Are you trying to decide if you should buy Office for Mac as part of a Microsoft 365 subscription or as a stand-alone product? [Note: Microsoft 365 used to be called Office 365, but Microsoft re-branded in in early 2020.] While cost is one important consideration it is not the only one. I’d like to point out a few other considerations that I think you should keep in mind as you make your decision. It is important to know that regardless of whether you buy Office as a stand-alone product or as part of Microsoft 365, you get the ability to download and install Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc on your Mac. Microsoft offers a web-based version of these applications.The online versions are only available if you have an Microsoft 365 subscription. The online versions are cleverly named Word Online, Excel Online, etc. Frankly, I don’t believe I’ve ever used them so I can’t comment on how similar or dissimilar they are from the full desktop versions. Microsoft 365 subscribers get access to new versions of Office when they are released, which is typically about every 3 or 4 years. For example, Microsoft made the following Mac versions of Office: Office 2011, Office 2016 and they released Office 2019 in September 2018.
Home and Student vs Home and Business
First you need to determine if you want to buy the Home and Student version or the Home and Business version. While these names may be slightly confusing, the primary difference for Mac users is that the Home and Business version includes Microsoft’s email application, Outlook. If you’re a business customer or if you use Outlook then you should buy the Home and Business version. Both versions include Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.
Office on iPad or iPhone
Do you want to use Office apps on your iPhone or iPad to edit documents? Microsoft lets you download and install Word, Excel and Powerpoint, for free, on your iOS device. However, this free version only lets you open and view Word, Excel and PowerPoint files. If you want to edit files then you need to have an Office 365 subscription.
Do you use Microsoft’s OneDrive to store and/or share documents with others? If so, it probably makes more sense to get an Office 365 subscription since Microsoft provides 1TB of storage space per user as part of the subscription. Microsoft does offer stand-alone OneDrive accounts. As of the end of 2018, a free OneDrive account comes with 5 GB of storage and a paid account comes with 50 GB of storage space.
Prices vary over time. I plan to update the prices in this article from time to time, but please always check exact prices in case the prices listed below aren’t current.
If you want to buy Office outright, you can get competitive pricing from Amazon for Office for Mac. When you purchase from Amazon make sure you buy one of the digital download versions which let you download the installer from Microsoft’s web site (which requires you to use a Microsoft account or create one.) For example, current prices for the Home and Student version of Office 2019 for Mac is about $120. This lets you install it on one Mac. It’s not currently possible to buy a multi-user license, such as the 3-packs that Microsoft previously offered.
If you want a Microsoft 365 subscription, buy it directly from Microsoft’s web site. For home use, you will likely pick between Microsoft 365 Personal and Microsoft 365 Home. The Personal plan currently costs $70 per year and lets you install Office on 1 Mac or PC. The Home plan costs $100 per year and lets you install Office on up to 6 Macs or PC.
Microsoft 365 Business Essentials for $5/user/month. This plan only provides email accounts for your business. It does not include Word, Excel or Powerpoint.
Microsoft 365 Business for $8.25/user/month. This is the most commonly purchased plan. It includes Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
Office 365 Business Premium for $12.50/user/month. This plan includes Word, Excel and Powerpoint as well as email hosting for your business.
Microsoft 365 subscriptions also include Microsoft’s Intelligent Services
In general, I think that if you need more than 3 licenses for your home or business and you look at the cost of ownership over about 5-6 years then it typically more affordable to buy Microsoft 365 subscriptions.
For another comparison, check out MacHow2’s article comparing buying Office outright or subscribing to Microsoft365.