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Microsoft Office for Mac: Microsoft 365 vs Office 2021 buying advice

Wednesday March 8, 2023. 03:27 PM , from Macworld UK

You can run Microsoft Office, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook on a Mac (and on your iPad or iPhone). But it’s not a simple case of installing the application you need and starting to type. You need to choose whether to sign up to a subscription or buy the full version outright. You need to decide whether you need just one application or all of them. And, if you are choosing a subscription package, you need to determine what kind of subscription applies to you.

There are multiple ways in which you can get the Office apps on your Mac. We’ll help you figure out which version of Office for Mac is the right one for you in our complete guide to buying Microsoft Office for Mac.

If you aren’t sure whether to choose the Microsoft Office apps or some free, or cheaper alternatives take a look at our Best Word Processors for Mac and Best Email apps for Mac articles.

Best deals right now

From time to time we see Microsoft software at a discount – usually around Black Friday and Amazon Prime Day. Here are the best Microsoft Office deals we saw for Prime Day 2023:

In the U.S. Prime subscribers can get a Microsoft 365 Personal (Office) 12-month subscription plus a $10 Amazon Gift Card for just $49.99, usually $79.99. That’s a saving of $30. Microsoft 365 Personal incudes Outlook, Word, PowerPoint and Excel. You also get 1TB of OneDrive Cloud storage.

Get Microsoft 365 Personal (Office) for $49.99

U.S. Prime subscribers can also get Microsoft 365 Family (Office) and a $20 Amazon Gift Card. That’s a 12 month subscription with another three months free. It will auto renew at the higher price if you don’t cancel. The Family version doesn’t include Outlook but it can be used by six people.

Get Microsoft 365 Family (Office) for $69.99

If you’re in the U.K. an Amazon Prime Day deal can save you 30% off the price of a copy of Microsoft Office 2021 Home and Student (Mac or Windows version). You can get Office for Mac for £83.99, rather than the usual RRP of £119.99.

It’s a one-time purchase, which means you won’t be tied into a subscription that will be renewed at full price in a year from now.

Get Microsoft Office 2021 for Mac for £83.99

U.K. Prime subscribers can also save on Microsoft 365 Family Office 365 apps, including Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Outlook for up to 6 users. The 12-month deal is £47.99, which is 40% off the usual price of £79.99 a year.

Get Microsoft Office 365 Family for £47.99

How to buy Microsoft Office for Mac: Subscription vs outright

There is more than one way to buy Microsoft Office for Mac. You can subscribe to Microsoft 365 on a monthly or yearly basis, or you can buy the software outright.

The latest version of Office for Mac is available via a Microsoft 365 subscription which costs from $69.99/£59.99 per year or $6.99/£5.99 per month). If you subscribe you benefit from the fact that you always receive the latest updates to the software, continuously, without the need of having to buy the whole program or suite again. The service, previously called Office 365, rebranded as Microsoft 365 in April 2020. Despite the name change and a bunch of upgrades at that time, the prices remain the same.

If you don’t want to sign up for a subscription and would rather own the software outright, you will be glad to hear that Microsoft continues to sell and update the Office 2021 suite. The latest version of Office for Mac for home users is Office Home & Student 2021 ($149.99/£119.99). It includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint. Outlook isn’t included in this version, but since March 2023 Microsoft has started offering Outlook for free, and you can download that on the Mac App Store.

There is also Office Home & Business 2021 ($249.99/£249.99) which is designed for families and small businesses who want the office apps Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. Read about Microsoft Office for Mac 2021 in our guide to the latest version of Office.

Microsoft also offers Office LTSC (Long Term Servicing Channel). Details of how to upgrade to that are on Microsoft’s site here.  Microsoft 365 subscribers get updates every month (though organizational subscriptions can choose to upgrade user accounts either semi-annually, every January and July). 

What is the latest version of Office for Mac?

If you buy the software outright the latest version is Office 2021.

If you subscribe your version of Microsoft 365 your version of Office will be regularly updated with new features. You can check which version is the most current and the latest features on Microsoft’s website here.

Both versions receive security and performance updates. You can find details of the latest version on Microsoft’s website:

Microsoft 365

Office 2021

Price Comparison: Microsoft 365 vs Office 2021 for Mac

With so many options around, the pricing varies depending on the type of license you want and how you want to pay. We’ve broken it all down in our table below.

