What’s the difference between Microsoft Office 2019 and 2021?

The main difference between Office 2021 and 2019 lies in their respective capabilities for collaborative working and seamless synchronization. For example, Office 2021 offers joint document creation, clear comment features for teamwork, and innovative real-time synchronization via OneDrive and SharePoint. Our in-depth comparison will help you determine if the emphasis on collaboration warrants an upgrade from Office 2019 to 2021.

Office 2019 vs. 2021: A quick overview

Office 2019 Office 2021
Offers the most important Office apps such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook In addition to the popular Office apps, also includes Teams for better collaboration and communication regardless of location
Support ends October 2025 Support ends October 2026
Classic, edgier Windows design of the Office applications Design adapted to the soft, modern look of Windows 11
Basic dark mode (dark toolbar) Extensive dark mode (darkened background areas, light font)
New Excel functions like XMATCH, XLOOKUP and an improved comment function (Modern Comments)

What are the main similarities and differences between Office 2021 and 2019?

The main advantage of both Office 2019 and 2021 is that they’re lifetime licenses. Those who prefer to pay for an Office suite once and use it indefinitely get fully comprehensive Office software. To use it, all you have to do is pay a one-time fee for the 2019 or 2021 license and then activate it online via a free Microsoft account.

The disadvantage is that a lifetime license only comes with mainstream support for five years and extended support for two years. The support includes security updates, but no new features. If you want to upgrade, you’ll need to purchase a new license. With Microsoft 365, on the other hand, as long as you have an active subscription, you’ll have access to support as well as security and feature updates.

End of support for Office 2019

The main and most important difference between the two version is that support for Office 2019 will end sooner. Microsoft announced that mainstream support for Office 2019 will end in October 2023. The extended support for the 2019 version will end in October 2025, as will support for Office 2016 and Windows 10.

This is one of the major reasons for anyone with a license to consider upgrading to Office 2021 or Microsoft 365. According to Microsoft, support for Office 2021 will last until 2026. If you’re relying on long-term, commercial use of Office, switching to Microsoft 365 will probably offer the greatest advantages.

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What’s new in Office 2021?

What stands out when comparing the licenses is the modernized and refreshed design language of Office 2021, which has taken its cue from Windows 11. This version of Windows was released at the same time and offers softer window corners, a neutral color palette, and stylized icons in the Fluent Design context menu. Office 2021 has a softer and more elegant look when compared to its direct predecessor.

Greater focus on collaboration

Although they have different release dates and end-of-support timelines, Office 2019 and 2021 both contain all the important Microsoft Office applications. With these licenses, users have access to:

  • Word
  • Excel
  • PowerPoint
  • OneNote
  • Outlook
  • Access
  • Publisher
  • SharePoint
  • Exchange

In contrast to Office 2019, Office 2021 places a greater emphasis on teamwork and collaboration. A prime example is the inclusion of Teams in Office 2021. Teams enables the Office suite to support device- and location-agnostic work and communication. This is particularly important in the era of remote work and home offices. Office 2021 or Microsoft 365 is essential for communication in the workplace, as collaboration features are only minimally supported by Office 2019 and other earlier versions of Office.

New features for Office apps

Although the main Microsoft apps are identical for both licenses, a closer look reveals many new features in the Office 2021 apps. Here are the most important ones:


  • New XLOOKUP function: Targeted search for multiple variables and keywords or for an arrangement of selected elements in Excel tables
  • New XMATCH function: Targeted position search of keywords and variables in a selected row range
  • New LET function: Assigns names to specific results of a calculation
  • New functions with support for dynamic arrays
  • Support for OpenDocument 1.3


  • Support for OpenDocument 1.3


  • Recording of speaker videos as well as laser pointer and freehand recordings
  • Optimization of presentations for screen readers
  • Sketching feature enables freehand drawings in presentations
  • Record and playback capabilities for illustrations that were created with PowerPoint
  • Export presentations in video format for reuse online


  • Instant search with improved filtering options
  • Translate feature (over 70 languages)
  • Freehand drawing with ink feature

Office 2021 with dark mode

With an optimized, comprehensive dark mode feature, Office 2021 offers more than a rudimentary darkened toolbar. The dark mode in the 2021 version offers a pleasant display with darkened backgrounds and light-colored fonts, which is not only discreet but also easy on the eyes. This is especially useful when in darkened presentation rooms, traveling or during long hours in front of the screen.


Learn more about turning on dark mode in Windows 11 or how to use the dark mode in Windows 10 in our Digital Guide.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a license vs. a subscription?

Before you decide which Office license to purchase, ask yourself if you want a permanent license or if you prefer to always have access to the most current version of Office with the latest range of features? The advantage of a license is that it’s a manageable investment. You purchase the Office software once and then can use it indefinitely. There is, however, a time limit when it comes to accessing support. After support ends, you can continue to use the software, but you’ll no longer receive important updates for optimal security and performance.

With a Microsoft 365 subscription, you always get the latest version of every Microsoft app along with their latest security features. With a subscription, however, you’ll need to make sure that you regularly pay and renew your plan. Additionally, you’ll have to depend on Microsoft Cloud to access the apps. If you are unsure which office version you are using, you can easily find out under File, Account and About.


All important Office applications for cloud-based teamwork in one subscription. With IONOS, you get the full Microsoft 365 plan including support, cloud storage and strong data protection.

Summary: Office 2019, 2021 or straight to Microsoft 365?

In a direct comparison, it’s clear that Office 2021 offers better features than Office 2019, especially for businesses and commercial use. These include the integration of Microsoft Teams, the real-time synchronization of documents, optimized commenting features and OneDrive integration. When it comes to the main Office apps like Word, Excel and PowerPoint though, both licenses are suitable for personal use. However, keep in mind that official support for Office 2019 ends in October 2025. For Office 2021, support ends October 2026.

Companies looking for a long-term Office solution that can be used by many people simultaneously and on lots of devices should opt for a Microsoft 365 subscription. This option is based on the SaaS model. It offers cloud-based working with automatic synchronization, the best teamwork features, and the latest versions and security features of Microsoft applications.

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