Microsoft Office

Last Updated: August 20, 2020

Definition - What does Microsoft Office mean?

Microsoft Office is a suite of desktop productivity applications that is designed specifically by Microsoft for business use. It is a proprietary product of Microsoft Corporation and was first released in 1990. For decades, MS Office has been a dominant model in delivering modern office-related document-handling software environments.

Microsoft Office is available in 35 different languages and is supported by Windows, Mac and most Linux variants.

Techopedia explains Microsoft Office

The core components of Microsoft Office are the six items present in the original package, notwithstanding the later addition of services like OneDrive and SharePoint and a web design tool called FrontPage.

The six core programs in Microsoft Office are:

  • Word.
  • Excel.
  • PowerPoint.
  • Access.
  • Publisher.
  • OneNote.

These could be separated into what you might call the “three greater applications” and the “three lesser applications” that receive much lower use by the average end-user.

The Word, Excel and PowerPoint applications in Microsoft Office are familiar household names, even to people who are not familiar with the details of the Office suite’s evolution. They are often used by a diverse user base, for example, college students, interns, or front line workers in IT. By contrast, someone may use Word, Excel and PowerPoint frequently, and rarely or never use Access, Publisher or OneNote.

The three major Microsoft Office pieces include the word processor (Word), the spreadsheet (Excel) and the visual presentation tool (PowerPoint.)

Access is a database management tool, while Publisher allows for the presentation of various marketing materials.

History of Microsoft Office

Another way to understand how Microsoft Office has evolved over the years is to look at the three different ways that the software has been delivered to users.

First, there was out of the box software licensing. Users bought Microsoft Office in a box in a brick and mortar store (or by mail,) and used a compact disc inside to download the software onto a workstation.

The out of the box model held though the era of the floppy disk and the early days of the compact disc, but eventually, this bulky and cumbersome method of software purchasing was replaced by a system where users downloaded the software over the Internet. Passcodes and license keys insured against unauthorized use.

The third delivery method that is now replacing the other two is web delivery or delivery through “the cloud.”

Cloud delivery means that the actual application service is delivered over the Internet, so that no downloading is necessary. The provider also does not have to protect as much against unauthorized use because the actual data storage and utility are taking place in the vendor’s “walled garden.”

One thing that's remarkable about Microsoft Office is its staying power. Through the cloud era, enterprise software has changed quite a bit. Amazon Web Services took over large swaths of the cloud services industry. However, Microsoft's new Office 365 model continues to remain a popular office suite in today's post-cloud world.

At the same time, Microsoft Office also has started to get built into mobile phones, and the addition of add-ins and plug-ins was another major evolution. Today, users can use Microsoft Office 2019 or take advantage of Office Web Apps for Apple or Android.

Although some other types of cloud word processors like Grammarly and Hemingway have presented options for specific types of editing, Microsoft Word still remains by far the most popular word processor of its kind.

[Work faster, not harder in Microsoft Windows, Excel, Word and PowerPoint with these shortcuts tips]

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