Microsoft half-heartedly announces the availability of Office 2019

Microsoft would much rather you buy a subscription to its Office 365 services. But, if you really must, there's Office 2019.

Credit: Alejandro Escamilla / Microsoft

In years past, the release of a new Microsoft Office suite would be a momentous event. But with Microsoft shifting toward a subscription service model, even Microsoft seems lukewarm about Monday’s general release of Office 2019.

Right now, Office 2019 is being made available to commercial users, with consumer versions arriving in the “coming weeks,” Microsoft said Monday. Microsoft’s positioning is made clear in an accompanying FAQ: Office 2019 is described as a “one-time purchase,” versus the ongoing subscription model that is Office 365. There’s one big system requirement, though: Windows 10.

Office 2019 ships with “classic versions” of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. Windows users will also receive Publisher 2019, Access 2019, Project 2019, and Visio 2019, Microsoft said; Mac users won’t receive the latter apps. In addition, Windows users won’t receive a new version of OneNote. While a Windows user can download a copy of OneNote 2016, there is no official “OneNote 2019” app, Microsoft said. It’s being replaced by the version of OneNote already within Windows. 

What this means: Essentially, the Office 2019 apps are considered a snapshot in time. While the Office apps will receive security updates and patches, they won’t receive new features. The message? If you want the latest Microsoft has to offer, subscribe to Office 365. 

How much will Office 2019 cost?

The big unanswered question is what Microsoft will charge for Office 2019, which still hasn’t been answered. As Computerworld reported earlier, however, Microsoft has said it will raise prices by 10 percent over previous versions. (Amazon sells a single copy of Microsoft Office 2016 Home & Business for $205, which would put Office 2019 at at least $225, and possibly higher.) The tradeoff, of course, is that it’s a one-time fee: you’ll have to reinstall the apps yourself is your PC goes belly-up, but you’ll also own those apps for life. With Office 365, you’ll pay a subscription fee: $69.99 per year for Office 365 Personal, which grants you a license to one PC. 

If you’re a fan of the one-time Office model (also known as an on-premises suite, in Microsoft parlance) you’ll be happy to know that that model won’t die with Office 2019. Microsoft said it will commit to another version sometime in the future. 

What’s new in Office 2019?

Microsoft gave a very bare-bones outline of the new features within the Office 2019 apps, taken straight from the company’s Office 2019 FAQ:

Word

  • Black theme
  • Learning tools (captions and audio descriptions)
  • Speech feature (text-to-speech)
  • Improved inking functionality
  • Accessibility improvements

Excel

  • Funnel charts, 2D maps, and timelines
  • New Excel functions and connectors
  • Ability to publish Excel to PowerBI
  • PowerPivot enhancements
  • PowerQuery enhancements

PowerPoint

  • Zoom capabilities for ordering of slides within presentations
  • Morph transition feature
  • Ability to insert and manage Icons, SVG, and 3D models
  • Improved roaming pencil case

Outlook

  • Updated contact cards
  • Office 365 Groups1
  • @mentions
  • Focused inbox
  • Travel and delivery summary cards

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