Not long ago, I created a presentation for a client that included a video with text on top. My client asked why she couldn’t see the text. After rechecking that other people could see it, I asked which version of PowerPoint she was using. It was Mac version 2008! Only 14 years ago… And yes, at that time, you couldn’t put text on top of a video.
So she asked which version she should get. I think others have the same question, as there are lots of choices!
My answer is first
I’m going to explain the ins and outs of the various versions of PowerPoint so you can make the decision for yourself but first I’ll give you my opinion because I think it’s so clear…
Get “Microsoft 365.”
What does that mean? It’s confusing because it used to be called Office 365. PowerPoint is just one of the components. This is the subscription version. You pay monthly or annually and get new features more or less as they come up. Microsoft is continually updating the software.
By contrast, when you get the “permanent,” pay once version, such as Office 2021, your features are fixed. Yes, there are updates, such as bug fixes and security updates, but you don’t get new features when they come out. To get them, you have to buy a new version of Office (or Microsoft 365).
Microsoft offers Microsoft 365 and Office 2021 plans for home and personal use, as well as for small and midsized businesses, large enterprises, schools, and non-profits. There are lots of choices (probably too many) at a variety of prices. Some have more of the components of Office, some have fewer components.
You can see a comparison of plans for individuals and families here.
You can see the plans for small businesses here. As you can see, there are several plans, all offering many components of Office.
The free version
Before I forget, I want to remind you that Microsoft 365 for the web is a free version of Office that you can use in a web browser. All you need is to sign up for a Microsoft account with a new or existing email address.
You can check out the free version here.
Of course, it has fewer features than the versions you pay for. For example, the number of images available is much more limited. I do recommend getting a paid version unless you aren’t using it regularly or for work.
Advantages of Microsoft (Office) 365
Here are some of the advantages of the subscription version compared to the permanent (one-time free) version:
- You can install Microsoft 365 Family or Personal, on all your devices and sign in to 5 at the same time so you can use the Office apps no matter where you are or what device you’re on. This includes PCs, Macs, tablets, and phones. With Microsoft 365 Family you can also share your subscription with up to 5 other people. As I’m writing this, Microsoft 365 Personal is $69.99/year or $6.99/month. The Family product is $99 per year or $9.99 per month. The main difference is that the Family product is for use by up to 6 people. They both include pretty much all of the Office products. You can compare them here.
- As I said above, your features are updated regularly. With Office 2021 or any other one-time purchase version, your features are fixed. You get only bug fixes and security updates.
- Microsoft 365 users get a category of features called “cloud-connected features” that are not available with the one-time purchase version. These include Designer (to help you design slides), Coach (to help you practice delivering your presentation), Reuse Slides, Captions & Subtitles (for other languages mostly), and Dictation (to dictate text).
- You get cloud storage on OneDrive. With the Personal version, you get 1 TB of OneDrive cloud storage and with Microsoft 365 Family you get 1 TB per user, for up to 6 users including yourself.
- With the “permanent” version, you get support only for installation. With the Microsoft 365 subscription, you can get with technical issues or for subscription and billing support throughout your subscription at no extra cost.
- Microsoft 365 subscribers have access to thousands of royalty-free images, icons, illustrations, videos, and more to use. I use this portfolio all the time and it’s excellent. If you’re using Office 2021 or Office for the web (and don’t have a Microsoft 365 subscription) you only have access to a portion of the library.
If you have a really old version of Office or want to stay up to date but have a one-time-payment version, check out the links above and see what makes the most sense for you.
Thanks for outlining the choices. It’s confusing!