Though there are free alternatives available, for many people, there’s nothing quite like the familiar, comfortable workings of Microsoft Office, from Word’s superior spell and grammar check to the ease and sense of security of storing files locally on your own PC and not online.
If you want to buy Microsoft Office, there are two main variants: Office 365, which gives you constant updates but requires a monthly or annual subscription fee, and Office 2019, which is a fixed package of software, but you only have to pay for it once. Microsoft really wants you to use the subscription-based Office 365 service, of course.
The Office 2019 package is slightly different than Office 365. On top of that, there are companies besides Microsoft selling both Office 2019 keys and Office 365 subscriptions for lower prices than Microsoft. And you can even run Office apps for free online. So what’s the best and cheapest way to get your productivity on?
From free, to $150, to subscriptions, here’s a breakdown of the best and cheapest ways to get Office in 2019 (we focus on personal versions, rather than business ones).
Office 2019 vs. Office Online vs. Office 365
|Buy Office 2019 From Microsoft||Buy Office 2019 Key From a Third Party||Microsoft Office Online||Office 365 Personal||Office 365 Home||Office 365 Education||Third-Party Office 365 Keys|
|Price||$149.99||~ $45||Free||$69.99/year or $6.99/month||$99.99/year or $9.99/month||Free||Personal: $49.99/yearHome: $79.99/year|
|Apps||Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote||Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote||Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook,||Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher (PC only), Access (PC only)||Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher (PC only), Access (PC only),||Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote,||Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher (PC only), Access (PC only)|
|Cloud Services||X||X||OneDrive, Skype, Flow, Forms, Sway||OneDrive, Skype||OneDrive, Skype||OneDrive, Teams, SharePoint, Sway, Forms, Stream, Flow, PowerApps, School Data Sync, Yammer||OneDrive, Skype|
|Devices||1 PC or Mac||1 PC or Mac||Unlimited||Unlimited number of PCs/Macs, tablets, phones||Unlimited number of PCs/Macs, tablets, phones||Unlimited number of PCs/Macs, tablets, phones||Unlimited number of PCs/Macs, tablets, phones|
|Free Trial||X||X||N/A||X||1 month||N/A||X|
Buying Office 2019 From Microsoft: $149.99
Despite shifting focus to Office 365, Microsoft still sells Office Home & Student 2019 for a one-time charge of $149.99. This includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote but lacks some solutions Office 365 has. However, these may or may not be relevant to you: Outlook, Publisher (PC only), Access (PC only) and the OneDrive and Skype cloud services.
You can buy some pieces of the Office suite individually, but with Word 2019 priced at $139.99, if you plan on using even 1 more Office app, it’s a better deal to buy the whole platform.
No matter where you get Office 2019 from, it’s not updated monthly like Office 365 is, so you’ll never see new features added; what you buy is what you get. However, you will get security patch updates “as required,” Daniel Vargas, Microsoft director of product marketing, told Tom’s Hardware.
However, it's very possible that you don’t care if your Office software is updated regularly. Heck, you may even be okay with an older version of Office, say Office 2016, which you can still find keys for from third-party sellers for cheaper than Office 2019. However, Office 2016 will reach end of life (EoL) for most on October 13, 2020, meaning Microsoft won’t provide security updates for it anymore. If you can settle for the 2016 version of Office, you can, as of this writing, get it from Kinguin for $23.45 or PCDestination for $50.
Remember, to use Office 2019, you need to be running Windows 10. Luckily, we’ve already detailed how to get Windows 10 for free or cheap.
If Office 2019 is your preferred choice, you can get it for significantly cheaper than the $149.99 Microsoft charges by buying it from a reliable third-party retailer.
Buying a Third-Party Office 2019 Key: ~$45
Microsoft charges $149.99 to download Microsoft Office Home & Student 2019, but you can save a lot of money if you’re willing to buy it from a different store.
Newegg sometimes sells the same download key for $123.99, although at the time of writing the price is the same as Microsoft's, but it's still worth checking before buying. If you can wait for a physical key, however, Newegg sometimes has it for just $124. Meanwhile, Walmart currently sells the key card for $110, Amazon occasionally has it for $122.92, and Kinguin has it for a shockingly low $46.91.
Saving up to $100 for Office 2019 sounds like a no-brainer. However, since you’re not buying from Microsoft, you’ll have to exert some caution. You’re probably comfortable shopping at a well-known retailer like Amazon or Newegg comes; however, you’ll want to check their return policy on software.
You may be more hesitant to buy from key reseller website like Kinguin. Many question their legitimacy or morality behind such deals. To learn more about its Office 2019, we spoke with Kinguin directly.
“Only the original developer or publisher of a digital product can generate keys, so all of the Office 2019 keys come from this source. From there, either a seller buys them directly from the publisher or from the wholesaler, who also got them directly from a publisher, and sells them on Kinguin for a fair market price,” Michał Puczyński, PR Manager at Kinguin, told Tom’s Hardware.
Puczyński admitted there are “a few bad apples” in its marketplace but said this is inevitable since there are “tens of thousands of Office 2019 keys sold by thousands of sellers on Kinguin.” However, he claimed that only one out of 700 postings aren’t legitimate, and an even smaller percentage of shoppers actually get scammed.
“Our fraud prevention team manages to stop nearly 100% of these attempts before they take place. When a scammer is detected through our custom fraud technology, that person is banned for a lifetime from selling on Kinguin,” Puczyński explained.
