Microsoft Office installation

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Published date: 13 December 2022
4 January 2023 on 11:48 am

The most recent version of Microsoft’s office suite, Office 2021, is probably used more frequently than any other desktop program in the world. The updated version is quicker and includes several pleasant enhancements, such as the inclusion of Microsoft Teams in the shipping package and the addition of on-the-fly language translation for Outlook. Office 2021 does not significantly alter the killer suite, but that is alright. If you’ve recently used the suite, you’ll find the 2021 edition to be a low-learning-curve experience that feels comfortingly familiar. Once you upgrade, you can resume working immediately, but you’ll also discover enough additional features to make the cost worthwhile. The Editors’ Choice winner for office suites is Office 2021.

What Will Office 2021 Cost?
It costs $439.99 for Office 2021, or $149.99 for students. This edition is a perpetual license, which means you only need to pay it once and use it forever, or at least until you elect to upgrade, as indicated by the year 2021 in the name.

Microsoft also provides Office as a subscription service known as Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365), which you must pay for either monthly or annually. You receive security updates every few months if you purchase the perpetual license version, but not the monthly burst of new features that Microsoft offers subscribers. OneDrive’s substantial internet storage and other perks are also lost. The perpetual-license version is better if you’re an IT manager for a business or simply dislike renewals.

Since Office for Mac now has a perpetual licensing edition, much of what we discuss here about Office Professional 2021 for Windows also applies to it. There are no surprises in Office 2021 if you already use Office programs through a Microsoft 365 subscription. However, if you’re still using an older perpetual-license version, like Office 2019, Office 2016, or an earlier edition, you’ll discover new and generally improved features that you might decide are worthwhile having; we’ll talk more about those in a bit.

The desktop programs for Office now offer some functionality that were previously only available in the browser-based version. For instance, you may now coauthor papers in the Office 2021 desktop apps in real time, complete with crystal-clear visual cues as to who else is contributing to the work and where they are making changes.

Product information for Microsoft Office 2021
Office 2021 largely resembles Office 2019 and Office 2016 with the exception of the newly added capabilities. Not having to learn a new interface is not a concern.

How has Office 2021 changed?
Here is a list of the main new features if you’re upgrading from the 2019 edition. Remember that only if you are switching from an earlier perpetual-license version will these be new. Over the past two years, several features have been steadily enabled for Microsoft 365 members.

Excel includes formulas that instantly provide an array of values, functions that name calculation results so you can use those names in formulas, a function that returns the relative position of an item in a range of cells, and customized views for specific sheets.
With the addition of a feature that enables you to link to a specific slide and transmit it to a colleague with the possibility for them to alter it, PowerPoint now adds the ability to repeat animations in which you draw freehand on a slide.
Faster searches, freehand inking, and other features are added to Outlook.
Office now includes Microsoft Teams, the company’s response to Slack.
These new features are not all groundbreaking. You don’t need to spend money on the new version if you’re already using the 2016 or 2019 version and don’t actually require these additional 2021 features. However, if you’re putting up a new computer and don’t already have an Office license, you won’t regret starting with the 2021 edition. Keep in mind that Microsoft, unlike many other suppliers, doesn’t provide discounted upgrades if you’re upgrading from a previous version. Whether you’re just getting started with Office or have been using it since the last century, you pay the same price.

Purchase Office 2021
Microsoft makes it obvious that it prefers you to purchase a Microsoft 365 subscription over a perpetual license when you attempt to purchase Office 2021. Go to the Microsoft 365 page and, depending on the version you want, choose either “Personal and Family” or “Business” to locate the option to purchase a perpetual license.

To get a sizable comparison table, scroll down after choosing Personal and Family. Office Home & Student 2021 can be purchased for $149.99 as a one-time purchase for PCs and Macs in the top right corner. Outlook isn’t included in this version.

When choosing Business, scroll all the way down to the last option “Looking to make a one-time purchase of Office? Comparison shopping” When you select that option, a screen displaying the $249.99 perpetual license offer appears.

I tested the premium Office Professional 2021 edition ($439.99), which enhances the standard programs with Microsoft Publisher and Microsoft Access. This version is available for purchase both directly from Microsoft and through third-party retailers like Amazon.


Microsoft now offers a new LTSC (Long-Term Service Channel) version with less capabilities for businesses who don’t frequently upgrade their systems. This version is exclusively available to volume license buyers.

Microsoft published Windows 11 on the same day that Office 2021 was made available to the public, but Office 2021 can be used without Windows 11. You should be aware that Office 2021 includes a 32-bit version, and the setup procedure will automatically install it on a 32-bit Windows system if you’re one of the relatively few customers who must use 32-bit Windows because your apps won’t run on 64-bit versions. Microsoft will support 32-bit versions of Windows 10 through 2025 even if Windows 11 is only available in a 64-bit version.

