Microsoft Office 2013 or Office 365?

If you work on a PC or Mac as part of your day job, the chances are that at some point of the working day you come into contact with Word, Excel or PowerPoint – the keystone products of Microsoft Office.

Office 365 includes a licence for up to 5 machines in your household and access via SkyDrive.

Office 365 includes a licence for up to 5 machines and access via SkyDrive.

Since the vast majority of the world’s businesses use the application suite, it’s a big deal when a new version gets released.

Office 2013, launched last month, is full of new features and cool new tricks: but which are the important details you need to know if you’re thinking of upgrading?

1. There are several versions of Office 2013

As with every Microsoft release, there are different versions of Office 2013 which include different combinations of products.

Home & Student, for example, comes with Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote; Home & Business comes with the same four core applications and the Outlook email client as well. This year, there’s also a new version called Office RT, which is designed purely for Windows RT tablets.

2. You can pay monthly or all at once

As well as Office 2013, Microsoft has also launched Office 365. This contains the same programs as Office 2013, but is paid for on a monthly basis as an ongoing licence, rather than a one off purchase fee. Office 2013 is a bit confusing, because there are a lot of details you need to consider before deciding which is better value for money.

Office 2013 Home & Student, for example, costs £109.99 for the basic Office suite, while Office 365 Home Premium is £79.99 a year (or £7.99 a month) for the same apps plus Outlook and 20GB of cloud storage on SkyDrive. There’s a lot of options, and the full list is here.

3. You can only use Office 2013 on a certain number of machines

One of the key differences between Office 2013 and Office 365 is the number of PCs you can install it on. If you buy a copy of Office 2013, you are allowed to put it on one PC and the software will check online to prevent you from putting it on any more. With Office 365, on the other hand, you can install the same software on five PCs, Macs or Windows 8 tablets.

4. Which is better value for money?

The most important thing to remember is that if you stop paying the monthly fee for Office 365 you lose access to the Microsoft applications – but as long as you keep paying you’ll get automatic updates to the latest versions.

Essentially, it works out as better value if you always upgrade to the newest version of Office and pay several hundred pounds every three years or so. If you think you’ll be sticking with the 2013 edition for the next 10 years, however, you’re better off getting the standalone software.

5. If you upgrade your PC, you can’t take Office 2013 with you.

One common question about Office 2013 is that if a licence is locked to one PC, what happens if you upgrade? The bad news is that you can’t transfer a copy of Office 2013 to a new machine, unless your PC is under warranty, breaks down and is replaced.

This is a much stricter condition than with previous editions of Office, and is indicative of the fact Microsoft wants people to buy Office 365 instead of the standalone version. How do we know this? Adding and removing machines to the five allowed in your 365 bundle is easy.

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