Peter Lu / 8.28.2023Home / Email Security

Office 365 vs. Outlook—differences, uses, and features

Microsoft’s product family can be difficult to follow due to numerous rebrands. Read this Office 365 vs. Outlook comparison to gain some clarity.
The Office suite is Microsoft’s bread and butter despite the company’s numerous other solutions. The same goes for Outlook, one of the longest-standing email providers that has been around since 1997.As Microsoft took its solutions to the cloud, it went through several rebrands before being bundled into Microsoft 365, which many people still refer to as Office 365 due to the somewhat confusing and frequent name changes.This guide clears the air by offering a thorough Microsoft 365 (Office 365) vs. Outlook comparison. Besides explaining the terminology, it will help you decide which product you should choose depending on your needs and other notable factors.
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Microsoft 365, Office, and Outlook explained

Microsoft 365 is a subscription-based cloud service that provides access to the company’s entire productivity suite. It includes the Office package (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) alongside Outlook as the native email provider and client.With this in mind, “Office 365” no longer exists—its new name is Microsoft 365. That’s why the rest of this guide will refer to it as such and compare Microsoft 365 to Outlook, as it’s possible to use the email client independently of the Microsoft 365 suite.Before diving deeper into the subject, it’s worth mentioning that you can also get the Office package separately. Office 2021 is the latest version as of this writing, and it gives you access to desktop versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Opting for Microsoft 365 will give you the cloud and mobile versions of these tools, with the desktop version included in higher-priced tiers.

Outlook vs. Microsoft 365—which option is better?

To decide whether you should commit to Microsoft 365 or use Outlook as a standalone option, you should consider two factors:
  1. The main uses of both platforms
  2. Pricing

Uses of Outlook and Microsoft 365

If you need a comprehensive cloud workspace, choosing the whole Microsoft 365 suite makes sense—especially if you’ve already used the Office package and know how it works.Besides document editing tools and Outlook, you would get access to several platforms, most notably:
  • OneDrive for cloud storage
  • OneNote for note-taking
  • Microsoft Defender for real-time threat detection
  • Teams for online collaboration
  • Clipchamp for video editing
You’ll need to subscribe to one of Microsoft 365 paid plans to use the suite as there is no free plan. If you are not willing to spend money on an office suite, you can use a free alternative like Google Workspace.Since Outlook is available as a standalone platform, if you only need an email service, there’s no need to buy Microsoft 365. You can use Outlook for free on browsers or mobile devices, but the desktop version isn’t available without a select Microsoft 365 Business subscription.This shouldn’t be a major problem, especially if you’re an occasional email user and don’t need any advanced features. The webmail version known as Outlook on the Web (OWA) should be rich enough for everyday emailing, and you get access to three additional tools:
  1. Calendar
  2. People
  3. Tasks

Microsoft 365 vs. Outlook—pricing

Outlook has a free and paid version, but the latter isn’t available as a standalone product. If you want access to premium features, you need to subscribe to Microsoft 365.If you only need Outlook for personal use, you can choose the Microsoft 365 Personal plan for $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year. You’ll get access to the tools from the suite alongside the more advanced Outlook features.Business users can choose from three different plans, all of which provide access to the premium version of Outlook:
PlanCost (with annual billing)
Business Basic$6/month
Business Standard$12.50/month
Business Premium$22/month
The first notable difference between the free and paid Outlook version is that the latter doesn’t have ads. The free webmail version contains ads in the inbox and the right sidebar, which is quite obstructive and may frustrate users.
Source: Outlook screenshotYou’ll no longer see ads when you upgrade, and you’ll notice a slightly different inbox layout. It’s still quite cluttered and outdated compared to other email clients, so it’s far from the most esthetically-pleasing option.
Source: Outlook screenshotPaid Outlook also offers more advanced security features than the free version. You can password-protect emails and restrict what the recipient can do with them. For example, you can prevent them from copying and pasting the content of emails. If the recipient uses another provider (Gmail, Yahoo, etc.), they’ll need to sign in using the link you provide and enter your chosen credentials to open the email.

Should you use Outlook as your email provider?

Before you decide whether to use Outlook independently or as a part of the Microsoft 365 suite, consider whether you should make it your email provider. Much like Gmail, Outlook is among the first options that come to mind, which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best one.To determine if Outlook should be your chosen email provider, take the following factors into account:
  1. Ease of use
  2. Integrations
  3. Security

Ease of use

If you’re a beginner, Outlook’s cluttered user interface (UI) might take some getting used to. The platform prioritizes expanded functionality over design, so navigating the inbox and managing your mail is fairly complex compared to many alternatives.For example, you can use labels to organize your emails, but folders serve the same purpose. Labeling an email doesn’t place it into a folder—it only gives it the chosen attribute (work, family, etc.). You still need to move the email into a folder and make multiple copies of it if you want to store the email in several folders.This isn’t a particularly simple way to organize your inbox, though it does mean you have more flexibility. If you’re an advanced user whose workflow primarily consists of emailing, sacrificing simplicity might still be worth the additional functionalities.


Your email provider should integrate with third-party productivity tools, as there’s a high chance you can’t do everything within its closed ecosystem. While Outlook integrates seamlessly with other Microsoft tools, it lacks integration with some of the most popular ones, such as:
  • Zapier
  • Slack
  • WordPress
While this might not bother occasional or light users, the limited integration may become problematic as your workflow expands, so you’d need another email provider to streamline it.


