Back when Office 2016 debuted, it was met with a lot of mixed feedback despite all of the new features and updates. For some, the issue was that they would never use half of the newly-added bells-and-whistles, while for others, they were still upset that Microsoft Office lacked this or that feature.
Now that it’s been out for several month and received a number of interesting updates, the question remains: Should you buy the standalone package version of Office 2016?
As someone who actually respects the Office suite and what it provides, I’m going to have to say no for several reasons.
Why Office 2016 Isn’t Worth It
The biggest draw for the standalone package version of Office 2016 is that it’s a one-time purchase, unlike Office 365 which can only be had through a monthly subscription. But what is the actual cost of that convenience?
1. It’s Expensive
There are three versions of Office 2016 you can buy: Home & Student ($150) which has Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote; Home & Business ($230) which has that plus Outlook; and Professional ($400) which has that plus Publisher and Access.
Most people probably don’t need Access, but Outlook is important, so you’ll probably want to get the $230 package. Mac users can only get the $150 package at this time. Note that individual apps can be purchased for $110 each if you only need one specific app, and remember that OneNote 2016 is completely free.
Meanwhile, Office 365 includes all of the apps. Personal costs $7 per month (or $70 per year) to use on a single computer, while Home costs $10 per month ($100 per year) to use on up to five computers. In short, Office 2016 Professional is about equal to ~5.7 years of Office 365 Personal; or more if you purchase a monthly subscription and pause it for periods when you’re not using Office or any of the attached benefits.
2. No Free Trial
Office 2016 doesn’t come with a free trial, which is strange because past versions of Office did. In fact, past versions actually came with a 60-day evaluation period, which is crucial for seeing if you actually need the new features or not.
On the other hand, you can try Office 365 Home for one month without paying a cent. Why doesn’t Microsoft offer a similar free trial for these standalone packages? It doesn’t make sense to me, and just seems like an unnecessary hurdle for potential customers.
3. No Cross-Platform Options
These days, it’s common to sync and share work between your PC and your mobile devices, which is why Microsoft is working so hard on their mobile office apps. The truth is, they’re currently beating out all of their competitors.
And while these apps are available for free, they’re limited and restricted unless you have an Office 365 subscription. Why doesn’t an Office 2016 purchase unlock full access to the relevant mobile apps? I don’t know, but that’s how it is.
4. Office 365 Has Other Goodies
When you buy Office 2016, that’s all you get. Maybe that’s fine in your mind — you get what you paid for, after all — but you can’t ignore the fact that Office 365 comes with a few bonuses that, for some reason, aren’t available to Office 2016 buyers.
Most notably, Office 365 Personal comes with 1 TB of OneDrive storage and 60 minutes of Skype time for one user, while Office 365 Home comes with the same benefits for up to five different users.
Office 365 also comes with regular updates and free Microsoft technical support by phone or chat. When Microsoft releases a new version of Office, anyone with an Office 365 subscription will be eligible to upgrade at no extra cost; it’s part of the service.
5. What You Have Is Good Enough
Compared to previous versions, Office 2016 has a lot of smart and subtle changes that may tempt you into upgrading, but what you really need to ask yourself is whether or not you need those new features. You probably don’t, and while they’d be nice to have, foregoing them could be the best thing for your wallet.
Truly, whether you have Office 2013, Office 2010, or even Office 2007, you can still do what you need to do: create and edit Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, and more. And if that’s all you need to do, why drop cash on features you’ll probably never use?
Note that Office 365 lets you upgrade older versions of Office to 2016, but you might not be able to downgrade to your previous Office suite, if it turns out you don’t want it.
Viable Alternatives to Office 2016
If you need a software suite that includes word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation apps, then there are a few alternatives you can explore that will give you what you need without costing a single cent. They may not be as good as Office 2016, but you do get what you pay for.
If you don’t need more than the absolute basics, then the Office mobile apps are actually quite good.
We mentioned them above, but even if you don’t have an Office 365 subscription that lets you take full advantage of all features, they’re still useful and productive.
Obviously you probably don’t want to do any word processing or spreadsheeting on a tiny smartphone, but if you have a tablet and an external keyboard that you can connect, then this is absolutely an option that could work out well.
Microsoft actually offers free online versions of their office apps on a service called Office Online (formerly known as Office Web Apps). It’s stripped down and lacks a lot of the advanced features that make Office 2016 and Office 365 worthwhile, but it’s not bad by any means.
There’s no offline version, so that could be frustrating depending on how often you find yourself without Internet, but it’s one of the few legal ways to use Office for free, so at least that’s something.
3. Google Docs
Not long ago, we declared that Google Docs was actually better than Microsoft Office in several areas, making it a viable alternative that you can use for free. It does have its fair share of flaws and downsides, of course, but it’ll be hard to find anything better.
Google Docs can be used offline, but it’s more of a last resort feature than something you should rely on. Want to maximize your productivity? Keep on top of these time-saving Google Docs tips and you’ll make your life much easier.
For a desktop alternative to Microsoft Office, you first consideration should be LibreOffice. Not long ago, it was on the up-and-up but exactly great, but with its most recent update, LibreOffice is finally proving itself to be on par with the current king atop the throne.
This open source suite comes with tools for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, diagramming, flowcharting, databases, advanced math equation editor, and professional quality charts. Very much worth a look if you don’t want to pay anything.
Office 2016: Not Entirely Worth It
To recap, if all you need are basic office functions, then you’ll do fine with one of the free alternatives listed above. If you want the full suite, but want to get the most bang for your buck, Office 365 wins hands-down. As of now, Office 2016 only makes sense for businesses.
If you do get Office 2016, check out these excellent tips for learning the ropes. There are a lot of new features to explore! And if you decide that Office 2016 isn’t right for you, here’s how to downgrade back to Office 2013.
What do you think of Office 2016? Would you rather spring for Office 365 instead? Or does it make more sense to go with something like Office 365? Tell us in the comments!
Image Credits:hand refusing by Fleckstone via Shutterstock