Office 2021 Home & Business review, collaboration and accessibility even for perpetual users
HomeMacityBusiness Office and ProfessionalsThree years after the 2019 version, Microsoft has launched Office 2021, the perpetual version of the productivity package, also available for Mac.
The interface is practically identical but the news under the hood are many, also related to the cloud, plus one relating to licensing that is really intriguing.
The copy of this review is Office 2021 Home & Business, probably the most widespread, but by no means the only one in Microsoft's catalog as a home and office suite.
This perpetual edition is joined by Office 2021 Professional (identical but with Publisher and Access and compatible only with Windows) and Home & Student (identical, but without Outlook) which have different prices and are intended for specific customers (companies with highest need for collaboration the former, private individuals and students the latter).
Furthermore, it should be remembered that Office 2021 joins the Microsoft 365 subscription offer which, for the business sector, offers the Microsoft 365 Business Standard edition while for the private one Microsoft 365 Personal or Home.
The Office 2021 Home & Business box, just arrived in the editorial officeThe 365 edition must be renewed once a month or a year (depending on the type of purchase) but provides within it additional services such as 1 TB of cloud space, an exchange mailbox and full use of Microsoft Teams (these two only with Microsoft 365 Business Standard).
Office 2021, on the other hand, is the most classic edition of Office, with apps in a perpetual version, for Mac and Windows, ideal for the professional, the small office (under 30 users) or the private user who wants more advanced tools.
As for the license, a box (or a code, because Office 2021 can also be purchased in electronic format) covers a computer, and typically a user.
Once the package, the Apps can be found individually in the Applications folder
The first novelty
The first novelty of this version of Office 2021 emerges even before opening the box: Microsoft has included this edition of Office within the “Modern Lifecycle Policy” program: this means that the product has a declared life of five years, up to October 13, 2026 and in this period will receive security updates and free support for the first 60 days from the date of purchase (like previous editions) but also that in these five years “may” receive functionality updates.
Microsoft does not specify which or when, but such updates will arrive: on Windows one has already arrived, with a major interface makeover, about two weeks after launch.
These types of updates were not planned for previous editions, which were not within the same program and are great news for users, who could see a feature update or a new interface between now and 2026 completely free.
The end of support date, October 13, 2026, only indicates the end of the Office security updates, but the product will still continue to function as before.
The main offer for Mac: Office 2021 Home & Students, Office 2021 Home & Business and Microsoft 365 Business Standard
Inside the box
Office 2021 can be purchased in electronic format from any Italian reseller participating in the ESD Electronic Software Distribution sale) in Italy, or in Card format or as in our case, in a boxed edition. In all three cases, it is the same product because the product code and a link where you can activate it and download the installer, for Mac or Windows depending on the computer, also remain inside the box (the box is the same).
The installer is compatible with the latest two versions of macOS or Windows and installs the Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, OneDrive and Microsoft Teams apps, this one in the Business version for Mac, or the consumer version for Windows.
The Word interface is very classic: one of the novelties is to have the black theme, which among other things saves battery
In the Mac edition there are not many obvious changes, the interface has remained practically identical to the 2019 version except for the possibility of applying the dark theme, and from a technical point of view the Apps are very close to their counterpart for Microsoft 365 .
The most attentive will immediately notice the presence of Microsoft Teams, as soon as possible with a separate installation: given that this software has become fundamental for many realities and together with others similar it is radically changing the way of working, it was impossible to ignore its existence.
Office 2021 users can use Teams in the free version, with some limitations in order of connection time and number of connected users, or take advantage of the new Microsoft proposal for Teams Essentials.
Or they can use Teams to communicate with the Teams for Life edition, pre-installed on Windows 11, using the Add personal account command from within the App.
One once the App is open, a window shows the models present, the recently used files other options such as shared documents
Perpetual but with an eye to the cloud
Office 2021 also in this edition breaks with the past by introducing a large series of features that make use of OneDrive and the internet in general, until previously the almost exclusive prerogative of Microsoft 365.
This edition does not allow space on OneDrive, but all users can still use the free 5 GB, useful for various Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents for the purposes of the news that we are going to see.
For example, it is now possible to share a document with other users via the cloud, directly from within the application: if the document is already inside OneDrive fine, otherwise a window asks to move or copy it within the cloud space (which between the another has been updated a few days ago) in total autonomy.
The Immersive Reading tool allows you to change the display of a text in Word (without altering its formatting original) to improve readingSharing can be done both in reading and writing, by applying a password or a maximum time, on specific users or in public mode.
In a shared document it is possible to insert comments or even make mentions of specific users, so that they receive a link to the document and can intervene more specifically based on what is indicated in the mention.
Both sharing and intervention through mentions allow multiple users to collaborate in the document at the same time, and to see both the presence of other active users and where they are operating, through visual labels: this is very important at a time when smart working is gaining momentum and the work of a team is less and less tied to the same room.
The new function Search.x returns the value of a table based on on the parameter of a second table. Here, for example, it returns the telephone area code based on the name of the state
With this new edition of Office, the availability of elements in the gallery increases: new vector icons, new stickers (some really nice) and new images (outlined), to be used freely, which is a great advantage for those who create material such as presentations on a daily basis. or documents.
