Office 365 and Office 2013 – what’s the difference?

Is there any difference in the software buying Office 365 or Office 2013

Microsoft uses the terms ‘Office 365’ and ‘Office 2013’ interchangeably and confusingly so it’s no wonder Office-Watch.com gets asked about differences between the two.

Strictly speaking ‘Office 2013’ is the software – the successor to Office 2010 and before. You install Office 2013 on your Windows computer.

‘Office 365’ is a new way to rent Microsoft Office related services. Those services usually includes the right to install and use ‘Office 2013’ software as well as other features during the rental period (usually a year at a time).

It’s the same software. It doesn’t matter how you buy Office 2013, you get the same software. Same features, same functionality.

(Well, OK – there are a few small differences due to the ‘Click to Run’ or streaming installation for Office 365 renters. But those differences are minor and a by-product of the installation method not a decision by Microsoft.)

If you choose the Office 365 annual rental option it comes with additional benefits which are separate from the core Office 2013 software that everyone gets. It’s those rental add-ons that cause some confusion. For example, the Office 365 rental comes with more Skydrive space which leads some people to think that only the Office 2013 rental software can access Skydrive files – wrong – all Office 2013 releases can save/read documents saved on Skydrive.

The choice to make is how you buy Office 2013, in short




  • either a one-off payment for the software – you pay for a single transferable licence 

  • an annual rental fee (which will change over time) that comes with the right to install Office on up to 5 computers at a time plus benefits like additional Skydrive storage space.  Microsoft calls this a ‘subscription’ because it sounds better than what it really is, software rental.

Either option gets you the same Office 2013 software.