You’re Already Using These Apps
Since it is likely that the majority of soft360 readers are already familiar with Microsoft Office, we will simply briefly discuss each of the key programs in the suite and place a focus on the new features. As we use some of the larger ones over the upcoming months, we’ll be providing complete reviews of them for those who want a deeper dive on the components.

The Wordsmith’s Choice: Microsoft Word
With each new release, the most powerful word processor ever created becomes more user-friendly. Because Word has so many sophisticated capabilities, you might need to look them up. Fortunately, Word and other programs now have a clear feature search option in the title bar. For any phrases you type, the new search box also returns Help topics. If, like most users, you have trouble remembering that the Insert tab of the Ribbon menu contains the menus for altering headers and footers, simply put Header into the feature-search area, and Word will direct you there.

But there are some holes. The feature-search field won’t locate the Master Document feature, which enables you to create a huge document from numerous independently editable chapters, unless you are aware that you must first switch the View setting from Print Layout to Outline.

Search for Microsoft Office 2021 features
The multiple-pane Word interface works flawlessly with a mouse: Simply click the Proofing pane to edit your grammar and spelling. However, using the keyboard makes it quite difficult to navigate to the Proofing pane and choose the desired option. As you can see in the next image, I still don’t know how to use the keyboard to move about the Proofing pane.

The proofing pane for Microsoft Office 2021
Aside from these small gripes, Word outperforms its rivals in ways that are advantageous to both novice and experienced users. Beginners can select from thousands of tasteful template designs that are simply downloadable from Word’s New menu. The same Visual Basic for Applications used in Excel and PowerPoint is available to advanced users, giving them access to the most feature-rich programming language in any word processor. Although learning the language is challenging, anyone can pick up the fundamentals by creating a macro and analyzing the generated code in Word’s integrated Visual Basic editor. In addition, if you can’t get Word to do what you want, you’ll probably be able to find it in one of the many macros that other people have uploaded online.

Office 2021 has a Focus mode for times when you’re attempting to concentrate on your work, which is a welcome nod to the trend toward distraction-free writing programs. Simply click the Focus button on the toolbar at the bottom of the window to enter full-screen editing mode. No menus are visible in this mode; instead, there is simply a scrollbar and buttons at the top to close the file or return to the usual window. If you have a two-monitor setup, Focus mode only works in the first monitor, so if you want complete distraction-free use, turn off the second monitor.

Excel Excels
Excel has always been faster and more powerful than any other spreadsheet tool, and the most recent upgrade doesn’t alter this. When working with large, complex worksheets, the 2021 version appears to be a little faster than the 2019 version, but its increased feature set is the main benefit of upgrading.

A value from a huge array of data can be easily shown thanks to a clever new XLOOKUP function. For instance, you might have a column listing stock symbols and another listing the stock’s current pricing. Anywhere else on your worksheet, you can designate one cell as the one where you can type a stock symbol and another as the cell that will show the stock’s price. (In this second cell, an XLOOKUP formula is created.)

Microsoft Office’s XLOOKUP tool for Excel in 2021
You don’t need to know in advance how many rows your table will have since a new dynamic array feature allows you to build a formula in the first column of a table that returns data from all the rows in the table, regardless of how many rows it has. With this feature, you can start with two columns—one having first names and the other containing last names—and an automatic new column will be created that merges the first and last names into full names. This feature expands a handy and little-known feature from earlier versions.

Creating a custom sheet view that only shows the data you need to work with is another useful new feature for shared workbooks. Other users who are concurrently working on the same workbook can have their own custom views. In other words, you can only view a portion of a data set at a time while another user editing the same sheet views a different portion. The screenshot that follows was obtained from the macOS version since I couldn’t get the sheet view to show up on my Windows PC for reasons I don’t understand—a bug that Microsoft hasn’t explained to me.

In our article, “26 Excel Tips for Becoming a Spreadsheet Pro,” you may get advice on how to learn this expansive program.

View PowerPoint presentations on Excel sheets from Microsoft Office 2021.
I already discussed the new feature that lets you record your freehand drawing for playing later in the presentation powerhouse PowerPoint. Other useful capabilities added by PowerPoint include the capacity to capture a slideshow and store it as a video file.

Are you new to PowerPoint or want to improve your skills? Try out our 6 Tips for Quickly Creating Outstanding PowerPoint Presentations.

Outlook: Full of Features or Overstuffed?
Although some users think it has more functionality than it needs, Outlook is a mature tool, and the latest version hasn’t made many changes to it. A new tab on the ribbon displays when you enter a search phrase in the new search field, allowing you to focus your search on particular senders, recipients, and other criteria.

The brand-new Outlook Translator add-in transforms text between more than 70 languages. Users with touch screens can annotate emails using digital ink.

Microsoft Outlook search bar for 2021
Installation: Simple or Difficult
You might see a pop-up encouraging you to sample or purchase the new version of Office if you’re still using an earlier, non-subscription version of the program. You can install the upgrade quickly if you follow the instructions. Additionally, you may quickly upgrade from a non-subscription edition if you currently own one through the Microsoft Store.

