Office 2019 is the latest version of Microsoft’s standalone Office productivity suite. It’s what the firm now calls the “perpetual” version of Office, or what old-timers like myself might still call “on-premises.” And that’s for good reason: Office 2019 doesn’t offer any of the cloud-connected features that Office 365 subscribers would see using the exact same apps. Thus, it is, in fact, a subset of Microsoft Office compared to the versions of the suite—or, the applications—that Office 365 subscribers see.

This is an important distinction: For the first time ever, a major new release of Microsoft Office provides less functionality than what current users—in this case, Office 365 subscribers—already have access to.

This isn’t the way Microsoft markets the product, of course. And it’s fair to say that Office 2019—e.g. the perpetual version of Microsoft Office—provides more functionality than its predecessor, Office 2016.

For Office 365, Microsoft quietly dropped the year-based version numbers from the Office desktop applications. You can see this when you start up Word or one of the other applications: The about box that pops up while it loads will read “Office 365” rather than the version number (like “2016” or “2019”).

ffice 2019 provides all of the fixes and non-cloud updates that Microsoft has added to Office 2016 over the past three years and packages them in a more traditional form. It’s aimed at those customers—commercial first, but a version for consumers is coming soon, too—that will only use the product on a single PC and in “air gap” scenarios in which the PC is rarely or even never online.

And it’s not about addressing a Luddite segment of the audience. There are customers who need to use Office in situations in which they’d like to be online but cannot for various reasons. Submarines, perhaps, or oil platforms.

Most surprisingly, Office 2019 isn’t the end of the line, either. Contrary to my suspicions, Microsoft isn’t being wishy-washy about whether or not it will release an Office 2022 (or whatever).

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