Office Standard vs. Office Professional vs. Office Online

This post was originally a comparison of Microsoft Office 2013, Office 365 and Office Web Apps by Ginny Mies, Content Curator at TechSoup. This has since been updated to be a comparison of Microsoft Office Suites’ desktop versions: Standard and Professional Plus, and Microsoft Office Online.

Microsoft Office is more versatile than ever with three different flavors of the productivity suite now available:

The latest versions of Office Suite, available through TechSoup Canada's Microsoft Software Donation Program, are the installed desktop version of the software. Office Online, on the other hand, is a browser-based version of Microsoft Office, which can be used for free or included in a subscription of Office 365.

Which version makes the most sense for your organization?

Office Suite Standard (Desktop)

Office Suite Standard is an integrated collection of Microsoft applications designed to seamlessly work together to optimize your day-to-day work. Office Standard includes the following programs:

  • Excel: A spreadsheet application with data analysis and visualization tools
  • OneNote: A note-taking application that allows various types of content to be shared among team members.
  • Outlook: A time and information manager that integrates email, calendar, contacts, and tasks.
  • PowerPoint: A presentation graphics program with capabilities for text effects, sound, and animation.
  • Publisher: A desktop publishing program that allows people with basic design skills to create a wide variety of publications.
  • Word: A full-featured word-processing program.

All desktop applications in Office Standard are the full-featured programs, which means each program (e.g., Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc.) comes fully equipped with the advanced features that are omitted in Office Online (more on this later).

Although the latest version of Office Standard is desktop-based, it is tightly integrated with OneDrive, Microsoft's cloud-based file-hosting service. This means 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, provided that you sync up your files to OneDrive. This also allows for real-time editing, (e.g., save a document to OneDrive and invite your colleagues to join you in a simultaneous authoring session).


Real-time editing in Word 2016

Example of real-time editing in Word 2016

To learn more about the new features that comes with the latest version of Office, check out our post, Guess What? We have Office 2016.

Licensing options - How to obtain Office Standard

Eligible nonprofits, charities, and libraries can request donations of Office Standard (Windows) or Office Standard (Mac) through TechSoup Canada. This offer provides a perpetual license for a single device.

Alternatively, organizations can also obtain Office Standard desktop through a discounted Office 365 Nonprofit subscription (business premium plans, E3 or E5 plans only). This offer provides one user with a valid monthly or annual Office 365 subscription access to Office desktop applications on up to 5 devices.

Office Suite Professional Plus (Desktop Version)

Office Suite Professional Plus is an integrated collection of Microsoft applications, designed mainly for business or enterprise use. Office Professional Plus includes all of the programs in Office Standard (i.e., Excel, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint, Publisher and Word), along with two new programs not included in Office Standard:

  • Access: A relational database management system that helps information workers track and report information.
  • Skype for Business: A unified communications client that works in conjunction with Skype for Business Server. It enables users to talk to each other using instant messaging, voice, or video and to switch back and forth between modes.

Similar to Office Standard, all desktop applications in Office Professional Plus are the full-featured versions of the program.

Licensing options - How to obtain Office Pro Plus

Office Professional Plus is available through TechSoup Canada through Microsoft's discounted licesnes. Organizations can also obtain Office Pro Plus desktop through a discounted Office 365 subscription (business premium plans, E3 or E5 plans only). This offer provides one user with a valid monthly or annual Office 365 subscription access to Office desktop applications on up to 5 devices.

Office Online

Office Online is Microsoft’s cloud-based version of their most popular office programs, which includes:

  • Word Online: Basic version of Microsoft’s word-processing program
  • Excel Online: Basic version of Microsoft’s spreadsheet application
  • PowerPoint Online: Basic version of Microsoft’s presentation graphics program
  • OneNote Online: Basic version of Microsoft’s note-taking application
  • Outlook on the Web: Basic version of Microsoft’s time, calendar and information manager

As long as you have the latest version of Edge, Firefox, Safari, or Chrome, you can use Office Online to view and edit files on devices that don't have Office installed on them. In Office Online, you can create new documents from your browser and store them on OneDrive, view existing Office documents in read-only mode and edit documents by uploading files to OneDrive (note: you cannot directly open desktop Office files in Office Online; files must be uploaded to OneDrive first).

While Office Suite Standard and Professional provides you with access to the full-featured Office programs, Office Online only covers the basic functionalities of each program. For example, Word Online does not have the Mail Merge feature, whereas Word desktop does, and Excel Online cannot perform Data Validation in cells, but Excel desktop can. For a more detailed list of feature comparisons between Office Online and Office desktop applications, please see Microsoft’s Feature Availability Across Office Online Plans.

If you’re looking for a program to perform light document edits without the hassle of installation, Office Online is a great solution for organizations on the go. However if your nonprofit is needs to do more than view documents and make simple changes, Office Online is better used in conjunction with the desktop version of Office.

Licensing options - How to access Office Online

Office Online is available to anyone for free and only requires a Microsoft Account. If you have a valid Office 365 subscription, you can also access Office Online programs directly in your account. Simply sign into your Office 365 account and expand your Apps menu.

Accessing Office Online in Office 365

Accessing Office Online in Office 365

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