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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Microsoft Office 2010 Best Edition

The Editions

There are seven Microsoft Office 2010 Editions to choose from, though only three of them are available through traditional retail channels. The Editions are listed below in ascending order of complexity and (with the exception of Office 2010 Professional Academic) ascending order of cost.

* Microsoft Office 2010 Starter
* Microsoft Office 2010 Home and Student
* Microsoft Office 2010 Home and Business
* Microsoft Office 2010 Standard
* Microsoft Office 2010 Professional
* Microsoft Office 2010 Professional Academic
* Microsoft Office 2010 Professional Plus

Each more expensive Edition includes more applications. The latter six Editions all come with a version of Word or Excel you're probably familiar with, but Starter Edition includes Word Starter and Excel Starter, which have reduced functionality and can't run macros or add-ins. Office 2010 Starter also includes advertisements, which is how Microsoft underwrites the fact that Office 2010 Starter is free.

As you ascend the cost ladder, extra applications are added to the mix, but none are excluded. In this respect, Microsoft has kept your Office 2010 buying decision rather simple. Need a particular Office 2010 app? Simply find the cheapest Office 2010 Edition that includes it.

Setting aside Starter Edition, every version of Microsoft Office 2010 includes full versions of Word 2010, Excel 2010, PowerPoint 2010 and OneNote 2010. Microsoft Office 2010 Home and Business adds Outlook 2010 to the roster of applications. Microsoft Office 2010 Standard includes Publisher 2010, Microsoft's full desktop publishing and layout application. Microsoft Office 2010 Professional and Professional Academic are identical except for pricing, and include the Microsoft Access 2010 database application. Microsoft Office 2010 Professional Plus throws in Microsoft Communicator 2010, InfoPath 2010, and SharePoint Workspace 2010.

What Can I Buy?

Microsoft Office 2010 Starter Edition is available only as a preloaded application on retail PCs. If your computer manufacturer didn't include Office Starter, you can't request it after the fact. That said, almost every PC that comes with Windows 7 preinstalled is likely to include Office 2010 Starter (assuming a paid version of Office 2010 isn't installed).

For versions of Office 2010 that are actually for sale, you have two methods of purchase: Boxed Full Versions, and Product Key Cards. The Boxed versions include full CD copies of the applications (handy for reinstalls), printed manuals, and licenses for two PCs. The Product Key Cards are simply credit-card like plastic slips with product activation codes printed on them. Key Cards can be used to download a single installation of Office 2010 onto a PC, or to upgrade Office Starter Edition to a full version of Office 2010. As such, Key Card licenses are cheaper than Boxed Full Version licenses.

Microsoft Office 2010 Home and Student, Home and Business, and Professional are all available via retail channels at the following prices:

* Microsoft Office 2010 Home and Student - $119 Key Card / $149 Boxed Full Version
* Microsoft Office 2010 Home and Business - $199 Key Card / $279 Boxed Full Version
* Microsoft Office 2010 Professional - $349 Key Card / $499 Boxed Full Version

Microsoft Office 2010 Professional Academic is available only from authorized Microsoft Educational resellers as a Boxed Full Version, but for the discount price of $99. That's $400 below standard retail for Office 2010 Professional, provided you can qualify for the mark-down.

Microsoft Office 2010 Standard and Microsoft Office 2010 Professional Plus are only available through Microsoft Volume Licensing agreements, or to members of the MSDN or Microsoft TechNet buying services. Prices vary based on the number of licenses purchased, and Microsoft hasn't published anything like a suggested retail prices for these Office 2010 Editions. Suffice it say the more licenses you buy, the cheaper your per-license cost.

What About the Office Web Apps?

The Office 2010 Web Apps are browser-based versions of Word 2010, Excel 2010, and PowerPoint 2010, and are similar to Google Docs. They offer limited functionality much like Word Starter and Excel Starter, but have the added benefit of handling PowerPoint presentations and OneNote notebooks. In general, the Office Web Apps are enhancements and extensions of existing desktop-based Office applications; they aren't yet robust enough to replace traditional Word, Excel, OneNote and PowerPoint. If you're on the fence about Office Starter Edition because it doesn't include PowerPoint or OneNote capability, the Office Web Apps can probably fill the gap. If you have serious publishing, presentation, or data-processing needs beyond an occasional letter, resume, or household budget, the Office Web Apps won't make Starter Edition any more sufficient.

Which Office 2010 Edition Is Right For You?

Microsoft Office 2010 Starter Edition replaces MS Works, Microsoft's former introductory-level productivity suite. If you simply need basic word-processing and spreadsheet functions, with little regard for serious desktop publishing or data analysis, then Office 2010 Starter is probably good enough.

Office 2010 Home and Student is going to serve almost everyone Office Starter Edition doesn't. Do you need macros, or pivot tables, or to create PowerPoint presentations? Then you need Office 2010 Home and Student, at the very least.

Do you need Microsoft Outlook 2010? Then you're going to shell out an extra $80 to $130 for Office 2010 Home and Business.

Do you need Microsoft Publisher 2010 or Access 2010? Then you need Office 2010 Professional. Be certain you can't live without those apps, because they'll cost you an extra $230 to $360 over the Home and Student Edition of Office 2010. (Unless you can qualify for the Office 2010 professional Academic discount, which is probably the best possible deal for any version of Office 2010.)

If you need Microsoft InfoPath, Communicator, or SharePoint Workspace, you'll need a TechNet or MSDN membership, or to talk to a Microsoft volume reseller. That said, these are fairly corporate-centric tools, so most households and even small businesses won't need to worry about the bells and whistles of Office 2010 Professional Plus.

Bottom Line: Stick with Office 2010 Starter Edition until you're sure you need more than it will offer. It's free and Microsoft has made upgrades extremely easy -- most of the ads in Office 2010 Starter are for full versions of Office 2010, so simply click one to begin the upgrade process. Once you've identified what Office 2010 Starter doesn't have but that you truly need, you'll be able to choose between Office 2010 Home and Student (for PowerPoint), Home and Business (for Outlook), and Professional (for Publisher and Access).

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