What Is Included In MS Office vs Office Online vs Microsoft 365?

Microsoft Office is the most used suite of computer programs of all time, it has a new major release every 3 years or so, and it includes a slew of applications that you can obtain through a one-time purchase deal (like you used to in previous versions), or through a monthly or yearly subscription (the recommended new way by Microsoft).

So, what products / programs are included in the Microsoft Office suite? what are the different types / options by which you can get them? and how do the included apps differ between Office Online, MS Office on-premises, and the different Microsoft 365 subscription plans?

The on-premises Microsoft Office Suite contains Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. It also may contain -depending on the edition- Publisher, Access, Visio and Project (for PCs only). You can get Microsoft Office desktop programs either by buying a one-time license for the on-premises “Office Home & Student” , “Office Home & Business“, “Office Standard“, “Office Professional” or “Office Professional Plus“, or by subscribing to a monthly or annual plan of Microsoft 365 that has the desktop versions of the Office apps you want, in addition to many more apps & services that are not included in the regular one-time permanent license. As for Office Online, it only includes a set of limited free web apps, accessible through your browser, with no client apps.

Note that the different options / editions of MS Office (namely the free Office Online, the traditional Office on-premises and the cloud-based Microsoft 365) differ by:

  • The model by which you obtain them: free limited web versions vs one-time-purchased client apps vs subscription to cloud-backed & continuously updated apps & services.
  • The number and scope of included apps and services.
  • The price points of each option / edition.
  • The targeted clientele: individuals, families, businesses (SMBs), larger enterprises, educational institutions & charities… etc.

In the rest of this article, I will provide with more details on each included program in the on-premises Microsoft Office suite, then I will walk you through the different options available to you by which you can get access to their functionalities, while also detailing the differences between each of these options / editions, so you can determine which one suites you best.

List Of Traditional Microsoft Office Programs w/ Details Included

In this section, we list the apps included in the on-premises Office 2019 version, that are not to be confused with the free Office App / Office Online, or with the cloud Microsoft 365 apps & services. For those, please jump to the next section.

You’ll find down below a brief summary about each one of MS Office on-premises products:


Microsoft Word is a word processor and document creation software developed by Microsoft.

It was first released on October 25, 1983 under the name Multi-Tool Word for Xenix systems. Then it was released as Word 1.0 under Windows back in 1989, and it was one of the first word processors that offered a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) interface.

Microsoft Word is used for word processing, which includes formatting, manipulating / editing, saving, printing, and sharing of a rich-text-based document. And now it can also be used to collaborate in real-time on the same document by different team members.

It is available on PCs and Macs, as well as on mobile devices, and there is a web version for it as a part of Office Online.


Microsoft Excel is a spreadsheet software developed by Microsoft for Windows, macOS, Android and iOS.

Excel is used for storing & organizing different data sets, running calculations on them & generating reports using graphing tools, pivot tables, and a macro programming language called Visual Basic for Applications.

A desktop version of Excel is available on PCs and Macs, a mobile one on iOS and Android, and a web version accessible through your browser as a part of Office Online.


Microsoft PowerPoint is a presentation program that is now part of MS Office, although it was originally created by a software company named Forethought, Inc.

It was released on April 20, 1987, initially for Macintosh computers only. Microsoft acquired PowerPoint for $14 million three months later. This was Microsoft’s first significant acquisition.

PowerPoint became a component of the Microsoft Office suite, first offered in 1989 for Macintosh and in 1990 for Windows, which bundled several Microsoft apps. And since PowerPoint 4.0 (1994), it was integrated into MS Office development, and adopted the shared common components and a converged user interface. Its market share today is nearly 90% worldwide.

Now, PowerPoint allows you to create great slides for your presentations, with powerful animations & great effects, and -of course- a large selection of templates and built-in graph tools, than can leverage your Excel calculations and reports.

A desktop version of PowerPoint is available on PCs and Macs, a mobile one on iOS and Android, and a web version accessible through your browser as a part of Office Online.


