I’ve been running the Microsoft Office 2013 trial on my new Windows 8 tablet lately, in order to get a good look at the finished product and decide whether to upgrade from Office 2010.
While researching the paid options, however, I noticed that there is a bit of a disparity between the various paid options and the free software offered as part of Microsoft Office Web Apps. In short, there is a good chance that many users could be suckered into purchasing a copy of Microsoft Office 2013 (or worse, an annual license to Office 365) when the features they need are available for free.
Yes, Microsoft already provides different options for different budgets, but do you need to spend money on a full suite when you’re only using Word for day-to-day word processing and Excel to manage your accounts? In short, no.
What You Can Expect From Office 2013
Microsoft Office 2013 ships with four core applications, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. These are available across all of the versions (see below).
In addition, other applications are included depending upon your budget and versions. For instance, Outlook 2013 comes with the Office Home & Business release and Office Professional 2013, while the latter also includes Publisher and Access.
Only Office 365 offers Outlook, Publisher, Access and SkyDrive and Skype, along with the streamed version of the suite, Office on Demand. The expectation from Microsoft is that businesses will be using tools such as their own localised online versions of Office 365 and collaboration tools which is why these features are missing from the more expensive versions of the suite.
Different Versions For Different Budgets
Four versions of Microsoft Office 2013 are available:
- Office 365 – $99.99 (5 PCs or Macs, annual licence)
- Office Home & Student 2013 ($139.99, 1 PC for home use)
- Office Home & Business 2013 ($219.99, 1 PC for home or business use)
- Office Professional 2013 ($399.99, 1 PC for home or business use)
As you can see, these are all expensive options.
Don’t forget, of course, that Microsoft offer individual versions of their office applications. For instance, Microsoft Word 2013 can be purchased for $109.99.
Further details on Microsoft Office 2013 and the new features can be found in our guide, Microsoft Office 2013: Unofficial Guide.
But Hold On – Do I Need To Spend Money?
The $99 option might be ideal for a home or small business, but remember that this is an annual subscription; over the course of the product’s lifespan you’ll be paying around the same (or more) than for a copy of Office Professional 2013.
But then, do you even need to spend money to use Microsoft Office 2013?
To begin with, there are various free office applications around, from OpenOffice/LibreOffice to Google Docs. These are all excellent alternatives, but if you prefer to stick with Microsoft you can thanks to various free options that the company offers.
Microsoft’s Free Office Tools
You must, for instance, be familiar with Hotmail.com. Over the past few months this has morphed into a Gmail-like service called Outlook.com, and as its name suggests it is an online version of the Outlook mail app. Complete with calendar and contacts, Outlook.com is available to anyone with a Microsoft login (for instance, for Hotmail, Windows Live Messenger, Zune, Xbox Live).
Windows 8 users will also find that they can get a version of OneNote for free, optimized for use on tablet devices. Capable of matching most of the functions of the main OneNote 2013, OneNote for Windows 8 is available from the app store and can easily manage word processing and basic tables.
For a more complete Microsoft Office experience, meanwhile, you can rely on the various components of Microsoft Office Web Apps. Word, Excel and PowerPoint are all available free online in your browser (just as Google Docs is) and again these can be accessed with a Microsoft account. You’ll be able to save your documents to SkyDrive, or open them in a desktop version of the appropriate app.
Microsoft are promoting their new office suite as the ultimate answer to productivity, and for larger businesses and students of particular subjects this might be the case. However, Microsoft Office 2013’s cheaper options are not as cheap or comprehensive as you might expect.
It’s a simple task to compose a document in an online Office application and then tidy it up with a free application such as LibreOffice without spending a penny.
For most users, the free options provided by Microsoft should allow you to do whatever you need.
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