Microsoft has announced that the latest perpetual release of Office, called Office LTSC 2021, is now generally available for commercial customers on Windows and macOS. This is the first major release since Office 2019, but it’s actually coming three years after that release. Microsoft used to number its Office releases using the year after which each version was released, but now it’s using the current year.
LTSC stands for Long Term Servicing Channel, and it means that the version you buy today will remain the same forever in terms of features, and you only have to pay for it once. Once you’ve bought it, it’s tied to your device and it won’t receive any new features. If you want a version of Office that gets frequent updates, you have to get Microsoft 365, which is a subscription service you have to pay for annually or monthly.
If you’ve been using Office 2019, there’s quite a bit that’s new in Office LTSC 2021, but these are all features that were made available to Microsoft 365 subscribers over the past three years or so. These include the new functions in Excel like XLOOKUP, XMATCH, LET, and the new Dynamic Arrays feature that encompasses six functions, an improved slideshow recorder in PowerPoint that includes presenter video, new translation and inking capabilities in Outlook, and much more. You’ll find performance improvements and a refreshed visual design across all the apps included, support for automatically saving files in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, a new search box at the top of some apps, and more. You can check out all the new features in existing apps here.
Something else that’s new in Office LTSC 2021 is the inclusion of the Teams app, but that doesn’t mean you get access to the premium version of Teams. This only includes the free version of Teams, or the Exploratory version designed for businesses that already have Azure AD but no Teams license. If you want the premium version of Teams, you’ll need to pay for a subscription as well.
Despite all that, even at launch, you’re going to be missing features compared to Microsoft 365. This release already isn’t based on the absolute latest version released for Microsoft 365 subscribers, and with more updates being released every month, the long-term release will quickly be outdated in terms of features. But, of course, that’s the nature of these perpetual licenses and this way you don’t have to keep paying for a subscription.
Alongside the core Office apps, Microsoft also released Visio 2021 and Project 2021 today, but these two apps are sold separately.
For now, this release is only available for organizations through volume licensing. If you’re a consumer who wants to buy Office 2021 for personal or home use, those versions will be released on October 5th.