January 27, 2023

State of the Art: 2 Ways to Subscribe to Microsoft’s Office, Eternally

But how do you do that? Microsoft Word is already a word processor, a Web design program, a database and a floor wax. What on earth is left to add?

For the last few versions, Microsoft has mostly just shuffled around the existing features. Reorganizing them into a Ribbon toolbar to make them easier to find, for example, or brightening the background for a cleaner look.

This year, the biggest news isn’t the software, but how you pay for it.

Way 1: buy the Office suite as you always have, for $140 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote) to $400 (those programs plus Outlook, Access and Publisher).

Way 2: buy an annual subscription to these programs for $100 a year. That plan is called Office 365. (That’s right: the programs known for a year as Office 15 are sold as Office 2013, and available through Office 365. Nobody ever accused Microsoft of clarity in naming.)

Microsoft argues that this subscription offers all kinds of benefits. First, you can download and run the Office programs on up to five computers, including Macs and PCs. You can change which five they are at any time. (Windows PCs get Office 2013, with settings magically synced across computers. Macs get the older, less refined Office 2011 for Mac.)

If your home or office has a bunch of computers, you could save money; buying five copies outright would set you back $700. That’s more economical only if you plan to use that increasingly ancient version for at least seven years.

With a subscription, you’ll always get the latest version — Office 2015, Office 2031, Office 2119 — but, of course, you have to pay $100 a year forever. (If your subscription lapses, you can open or print your documents, but you can’t edit them or create new ones.)

You might be appalled at the notion of paying Microsoft an annual fee forever to get something you used to own outright. Or might like the idea of a fixed, knowable fee that keeps you up to date.

Either way, an Office 365 subscription gets you more than just five copies of the software. It also includes Office on Demand, which is the ability to download Office programs onto any Windows 7 or Windows 8 computer — at a branch office or a friend’s house, say. Touch up your slides, write up that proposal; when you log out, the downloaded Office software vanishes.

The SkyDrive is a free 7-gigabyte online storage disk for files that you want to access from anywhere, from any computer, tablet or smartphone with an Internet connection. In Office 13, it’s more important; in fact, the factory setting is to save new documents onto your SkyDrive. And if you subscribe to Office 365, you get another 20 gigabytes. That’s a lot of slides and spreadsheets.

Even that isn’t the end of the pot-sweetening. The same $100 fee also buys you one hour a month of free Skype-to-phone calls. (Microsoft bought Skype last year.) That is, from a computer, tablet or phone that has Skype installed, you can call to regular landline or cellphone numbers — something that usually costs a few cents a minute. (Calls to computers and smartphones, using Skype addresses, like Skibunny20304, are still free.)

So far, it must sound as if the only thing new in Office 2013 is how you pay for it. But there are also plenty of nips and tucks to the software itself.

The programs have a new design that matches the clean, rectangular lines of Windows 8’s Start screen. No drop shadows, shaded toolbars or rounded corners on buttons or boxes.

Speaking of touch screens — and Microsoft has been speaking of them incessantly lately — a new Touch Mode is supposed to spread out Office’s buttons and menu items, so that you can more easily hit them with a finger. It’s not much spreading, though. You’ll still wish you had a mouse.

E-mail: pogue@nytimes.com

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/07/technology/personaltech/pogue-microsoft-office-365.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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