Microsoft 365 prices: subscribe here

Subscription typeAnnual costMonthly costMax number of usersMicrosoft 365 Personal$69.99/year (£59.99/year)$6.99/month (£5.99/month)One personMicrosoft 365 Family$99.99/year (£79.99/year)$9.99/month (£7.99/month)Up to six peopleMicrosoft 365 Business Basic–$5 per user month (£3.80 per user per month) for a yearPer userMicrosoft 365 Apps for business–$8.25 per user per month (£7.90 per user per month) for a year)Per userOffice 365 Business Standard–$12.50 per user per month (£9.40 per user per month) for a yearPer userMicrosoft 365 Business Premium $20 per user per month (£15.10 per user month) for a year)Per user

Best Prices TOday

Microsoft 365

Price When Reviewed:


Best Prices Today:

€69 at Microsoft

Office 2021 prices

Home and Student$149.99 / £119.99 Buy from MicrosoftN/A from AppleOne person, one user, one MacHome and Business$249.99 / £249.99 Buy from MicrosoftN/A from AppleOne person, one user, one MacWord$159.99 / £149.99 or $6.99/£5.99 per month Buy from Microsoft Buy from AppleOne Mac (or PC)Excel$159.99 / £149.99 or $6.99/£5.99 per month Buy from Microsoft Buy from AppleOne Mac (or PC)Powerpoint$159.99 / £149.99 or $6.99/£5.99 per month Buy from Microsoft Buy from AppleOne Mac (or PC)Outlook$159.99 / £149.99 or $6.99/£5.99 per monthFree version available to Mac, iPad and iPhone users
Buy from Microsoft Buy from AppleOne Mac (or PC)

Best Prices TOday

Office for Mac 2021: Home & Student

If you are a PC user there is also Office Professional 2021 for $439/£419, but there is no Mac version of this suite. More information here.

What’s the difference between Microsoft 365 and Office 2021?

Office 2021 for Mac was launched in September 2021 (three years after Office 2019 launched). However, some of the new features had already been available as part of the Microsoft 365 (previously Office 365) subscription.

With Microsoft 365, customers pay monthly or yearly to always have the most up to date version of the software. There are various packages depending on whether you will be the only person using the software, if you will be sharing the subscription with friends and family, or if you are a small business or a larger enterprise.

The subscription system suits some users, but others prefer to pay for software outright and know that they will own it for eternity. Hence, Microsoft also allows you to buy the full Office 2021 suite for a one-off payment. That licence will never run out, although Microsoft might eventually stop support for that version.

As far as stand-alone software go, you can either pick up  Office Home & Student 2021 ($149.99/£119.99), Office Home & Business 2021 ($249.99/£249.99) or opt for the Office LTSC if you are buying for a business or to use commercially (in which case you will find details on Microsoft’s site here. 

You can also buy the apps individually, more on that below. 

There is also a free cloud-based version of Office that you can access online via a web browser. Think of it as a Lite version of the paid versions of the app. You still need to sign up for a Microsoft Account.

Home/small business use: Office 2021 vs Microsoft 365

Office Home & Student 2021 and Office Home & Business 2021Microsoft 365 (Family or Personal)Payment planPay oncePay monthly or yearly. Stop paying and you lose the license.IncludedWord, Excel, PowerPoint. (Works with Microsoft Teams). Office Home & Business 2021 also include Outlook.Most up to date version of Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook.Additional servicesNo services included.Skype and One Drive included. Family: 6TB (1TB for each person); Personal: 1TB. OneDrive Personal Vault security.UpdatesIncludes security updates, but no feature updates.Microsoft will update the apps with new features.DevicesRuns on one Mac or one PC. Install on one Mac or PC.Runs on Mac, PC, iOS & Android. Install on all your devices (iPad, iPhone, Mac). Depending on your subscription package you may be able to share your subscription with five others.UsersOne person.Personal: One person; Family: Six people.MobileYou get basic versions of the mobile apps that can be used on iPhones and iPads (as long as the iPad is under 10.1in – so iPad mini only).You get free versions of the mobile apps with extra features that aren’t available in the basic versions.StorageNo online storage.1TB of cloud storage in OneDrive, to be used by up to 6 users depending on your subscription package.SupportInstallation help. Support for first 60 days at no extra cost.Ongoing technical help.

Business use: Microsoft 365 for Business vs Office LTSC

If you are a enterprise user you need to consider a version designed for deploying to businesses. With the 2021 version of Office Microsoft has added Office LTSC as an option.

Office LTSC

This version of Office 2021 is available to volume licence customers who just want to make a one-time purchase, rather than subscribing to Microsoft 365. It includes the same apps as the Home & Business version of Office Home & Business 2021, but, Mac users also get Outlook LTSC (PC users also get Access and Publisher LTSC versions).