However, because Microsoft doesn’t get rid of the old version when you install the new one, your system can become confused about which version to use. After installing the new version, it makes sense to uninstall the previous one. Remember that if you run into issues after deleting the old version, you might need to perform a repair installation of it.

Microsoft Office 2021 installation
Expect to go through a few extra hoops if you want to convert your Microsoft 365 installation from a subscription-based one to a perpetual one. Open one of the Office apps, select the File menu, choose the Account tab, and then look at Product Information after completing the Office 2021 installer. Click the Change License button if it indicates that you are using Office 365 or an earlier version of Office. If your Microsoft account’s email address is presented in the next dialog box and you’re already logged in, click on Use a different account. Then, look for the very small text that reads Enter a product key instead. Finally, you come to the window where you can activate Office 2021 by entering your product key. Simply click the Change License button and look for the link that says Enter a product key instead if you’re not logged into your Microsoft account.

If all goes according to plan, that is at least how you will transition from subscription-based Office to Office with a perpetual license. On my test machine, several Office apps wouldn’t stop identifying themselves as the Microsoft 365 versions when I tried to make this move. Excel insisted that I had the 365 version even after I tried to delete Microsoft 365. Because of how frequently this issue arises, Microsoft even has an Office uninstall help tool (look it up if you need it) that is designed to remove the 365 version.

I was unable to completely remove all traces of earlier versions and perform a clean installation of Office 2021 even after using Microsoft’s cleaning tool. It took deleting every Office-related folder from my Program Files and AppData directories and removing every Office entry from the Windows Registry before I was able to straighten everything out.

Options besides the office
Most Office substitutes are either less effective or more unpleasant. The two most popular competitors are the free open-source LibreOffice, which only runs as a desktop application, and the free open-source Google Workspace (also known as Google Docs), which can only be used in a web browser or as a mobile application and comes with all the security risks associated with storing your documents in the cloud. On contrast, Microsoft Office may be used on a desktop, in a browser, and as a mobile application. You have access to each of the three with a free Microsoft account. The online versions of Microsoft’s desktop applications are free, but you must pay for the desktop versions if you want to access your documents when you’re offline, unlike with Google Docs. Additionally, Office offers you significantly more dependable and feature-rich apps than LibreOffice. To collaborate with coworkers using Google apps, each user must have access to the files stored on Google’s servers. You can collaborate on documents that are kept on a Microsoft SharePoint Server, in a personal OneDrive folder, or on Dropbox using Microsoft Office.

Other options to take into account include the numerous commercial desktop software that are functionally similar to Office yet cost less. We recommend rival products like Kingsoft WPS Office (free for a limited version, $119.99 for a perpetual-license version, or $29.99 per year for a subscription), which we hope to review in the future. SoftMaker Office 2021 is also a good option (free for a limited version, $79.95 and up for the full-featured version). Only Corel WordPerfect Office 2021 ($249.99), which, in contrast to all other current word processors, uses a reveal-codes screen that enables you to see exactly how your document is formatted and gives you complete control over it, is a major office suite that doesn’t try to replicate the way Microsoft Word creates documents. Additionally, WordPerfect makes it simple to carry out several cleanup tasks that are really laborious in Word, like deleting unused style settings that Word creates when you import data from other programs.

The iWork suite from Apple is accessible for macOS users in desktop, iOS, and browser-based versions, with real-time collaboration available in each. You can only edit Pages, Numbers, and Keynotes documents via a web browser if you use an Android device, Linux computer, or Windows PC.

Microsoft Office is almost required for anyone using a Windows PC for professional work. Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides are enough for students and home users, and anyone who has to utilize open-source software for legal or other reasons can choose the less user-friendly but free LibreOffice. Apple’s Pages, Numbers, and Keynote are available to Mac users, but you must export the documents in Office formats to share them with Windows or Linux users (unless you force them to use the iWork web apps, that is).

Keynote is the clear front-runner among presentation tools if you solely use Apple products at business. Although Excel is generally much more powerful, Apple’s Numbers is great for creating innovative-looking spreadsheets with plenty of graphics. It also makes many features simpler to use than Excel does. Also keep in mind that if you want to share your Numbers spreadsheets, you’ll probably need to export them to Excel format. Its file format is the only one that you can exchange with practically everyone, regardless of the operating system they use, even Linux, where LibreOffice can open and save in Microsoft formats. Microsoft Word is a unique combination of power and annoyances.

Best for Consistency and Dependability
We are unable to predict whether you will choose a permanent license for Office 2021 or a Microsoft 365 subscription. Choose Office 2021 if stability is important to you and you don’t want to be concerned about losing access to your apps when a subscription expires. Get the subscription version if you prefer the concept of receiving a monthly serving of new features and require the most recent versions, coupled with a terabyte of internet storage for backup and syncing. In any case, neither we nor you can picture a workweek without Microsoft Office. Like its predecessors, Office 2021 is our undisputed Editors’ Choice winner for office apps.

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