A 365-degree look at Microsoft Office 365

June 9, 2015

What you may not know about your new computer is that not all its software suites are yours for keeps. Microsoft Office 2013 is a perfect example of pre-installed software that you might lose once your trial period runs out.

Office Home & Student 2013 is $139 for one computer only. Office 365 Personal is $69.99/year or $6.99/month for one device only, and Office 365 Home is $99.99/year or $9.99/month.

The Mac user gets the short end of the Office stick, with only Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. For the same price, the PC user also gets OneNote, which is pretty handy if you enjoy a more ambiguous, free-form style of note-taking—as if Notepad and Paint had a baby.

These are fairly standard programs for personal use, everything from writing letters to making tables to creating presentations. You do not need a Master’s degree in software development to figure out most of the features. However, if you have used earlier versions, the tabular format may be a bit frustrating.

With Office 365 Home and Personal, you get all of this, plus Outlook, Publisher, and Access, as well as one terabyte of cloud (online) storage and 60 minutes of Skype. For Personal, you only get this for one device, whereas Home gets this for five users.

OneDrive is among the better features of the online versions because it allows you to take a massive amount of personal files and put them somewhere off your hard drive. You have to rely on your Internet access to edit the files, which is why I also recommend having a flash drive or other external storage device.

For those who are used to exclusively visiting browser-based online services like Gmail, Outlook is actually more old-school, but it offers you a lot more in terms of customization and flexibility. You can store files on your computer and work with attachments more easily. However, you have to set it up with your email provider and accept unknown files sight-unseen.

Publisher provides a good way to produce professional quality publications, such as event flyers, birthday invitations, email newsletters, and thank you cards. It has generic downloads you can customize, or you can create your own.

Access gives you the ability to set up data storage and manipulation abilities more in tune with businesses. You can track assets, set up marketing projects, event management, and student databases.

All versions of Office have a tech support feature that lets you contact Microsoft via phone or chat, but only 365 has continuous software updates. That means no matter how long you have been using the software, it is always in its latest version.

Adobe Creative Cloud is similar, only it does not come pre-loaded onto your PC or Mac. It is online and available for download—extremely useful for creative types, but expensive. You can purchase a license for one individual Adobe program, which is more practical for certain users.

One of the things they do not tell you when you buy your computer is that you need to make a recovery disc to protect your operating system. This is especially true if you have Windows 8.1, which does not put the OS product code on the outside of your computer in case you have to reload the software later on.

If you do not make a recovery disc and have to replace your hard drive, you also wind up having to buy a new version of Windows 8.1, which will cost you $39.99 for a new code, $99.99 for software download, plus a hard disc copy of the operating system.

Not having a backup copy of the original software means you will have to reload most of your previous programs and settings, which is a major pain. Depending on your Internet access, it might take hours to download the software, which would have to be installed by Microsoft’s tech support via remote link.

After that, you have to go to each of your software websites to download and re-install the programs. It is a good idea to have a hard copy of all your product codes, subscription IDs, and any other account information on anything for which you paid good money.

Your Microsoft account is a particularly important code to retain in your records, as it is what will get you into your operating system as well as your account information online.

Adrian Miller is a Field Service Technician with extensive electro-mechanical training and experience. He is the Zenith’s web and graphic designer.

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