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Last reviewed: April 14 2011

What's the difference between Windows and Office?

Microsoft Windows

Microsoft Windows is a special piece of software called an operating system. Your computer is useless without an operating system. Windows is not the only choice for this critical piece of software, but it is the most widely used in offices and homes. Without Windows (or some other operating system), you would not be able to run other software (like Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, or any games). You would not be able to type a letter and save it on the hard drive, play a game using your keyboard, mouse, or a joystick, or play a CD.

The most common versions of Windows that I run into are Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7.

Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office is not a single program. It is a package, or suite, of programs sold together to provide the tools a typical "office" environment might need. There are a few different Microsoft Office packages which have slightly different tools included. This can make things even more complicated for users, you may have Office, but you may not have a certain program (for example, PowerPoint) depending on which edition you own.

There are several modern versions of Microsoft Office in wide use today. Microsoft Office XP, Office 2003, Office 2004 (Macintosh), Office 2007, Office 2008 (Macintosh), Office 2010, and Office 2011 (Macintosh). There are older versions, but I haven't seen them in wide use for several years now, so we won't mention them.

You might notice that there is some overlap in Windows and Office versions that tend to cause inexperienced users trouble. Office XP vs. Windows XP, Office 2000 vs. Windows 2000, even computer professionals find themselves saying one and meaning the other, on occasion. Windows and Office are very different and there is no connection between the version of Windows you are running and the version of Office that you have installed. You can run Office 2000 on Windows XP, and you can even run Office XP on Windows 2000.

There are also other companies that make office productivity suites, like OpenOffice.org (free) and Corel's WordPerfect Office

Which version of Windows and Office do I have?

I can't count how many conversations I've heard over the years like this:

Customer: I'm having trouble printing from Word.
Tech: What version of Office are you running?
Customer: '98, I think.
Tech: *pause* Are you using a Macintosh computer?
Customer: No... why do you ask?

Now, the more experienced readers should stop snickering at this point! Let's take a look at the problem here and see if we can prevent a few of these conversations in the future.

There have been several versions of Windows over the years. While there are older versions, we'll start our brief history with Windows NT. Here's the progression of Windows versions.

Windows VersionMajor BenefitYear Released
Windows NT 3.1First 32-bit operating system.
Aimed at business users, NT 3.1 had hefty hardware requirements and offered both workstation and server versions.
1993
Windows NT 3.5Improved performance and application support.1994
Windows 95Replaced the MS-DOS/Windows 3.1(1) combination of operating systems that most general purpose computers were running.1995
Windows NT 4.0Brought ease of use and management to the NT pruduct line. This upgrade brought the Windows 95 user interface to NT. 1996
Windows 98Upgrade to Windows 95. Designed with home users in mind so that they could both work better and play better. Introduced DVD and USB support. 1998
Windows 98 Second Edition (SE)Incremental update to Windows 98. Offered enhanced hardware compatibility and Internet Explorer version 5.0. 1999
Windows Millennium Edition (ME)Offered enhanced multimedia capabilities and network support for home users. Introduced the System Restore feature to roll back Windows to a previous state when problems occur. 2000
Windows 2000Offered a stable replacement for all Windows 95, 98, and NT business computers. It is built on the Windows NT 4.0 code, but added major improvements to usability, hardware compatibility, and support for mobile computers (laptops). Like the rest of the NT product line, both workstation and server versions were offered. 2000
Windows XPMerged the two Windows lines into one operating system for both home and business computers. Offered inproved hardware support, multimedia functionality, and a new user interface. Instead of workstation and server versions, the line is split into XP Professional (for business users) and XP Home Edition (for home users). Windows XP was available in 64-bit version, but was not widely used because hardware drivers were not available for many devices and many software packages had issues running on the 64-bit version. 2001
Windows VistaAn update to Windows XP. Offered security enhancements, new interface, Internet Explorer 7.0, better 64-bit support and better multimedia functionality. There are no less than four different flavors of Vista: Home, Home Premium, Business, and Ultimate. 2007
Windows 7An update to Windows Vista. Released October 22, 2009, offered Internet Explorer 8.0, a more modern interface that some people say looks like Apple's OS X, improved performance, quicker boot times, and a much wider install base of 64-bit versions. Windows 7 comes in six editions, but only Home Premium, Professional, Ultimate, and Enterprise are widely used. 2009

New computers since 2009 have been shipping with Windows 7, but there are still many computers in use with older versions of Windows.

