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Microsoft Office 2013 review: it’s finally here

Microsoft Office has changed. It’s not just that Office 2013 gets the Windows 8 treatment, with a touch-friendly interface and a sparser look, as well as new features in every application. Office is also going to the cloud, with subscription pricing, on-demand installation and automatic syncing of settings and documents you save in the cloud – if you want to pay for it that way.

As usual, there are multiple versions of Office 2013, but this time around the different editions are not just about whether you’re using them at home or in a business or which applications are included.

Office 2013
Office has a new UI

Buying Office 2013

As usual, there are multiple versions of Office 2013, but this time around the different editions are not just about whether you’re using them at home or in a business or which applications are included.

Even if you decide you want to buy a pay-for-it-once-and-keep-it copy of Office 2013 in a box, you won’t find a DVD inside – just a product key to unlock the software you download. (Buyers in “developing countries with limited internet access” can still get a DVD, but that’s not an option in the UK or US.)

If you prefer to pay an annual subscription to get extra features, Office 365 editions let you download the Office 2013 applications onto multiple PCs (or share them with your family).

For home users, there are four options. Buy the boxed software and you can put it on one PC. Office Home and Student 2013 with Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote costs £109.99/$139.99; Office Home and Business 2013 adds Outlook and costs £219.99/$219.99. Office Professional 2013 has the full set of programs for £389.99/$399.99; Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access and Publisher.

Then there’s the new subscription version that Microsoft released this week, Office 365 Home Premium, which costs you $99.99 a year for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Access and Publisher.

That’s good value if you share it with the family; up to five people in the same household can have their own installations of Office on their PC or Mac at the same time (for the Office programs that run on a Mac – and Mac users get the current version of Office for Mac until a new release comes along in the future). And when the next version of Office comes out, you’ll get it on the same subscription.

All five people get an extra 20GB of storage on SkyDrive to keep documents on and 60 free Skype world calling minutes a month (which can be calls to a landline or a mobile and from your PC or from a smartphone with Skype installed).

You can download the Office programs temporarily on another PC if you’re away from your usual PC (even if it already has another version of Office installed). So if you have a document on a USB drive or on SkyDrive that you need to edit on another PC, and using the Office Web Apps from SkyDrive doesn’t provide of the features you need (like seeing revision marks in a tracked document you’re collaborating on), you can use Office on Demand to get the full version of Word in just a few minutes.

You manage all this from the revamped Office.com and there’s a link to your account there in the ribbon of all the Office applications. (To activate the Skype minutes you have to link your account to the Microsoft account you’re using for Office 365, which can be done on the Office.com site.)

You also get a list of your recently edited documents, which helps when using Office on Demand to give it a fresh edit.

If you’re at college or university (or you teach at one) it’s possible to get Office 365 University on a four-year subscription for $79.99 that you can use on up to two PCs or Macs.

Also, as you might expect, Office 2013 and Office on Demand only run on Windows 7 and 8, not on XP or Vista.


Read the full review on Tech Radar.