Microsoft offers two ways to buy Microsoft Office: the Microsoft 365 subscription plan or a one-time purchase. The latest standalone version of Office is Office 2019, which you might be tempted to buy if you want to avoid subscriptions.
However, we strongly recommend against buying Office 2019 (or older versions like Office 2016). Let’s look at why you shouldn’t buy standalone Office 2019 and the best alternatives you could consider instead.
Why Microsoft Office 2019 Isn’t Worth the Cost
The biggest draw for the standalone version of Office 2019 is that it’s a one-time purchase. It makes sense that you’d want to avoid signing up for yet another subscription, especially if you don’t use all the features of Office. If you’re not familiar, have a look at our Office 2019 overview first.
As it turns out, though, buying Office 2019 isn’t the right move for almost everyone. This is because…
1. Microsoft 365 Offers So Much More
When you buy Office 2019, the basic Office apps are all you get. While this might be exactly what you’re looking for, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) comes with some bonuses that make it a much better value.
Most importantly, Microsoft 365 guarantees you’ll get all updates to Office as they become available. Like Windows 10, Microsoft regularly works on Office to add new features. Office 2019 does include security updates, but when the next major version of Office arrives, you’ll have to pay full price for it again.
Additionally, Microsoft 365 Personal comes with 1TB of OneDrive storage and 60 minutes of Skype credit each month. Even better, Microsoft 365 Family offers these benefits for up to six users individually. Since OneDrive charges $1.99 per month for 100GB of space, the storage alone is a great value.
You also get access to Microsoft support via chat or phone as a Microsoft 365 subscriber.
2. Office 2019 Isn’t Cheap
Home users have three available versions of Office 2019 to choose from. No matter which one you chose, they are licensed for one Windows PC or Mac only:
- Office Home & Student 2019: This sells for $149.99 and includes Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
- Office Home & Business 2019: For $249.99, you get everything in Home & Student, plus Microsoft Outlook.
- Office Professional 2019: The most expensive edition costs $439.99 and includes everything in Home & Business, plus Publisher and Access on Windows only.
Don’t forget that OneNote is free for everyone, so you don’t need Office to get it. Instead of these packages, you can also buy individual apps (such as Word or Excel) for $139.99 each. However, this doesn’t make much sense when you can get Home & Student for just $10 more.
Meanwhile, Microsoft 365 includes all these apps in each plan. Microsoft 365 Personal costs $6.99 per month (or $69.99 per year) and lets one person use Office on all their devices. The Microsoft 365 Family plan costs $9.99 per month (or $99.99 per year) and allows up to six total people in your family to use Office across every platform they use.
When purchased yearly, you could pay for six years of Microsoft 365 Personal before you matched the cost of Office Professional 2019. And the Family plan provides much better value if you have multiple people who need Office. Buying standalone Office just isn’t cost-effective.
3. Office 2019 Has Limited Functionality
In the early days of Microsoft 365, standalone versions of Office, such as Office 2016, were simply snapshots of Office 365 at that time. Thus, you could buy Office every few years to avoid the subscription and keep up with the latest developments.
However, this isn’t the case anymore. Microsoft now prevents Office 2019 users from accessing some of the features found in the Microsoft 365 apps. This includes the Researcher panel in Word, the Designer feature in PowerPoint, and real-time collaboration in Excel.
These limitations extend to the mobile apps. Buying Office 2019 doesn’t unlock full access to the Office apps for Android and iOS/iPadOS.
If you have a tablet with a screen larger than 10.1 inches, the mobile Office app only lets you view files. Smaller devices can edit files in Office apps, but are still missing some features. You need a Microsoft 365 subscription to unlock them all.
While you might not use these functions all the time, getting an inferior product for the price you pay is frustrating.
4. Microsoft Won’t Support Office 2019 for Long
As we’ve discussed, the biggest advantage of buying Office 2019 is that you can use it as long as you want without additional cost. However, Microsoft has changed its support plan with Office 2019 to reduce this period.
Office 2019 will enjoy five years of mainstream support (ending on October 10, 2023), but only two years of extended support after that (ending on October 14, 2025). This is quite a drop from the five years of extended support that previous Office editions offered.
Microsoft is likely doing this to reduce the amount of old software it has to support. However, it means that your purchase has less value, as you’ll need to upgrade sooner to avoid using an unsupported version of Office.
5. What You Have Is Probably Good Enough
If you have Office 2016, Office 2019 isn’t a must-have upgrade. Unless you’re an Office expert, you won’t use most of the new tools anyway. Whether you have Office 2016 or even another office suite (as we’ll discuss below), you can still do what you need to do: create and edit documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.
If that’s all you need to do, why spend money for features you’ll probably never use? You’re better off learning more about Office with online tutorials.
6. There’s No Free Trial
Office 2019 doesn’t come with a free trial. This is strange, as earlier versions came with an evaluation period so you could see if you actually needed the new features or not.
On the other hand, you can try Microsoft 365 Family for a month at no charge. Microsoft’s lack of a similar trial for potential customers of Office 2019 isn’t a make-or-break issue, it’s yet another indication of the lack of value in Office 2019.
The Best Free Alternatives to Office 2019
If you decide to skip Office 2019, you still need a software suite that includes word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation apps. Thankfully, you have some great alternatives that provide these features without costing you anything.
While they might not have every little feature of Office 2019, they’re more than enough for most people.
Did you know that Microsoft offers free online versions of Office apps through the Office Online service? These are stripped-down compared to the desktop offerings, but for drafting a quick paper or spreadsheet, Office Online is plenty good enough.
There’s no offline version, which means it’s not ideal if you often work without an internet connection. However, for casual Office users, it’s a free and simple way to use the service. You just need to sign in with a Microsoft account.
2. Google Docs
Like Office Online, Google Docs is a simplified office suite that’s available in any browser. If you use Google products more than Microsoft’s tools, this option might work better for you. You can use Google Docs offline with a Chrome extension, but it’s more of a last resort feature than something you should rely on.
Want to maximize your productivity with Google Docs? Keep on top of these time-saving Google Docs tips and you’ll make your life much easier.
For a desktop alternative to Microsoft Office, LibreOffice is the best choice. This open source suite comes with tools for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, diagramming, flowcharts, databases, and advanced math equations.
If you need an offline office suite that’s more powerful than free offline tools, look no further. Once you get used to its interface, you’ll probably never need to use Microsoft Office again.
Office 2019: Not Worth It for Most Cases
Before you buy Office 2019, you should try one of the free alternatives. If they don’t work for you, Office 2019 is only a good choice if you satisfy all of these conditions:
- You only work on one computer and don’t plan to get another.
- Nobody else in your family uses Office.
- You never work on your mobile device.
- Missing out on features in Office doesn’t bother you.
- You won’t use OneDrive cloud storage.
- You’re fine with using Office as it is now until the next major release when you’ll pay for it again.
If you disagree with any of the above, Microsoft 365 represents a better value for you. Otherwise, go ahead and buy Office 2019. If you use it until the end of support, having the upfront price spread out over several years is acceptable.
Read the full article: Don’t Buy Office 2019! Here’s Why You May Not Need It