Looking closer at Office 2003, you'll see that there are several editions within that one version. Each edition includes a different set of programs.

Office VersionPrograms Included
Office Student and Teacher Edition 2003
  • Excel 2003
  • Outlook 2003
  • PowerPoint 2003
  • Word 2003
Office Standard Edition 2003
  • Excel 2003
  • Outlook 2003
  • PowerPoint 2003
  • Word 2003
Office Small Business Edition 2003
  • Excel 2003
  • Outlook 2003 with Business Contact Manager
  • PowerPoint 2003
  • Publisher 2003
  • Word 2003
Office Small Business Management Edition 2006
  • Access 2003
  • Excel 2003
  • Outlook 2003 with Business Contact Manager
  • PowerPoint 2003
  • Publisher 2003
  • Small Business Accounting 2006
  • Word 2003
Office Professional Edition 2003
  • Access 2003
  • Excel 2003
  • Outlook 2003 with Business Contact Manager
  • PowerPoint 2003
  • Publisher 2003
  • Word 2003

Office 2007 has eight different editions.

Office VersionPrograms Included
Office Basic 2007
  • Excel
  • Outlook
  • PowerPoint (Viewer only)
  • Word
Office Home and Student 2007
  • Excel
  • OneNote
  • PowerPoint
  • Word
Office Standard Edition 2007
  • Excel
  • Outlook
  • PowerPoint
  • Word
Office Small Business 2007
  • Excel
  • Outlook with Business Contact Manager
  • PowerPoint
  • Publisher
  • Word
Office Professional 2007
  • Access
  • Excel
  • Outlook with Business Contact Manager
  • PowerPoint
  • Publisher
  • Word
Office Ultimate 2007
  • Access
  • Excel
  • Groove
  • InfoPath
  • OneNote
  • Outlook with Business Contact Manager
  • PowerPoint
  • Publisher
  • Word 2003
Office Professional Plus 2007
  • Access
  • Communicator
  • Excel
  • InfoPath
  • Outlook
  • PowerPoint
  • Publisher
  • Word 2003
Office Enterprise 2007
  • Access
  • Communicator
  • Excel
  • Groove
  • InfoPath
  • OneNote
  • Outlook
  • PowerPoint
  • Publisher
  • Word 2003

Office 2010 has seven different editions.

Office VersionPrograms Included
Office Starter 2010
  • Excel Starter Edition
  • PowerPoint (Viewer only)
  • Word Starter Edition
Office Online 2010 (Free)
  • Excel Basic
  • OneNote Basic
  • PowerPoint Basic
  • Word Basic
Office Home and Student 2010
  • Excel
  • OneNote
  • PowerPoint
  • Word
Office Home and Business 2010
  • Excel
  • OneNote
  • Outlook
  • PowerPoint
  • Word
Office Standard Edition 2010
  • Excel
  • OneNote
  • Outlook
  • PowerPoint
  • Publisher
  • Word
Office Professional 2010
  • Access
  • Excel
  • OneNote
  • Outlook
  • PowerPoint
  • Publisher
  • Word
Office Professional Plus 2010
  • Access
  • Excel
  • InfoPath
  • Lync
  • OneNote
  • Outlook
  • PowerPoint
  • Publisher
  • SharePoint Workspace (Groove)
  • Word

We hope you've found the information presented in this article useful. If you have questions about your computer or software versions, please, contact us.

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