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Microsoft Office 2013 Review

 
I’ve been using Microsoft Office as far back as I can remember. If memory serves me, the very first edition I ever used was Office 95, and ever since then, then .doc file has served me well.
 
The thing about having used Office for 18 years is the fact that I always only paid one large sum for it, and it was mine. Starting with the most current iteration, Microsoft is pushing users away from a single purchase to a subscription based model.
 
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And now is the part where you ask yourself “Why would I pay $10 a month (or $100 a year) for Office when I can use a bunch of free programs like LibreOffice or Google Docs to accomplish the exact same thing? Why not just buy the single-time purchase of $399.99 (for Office Pro)?” We’ll get to that later.
 
I asked myself the exact same question when I found out about the subscription fee; yet here I am, typing this out on Word 2013, working with all my e-mail through Outlook 2013, creating a bunch of party invites with Publisher 2013, creating spreadsheets with Excel 2013, and paying the subscription fee like I said I would never do.
 
Why?
 
For starters, I’m a man of habit, and having used Office for as long as the age of a legal adult in the US, it’s hard to switch to something else; even something as simple and intuitive as Google Docs. Even though there are a lot of new features and the user interface is all new, the programs in Office 2013 or more or less laid out exactly how I remember them from past iterations. That makes a huge difference when it comes to productivity.
 
Another reason why I decided to go with Office 2013 is that I ended up really, REALLY liking it. It looks nice, everything flows together through the cloud, and working from multiple devices is a cinch. Everything is simplified, and Office 2013 benefits greatly from that.
 
But perhaps the single reason why I decided to go with Office 2013 and with the subscription based model is simply because it offers more. To clarify, the subscription-based Office is called Office 365, and the single purchase one is simply Office 2013. Office 365, on the outside, seems like a rip-off. You’re paying monthly (or annually), and years down the road, you will eventually end up paying more than the Office 13 cost. On top of all that, Microsoft has elected to restrict certain major and important features to Office 365. MS has clearly made one of the options the “go to” option, and it doesn’t seem like they are even shy about it.
 
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Office 13 is just the locally installed software. You get a license that is good for only one machine. There are even multiple versions to choose from; Office 13 Home and Student for $149 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote), Office 13 Home and Business for $220 (add Outlook), and the aforementioned Office Pro with everything.
 
Here’s the kicker, though. With Office 365, up to five users can use the suite on up to five devices. Each user can completely customize “their” version of Office to their liking. An Office 365 subscription also comes with an additional 20 GB of Skydrive storage space, 60 free minutes of international Skype calling, and the ability to stream virtual versions of Office to any other PC running Windows 7 or 8. You also get regular updates which are apparently so meaty that MS claims that this will be the last version of Office you will ever buy. Time will tell.
 
The decision between the two isn’t easy. If you are someone that owns one computer only, and you just need Office to write up essays and PowerPoint presentations for class, then pay for the Student version and move on with your life. Office 365 really shows its meat when multiple users are involved, and the need for things like the additional programs and storage space. For people who need Office to be a major productivity app between their home and work lives, 365 is the way to go.
 
And yes, before the accusations of me drinking the MS flavored Kool Aid start flying my way, I am NOT happy about the cool features restricted to only the 365 version, but what can you do? No one’s holding a gun to my head to upgrade; I still have Office 2007, and whenever I don’t feel like paying the subscription fee anymore, I simply go back to the way life was. But man, it’ll be hard to go back.
 
If you are someone that is using Office with a touchscreen, whether it be your new, snazzy touchscreen PC or a Surface, then you will love the new software since it is enhanced for touchscreens. Working off of a tablet has suddenly become much easier; everything is more streamlined and easier to access despite whether or not you’re using a tablet or full PC. The ability to switch back and forth between touch and normal modes is a breeze, though I have just been leaving it on Touch on my non-touch PC (since I use a touchpad at times). It barely looks any different, honestly.
 
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The ability to customize the UI is probably the thing I appreciate most about the new Office. Not everyone was a fan of the Ribbon introduced in Office 2007, but the nice thing here is that you can customize the “Ribbon” however you like it. Don’t want a Ribbon at all? Cool. Only want certain features visible? Also cool. Want everything displayed right in front of your face in a Mega-Ribbon? Go for it! The option is yours.
 
The look of the programs in Office is also very nice. We’ve entered an era of minimalism; less is more and more importantly, less is “cool.” It’s hip. Minimalism is all the rage these days. In a move that’s somewhat surprising, considering Windows 8’s Metro interface is not minimal at all, Office has opted to go the route of their now standard Outlook webmail service (not to be confused with the Office version of Outlook). That’s to say, stark white and grey with some splashes of color are the name of the game. If you happen to be running Windows 8, the overall integration with Office works quite nicely.
 
Other than those features mentioned above and a host of smaller tweaks (none of which are gamechangers), Office is by and large the same experience. It’s a smoother experience and depending on your taste, a prettier experience. Things are faster and there’s less clutter to sift through. Like I mentioned at the beginning of the review, there’s a reason why I eschewed free suites like Google Docs and even my old version of Office 2007 and went with the subscription based 365; it just offers me more.
 
I can load Office onto 5 machines with the 365 option, and even better than that, if I happen to be away from my five machines and need to open a Word file via Skydrive from somewhere else, I can use Office on Demand. With this awesome feature, if I happen to be on a computer that does not have one of the five licenses installed, I can download a copy of the individual software that I need (say, if I needed just Word or PowerPoint), do whatever it is I need to do, then close the program and basically wipe it from the computer you are using. It’s pretty awesome, and while those who use something like Google Docs may scoff at that (since it does involved a full download), you can’t really beat being able to take Office programs anywhere with you.
 
I suppose the decision to go with the upgrade to either Office 2013 or Office 365 is up to you and whatever it is that you need. Too many people will need Office for different reasons, and there are probably millions that won’t need it at all. Are you a struggling college student with one laptop that already has an older version of Office? If so, you probably won’t need to buy the new version; in fact, if that’s the case, then I insist that you don’t waste your money on Office and buy some food instead. But I know you’ll probably blow it on beer.
 
If you’re a parent with a couple of kids in school, and you need to work with Office for your job, and Sally has an essay due, and Timmy has to make a slideshow, then it would be a no brainer to go with Office 365. Each of you can do your own thing on your own machines without any hair pulling or eye poking over who gets to use what.
 
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The tough decision is for those in between; those who have Office, maybe kids, maybe not, and a PC or two. Is it worth it for you to upgrade? To be truthful, unless you travel a lot and depend on Skydrive heavily, then no, there probably is no reason for you to go and drop any money on any sort of upgrade. There are way too many free options to justify dropping any dough if you happen to fit this category.
 
For those that do choose to upgrade, however, Office 365 is the way to go. For everything that you lose with Office 13, the single purchase price just isn’t worth it. Office 365 is streamlined, simple, and the cloud based content makes it a clear winner in my books. Until something drastic occurs, consider myself an Office 365 convert.