Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Which Office Suite is the right choice for you?

Most computer users make use of some version of an “Office Suite” of programs, which usually includes a document writer, spreadsheet creator, slide creator and player, and possibly an email client.
The most well known is Microsoft Office, which includes:
Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote - and in some of it’s versions, Outlook (the email client)
Some versions also add:
Publisher (for creating business cards, posters, newsletters and other desktop publishing items)
Access (a database manager)
There are a couple free office Suites that can be downloaded. They have fewer features, and rarely include an email client, but they can suffice for those with simple needs.
One of the most notable of the free suites is LibraOffice; though there is also the option of using an online suite of programs like Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides, etc.
Microsoft is pushing all it’s loyal users to switch to Office 365, which is subscription based, and has stated that it will end support of any of its stand-alone products by 2020.
So where do you stand?
If you have a real need for the impressive features built into Microsoft Office, and especially if you hate to give up Outlook for email, then it’s probably time to bite the bullet and opt for Office365, and budget for an annual subscription fee. If you have friends or family that would like to share with you, you can legally share one subscription with up to 5 users, all of whom will have their own Microsoft Account, so you will only be sharing access to the Programs, not sharing any personal data. That makes Office365 much more affordable.
However if you want to jump ship altogether and opt for a less full featured, but free, option, maybe choosing  LibraOffice, or even moving everything to an online system like Google’s is for you.
Bear in mind that these are free, so not only will they have fewer features, but there is no guarantee that they will continue to be offered.
Of course, you can use those free versions, and save your files in Microsoft Office compatible formats, like doc, docx, or xls etc. That way your files will always be accessible even if you change to another suite or system later.
Using Google Docs may have some limits to this type of conversion, and even LibraOffice may lose a little in translation, but for the most part it will work.
So the answer to:
Where do I stand?
is very individual. It depends on your personal needs and preferences, and of course your budget.
If there is one decision I encourage many people to make if possible, is to change your email to a Gmail address. I know this can be a bit of a pain in the transition, since you have to let all of your contacts know. I personally haven’t even made that full switch over yet, though I will be doing so in the next month or so. If you move to Gmail, which is stable and well supported, you can probably take the need for an email client out of the Office Suite decision, which can make the choice easier and cheaper.
If you are not a business owner, but are using Outlook now, take a look at Gmail, Google Notes, Google Keep, Google Calendar, all of which are full featured and stable, and ask yourself if you really need what Outlook has to offer.
Maybe you are the right candidate for a simple free Office Suite and free Google Apps.
One thing is sure, before long this decision will need to be made, since options will become more limited.
Here are a couple of good resource pages with helpful information:

And this article about safety issues with regard to  using older versions of Office:

My decision was to opt for Office365 and share the $99 a year cost with 4 other people. Your decision may be different, but you do want to choose something that has been around a while, and will likely remain around. That is especially true for email – which is why I recommend Gmail as It has become well established and has easy to use apps for all computer, tablet and phone systems.

What will your decision be?

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