The Search.X (XLOOKUP in English) function is very promising, a new Excel function that returns the result of a column based on another data column: for example, it can return the price of an item by searching for its code. If the result does not exist, it can even come up with an approximation.
Accessibility in Office documents has also increased: as on the web, it is possible to insert text strings within images so that they can be understood by automatic reading software. The strings can be entered manually by the user or even automatically, with a function that checks the document.
The Immersive Reading function in Word also speaks of accessibility: initially conceived for the Educational sector, it has gradually become a very useful function for all users.
Basically, once activated, it changes the appearance of the document (leaving its original formatting unchanged) allowing you to change the background color, spacing, width of the main column of text and enabling automatic reading with male or female voices.
A great help for those who have to read or correct very long documents, reducing visual fatigue: this function works alongside and does not replace the Focus mode, already present, which is parallel.
Improvements also in Outlook, which now gains a new search engine, manages animated GIFs and supports both mentions and the message “not available”.
Outlook interface, which may change shortly
The innovations above are listed by examining the Mac part, which is very similar to the Windows counterpart, where there are some additional innovations, such as the new interface, the Replay functionality in PowerPoint, Ink also on Outlook and the Editor tool that can correct the text written using artificial intelligence.
However, there are several improvements also on macOS: the interface has been revised in some details and we know that Microsoft is experimenting (on Microsoft 365) a new interface for Outlook, currently in preview, which could then migrate to all the Apps of Office later.
Office has improved support for SVG documents, vector documents that can be created very easily from Illustrator or Affinity Design and which are a more interesting alternative to classic PNGs, whose support has been improved, together with the GIF format.
Some details of the accessibility tool: here it allows you to enter a description of the image, which will be processed by an automatic reading software
All gold ?
Is all that glitters gold when it comes to Office? The writer of the new suite liked it a lot, it offers important news in real-time collaboration, new contents such as icons and stikers, the Search.X function is really interesting and, in general, the news regarding accessibility are welcome. (even if they will only be used by a slice of users).
There remain some doubts about improvements that we expected and did not arrive: for example Word cannot export in .epub format, which would have been a really important news for many users (even if we really like the excellent Vellum).
PowerPoint becomes more and more powerful and some features like Morphing, together with the native ability to manage 3D documents can create really important presentations, but it would be nice to be able to offer users interactive presentations.
Excel is very powerful and extremely versatile, so much so that together with Photoshop it occupies one of the essential apps for every professional user, but it would need an improvement in the quality of the output graphics.
Finally Outlook, perfect for those who have to dynamically manage many email accounts (including Exchange), has many tools qualitatively superior to Apple's Mail, but lacks an integrated tool that “remembers” the various accounts when migrating from a computer to the 'other (as does Mail, and other clients also free).
Of course, Microsoft is certainly not obliged to follow the needs of users or submit to the wishes of the writer, and in any case the shortcomings mentioned above do not detract from the quality of a product, but in some cases (such as the ePub ) the question about the lack of this or that function seems legitimate.
In a world that in ul In the last two years we have seen radically changed from a working point of view with terms such as smart working (or hybrid work), streaming, webinar or real-time collaboration now in common use, it is clear that a new productivity suite certainly could not ignore them.
The new Office 2021 has as its main novelty the greater affinity with OneDrive, and consequently the possibility of managing collaboration between users in real time, wherever they are.
The integration with Teams has increased (now included) which opens the door to a different form of work, for those who are not used to, but much more productive (here at Macitynet, to say, we have been experimenting with smart working long before Covid. , with excellent results).
This is not new but it is worth mentioning: the Excel Maps function allows you to automatically create a dynamic map from a database of provinces, regions or statesIn addition to this some important inputs, such as Excel functions and new PowerPoint contents, improvements in Outlook and new accessibility features in Word which according to the writer should be standard in all productivity software.
With this version, which combines not many innovations but very important even if taken individually with functions already present previously, Office 2021 once again defines its position as the leading package for every Mac or Windows that is, even in the face of several free or not free proposals, which are present for both platforms but which cannot offer the quality or quantity of functions that are (too often) taken for granted in Office.
The price of the suite remains important, with the Home & Student alternative for private users who do not need Outlook or Microsoft 365 Business Standard, Home or Personal for those who prefer a subscription to a stand alone purchase.
Microsoft said during the launch that this will not be the last version of Office and the Modern Lifecycle Policy program guarantees juicy and interesting updates over time, keeping the suite alive even beyond its “perpetual” nature.
The new accessibility functions accompany an already present function: Translator is able to carry a selection of a text (or the whole document) from a language to the other in a single click, among more than sixty available
• The new collaboration features are very interesting • New accessibility tools • Immersive reading is phenomenal • Maintains the good things before, with important new features
• Some novelties such as ePub are missing and heard • Price is important • Some (small) functions remain only for Windows
• € 299.00 (Home & Business) • € 140.00 (Home & Student)
Office 2021 is available in all IT stores in the peninsula: it can also be purchased online directly from the Microsoft website or more conveniently through Amazon.it