Right now, I’m sitting here using Microsoft Word to write this article.  After I’ve written it, I’ll email it off using Microsoft Outlook and log it in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.  All three of these programs are part of suite of applications known as Microsoft Office.

Microsoft Office was announced by Bill Gates on August 1st, 1998 at the COMDEX show in Las Vegas.   The first version of Office bundled Word, Excel and PowerPoint.  These three apps are still going strong today and are used by businesses around the world.

Back in 1998 the three apps were visually distinct – all working in their own way to get the job done.   Today the suite of office apps is designed to look and work the same way, with common attributes shared between them.  For example, the spell checker is now shared between all three – giving consistent results regardless of which app you’re using.

So, what’s the full suite of office apps today?  Well, there are different variants of Office, which I’ll get to shortly, but here’s a breakdown of the individual apps:

Word – Word Processor

Excel – Spreadsheets

PowerPoint – Slide Presentation

Outlook – Email

Access – Database Engine

OneNote – A note taking app

Publisher – Desktop publishing

Skype – Business Communications

Project – Project management app

Teams – A workplace chat/communications app

Visio – Diagram/flowcharting app

It’s come on a long way from those original 3 apps hasn’t it!   However, Word, Excel and PowerPoint remain the three most popular apps of the office suite.

In 2013, Microsoft introduced a new way of purchasing Office by way of the Office 365 subscription.   Before 2013, there was a yearly release of Office that introduced new versions of the apps with new features.   Businesses were inclined to buy new versions every year to get the latest new features.   However, the office apps were getting to the point where it was difficult to add enough new bells and whistles to make it worth upgrading, so sales were declining.    The new subscription model meant that business could pay a low monthly fee and automatically get new versions as they were released.   The drawback – stop paying the subscription and the apps stopped working.

Microsoft still offers paid versions of Office where you pay a one-time fee and you own the product.  For example, you can buy Office Home & Student (which includes the original 3 apps) for $169 in Canada.   Alternatively, you can purchase a subscription to Office 365 Home for $109 per year.   With this subscription you’ll get the latest apps as and when they’re released but stop paying and they’ll stop working (technically they’ll still open files, but they’ll be read-only so you can’t create new files).

Microsoft is putting more emphasis towards the subscription model, allowing you to install the apps on multiple devices.  For example, the Office 365 Home subscription allows you to share with up to 6 family members across PCs, tablets and smartphones.

Some people prefer to know that the programs they’ve bought and paid for will continue to work though.

If you’re looking for an alternative to Office, you might want to take a look at Open Office:


This is a free version of office that can still open and edit the same files but looks and works a little differently.   It might not have all the features of Microsoft’s behemoth, but if you only use the apps a little it might work out to be a bargain!