PCWorld.com (© Copyright (c) 2013 PCWorld Communications, Inc.)
Updated: January 29, 2013 2:30 AM

Decoding Microsoft Office: Which Office version does what?



Decoding Microsoft Office: Which Office version does what?

Decoding Microsoft Office: Which Office version does what?

Once upon a time, bright boxes of the latest Microsoft Office pleaded for your attention in big box stores. Now, as with music albums and bestselling books, Office is going the way of the download. With the debut of the new Office on Tuesday, Microsoft is pushing Office as a subscription service rather than as a physical product plucked from a shelf.

What this means is that there are even more versions and sub-versions of Office to choose from. Read on to cut through the cluttered branding and understand what each product is and does.

Which version of Office are you using now?The New Office

The "new Office" is how Microsoft describes this year's release of a raft of products. The new Office encompasses Office 365 and Office 2013 and more, bridging the gap between software on your hard drive and your services and data in the cloud. Rather than leave you dependent upon Office software and docs tied to your PC and hard drive, Microsoft  aims for you to have Office wherever you need it: at work, at home, on your PC, on your phone, on your tablet, whether online and offline. To get this experience, you'll sign in with your Microsoft identity, which follows you wherever you use Office.

Compare Word 2010, at left, with the new Word 2013, at right.Office 2013

What you probably used to think of as Microsoft Office is now just the desktop software component--think Word, Excel, and PowerPoint and friends--of the new Office. Buy Office 2013 in a box, and all you'll get is a printed product key (only developing countries will get a disc in that box). You can either purchase Office 2013 local software alone or get it bundled along with an Office 365 subscription. Here's PCWorld's detailed review of Office 2013. If Office 2013 is all you want, you can get it three ways:

Office Home & Student for $139.99 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote)

Office Home & Business for $219.99 (adds Outlook)

Office Professional for $399.99 (adds Publisher and Access).

Alternatively, you can get the applications within one of several Office 365 subscriptions, below. If you're one of the few people who works off the grid, Office 2013 is best for you. Can you imagine working without Internet access? Me neither. So, for the majority of users, Office 365 offers more practical options, and its options tend to be a better deal.

Office 365

Office 365 is the umbrella brand covering both Office 2013 software and its related online tools. It’s cloud-connected and always on, with updates rolled out on a rolling basis. By default, you save your data to the cloud; consumers share to the SkyDrive storage service, while businesses stash and share data via SharePoint. For Apple aficionados, Office 365 includes Office for Mac.

Does your whole household use Office? This one's for you. Office 365 Home Premium costs $99.99 per year, with installs for five PCs or Macs in addition to mobile devices. Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access come with it, as do 20GB of SkyDrive additional storage and an hour of monthly Skype calls.

Office 365 University includes all of the above but with two Office 2013 licenses per user. It comes at a steep discounts for students, faculty and staff: only $79.99 for four years.

Microsoft has not yet announced anything about Office 365 for government or nonprofits.

Office 365 Small Business Premium will be available "with new capabilities" on February 27, alongisde the two following business packages. The apps included are Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, OneNote, Access, Publisher, and Lync. It costs $149.99 per person annually.

Office 365 ProPlus is the same as Small Business Premium, expanded for 25 user accounts, with five installations per user, available Feb. 27, pricing to be announced.

Office 365 Enterprise: It's basically ProPlus, plus Exchange Online, with archiving for company email, as well as SharePoint and Lync for collaboration. Also available Feb. 27, pricing undeclared.

Office for Mac

If you haven't pledged allegiance to either Redmond or Cupertino exclusively, you'll get Office for Mac included with an Office 365 subscription.

Office Home & Student RT comes pre-installed on Surface RT slates.Office RT

Microsoft’s Surface RT tablets include 2013 RT flavors of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, optimized for touch gestures. Office RT generally offers more features than Office for Windows Phone 8 or Office Web Apps, but fewer than Office 2013 on a PC. Surface RT initially shipped with a preview of Office Home & Student RT, with the final version available last October. Microsoft's beefier Surface Pro tablets, on the other hand, can run any iteration of the latest Office software you desire to purchase.

Here's Word on a Windows phone.Office for Windows Phone 8

All Windows 8 phones run mobile editions of Office software, updated in October. You get to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint through the mobile Office Hub. You'll also get the OneNote notetaking app. Office docs render beautifully on Windows handsets, and they're easy to open from or attach to email messages. Since documents are stored in SkyDrive, they'll display your latest changes and timestamp, whether you've last worked on them from a PC, Windows phone, or Windows 8 tablet.

Office Web Apps

These are pared-down versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote that run in a browser. Panned as weak in the past, they were updated last fall. They're really built to let you access and edit Office files on the go rather than to be your primary document tool.

Office on Demand

Need to jump onto someone else's computer and work on an Office project? Maybe you need more functions than the Office Web Apps provide. Microsoft tailored Office on Demand for this scenario. It lets you run your personalized, full Office applications on PCs where they're not installed, through the magic of virtualization. You just need to be on a Windows 7 or 8 computer, and a paying subscriber to Office 365. The programs include Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Publisher, Visio, and Project. You'll log in to your Microsoft account at Office.com to get started; this video explains more.

You can stream Office apps to any PC with Office on Demand.Office for iOS and Android

Remember when I said that Microsoft wants you to access Office wherever you're working, including your tablet and phone? Let's limit that to your Windows 8 phone and your Windows tablet, at least for now. Although Microsoft is proud of its OneNote app for iOS and Android, you won't get officially sanctioned Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on those platforms. Rumors abound that that's bound to change soon, but Redmond’s lips are sealed. In November the Verge predicted that you'd find Office for the iPad in the wild early in 2013. We’re still waiting.

In the meantime, startups have been offering tablet-friendly workarounds for several years, notably QuickOffice and Documents To Go. You can stream virtualized Office software on your iPad or Android device with the CloudOn app. These third-party apps let you save your work to Dropbox, Box, or Google Drive, bypassing SkyDrive and Microsoft's lineup altogether.

Build more reference tools into Word with Apps for Office.Office Store

Microsoft invites third-party developers to build apps on top of Office. The Office Store is where you can purchase these add-ons, which include such tools as a Brittanica reference guide, a LinkedIn social media hub, and a digital signature manager.

Office.com

This website is where you'll sign in to access everything Office-related. Here, you can access SkyDrive and jump to the Office Web Apps.

Copyright (c) 2013 PCWorld Communications, Inc.

Scroll upScroll down

Recently recommended stories