The price is 10% more than the Office Home & Business 2021 version, and will depend on how many Macs or PCs are being deployed to.

Microsoft 365 for Business

There are also Microsoft 365 subscription packages for businesses and enterprises. Each is charged per user/per month and there are lower monthly prices if you sign up for an annual commitment. 

Microsoft 365 Business Basic (formerly Office 365 Business Essentials) is the cheapest option at £3.80/$5 per user per month. It includes only web and mobile versions of the Office apps. Subscribers also get access to OneDrive, Exchange, SharePoint and Teams.

Microsoft 365 Apps for Business provides app access only and access to OneDrive. You get the desktop versions as well but not the added services around the software such as Teams or threat protection. It costs $8.25/£7.90 per user per month.

Microsoft 365 Business Standard (formerly Office 365 Business Premium) includes Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook (plus Access on a PC), along with business email, Microsoft Teams access and cloud storage via OneDrive. This tier costs $12.50/£9.40 per user per month.

Office 365 Business Premium (formerly Microsoft 365 Business) includes everything you get in the Business Standard option plus cyber-threat protection. This is the most expensive at $20/£15.10 per user per month.

Head to Microsoft now to compare its plans for business.


Cheapest way to get Microsoft Office 

As you can see from the above, there are various ways to get Office, or single programs from the Office suite, on your Mac. You could subscribe for the time you need access to the software and then cancel your subscription. That way you could get the basic version of Office for Mac for $6.99/£5.99 a month and cancel after 30 days. Beware that you may lose access to your data though. After you cancel, you can still use Office in View Only mode.

Speaking of View Only mode, this mode is handy if you just want to be able to read Word documents or PowerPoint slides. In this mode you can view, but not edit. That may be all you need to do, in which case this is the cheapest option – because it’s free.

If you do need to be able to edit documents another option is to open them in Apple’s iWork apps. Apple has a word processor called Pages that can open Word documents, Keynote for PowerPoint presentations, and Numbers for Excel. These options will enable you to open and edit the Office documents and save them in the Office format, without ever having to open Office. Sometimes the formatting can be out slightly, but it’s a great solution. And crucially it won’t cost you anything because these apps are free for Mac users.

If all you need is Word, for example, you don’t have to buy all the Office apps. As you can see from the table above, it is possible to buy Word, Excel and PowerPoint separately. At around $150/£150 each, it could be a good solution if you don’t want to pay more to get the other apps that are included in the suite. 

We also have this article about how to get Microsoft Word for free.


Compatibility: Will my Mac run Microsoft 365 or Office 2021 for Mac?

In terms of system requirements, both Microsoft 365 and Office 2021 will operate on macOS Monterey, Big Sur, Catalina, Mojave and High Sierra (Microsoft will always endeavour to support the current and two previous versions of macOS). Mac users will need at least 10GB of disk space. 

One thing to note is that older, 32-bit versions of Office, such as Office 2011, will not work on Macs running Catalina or later. To find out whether your version is 64 bit click on the Apple icon in your menu and choose About This Mac, then System Report. Scroll down to Software and choose Applications. If any of your apps are 32-bit you will see that information here.

Another compatibility issue is with M-series Macs. Soon after the arrival of the M1 Macs in November 2020 Microsoft made sure that Office worked natively on the M1 Chip. Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and OneNote all work on the M1 Macs. Microsoft 365 users would have had the new version of the software update automatically. Should compatibility issues come up again in the future you may have to wait longer for an update if you aren’t a Microsoft subscriber. See all Microsoft Office and Office 2019 system requirements.

Verdict: Should I buy Office 365 or Office 2021?

If you subscribe to Microsoft 365 Personal for two years you’d spend $139.98/£119.98. That’s essentially the same outlay as buying the software outright.

Of course, there are plenty of disadvantages in this scenario too. Office 365 subscribers will benefit from new feature updates throughout those two years, meaning that you will miss out on some great new tools. You may benefit from technical support that you get with a 365 subscription. Perhaps you need to have access to the iOS and Android versions of the software. We have this article about getting Office apps for free on iPad.

Another factor that may sway your decision is that Microsoft will stop mainstream support for Mac versions of Office Home & Student 2021 as well as Home & Business 2021 in October 2026 (which means Microsoft is only supporting it for five years, rather than the usual ten). This means that it will no longer receive security or non-security updates, such as changes to features or design. If that’s a concern for you, you might prefer a subscription.

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