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Microsoft Office vs. Office 365 vs. Office Web Apps: How Do They Differ and How Can They Work Together?

Office Software

This post was originally written by Ginny Mies, Content Curator at TechSoup. This post has been updated by TechSoup Canada as of November 2015.

Microsoft Office logo Microsoft Office is more versatile than ever with three different flavors of the productivity suite now available: the latest version of Microsoft Office, Microsoft Office 365, and Microsoft Office Web Apps.

The latest version of Office, available through TechSoup Canada's Microsoft Software Donation Program, is the installed desktop version of the software. Office 365, on the other hand, is Microsoft's subscription program for both online and desktop versions of Office products. Finally, Microsoft Office Web Apps is a free, completely browser-based version of Microsoft Office. Which version makes the most sense for your organization?

Office Web Apps

Microsoft Office Web Apps is a free, Internet-based version of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook available through the consumer version of Microsoft OneDrive. Office Web Apps only requires a Windows Live ID to get started. As long as you have a browser (it is compatible with the latest versions of Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, and Chrome), you can use Office Web Apps to view and edit files on devices that don't have Office installed on them. You can also create new documents from your browser and store them on OneDrive. It works similarly to other cloud-based document creation suites out there. The updated 2016 Office Web Apps adds a few new features and a redesigned interface that complements Windows 10 and 8.1. 

A screenshot of Word in Microsoft Web Apps

While it is possible to only use Office Web Apps for basic word processing and spreadsheet creation, you'll likely need more functionality for an office environment. For example, in the Office Web Apps version of Word, you can only do basic formatting. Office Web Apps is better used in conjunction with the new version of Office (or older versions of Office) or with your Office 365 subscription.

Both Office Standard 2016and  Office Professional Plus  2016 come with OneDrive, which you can use to store and access files from Office Web Apps or the desktop version of Microsoft Office. OneDrive also runs on the newest SharePoint Online and SharePoint 2016 on-premises. Each Office 365 OneDrive user gets 1TB of personal storage. For more information, see this Microsoft update on OneDrive's storage plans

Office (Installed Desktop Version)

Although the latest version of Microsoft Office is desktop-based, one of the big updates in this version is its tight integration with OneDrive, Microsoft's cloud-based file-hosting service. You can start working on a document on one device (such as your work PC) and continue where you left off on another device (like your tablet at home) that has Office installed on it. Microsoft Office will also save your exact location (for example, the specific cell or slide where you left off) in the file.

Office is available through TechSoup Canada to eligible nonprofits, charities, libraries, and foundations. It will only run on systems running the latest Windows operating system (e.g., Windows 10, 8.1 etc.) so if your organization is running an outdated operating system (e.g., Windows Vista, XP etc.) , you will not be able to use the latest version of Office. To learn more, read Microsoft Office: What Your Organization Should Know.

Office 365 

Office 365 is Microsoft's hybrid service that offers both web-based and desktop components of the Office suite. Depending on your plan, Office 365 can include a subscription to Office desktop software in addition to hosted versions of Microsoft's Server products (such as Exchange, SharePoint, and Skype for Business) that can be accessed over the Internet. Office Web Apps are included in most versions of Office 365, with storage limits varying by subscription plan. You can use Office 365's online services in conjunction with multiple versions of Office.

Microsoft is also offering donated and discounted Office 365 plans for nonprofits and charities in Canada. To help your nonprofit learn more about Office 365 Nonprofit, check out our Office 365 FAQ page, or directly on Microsoft Philanthropies' website.

Based on the size of your staff, the programs they use, and the features they rely on to do their jobs, you should be able to determine which versions of Office are most suitable for your organization.


Office 365 through Techsoup

Hi there, Would love to know if Techsoup will be offering Office 365 and/or Azure subscriptions anytime soon as it does other Microsoft software solutions.

Office 365 for Nonprofits


Sorry that I couldn't answer this question earlier, the announcement was just made today! Microsoft is now offering Office 365 for Nonprofits which you can find out more about in our launch blog post and on Microsoft's website.