Office 365 Home Premium review: Is Office better by subscription?

Microsoft's new subscription-based version of Office 2013 lets you use your applications anywhere. But does it really save you money?

By Preston Gralla, Computerworld |  Software, Office 365

On the My Account section of Office.com, you're able to see the machines on which you've installed Office, and handle payments and renewals. From there you can also deactivate Office on any machine (in case you want to use that install on a different computer). If you need to re-activate Office on a machine, just run any Office app and you'll be prompted to enter your Office 365 Home Premium user name and password.

Office.com also functions as way to manage your documents. Office 365 Home Premium automatically syncs files between your local machines and Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud-based storage service, and lists them on Office.com. You can click any file you see there and view it in the Web-based version of Office.

If you want to tweak the file, you select Edit Document and choose to either edit it using either the Web-based version of Office or the client version on your machine. (The client has more features than does the Web version, so most people will probably choose that method.)

If you want to tweak a file, you select Edit Document and choose to edit it using either the Web-based version of Office or the client version on your machine.

You can create new Office documents on Windows 7 or Windows 8 machines that don't have Office installed by using a nifty feature called Office on Demand. Go to the My Office section of Office.com, and in the "Office on Demand" section, click on the application you want to use. A version of that app installs temporarily (and quickly) on the PC you're using. Once you exit the application, it will automatically uninstall.

I found this feature worked fine, although when I tried using it on a machine that already had Office 2013 installed, it wouldn't install (which makes a certain amount of sense).

Office.com also has a store where you can buy or download free apps designed for Office and its individual applications -- for example, there's a Bing Finance app for managing your investments and another app that provides a Merriam-Webster dictionary. As of this writing, I wasn't particularly impressed with the selection of apps available, but that might change over time.

Money matters

The question is: Will you be better off going with the subscription model or buying Office 2013 in the traditional manner?

Well -- it depends.

The Office 365 Home Premium subscription costs $100 a year for up to five PCs and Macs (including tablets). That includes automatic free upgrades to new versions of Office. You also get 60 minutes of free Skype calls every month and 20GB of additional SkyDrive storage over the basic free 7GB.

Depending on how you use Office, this new subscription model can be a tremendous money saver or a losing proposition. If you use Office on several computers (and if you use non-core applications such as Outlook, Publisher and Access) Office 365 Home Premium can save you a lot of money. The Professional version of Office 2013 -- which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access -- costs $400 for a single install. Buy that for five computers and it adds up to a whopping $2,000.

With Office 365 Home Premium, you can work with your document anywhere. Depending on how you use Office, this new subscription model can be a tremendous money saver or a losing proposition.

If you use several computers, don't need Publisher and Access, but do use Outlook, it still makes more financial sense to buy Office 365 Home Premium. Office 2013 Home & Business, which includes Outlook but not Publisher and Access, sells for $220. So for five PCs and Macs, that would run $1,100 -- still considerably more expensive than the $100 per year subscription.


Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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