Microsoft 365 is Microsoft’s suite of business and productivity apps and services. People use these apps for all manner of day-to-day business operations and to improve workflow efficiency and workplace productivity.
Understanding Microsoft 365
What is Microsoft 365? Put simply, it is a collection of software programs and cloud-based services that enable users to perform various activities on their computers. Versions of the ubiquitous software suite are available for Windows and Mac computers, as well as Android and Apple iOS phones and tablets. Microsoft sells different “editions” of Microsoft 365 for different markets and users, most on a yearly or monthly subscription basis.
A Short History of Microsoft Office & Microsoft 365
Microsoft introduced the Microsoft Word word processor in 1983. In this pre-Windows world, Word ran on the MS-DOS operating system. The first version of Word for Windows came out in 1989.
Word wasn’t Microsoft’s first productivity software, however. Microsoft marketed a spreadsheet program called Multiplan (for CP/M computers) back in 1982. Microsoft Excel would succeed Multiplan in 1985 for Apple Macintosh computers. The first Windows version of Excel hit the market in 1987.
The third leg of the initial Office triad was PowerPoint, a presentation program. Microsoft released a Macintosh version of PowerPoint in 1989, followed by a Windows version in 1990.
These three programs—Word, Excel, and PowerPoint—were first brought together in 1990, under the banner of Microsoft Office. New versions of Office followed almost yearly for several years and today we’re up to version 16, which was released in 2019.
Today Office is sold as freestanding software packages and as an ongoing subscription service. With Microsoft 365, users or businesses purchase a monthly or yearly subscription and have use of the included Office apps for that period.
Different Versions of Microsoft 365
Microsoft offers several different versions of Microsoft 365, each targeted at a different user or market and including different combinations of apps and services at different prices. The current versions of Microsoft 365 include:
- Apps (for business)
- Business Basic
- Business Standard
- Business Premium
- F3 (for enterprises)
- E5 (for enterprises)
- E3 (for enterprises)
Microsoft also offers three different versions of Microsoft 365 Education, targeted at schools of various types.
Discovering Microsoft 365 Apps and Services
Different versions of Microsoft 365 include different combinations of apps and services. You’ve probably heard of the big ones, such as Word and Excel, but that leaves a few dozen apps and services your business could—and perhaps should—be using.
So Many Apps…
What apps are available in Microsoft 365? The apps differ from version to version, but here’s an almost comprehensive list, in alphabetical order:
- Access—Microsoft’s powerful (PC only) database program
- Bookings—scheduling and organizing meetings, and resources
- Calendar—for scheduling and sharing meetings and other events
- Excel—the premier spreadsheet program for modeling and analyzing data
- Forms—which lets you create polls, quizzes, and surveys with real-time results
- InfoPath—for designing and distributing electronic forms
- Kaizala—secure mobile chat
- MyAnalytics—provides personalized insights into daily habits and activities to help optimize your schedule
- OneDrive—cloud-based file storage
- OneNote—for capturing and organizing notes
- Outlook—business-class email client
- People—for organizing contact information
- Planner—for cloud-based team collaboration
- Power Apps—custom app development
- Power Automate—for creating and automating tasks and workflows
- Power BI—business intelligence and data mining tools
- PowerPoint—professional presentations
- Project—advanced project management
- Publisher—easy-to-use desktop publishing
- SharePoint—document/file sharing and collaboration
- Skype—voice and video calls
- Sway—for creating and sharing interactive presentations and reports
- Teams—online text and video chat, forums, calls, and meetings
- To Do—for creating to-do and task lists
- Visio—flowcharts, and diagrams
- Whiteboard—which provides a collaborative interactive experience for users
- Word—the de facto standard in word processing programs
- Yammer—connect, share information, and organize around projects
Other Microsoft 365 Services
Microsoft also offers a variety of services, primarily with the enterprise versions of Microsoft 365. These services include Advanced Threat Analytics, Cloud App Security, Enterprise Mobility + Security, Microsoft EndPoint Manager, and more. It’s a long and sometime confusing list of applications, but we’re here to help sift through the clutter and help you find some hidden gems that could improve your business’s operations.
More to Come…
This is the first of an eight-part series on Microsoft 365 apps and services. Over the next several months we’ll be highlighting some useful and often overlooked apps in the Microsoft 365 suite. You can look forward to separate articles on SharePoint, Teams, Power BI, Planner, Power Automate, Whiteboard, and of course, the “big four”: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook.
Let CDS Help You Get the Most from Microsoft 365
CDS Office Technologies has been serving business customers in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Missouri since 1971. We are the office solution experts—our expert staff is dedicated to understanding our customers’ needs and helping them find the most cost-effective business solutions.Contact CDS Office Technologies today to learn how to get more out of Microsoft 365 apps and services.