Microsoft officially released the latest versions of Microsoft Office on Wednesday. As in the past, Office isn’t just a single product. Consumers will be able to choose from several versions as before, including a subscription service called Office 365. Currently, reviews are varied with opinions ranging from don’t bother to now is the time to upgrade.
Before making the switch to one of the new Microsoft Office 2013 products, it is important to understand what each version has to offer, how much it costs and whether you should take advantage of Office 365.
* Microsoft released a subscription service on Wednesday as an alternative to their traditional Office suite. Office 365 Home Premium is available starting at $99.99 for a single-year subscription and works on up to five devices, including tablets, PCs and Macs.
* Microsoft Office 2013 includes a touch mode and the more tablet/smartphone style of Windows 8. Users will still be able to use the software on their standard desktop, but touch is included to make it more tablet-friendly.
* Office 2013 is currently available in three main versions for consumers. Office Home and Student starts at $139.99 for a single user license and includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. Office Home and Business is $219.99 and adds Outlook to the program list. For business, Office Professional adds Publisher and Access for the increased price of $399.99. These versions do not include Office 365.
* Office 365 is only available for in the Home Premium edition currently for retail users. Students and universities can subscribe at a major discount at only $79.99 for a four-year plan. Microsoft plans to release a business version in February.
* Office 365 includes online access to the full suite of Office applications, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access. For users with high-speed, reliable Internet, a $99.99 subscription may be the best option versus the $399.99 Office Professional price.
* Included with an Office 365 subscription, users receive additional benefits such as a 20 GB boost to the free SkyDrive cloud storage service and a free hour of international calling on Skype per month. Subscribers will always have access to the most up to date products and upgrades.
* According to CNN Money, the new versions of Microsoft Office 2013 are still best when used with a keyboard and mouse versus a touchscreen. However, its review does admit that increased spacing in the apps does make it more touch friendly. Overall, the reviewers were impressed with the changes and believe anyone needing access to the latest features will enjoy the improvements. For those who just need the basic, the reviewers believe older versions of Office will work just as well.
In the end, it all comes down to preference. As with most Microsoft products, Office 2010 will still be supported for a while, meaning if you’re not ready to upgrade, you don’t have to. If you’re ready for a more powerful, feature-rich version of Office, now is the time to upgrade or at least try out the trial version of the suite that’s right for you. Even Office 365 is available as a free trial.