Kinguin also offers a $5.69 “Buyer Protection, ”which guarantees you a refund if you get a bum key.” However, even if you don't buy this protection, Kinguin is willing to work with you for a potential refund if your key doesn’t work.
“We always put the customer first and work to find a solution for any problem the customer has encountered, which may include issuing a refund,” Puczyński said. “The Kinguin Buyer Protection is an optional feature designed to provide added protection while purchasing in our store, as well as additional services, but that doesn’t mean the customer will get inadequate treatment without it. Kinguin does reserve its right not to accept any returns of already delivered items or game keys to protect itself from scams.”
Microsoft Office Online and Mobile Apps: Free
As its name implies, Microsoft Office Online doesn’t live on your PC. Instead, you can only access these services with an Internet connection. You also have to have a Microsoft account. You can get to Office Online by signing in with your Microsoft account here.
However, the service is free and a good alternative to G Suite, especially if you don't like some of that platform’s limitations. Your files will still be at the mercy of the web, but you’ll be able to use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, plus OneDrive, Skype, Flow, Forms and Sway without paying any money. Plus, since everything is Internet-based, you can access it from any computer connected to the web.
Microsoft recently announced it's consolidating Word, Excel and PowerPoint into a single mobile app on both Android and iOS smartphones (a tablet version is en route, no release date yet). You can access the Android public preview here, but the iOS public preview is already full.
However, Office Online may not be a good fit for your largest or most complex projects, since features are more limited than what's offered in Office 365. It has less menu options, with tabs like Draw and Design removed from Word online, for example.
Office Online does come with 5GB of OneDrive storage, but that’s actually skimpy compared to the 15GB of free storage you get with Google Drive.
Similarly, there are free iOS (varies from iPhone to iPad) and Android (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneDrive, Outlook, OneNote and SharePoint.) versions of Office software that are also available for free but offer less features.
Buying Office 365 From Microsoft: $69.99 or $99.99/year
Microsoft sells Office 365 Personal, which is for one person across multiple devices, for $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year. You can also opt for Office 365 Home, which accommodates up to 6 people, for $99.99 a year or $9.99 per month. You can even use Office 365 Home for free through one-month trial.
Office 365 is a great option if you don’t mind paying for your productivity suite on an annual or monthly basis. It won’t be long until you’ve paid more for Office 365 than you would have for Office 2019, but it does come with more apps than Office 2019. In addition to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, Office 365 includes Outlook, Publisher (PC only), Access (PC only), OneDrive and Skype.
Perhaps the best part is you can install Office 365 on an unlimited number of devices and log into your subscription on up to 5 of those devices simultaneously. Additionally, Office 365 Personal subscribers get 1TB of OneDrive storage for up to 1 user, and Office 365 Home users can share their cloud storage with 6 users. You also get 60 minutes of Skype calls to real phone numbers for 1 or 6 users, depending if you get Office 365 Home or Personal. You can get a free trial for Office 365 Home (only), but it’ll last a mere month.
Another advantage Office 365 has over traditional Office 2019 is its monthly updates, which vary but can include new features, functionally and security updates, “ and often it is all of those each month,” Microsoft’s Vargas told us.
“Most importantly, Office 365 is connected to the cloud, so you can access your content from any device, coauthor with anyone in real-time (regardless of whether or not they’ve purchased a copy of Office) and use the power of artificial intelligence to create more impactful content with less effort,” he added.
Buy Office 365 From a Third-Party: $49.99 or $79.99/year
For slightly less money, you can also buy or renew your Office 365 subscription from a third-party retailer in one-year packages that are cheaper than what Microsoft charges for its one-year subscriptions. At the time of writing, the best deals come from Newegg, which has a 15-month Office 365 Personal subscription for $69.99 if bought with another product or $55.98 for a 12-month key card, (which will have to be delivered).
Note that you still get free Microsoft technical support for the duration of your subscription, even if you buy your subscription outside of Microsoft. But Microsoft won’t handle subscription or billing issues, such as cancellations or refunds. This is because “Microsoft has limited access and visibility over subscription purchased through a third-party retailer,” according to Vargas.
Office 365 Education: Free for Students and Teachers
If you’re a student or teacher, you can actually get an Office 365 subscription for free, if your school qualifies. The subscription includes SharePoint, Sway, Forms, Stream, Flow, PowerApps, School Data Sync, Yammer, which aren't included in regular Office 365 subscriptions. However, you miss out on Outlook, Publisher and Access.
To see if you’re eligible for free Office 365 Education, head to Microsoft’s website.
Microsoft Office is a productivity staple. If you insist on the traditional procurement method of buying and owning the software for life and don’t need the software to be updated monthly, you should stick with Office 2019, just know that EoL will eventually come. You can also buy a legitimate key from a key reseller for as low as about $45, saving you around $105 from Microsoft’s pricing.
If you’re not doing big projects but instead just basic documents, spreadsheets, presentations etc., you may be able to get away with free Office Online or mobile apps. Just be sure you have an Internet connection.
But for heavy-duty productivity, the world is moving toward subscription-based software. Office 365 comes with more offerings than Office 2019, monthly updates, the ability to share among multiple devices, plus a heaping 1TB of free cloud storage. You can get it for cheaper if you buy it outside of Microsoft, for as little as $50 for a year. But make sure it’s a retailer you trust, in case of billing or subscription questions. If you’re okay with making monthly or annual payments to continue creating and editing files, Office 365 is tomorrow’s productivity suite.