Although Office 365 runs locally on your PC, laptop or tablet, free SkyDrive storage space is offered to encourage the storage of documents online. There are advantages to using cloud storage – not least that you can access your files anywhere, on any machine on which Office software is installed. (See also: Office 2013 review.)
Office 365: price
The deal on Office 365 Home Premium is more tempting than that for Office Professional 2013. Although the £80-per-year Home Premium product is restricted to non-commercial use, you can install the suite on up to five machines, PC or Mac. With Office Professional 2013, you pay £390 for a single-user perpetual licence. For more business software reviews visit Business Advisor.
Office 265: review
Office 365 Microsoft's increased emphasis on the cloud for document storage, updates and troubleshooting assumes you have a fast, reliable broadband connection. This is fine if you live and work in a city, but a decent web connection is not always a given in rural areas. Some of our testing was conducted in a rural setting using a satellite link; although this is rated at 18Gbps, it can be much slower – we witnessed noticeable pauses when moving documents to and from SkyDrive.
Microsoft is encouraging its customers to move to its subscription-based Office 365 suite by offering more flexible licence terms. You can have up to five installations of Office 365, on any combination of desktop and portable PCs or Macs. You can also move around these installations, deactivating Office 365 on one machine and activating it on another.
Until recently, a perpetual licence for a standalone version of Office could be installed on only one PC and couldn't be transferred. So, if you replaced your PC or upgraded certain parts you wouldn't be able to continue using your paid-for Office installation.
At the time of writing, Microsoft had just changed its terms in response to customer complaints. A copy of Office is now transferable once every 90 days. It's still a bit mean-spirited – if your PC is stolen you'll have to wait three months before you can legitimately install your software on a replacement machine – but it's an improvement on the previous situation.
There's also a financial incentive to subscribing to Office 365, assuming you have a use for all five installations. Office Professional 2013 and Office 365 Small Business Premium contain the same seven core Office applications, and both can be used for commercial purposes (Office 365 Home Premium cannot).
The Professional product costs £390 for a perpetual single-user licence, so you'd need five to compare on cost. Assuming a three-year cycle between Office versions, the Office 365 Small Business Premium route will cost £1,575 (£105 per person, per year), while the Professional Plus one will cost £1,950. At the end of that time, of course, you'll still have five Office 2013 Professional licences, whereas the Office 365 installations will have expired (unless you pay again to renew them). Also note that you can pay less for perpetual licences through Microsoft's Professional Plus volume-licensing scheme.
Aside from the arguments over licensing and cost, the new version of Office reveals a number of useful improvements in its core components, and minor tweaks throughout. Word's round-trip PDF editing, Excel's Quick Analysis and Flash Fill, and improvements to Presenter View in PowerPoint immediately come to mind. Improved integration with SkyDrive and the ability to use the Office apps anywhere, with documents downloaded from the cloud, is clearly the way forward when working out of the office.
These days, Office's major competition comes from free suites such as LibreOffice, OpenOffice.org and Google Docs, not commercial rivals such as WordPerfect. Although these offerings are able to offer much of the same functionality, and will cater to most people's needs, if you need to collaborate with business colleagues or clients, there's no real substitute for having Office on your machine.
Office 365 licence details (click to enlarge)
Office 2013: reviews
- Word 2013 review - much-loved productivity tool gets an overhaul
- Excel 2013 review - new features mean powerful analysis tools for everyone
- PowerPoint 2013 review - some new features keep PowerPoint on top
- Outlook 2013 review - spare design and streamlined workflow save time
- Onenote 2013 review - serious note-taking on tablet
- Publisher 2013 review - page-design program enjoys marginal improvements
- Access 2013 review - new look and feel for database tool