Like death, taxes and your train being late when you're in a hurry, having to use Microsoft Office is one of life's certainties.
Competitors have come and gone over the years. There's even an excellent free alternative available. Yet nobody has made an impact on the Microsoft juggernaut, which is responsible for about a third of the company's total revenue and has 90% market share.
Microsoft Office: ingrained and ever-present
Microsoft Office has become so ingrained in the world of work that we never give it a second thought. It's an ever-present piece of software that we take for granted - both the good bits and the bad.
Some of its capabilities are genuinely impressive, and yet it can also be incredibly frustrating. Most of us just get on with it when Word keeps messing our bullets up or PowerPoint keeps reformatting a crucial presentation.
Introducing Office 2013
It was against this background of indifference that Microsoft last week launched Office 2013, the new version of its ubiquitous software.
It has the usual smattering of new features, and a refreshed look and feel. Here are a few of the key changes:
- As with Windows 8, Office 2013 has been redesigned to work better on computers with touch screens. Some buttons are bigger and it's possible to pinch-and-zoom documents.
- Several people can now work on the same Word or PowerPoint document at once, if it's saved to Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud storage. However, early reviews suggest this function is a bit clunky.
- Microsoft has opened Office 2013 up to app developers, who can build their own apps and make them a part of Office. You can downloads apps via an app store - there aren't many available yet, but there's huge potential.
There are many other improvements and tweaks too. PC Pro has an excellent review examining some of the new capabilities in detail.
Rent or buy Office 2013
Although the home version of Office 2013 is available to buy now, the business packages won't be on sale until 27 February. Touch screen users will find it worth upgrading immediately.
It will be possible to rent Office 2013 from Microsoft too. As with many cloud services, you'll pay by the month. Stop paying, and Office will stop working. This version is called Office 365.
Over the long term, paying monthly is unlikely to work out much cheaper than buying the software outright. But renting will be more flexible, because you'll be able to cancel any time after the first 30 days - and you'll receive updates to new versions of Office as they're released.
Microsoft also promises some useful extra features for Office 365, like Office on Demand, a special copy of the software you can temporarily use on any PC.
Business package pricing and options should become clearer in the next week or two, but going by prices currently shown on the Microsoft website, you could be looking at anything up to £15 per person per month for a fully-featured version of Microsoft Office.
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