Most of us are drowning under a sea of subscription services, whether they be streaming platforms, cloud storage, phone plans, or anything else. However, there is one right now that is a shockingly good deal, and might even save you money: Microsoft 365.
Microsoft 365 used to be called Office 365, and its primary purpose is access to the traditional library of Office productivity applications. You get Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and so on, but Microsoft has also added more services and applications to the package over the past few years. Now it has a grammar checker, a video editor, cloud storage, and a whole lot more.
I know dedicating an entire article to praising a product or service can seem like unlabeled sponsored content. To be clear, no one at Microsoft is paying me to say this, I don’t work at Microsoft, and I am not financially invested in Microsoft. I’ve just been a paying subscriber for Microsoft 365 for a few months now, and I think it’s pretty cool.
Office, but Not How You Remember
I’m firmly in Generation Z, so I grew up using early-2000s versions of Word and PowerPoint at home and school — the venerable Clippy is a memory, but a faint and distant one. Like many people, I transitioned to using Google Docs when it started to become popular, but I kept LibreOffice around for when I needed to open Office files. If you’re also in the camp of “haven’t seriously used Excel since 2011,” there’s a lot to talk about.
Microsoft 365 includes complete access to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, and if you hate subscriptions, you can still buy the “Home & Student” bundle for $150 that lets you use those apps on one Mac or PC. However, the subscription includes those three apps, and full access to the mobile versions. There’s also the web versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, used for viewing and editing documents from OneDrive cloud storage. Between all those different versions, you can work on your stuff across anything you own.
There are some minor catches with each different version of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint — some features come to one platform before the others, the web apps sometimes can’t handle complex formatting, and so on. However, all of them are generally a better experience than Google Docs in the browser, no matter where I’m working. The Mac versions of Word, PowerPoint, and Excel are excellent, with more native integration and expected keyboard shortcuts than Google’s apps. The Windows apps are decent, though Microsoft isn’t done overhauling them to match Windows 11.
Office might shine the brightest compared to Docs when using a tablet. Let’s take the word processor for example — compared to Docs, Word on the iPad has more formatting options (especially for tables), more layout settings, the ability to draw on top of pages, and more. Both apps cover all the basics, but Word is a more complete package.
Microsoft’s apps were also far better on Android tablets than Docs for a long time, even though Android is made by Google, but Google has been catching up. If you need to get work done on an iPad or Galaxy Tab, there’s a good chance Microsoft 365 could make your life easier.
The Extra Stuff
Microsoft 365 isn’t just Office, though — the other main selling point is 1 TB of OneDrive storage, or 6 TB of storage for family plans (1 TB per person). OneDrive has all the typical cloud storage features, like desktop sync for Mac and Windows, sharing files with other people, and so on. If you’ve used Google Drive or iCloud, you won’t notice much of a difference.
More recently, Microsoft has been building out the photo and video backup features, making OneDrive closer to Google Photos or iCloud Photos. You can install the app on any Android phone or iPhone to back up your media to the cloud, though the iPhone app only backs up when you have it open, due to Apple’s limitations. The feature isn’t quite as good as Google Photos — I can’t search for “dog” and see all the photos of my dog, like I can with Google’s service — but it’s good enough for my needs. Also, there’s no (official) desktop Linux support, which is a bummer.
Microsoft 365 also unlocks premium features in Microsoft Teams. While the free version limits group calls to 60 minutes and 100 participants, the subscription pushes that to a maximum of 30 hours and 300 participants. The subscription also includes more features in the Clipchamp video editor, which is now pre-installed on most Windows PCs, and available as a web app on other platforms. Clipchamp is more intended for creating short clips for social media than home movies, but it’s a helpful inclusion.
The subscription includes Microsoft Editor as well, which is Microsoft’s version of Grammarly. It can improve your spelling and grammar on websites through a browser extension, and Microsoft 365 unlocks extra (optional) checks for vocabulary, punctuation, and conciseness. I’ve been using it for a few months as I write articles for How-To Geek — much like Grammarly, it’s great for catching obvious errors like double spaces, but it will occasionally make incorrect suggestions.
There’s even more services and features packed into the subscription, including a private Teams instance on the family plan (essentially giving you a super-charged family group chat), no advertisements and more features in the Outlook mail service, the Safety app for families, premium features in the upcoming Microsoft Designer app, and a whole lot more.
At What Cost?
In summary, Microsoft 365 has all the Office apps for multiple platforms, a grammar checker for your browser, a video editor, 1 TB of cloud storage (each for up to 6 people on the family plan), photo and video backup for your phones and tablets, more features on Outlook.com better group video calls in Teams, and more. The final total? $6.99 per month in the United States, or $69.99 per year. The family plan supports 2-6 people, and costs $9.99/mo in total or $99.99/yr.
It’s hard to overstate how wild of a deal that is. Monthly pricing on the family plan is the same price as Netflix Basic, $5 less than a month of Amazon Prime ($14.99), and the same price Spotify Premium for one person ($9.99).
The most comparable alternatives to Microsoft 365 are probably Google One and Apple iCloud. However, the value proposition with iCloud is much different — the cloud storage is cheaper (you can get 2 TB for $9.99/mo), but it has features that Apple locks out of other services, like background cloud backups on iPhone. Google One is more cross-platform, but mostly just serves as extra storage for Google Photos and Drive — Docs already has most features available for free. Microsoft 365 gives families much more storage for the same price, though. The 2 TB plan is $9.99 per month, which requires everyone in your family to share that pool of 2 TB, while Microsoft 365 offers 1 TB for each person at the same monthly price.
For me, the one-person plan is a cheap way to store my important files, photos, and videos in the cloud, while I also get a few productivity apps as a bonus. As long as the pricing doesn’t go up significantly, it might just be the best tech subscription around.
Microsoft 365 Personal
Microsoft 365 includes access to Office apps, 1 TB of OneDrive storage, premium features in Microsoft Editor and Clipchamp, and much more.
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