Microsoft 365 is the collection of apps and services formerly called Office 365. The assembly includes all the core workspace apps like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
Microsoft 365 sets the gold standard for office suites. The software works flawlessly, the mobile and desktop apps sync perfectly, and the programs allow for offline working. Microsoft 365 is the suite to beat.
Some workspace productivity suites only offer online or cloud-based functionality. Contrarily, Microsoft includes collaborative apps and tools with the benefits of working offline.
Microsoft confusingly introduced Microsoft 365 in 2017 alongside Office 365. The company then combined the two packages, and Office 365 became part of Microsoft 365 in April 2020. The new package includes some extra services like Windows 10 Enterprise.
Microsoft has recently released some helpful updates like dark mode and synchronised settings.
Additionally, Microsoft has supplied AI-based features. One of these helps users by suggesting contacts who may want copying into relevant emails or documents.
All the Microsoft 365 apps are aesthetic, customisable and highly functional. Also, Microsoft keeps the interface consistent throughout its apps to make navigation easier.
The three Microsoft apps business use most are, without a doubt, Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
Despite some stiff competition from Google, Word remains the word processor of choice for businesses.
Having various staff editing work from around the world is commonplace in 2021. Microsoft Word makes this easier than ever for businesses.
Word hasn't received many larger updates lately. But, the developers do update the interface, fonts and templates with some regularity.
The program is packed so tightly with features that you could argue the program is becoming too complex. Many users won't ever use 80-90% of the tools and features.
Nonetheless, if word processing is the goal, Word is the way to go.
Most people are already familiar with Excel. The program is the most powerful spreadsheet program available today.
There is no shortage of tools and feature's in Excel. You can create advanced or straightforward charts, 3D data maps and, of course, spreadsheets. You can plug-in data from across the web, including stocks and geographical data. Also, the spreadsheet creator syncs perfectly across any type of device.
Excel's user interface has had quite a few facelifts since the program's inception in 1985. The current interface has a soft and modern feel to it. The layout is easy to navigate, which is noteworthy as Excel incorporates many more features than its competitors.
Because the vital tools and features have been available for some time, the recent Excel updates have focused on new users. For example, the new "Tell me what you want to do" box towards the top helps brand new users learn how to use Excel.
Despite Microsoft's best efforts, new users will still struggle to use some of the more advanced features. Although, that's not a problem unique to Microsoft. Google Sheets users also have difficulting navigating the more advanced tools.
Microsoft has given PowerPoint some substantial updates recently, including some remarkable AI-based developments.
The application still works in much the same way it always has. You combine images, text and video to create engaging and dynamic slideshows. You can use templates provided by Microsoft or use bespoke colours and pictures.
Unsurprisingly, over-the-top slide transitions remain a fundamental pillar of the PowerPoint application.
PowerPoint is straightforward for new users to navigate, and the user interface has a minimalist feel like Word and Excel.
PowerPoint uses AI to predict the type of templates that would suit your presentation based on your title page text. Also, like in Word, your team can work on a presentation simultaneously, helping to cut down on lead time.
Microsoft 365 includes many other applications that help business, which we've detailed below.
Outlook is Microsoft's professional email client that's included with a Microsoft 365 subscription. Microsoft includes the Mail app with all Windows computers, but Outlook is a far superior program and the best option for businesses.
The user interface isn't as simple as possible, but it's necessary so that Microsoft can include the app's tools and features, of which there are many.
Besides sending and receiving emails, Outlook offers some useful extra tools. You can dictate emails through a microphone and transcribe text from a recording on your computer. You can also link meetings suggested in your emails directly into your calendar.
Outlook's AI sorts your emails into various inboxes depending on their importance. The MyAnalytics data tool spots your writing patterns while helping with your scheduling.
Some businesses will benefit from Outlook's extra features. But, those seeking an easier, more intuitive email client might prefer Gmail.
Perhaps the most valuable and innovative feature in the Microsoft 365 offering is OneDrive. Microsoft's storage solution lets you sync your files across as many devices as you need. You can also collaborate on documents, spreadsheets and slideshows in real-time.
Although the app has a fairly basic interface, it's an integral part of Microsoft 365.
Publisher is an app many businesses fail to utilise.
The app helps businesses put together presentable business documents ready for publication.
Although Word has some templates available, Publisher gives you a much greater level of control over how your document looks.
For a professional-looking document, publisher can help.
Despite Zoom and Google Meet's runaway success in 2020, Skype is still going strong. Skype is so entrenched in the video calling industry that most English dictionaries recognise 'to Skype' as meaning to video call.
Skype lets you video or voice call, instant message and file share as much as you need. You can also create polls, insert files from OneDrive and share music from Spotify in real-time.
You can also use Skype across many devices, including Xbox, smartphones, computers, tablets and Amazon's Alexa.
Microsoft Teams is a communication platform built for businesses. You can chat, voice or video call anyone on your team at any time. The platform lets you see all your meetings for the day, week, month or year by synchronising with your Outlook calendar.
You can make groups for different projects, upload and download work documents and record meetings. You can also edit files in real-time through Teams.
Microsoft Teams is a fantastic collaboration tool that businesses find helpful in their day to day operations.
Exchange is the business-class email and calendaring service offered by Microsoft.
It gives you greater email security and functionality than the other programs offered by Microsoft. The app also features a powerful calendaring program, some task management tools and a global address book.
Exchange also allows for an enormous number of users, hence why larger businesses and institutions favour it.
Businesses use Microsoft SharePoint to create websites. Users can access developer tools through a web browser on any device and organise, store and share data. SharePoint is a cloud-based service hosted by Microsoft that businesses worldwide rely on.
You have the option of deploying your own SharePoint server or pay for Microsoft to host yours for you.
Microsoft charges for its services through subscriptions instead of one-off payments. This lets Microsoft provide its customers with more minor, frequent updates rather than in bulk once per year.
If you want to pay for Word and Excel upfront, you can still do so, albeit for a higher price. Beware, if you buy the standalone version, you lose access to the more frequent updates that Microsoft 365 subscribers get.
Microsoft organises its subscriptions into three distinct packages. Each subscription price is for one user per month, and all the subscriptions come with Teams, Exchange, OneDrive and SharePoint.
All the business plans require at least a one-year commitment.
Business Basic gives you access to the web and mobile versions of Microsoft's Office apps. You cannot download any Office program on this plan. The Basic plan costs £3.80 per user per month.
Business Standard gives you the full range of apps, all of which you can download. This includes Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Publisher and Access. This plan is perfect for businesses looking for seamless integration of remote and office workers and costs £9.40 per user per month.
Business Premium gives you everything in the Basic and Standard plans, plus some extra security features. In particular, cyber threat protection and device management. For example, you can wipe company data from any device remotely. You can also control which employees have access to specific data or apps. The Premium plan costs £15.10 per month per user.
Microsoft also offers an app-only plan that doesn't include Teams, Exchange or Sharepoint. This could work for businesses that use different software and don't want to migrate all their operations to Teams.
The productivity apps available through a Microsoft 365 subscription are second to none.
Considering how often we use tools like Word and Excel, Microsoft's subscription fee is a bargain.
We have a dedicated article comparing Google Workspace versus Microsoft 365, find out which one is right for your business here.