What Is Microsoft Office? - dummies

By Faithe Wempen

Microsoft Office is a suite of applications for business productivity. A suite is a group of applications that are designed to work well together and are designed around a common interface. It is less expensive to buy a suite than it is to buy the individual applications separately.

The Microsoft Office 2013 suite comes in several different editions, each with a different combination of applications. The table summarizes which applications are available in which editions.

Microsoft Office Editions
Home & Student Home & Business Professional Standard(Available Only Through Volume Licensing) Professional Plus (Available Only Through Volume
Word X X X X X
Excel X X X X X
PowerPoint X X X X X
OneNote X X X X X
Outlook X X X X
Publisher X X X
Access X X
InfoPath X
Lync X

Note that some editions are available only through volume licensing — that is, when a company purchases a bulk license that allows many copies of the software to be installed. For example, a university might offer Office to all students and teachers through volume licensing.

There are also subscription-based editions of Office called Microsoft Office 365; they are available on a yearly subscription basis online.

Here’s a quick description of each application:

  • Word: A word processor, used for text-based documents like reports, memos, and letters.

  • Excel: A spreadsheet program, used to organize and calculate numeric data like budgets, sales results, and loans.

  • PowerPoint: A presentation graphics program, used to create computerized slide shows to accompany all types of public speaking (sales pitches, lessons, informational meetings, and so on).

  • Outlook: An email and personal information management program, used to send and receive email, schedule meetings, track to-do lists, and store contact information.

  • Access: A database management system, used to store and organize structured data such as inventory and personnel information and customer orders.

  • Publisher: A desktop publishing program that enables you to create documents with more complex page layouts than Word, such as brochures and newsletters.

  • OneNote: A note organizing program that allows you to store and combine data from many different sources as you would with a cardboard folder or a filing cabinet drawer.

  • InfoPath: An application for creating, distributing, and filling out electronic forms.

  • Lync: An instant messaging application that can be used with certain types of servers.

In addition to the full applications, Microsoft also offers streamlined, online versions of some applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote). To access these, log into OneDrive with your Microsoft ID, and then click the Create button and choose the type of document you want to create. Alternatively, click one of your existing files stored on your OneDrive to open it in the web-based version of its native application.