While users can still purchase the Microsoft Office suite of productivity applications, the company is pushing for a subscription-based future. Today, its Office 365 service takes on the new name of Microsoft 365 -- and though this is mostly a branding exercise, there are several updates that could help workers, students and families get more out of the included apps. AI-powered tools can assist in writing documents and emails, as well as crafting compelling PowerPoint presentations. But Microsoft is also looking to make more of an impact on household devices with 365’s family safety, finance and learning features.
Microsoft 365 comes with the apps you’d expect -- Word, Excel, PowerPoint and more -- and they’re compatible on both desktop and mobile. (The free, web-based version of Microsoft 365 is only compatible on desktop.) The Personal and Family tiers come with one terabyte of cloud storage per user and one hour per month of Skype calls to mobile phones and landlines.
Along with the change in name, Microsoft Editor -- an AI tool which helps users write clearer sentences -- is expanding from a browser extension and is now available in Word and the Outlook web app. PowerPoint’s Presenter Coach can provide feedback on your presentations and will offer grammatical feedback. PowerPoint is also getting an abundance of new templates and plenty of high quality background images and looping animations from Getty Images.
When it comes to household productivity, Word, Excel and PowerPoint are getting learning templates, which could help parents who have suddenly become teachers among the coronavirus pandemic. To-Do will help with chores and groceries, and new visualization tools in Excel will help create interactive overviews of health, finances and -- according to Microsoft -- Pokémon collections. The Family Safety App, which is coming soon, will let parents monitor and control screentime across devices, including Xbox consoles.
At $70 per year, Microsoft 365 could be a good deal for workers who want to stay up to date with the latest features, but for most, a one-time purchase of the Office suite may be a simpler and more affordable option. When it comes to families, a 365 subscription might be a bit more enticing. $100 a year provides the same feature for up to six people, which would save a lot of money for a big household. However, for those on a budget, it’s worth noting that several of Microsoft’s apps -- including Word, Excel and PowerPoint -- are available for free as web apps.