Windows 11 is easily the most exciting new software Microsoft will launch this year, but it's not the only new release the company has planned.
We already knew Microsoft was planning to launch a new standalone version of Microsoft Office around the same time as Windows 11. That time turns out to be exact same day — October 5, 2021.
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This could be a significant update to the standalone version of Microsoft Office, which continues to be a workplace mainstay thanks to its inclusion of ubiquitous productivity apps like Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook. It's probably about time, too: the most recent standalone version, Microsoft Office 2019, was released three years ago in September of 2018.
Now, thanks to confirmation by The Verge, we know that Microsoft plans to debut a revamped version of Office right alongside its brand-new operating system. It's yet unclear what Office 2021 will cost, but it's probably a safe bet that it won't stray too far from Office 2019's starting price of $150.
As far as new features go, we already know that Microsoft Office is getting a big makeover for Windows 11 that incorporates the Fluid Design principles which give Windows 11 its signature centered, rounded look. That makeover includes cosmetic details like soft corners and customizable Office themes, as well as practical features like presence indicators in Word documents you're collaborating with others on, so you can see their cursors and edits in real time — just like collaborating in Google Docs.
Plus, The Verge reports that Microsoft actually rolled out a big Microsoft Office update to its enterprise customers today via its Microsoft Office Long Term Servicing Channel, which serves businesses with PCs that aren't updated for years at a time. That variant of Office sports new features like a Dark Mode option in all Office apps, new dynamic array functions in Excel, a new Line Focus view mode for reading Word documents line by line, and more. While we can't say for sure that all of these new features will also debut in the consumer version of Office 2021 launching next month, it seems highly likely.
Of course, many people don't buy standalone Microsoft Office anymore — they subscribe to Microsoft 365, the subscription service (formerly known as Office 365) which provides access to mobile, downloadable, and cloud-based Office apps for a starting price of $10/month for home use or $5/month per user for business use. Microsoft 365 prices are set to increase in 2022 for all business and enterprise users, so it seems quite likely the company will incorporate all the new features coming to Office 2021 into the Office 365 apps as well.
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Alex Wawro is a lifelong tech and games enthusiast with more than a decade of experience covering both for outlets like Game Developer, Black Hat, and PC World magazine. A lifelong PC builder, he currently serves as a senior editor at Tom's Guide covering all things computing, from laptops and desktops to keyboards and mice.