Microsoft Project Licencing Explained

Microsoft Project LicencingMicrosoft’s move to cloud services and cloud licencing has meant that many of our traditional products, licences and terms have changed. And it’s not always easy to tell what the new equivalent to your tried and trusted products should be. This is especially true with Microsoft Project and the blurring of lines between online and desktop. Microsoft naming conventions and new products have also helped to add to the general confusion.

So, let’s break down the different options.


Traditional licencing

I’ll start with the traditional perpetual licencing. These licences are still available and are sold as the Project 2019 family of project tools:

  • Project standard 2019
  • Project Professional 2019
  • Project 2019 Server
  • Project user/device CALs

Microsoft has not released many details on the next versions of Project. However, indications are that there will be a Project 2022 and current indicators are that it will be some form of subscription, at least for the Server edition.


Office 365 platform and Project Online

The Microsoft Project Platform in this new cloud world is Project Online. Project Online provides powerful project management capabilities for planning, prioritising and managing projects and project portfolio investments—from almost anywhere on almost any device. Project Online can be used by administrators, portfolio managers and viewers, project and resource managers, and team leads and members.

Project Online is built on the SharePoint platform, and it stores data in the SharePoint Data Store.

MS Project explained

 Microsoft has promoted various versions of Project licences via the Office 365 platform. Some name changes have added to the confusion, and hopefully, this chart below will help you choose the correct product.

licences table

Essentially, the intent behind the new naming conventions is to align the new project plan naming with the office 365 plans – Office 365 E1, E3 and E5.

Project plan 1: This is the natural successor to Project for web. It’s a browser only tool that combines features of the old Project for Web with the Office 365 planner App. The best use case description I’ve seen of Project plan 1, is that it is designed for the ‘accidental project manager’. It’s a simple easy-to-use drag and drop interface, with multi-tasking enabled for co-authoring and collaboration with your teams.

Project Plan 3:  The equivalent to the traditional Project professional, this is an installable desktop client and users are licensed for both the desktop version and Project for web.

Project Plan 5: This is new name for Project Online Premium, the licence assigned to those users requiring access to the entire Project Online platform, including the portfolio selection and cross-project demand management capabilities. Users with a Project plan 5 subscription also have access to Project for the web.

Project Online essentials: This is an add-on subscription for customers with Project Plan 3 or 5 assigned to their tenant that gives team members a web interface to perform task and time updates to projects managed in Project Online. Team members with Project Online Essentials can perform the following Project Online functions:

  • Use a web-based interface.
  • Update tasks, issues, and risks.
  • Submit timesheets.
  • Share documents and collaborate with Microsoft Teams.


Find out more

Read more about how you can manage your licencing agreements more easily. Or head over to our Software Licencing Services page for details on how we can help your business.