Office 2021 Provides On-Premises Productivity Apps

Microsoft has released a new version of its on-premises productivity suite for those customers who are not interested in using cloud-based productivity apps. Find out what Office 2021 has to offer.

Back when Office 2019 was rolled out, Microsoft said it would provide additional releases of its on-premises productivity suite. It fulfilled that promise when it began distributing Office 2021 on October 5, 2021.

While the tech giant primarily promotes Microsoft 365 as the go-to source for its productivity apps, it recognizes that not everyone wants to use this cloud-based subscription service. “We know some customers still prefer a non-subscription version of the core Office apps for PC and Mac, which is why we’re releasing Office 2021,” said Liat Ben-Zur, the corporate vice president of Modern Life, Search, and Devices at Microsoft. Plus, sometimes circumstances dictate that customers cannot use cloud-based services.


The Available Versions

Various versions of Office 2021 are available to meet the differing needs of customers. For example, Office Home & Student 2021 is designed for consumers. Small companies that need fewer than five licenses can use Office Professional 2021 or Office Home & Business 2021, both of which are licensed for business use.

For companies needing more than five licenses, Microsoft offers several suites through volume licensing. They include Office LTSC Standard 2021 and Office LTSC Professional Plus 2021. LTSC stands for Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC). These specialty products have been built for specific scenarios. For instance, they are designed for “regulated devices that cannot accept feature updates for years at a time, process control devices on the manufacturing floor that are not connected to the Internet, and specialty systems that must stay locked in time and require a long-term servicing channel,” explained Jared Spataro, Microsoft 365 corporate vice president.

Except for Office Professional 2021 and Office LTSC Professional Plus 2021, all the Office 2021 suites run on both Windows and Mac computers. Windows devices need to be running Windows 10 or Windows 11. Mac machines must be running one of the three most recent versions of macOS (versions 12, 11, and 10.15 at the time of this writing).

Table 1 shows the various Office 2021 versions and the apps they include by default.


What’s New

All the apps in Office 2021 have a fresh look. The changes include a neutral color palette, rounded corners, and modern-looking tabs. This visual update is aligned with the redesign introduced in Windows 11, which was also released on October 5. Users running Office 2021 on a Windows 11, Windows 10, or MacOS machine will see the updated look, but Office LTSC 2021 users will not.

Besides giving the Office 2021 apps a fresh look, Microsoft has added some features that were previously available to only Microsoft 365 subscribers. These features include:

  • Real-time co-authoring in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. “With real-time co-authoring, you can work with others in the same document at the same time. There’s no need to send extra notes or emails because everyone will be notified when a file is updated,” according to Liat Ben-Zur. To work, the documents need to be saved in Microsoft OneDrive. This feature is not available in Office LTSC 2021.
  • Additional functions in Excel. The XLOOKUP, XMATCH, and LET functions as well as functions to work with dynamic arrays are now available.
  • Accessibility Checker in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. The Accessibility Checker points out possible problems that people with disabilities might have reading or editing a Word, Excel, or PowerPoint file.

A complete list of the added features can be found on the “What’s new in Office 2021” web page.


The Details

Before purchasing Office 2021, potential buyers need to know a few details:

  • Office 2021 is a one-time purchase. The license never expires, so customers can use the apps for as long as they want without having to pay any additional fees. In contrast, Microsoft 365 subscribers pay a monthly or annual fee to use the Office apps. When the payments stop, the license to run the Office apps expires.
  • The Office 2021 apps can be run on only one computer. So, if a user installs the apps on a desktop PC but then needs to use them on a laptop during a business trip, they would have to use the laptop’s web browser to access the free but feature-limited versions of the apps on
  • Microsoft provides security updates but not feature updates for the Office 2021 apps. The only way to get new features is to upgrade to the next release of the on-premises productivity suite when its available or subscribe to Microsoft 365. (Office 2021 includes only a subset of the features available in Microsoft 365.)
  • There are no free or reduced-cost upgrades. If Office 2019 users want to upgrade to Office 2021, they have to pay the full price for it. Similarly, Office 2021 users will need to pay full price for the next release of the on-premises productivity suite.


A Viable Alternative

Office 2021 is a viable alternative for those businesses that don’t want to use a cloud-based productivity solution like Microsoft 365. If you are interested in learning more about what this on-premises productivity suite has to offer, give us a call.

Table 1: Office 2021 Versions and Their Apps

Version Apps Included by Default
Word Excel Power-Point Teams OneNote Outlook Access Publisher
Office Home & Student 2021 for Windows X X X X X
Office Home & Student 2021 for Mac X X X X X
Office Home & Business 2021 for Windows X X X X X X
Office Home & Business 2021 for Mac X X X X X X
Office Professional 2021 for Windows X X X X X X X X
Office LTSC Standard 2021 for Windows X X X X X X X
Office LTSC Standard 2021 for Mac X X X X X X
Office LTSC Professional Plus 2021 for Windows X X X X X X X X

Cloud Computing flickr photo by Mike Bonitz shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license