Microsoft Outlook is an email client and a personal information manager from Microsoft, available as a part of the Microsoft Office suite.

Though primarily an email client, Outlook also includes such functions as calendaring, task managing, contact managing, note-taking, journal logging, and web browsing.

The first versions of Outlook were known as Microsoft Internet Mail and News and came together with early versions of Internet Explorer, the first one being included in Internet Explorer 3.0 back in 1996.

Now, you can use the desktop version of Outlook on PCs and Macs, a mobile version on iOS and Android, and a web version accessible through your browser as a part of Office Online.

Access (PC only)

Microsoft Access is a database management system (DBMS) from Microsoft that combines the relational Microsoft Jet Database Engine with a graphical user interface and software-development tools.

Access is a product of the Microsoft Office suite, included in the Professional & higher editions or sold separately, and is available only on Windows PCs.

Microsoft Access stores data in its own format based on the Access Jet Database Engine. It can also import or link directly to data stored in other applications and databases.

IT professionals and power-users can use Microsoft Access to develop apps, using Visual Basic for Applications, like in other MS Office applications.

Publisher (PC only)

Microsoft Publisher is a desktop publishing application from Microsoft, that is meant to be a lightweight competitor to Adobe InDesign in the small & medium size business market, at least on Windows machines.

MS Publisher differs from Microsoft Word in that the emphasis is placed on page layout and design rather than text composition and proofing.

Microsoft Publisher is included in MS Office Professional, Professional Plus, Standard (volume licensing) licenses. You can also get it with most Microsoft 365 subscription plans.

Visio (PC only)

Microsoft Visio (formerly Microsoft Office Visio) is a diagramming and vector graphics software application for Windows PCs and is part of the Microsoft Office Suite.

The product was first introduced in 1992, made by the Shapeware Corporation. It was acquired by Microsoft in 2000.

Visio has two editions: Standard and Professional. They share the same interface, but the Professional edition has more templates for advanced diagrams and layouts, as well as capabilities to make it easier for users to connect their diagrams to data sources and to display their data in graphs.

Project (PC only)

Microsoft Project is a project management software client application, developed and sold by Microsoft. And it is part of the professional and higher editions of the on-premises MS Office Suite.

It helps a project manager in developing a schedule, assigning resources to tasks, tracking progress, managing the budget, and analyzing workloads.

Microsoft Project was the company’s third Microsoft Windows-based application. Within a few years after its launch, it became the dominant PC-based project management software.

Project (the client app) is not to be confused with Microsoft Project Server, the server that powers the Microsoft EPM/PPM (Enterprise Project Management / Portfolio Management) solution, and allows for enterprise-wide collaboration on management of projects and resources.

Please note that OneNote is no longer part of MS Office since 2019, it is now a free standalone app on windows 10 store, and you have the option to install the OneNote 2016 version with Office 2019.

Also, OneDrive, Skype & Microsoft Teams are not included in the Office 2019 version, although you can get them now with just a free Microsoft account as part of the free -and limited- Windows 10 Office App / Office Online.

And please remember that the list we just saw earlier only contains the products included in Office 2019, which is just one of many options / ways for obtaining the Office Suite programs. In the next section we’ll discuss that in details, and analyze the differences between each of these options.

Included Apps In The Different MS Office Options: Office Online vs “MS Office” Editions vs Microsoft 365 Subscription Plans

Free Office Online / Office App

In case you didn’t know, Microsoft has a free (and limited) web version of office apps named “Office Online”, accessible on office.com with just a Microsoft Account (if you don’t have one already, you can get it for free from outlook.com, hotmail.com, or live.com, then head to office.com).

Office Online is Microsoft’s response to the free Google Apps (Google Docs, Sheets, Forms & Slides…etc). Office Online includes, however, many more web apps than Google Apps, like the free web versions of Sway, OneNote, OneDrive, Teams, To Do, Power Automate, Calendar and Forms, in addition -of course- to the web versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook.

