In October 2021, Microsoft released both Office 2021 and Windows 11. The latest productivity pack has come with an interface redesign and enhanced overall performance for a better experience matching the new Windows.
But what’s new for customers? Users with good memory probably remember how the Office apps changed through the years. Let’s do a little overview of their most significant improvements for the rest of us!
What’s the difference between Office 2013, 2016, 2019 and Office 2021
The most notable upgrade in Office 2013 suite has been the cloud service inclusion. Other improvements worth mentioning are the easier handling of images and the then-new user interface.
But the development of technologies has been rapid in the last decade. Since 2013, a lot of things have changed. With the Office 2021 release, Microsoft plans to end support for its 2013 version in 2023. Moreover, Office 2013 is not compatible with Windows 11. So if you plan to upgrade your operating system, you will need a more recent Office suite.
Next comes Office 2016. Working with mobile devices has become a lot smoother. Other improvements have included collaboration features, a “Tell me what to do” tool and a “Smart search” within the apps.
Most collaboration features have turned out clumsy for non-subscribers of Microsoft cloud services. The non-subscription users of desktop Word 2016 and PowerPoint 2016 had to save the documents to share their changes with others and see other people’s edits. For real-time collaboration, users had to use the less powerful online versions of Word and PowerPoint. The Excel 2016 desktop client didn’t offer live collaboration to non-subscribers.
The next version, Office 2019, has introduced the “Text to speech” function and the dark theme for the night owls staying up late in front of the PCs. Other improvements include “Translator”, “Latex Syntax”, working with 3D images, etc. The improved co-authoring features in Word enable users to see who’s working on the same document and what changes they apply to the file. But the real-time co-authoring doesn’t apply to Excel and PowerPoint. Non-subscribers still have to use Excel Online and PowerPoint Online to collaborate in real time.
And here we’ve come to Office 2021! Despite its redesigned look, it is not too different from the 2019 and 2016 office suites, so there should be no worries about the learning curve for the less tech-savvy users. Now, let’s outline its new features and improvements!
What’s new in Office 2021
- Compared to the 2013, 2016, and 2019 releases, Office 2021 has the most enhanced collaboration features. The real-time co-authoring is finally available in all three core Office apps – Word, Excel, and PowerPoint – as long as the documents are in OneDrive, Microsoft’s cloud storage. Everyone can see who is working on the file they have opened and the changes others make as they happen. Coloured cursors indicate the identity of each person and where in the document they are currently.
- New in Word: Besides the upgraded co-authoring features, other improvements include “Text predictions” (provides word suggestions when you start typing) and “Line focus” (lets you go through the text line by line without distractions). Another benefit worth mentioning is OpenDocument format (ODF) 1.3 support. It provides better compatibility and access to many ODF features.
- New in Excel: Major leap from Excel 2016 and 2019! The expanded feature set of the 2021 version includes dynamic arrays (let you write one formula and have it return an array of values) and at least nine new functions (XLOOKUP, LET, XMATCH, etc.). It is slightly faster than the 2019 version when working with large and complex spreadsheets. The LET function allows assigning names to calculation results so that you can use those names in a formula. The clever new XLOOKUP makes it easy to display values from a massive array of data by searching tables and ranges row by row. The new XMATCH function searches for an item in a range of cells and returns its relative position. Users can also create a custom sheet view that shows different data for every user while working on the same file.
- New in PowerPoint: Improved “Record Slide Show” allows making a presenter video recording, ink recording, pointer movements recording, etc. Then you can save it all as a video file. There is also a feature that lets you create a link to a slide and send it to a colleague with an option to edit it.
- New in Outlook: The new “Translator” tool is the most notable improvement. It automatically translates emails into more than 70 languages directly in the mailbox. Users also get “Instant Search” and can mark emails with digital ink when working on a touch screen.
- Office 2021 offers better search features, support of OpenDocument format 1.3., and “AutoSave”, which automatically saves changes to OneDrive.
- Visual refresh: We’ve mentioned the new up-to-date look of Office 2021. Users can enjoy a modern “Start” menu, new tabs in the ribbon, rounded corners and a neutral palette for a more pleasant visual experience. Office 2021 supports Hex colours, so no more converting hex values into RGB.
- All apps in the suite received performance improvement.
At this point, the most complicated part for users comes. Should they upgrade to the 2021 version?
Which MS Office is the right option
The 2021 version offers better performance, stability and speed. But frankly speaking, none of its improvements is revolutionary. Most of the new features in Office 2021 are familiar to Microsoft 365 subscribers as Microsoft gradually added them over the past couple of years. So these will be new only for users of earlier perpetual-licence versions.
If you’re already running the 2016 or 2019 version and don’t need these new features and MS Teams for work, you’re better off spending your money elsewhere. Take into consideration the support period too! Office 2021 will only get five years of support till 2026, compared to ten years for Office 2016 and seven for Office 2019 (which both end in 2025). We can guess this is yet another way for Microsoft to urge customers toward their subscription service.
The 2021 suite is a good choice If you have bought a new computer and don’t have an existing transferable licence for Office. In that case, you won’t regret starting with Office 2021 and getting all the perks.
But in all other cases, we advise you to opt for Office 2019. It is a more cost-saving option with very similar capabilities. And unless there is something specific you need to upgrade for, Office 2019 will keep you (and your budget) going just fine.
Type of licences to choose from
Unlike the subscription software products (requiring a monthly or annual fee), Office suite licences are perpetual (you pay once and can use it forever if you like). They are also known as “on-premises” or “standalone”. These licences allow installing and updating the apps on your device until the support end date. After this, you can use the Office suite without updates or pay again and upgrade to the next version.
But here is another distinction. The licences can be one-time or transferable. The one-time activation licence allows installation only on a single computer. The transferable one requires having a Microsoft account, and via this account, you can re-install the Office suite to another device when needed. That means transferable perpetual licences are probably the best and most recommended option you can get.
Microsoft Office is probably the most popular set of productivity apps for office work. Office 2021 is their most enhanced suite, yet it does not differ so much from its predecessors. There is a wide variety of Office versions and editions so that everybody can find the right package for their home or business. You can always contact us for further assistance!