Like most Big Tech email providers, Outlook comes with basic security out of the box. If you use the free version, the main protection layer you get is phishing and spam protection, which isn’t ideal.While Outlook does a decent job at filtering spam, it doesn’t always recognize it properly. Legitimate mail might end up in the spam folder while phishing emails sometimes show up in the main inbox. This means you constantly need to check the spam folder for correspondence you don’t want to miss.An even more concerning issue is the number of vulnerabilities connected with Outlook. Some of them enable hackers to steal users’ login credentials by only sending a specially-designed email.Pair this with Outlook’s basic Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption, and you can see why sending confidential information might be risky. TLS is among the oldest and weakest encryption protocols that only safeguards your emails while they’re traveling through servers but not while they’re resting on them.This is why security-conscious users often don’t choose Outlook or another Big Tech email provider as their preferred email service. If you’re among these users, a privacy-first option with end-to-end encryption (E2EE) is a far better choice.
Regain control over your dataWith its built-in E2EE, Skiff takes a privacy-focused approach from the very start
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Why you should use a privacy-first email provider

Every user deserves peace of mind knowing their correspondence can’t be eavesdropped on. To achieve this, you need an email provider that doesn’t store plaintext copies of your emails, which is only possible with end-to-end encryption.With E2EE, emails are encrypted before leaving your device using a key the provider can’t access. Only the recipient has the decryption key, and they’re the only ones who can read your email.Outlook doesn’t offer E2EE by default, so you can’t enjoy this level of privacy as an Outlook user. There’s optional S/MIME support, which isn’t particularly appealing. While S/MIME is a form of E2EE, it’s quite complex to configure. You must buy a certificate separately and manually set it up in Outlook, which is time-consuming and potentially too complicated for non-tech-savvy users.A much easier solution is to choose an email provider that enables E2EE out of the box, such as Skiff Mail.

Skiff Mail—privacy for everyone

Skiff Mail is an end-to-end encrypted email service that gives users complete control over their sensitive data. It uses two separate keys to safeguard your correspondence, as explained in the following table:
Key typeExplanation
Public keyCreated by the user, the public key encrypts the message and is shared between the sender and the recipient
Private keyThe private key is mathematically related to the public key and used to decrypt the message.
The private key is mathematically related to the public key and used to decrypt the message.The decryption key is created and stored on the recipient’s device, so even Skiff’s team can’t decrypt your messages. You can send private emails and attachments more confidently and keep them safe from unauthorized parties.Besides keeping your emails confidential, Skiff uses zero-knowledge login to let you sign up without leaving any identifiable information, like your name or phone number. Critical account information is also encrypted using the Secure Remote Password protocol, ensuring complete privacy.For additional account security, you can enable two-factor authentication (2FA). Unlike many providers, Skiff doesn’t require a phone number for 2FA passcodes but uses the Authenticator app instead.Skiff is open source, which means the codebase is transparent and publicly available. You can find it on the platform’s GitHub or read the whitepaper to learn more about Skiff’s security measures.

Robust features at no cost

Skiff Mail is free to use and equipped with numerous useful features, most notably:
  • 10 GB of end-to-end encrypted storage
  • Fast email and text search
  • Four aliases
  • One custom domain
  • Folders, labels, and filters
  • Schedule and Undo features
  • Custom signatures
  • Crypto wallet integrations
All of these features are intuitively structured in Skiff’s modern, minimalistic user interface, so you can enjoy a pleasant emailing experience.
Source: Skiff

Create a secure workflow with Skiff’s E2EE product suite

When you create your Skiff account, you’ll get access to three end-to-end encrypted products beyond Skiff Mail:
  • Skiff Pages—A document editing tool featuring end-to-end encryption of your files’ metadata and contents. Skiff Pages let you create and share unlimited docs, and you can leverage invite-based collaboration to prevent unauthorized access to your documents
  • Skiff Drive—A secure alternative to Google Drive, Dropbox, and similar cloud storage solutions. You can upload files of any type and size to Skiff Drive and use the optional InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) integration to store your files in a decentralized environment
  • Skiff Calendar—A scheduling app that integrates with Skiff Mail to help you keep track of your daily tasks. Skiff Calendar comes with a built-in video conferencing platform to facilitate secure collaboration
Skiff’s platforms offer support for browsers, iOS, Android, macOS, and Windows, with all versions available on the download page. Your data will remain safe whether you’re working from the office, at home, or on the go.

Get started for free, upgrade as needed

If you want to safeguard your correspondence and files, you can sign up for Skiff in three steps:
  1. Visit the signup page
  2. Choose your login credentials
  3. Explore Skiff Mail and other E2EE platforms
The free plan should satisfy the needs of an average user, but if you need more storage and additional features like auto-reply and unlimited document version history, you can upgrade to one of the three affordable paid plans:
EssentialFrom $3 per month
ProFrom $8 per month
BusinessFrom $12/user per month
If you’re switching from another email provider, Skiff’s one-click migration makes the process easy. You can transfer all your files and emails in one go, and the built-in security measures will immediately protect them. Skiff won’t store unencrypted copies of your files, so you can rest assured there are no privacy concerns.

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