Have you noticed the name change for Microsoft Office software?

Microsoft Office for Windows is gradually changing the software name to Office 365 . It’s being done slowly, almost by stealth but it’s happening.

Keen eyed readers have noticed a gradual change on the Microsoft web site and software.  We first mentioned it back in August 2018 but the software name change to Office 365 or Office 365 for Mac is more obvious now.

The name change is necessary because the features in Office 2016 for Windows (single-payment, perpetual licence) have become so different to Office 2016 for Windows with an Office 365 subscription.

Office 365 customers have received a lot of new and changed features not available to non-subscribers.  Those Office 365 additions and changes are detailed in Office 2016: the real startup guide.

Microsoft had been calling the subscription version a mixture of things like Office 2016 for Windows with Office 365, Office 2016 subscription for Windows etc.

Now it’s Office 365

Redmond has settled on ‘Office 365’ to describe Office for Windows with an Office 365 subscription.  Here’s an example from an Excel support page:

‘Excel for Office 365’ is separate from ‘Excel 2016’ which is the fixed price/fixed feature software (as are Excel 2016 for Mac, Excel 2019 and Excel 2019 for Mac).

The subscription version of Office is now called:

Office 365

(the ‘Windows’ is implied)


Office 365 for Mac

With the components named like this:

Word for Office 365, Excel for Office 365 etc.

(again Windows seems to be a given)

Or the clumsy Mac version (2 x ‘for’ ??) …

Word for Office 365 for Mac

As usual, Office for Mac hasn’t caught up with the latest Microsoft memo,

It’s likely it’ll be shortened to ‘Word 365’ and ‘Word 365 Mac’ in many cases.

Office 2016/2019 vs Office 365

The change to ‘Office 365’ software distinguishes the evolving subscription software from the fixed price/fixed feature versions of Office.

Office 2019 perpetual licence (and Office 2016 perpetual before it) are now clearly named differently to the subscription software.

Is Office 365 software or a subscription?

Office 365 is now the name of both a subscription plan AND software, but it wasn’t that way until the latter part of 2018.

Originally the name Office 365 wasn’t attached to any software, despite what some people thought.

Office 365 was, and is, the marketing name for a variety of subscription plans and services. As part of those plans (like Office 365 Home or Personal) you get access to Office software for Windows or Mac.

There was no ‘Office 365’ software, just Office 2016 (Windows or Mac) with some extras for Office 365 subscribers.

Now the ‘Office 365’ name has been extended to the Office software for Windows and Mac.

Did we say ‘software’?  We mean ‘service’

Microsoft’s intention is to get customers thinking about Office as a service not software.

The idea is buying ‘Office 365’ gives you access to Office services across many platforms (Windows, Mac, browser, tablet, smartphone, camel, whatever).

That’s part of the thinking behind the recent change in Office 365 licencing from a ‘per install’ to a ‘simultaneous use’ basis.


If you’re head is spinning a little, that’s OK.  Those of us who closely watch Microsoft Office are aware of these changes.  Most people, who have a life beyond MS Office, will rightly be confused by all this license, branding and marketing stuff.

Be very clear about which version of Office you are using before asking for help in a web search, forum or direct from Microsoft.   Check the File | Account pane to see if Office is fixed or subscription and the current version you’re using.

 On the Mac go to File | About …

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