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IT Essentials

Microsoft Office Essentials


Microsoft Office is a suite of applications designed to help with productivity and completing common tasks on a computer. You can create and edit documents containing text and images, work with data in spreadsheets and databases, and create presentations and posters.

Microsoft Office: an overview

On this page, we're talking about "Microsoft Office", which is a family of applications used commonly for office and academic purposes, featuring famous applications like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. However, technically, these days "Microsoft Office" doesn't exist, as Microsoft have changed how you can get these applications and they are part of "Microsoft 365", a broader package of applications that includes cloud-based apps as well. In 2022, Microsoft got rid of the "Microsoft Office" branding altogether, but you will still see the term used in many places; on this page, we use it because it is how people generally refer to these applications still.

Microsoft 365 contains a large range of applications, including online services like OneDrive, Microsoft Teams and SharePoint as well as the traditional Microsoft Office applications. For University of York staff and students, you won't have access to all of the features of Microsoft 365, as the University of York uses Google Workspace for online services like cloud storage, sharing files, and creating forms and websites. If you're used to the Microsoft apps, our Google Workspace guide can be helpful for navigating moving to using Google apps.

At York, Microsoft Office applications are available on all university computers, while staff and students are also able to install a free copy of the applications through Microsoft 365 for home use on personal devices. See the IT Services page for more information:


Microsoft Word is a text processing application that you can use to create text documents. It allows the user to configure the attributes of a document, such as layout and the styles of content, and to add their content in a variety of ways and formats.

Word is typically used to create academic documents like essays, dissertations, and theses, because it allows for more complex formatting, though you can also use Google Docs for these.

Our Creating Documents guide has in-depth information on how to use the features of Word as well as Google Docs.


Microsoft Excel is an application used for creating and editing spreadsheets. Spreadsheets are commonly used for working with sets of data containing text and numbers and for generating graphs and charts.


Microsoft PowerPoint is commonly used to create presentations using slides. Though often used to make simple, bullet-pointed presentations, it has has a range of features that can allow a range of media in your presentation.

It is also a great tool for creating posters — see more on our guide to Academic Posters (though of course you can make other kinds of posters using PowerPoint too). And it can be used to edit images and even create videos!


Microsoft Access is used when working with databases using relational data. This is data held in tables which are then linked according to the relationships between the data. Access processes data using queries and you can use forms and reports to interact with the data in a user-friendly way.

Further Office tips and tricks

Once you've mastered the basics of whichever Office applications you want to use, you might want to look into further features that help with tasks.

Microsoft have a selection of Office tips & tricks that can inspire you to work with these applications in different ways.

They also have a series of guides on making your content more accessible when using Office applications.

Got Office questions?

If you have specific questions about using Office, it is good to know where you can go to get answers.

On Microsoft's support pages, you can search for help with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, and other applications such as Outlook and OneNote. These pages list different versions of Office (e.g. 365, 2019, 2016, Online) so you can find the help applicable to the version of Office you are using.

If you cannot find the answer online, you can contact the IT Support Office at York for further help.