nice long detailed reply to several question, but your stupid site lost it because of too many links.

    Short form, there is a simple fix for the upper case tabs shouting at you

    Calming Down the Grandpa in Office 2013 – Fix UC Tab – Upper Case Tab
    Graphic instruction for fixing the all upper case tab labels design mistake

  36. Joe

    For the most part, nobody really needs any of this, but all seem to think they do, which is how Gates became the world’s richest man producing lousy buggy software.

    I still have Word-95 (v6) in daily use and it can still do everything I need, and much more besides. Nothing further is required, therefore nothing to buy and $$$ saved which can be put towards other and better things.

    My friends at the ISP tell me that for 90% of their 10s-thousands customers, all they do is internet, email and a little word-processing. In reality, all they need for this is an inexpensive Linux box; but not knowing any better, they go out and spend thousands of $, maxing out the credit card on the latest whiz-bang computers and Windows.

    Wanna laptop? You can get a perfectly good one on ebay for about $200. I have several. If broke down, just go get another.

    There is no need to waste money buying or renting email software. Mozilla Thunderbird, a free download, does the job just fine. I’ve been using it for many years.

    Google Chrome, also a free download, has passed Firefox by and is now the best browser, just my opinion, folks, but shared by many. The only reason I keep the infamous M$$$ Internet Explorer on my system at all is that many sites, which ought to know better, have to have it.

  37. Jack

    Come on guys, the suits @ ms need the money for their bonuses and extra taxes they have to pay now.

  38. Taiwo

    I don’t have five computers to load the office 365 I just purchased. Feel like Microsoft just forced me into renting their product. Alternatives options have some sort of limitations or the other. Just bought a windows 8 laptop, and that’s the only one that requires office on it.

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