You’ll notice that many of those web apps, don’t have a client / computer program in the regular Office Suite (that is why I didn’t mention them in the first section’s list), but you can get the full / premium versions by upgrading from Office Online to a paid Microsoft 365 subscription.

Please remember that Office Online is limited and that its apps are web apps, meaning they run in your web browser, even if they feel like “apps” to you and not like a standard site. You can’t install them on your PC or Mac like you do to traditional Office apps, and they won’t work when you’re not connected to the internet. Also, the storage is limited to only 5Go.

And the Office “App” that you can find included in Windows 10 as well as on Android, serves just as a launcher and an aggregator of your Office Apps files and recent activities, it launches the documents in Office Online or in the appropriate Office on-premises app if you have it.

The free “Office App” does not provide you with the actual Office Apps, Microsoft just added it to Windows 10 to market Office Online since they struggled to promote it in the beginning, and from there they can up-sell Windows 10 users to a paid Microsoft 365 subscription.

MS Office On-Premises Editions

Office 2019 (perpetual & on-premises) editions

MS Office On-premises (the 2019 version) has 5 editions, ordered down below from cheapest to priciest:

  • Office Home & Student (for PC/Mac): includes the core apps only (Excel, Word & PowerPoint), with an option to add OneNote.
  • Office Home & Business (for PC/Mac): includes the core apps mentioned above, in addition to outlook.
  • Office Standard (PC Only): only available through volume licensing (so only organizations will use it), and it contains the core apps, in addition to Outlook and MS Publisher.
  • Office Professional (PC Only): this one includes the 3 core apps, outlook, MS Publisher and Access (the database app). It provides you with all of this without the need for volume licensing. Project and Visio can be included with a premium.
  • Office Professional Plus (PC Only): this one is only available through volume licensing, and it contains everything mentioned above in addition to Skype for Business. Project and Visio can be included with a premium.

They all are a one-time purchase instead of a subscription, and therefore you won’t be able to update them to the latest features / version, unless you purchase the license of a newer version.

Microsoft 365 Subscriptions

Microsoft 365 is the cloud based subscription model to get the continuously updated office apps with the latest features, in addition to many more apps and services outside the scope of traditional office apps.

It was known as Office 365 before Microsoft rebranded it, it serves a larger purpose now as a “subscription for your life”, with an ever expanding list of apps and services, covering a wide range of personal and business needs.

I won’t discuss Microsoft 365 in detail in this article, since I’ve written several articles about it, like this comprehensive FAQ with detailed answers.

Note that Microsoft is really pushing hard to replace the old one-time purchase model, with this relatively new subscription model, and that they will constantly try to redirect you towards it, or up-sell you on your on-premises version.

So let’s just summarize the differences between the different options of the Office Suite in this table:

Office OnlineTraditional On-Premises MS OfficeMicrosoft 365
Included Apps & ServicesFree limited web versions of:
– Excel
– Word
– PowerPoint
– Outlook
– OneNote
– Sway
– Teams
– OneDrive
– To-Do
– Power Automate
– Calendar / Contacts
Client Apps for (depending on the edition):
– Excel
– Word
– PowerPoint
– Outlook
– Publisher
– Access
– Project
– Visio
Depending on the subscription plan, you’ll get one of the 28+ apps and services listed in the following article:
What Is Included In Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) – The Complete List of Apps & Services
ModelFree web apps accessible with a Microsoft Account through office.comOne-time purchased licensesMonthly or Yearly Subscription
Target ClienteleOnline Microsoft Account Holders (Free)Offline License OwnersOnline / Offline M365 Subscribers (they have to go online every 28 days to validate subscription, more on this here)
PriceFree119$-499$5.99$/month – 57$/user/month
Comparison between Office Online vs the traditional on-premises Office vs Microsoft 365.

Well, I sure hope this answers all the questions you had coming in, regarding the apps and services included in each of the options / editions of the Microsoft Office Suite.


I'm a senior CS Engineer from Morocco, working as an Independent Consultant and a part-time blogger.

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