Book Review: Office 365 for Dummies, Second Edition

Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

Subscription software is a relatively new concept. Even though licensing agreements have always made it quite clear that you don’t actually own the software that you believe you have bought, people have always tended to ignore that (if they read the EULA at all). So the notion of software that you have no physical copy of, and that you have to pay a fee to use every month, raised some hackles when it was first introduced. Microsoft got into subscription software in a big way with Office 365, and it has been increasing in popularity, especially for business use. Office 365 for Dummies, Second Edition , sets out to show why the subscription model is an excellent choice for business. Does it succeed in its mission? Read this review to find the answer:

Convincing the skeptics

Where To Buy

The book begins with a lengthy and very thorough explanation of cloud computing and subscription software. The authors do a great job of recognizing the possible objections and dealing with them in a clear and factual way. I must admit that I began reading this book as a skeptic, which I think is natural for someone whose first computer was an IBM mainframe back in the 60s. :) But as I read on, I found Office 365 For Dummies, Second Edition quickly began to change my mind.

Although the title does not say so (it is in small print on the cover) this book is aimed squarely at business users, and it also quickly became clear why subscription software and cloud computing have huge advantages for businesses. My own experience as the only computer literate person in a large department backed up the idea that it’s a lot easier to let the professionals at Microsoft take care of software upgrades, patches and maintenance seamlessly in the background.

Now, granted, Microsoft doesn’t have a spotless record when it comes to messing things up (I’m not going to stray off the path here by talking about my mother’s computer with Windows ME, although it did play a large part in my initially skeptical approach to Office 365) but this book does a very good job of explaining why no matter how much they’ve flubbed the dub in the past, it’s still better to have Microsoft maintaining your critical business software than to turn it over to some overworked IT person who may or may not have the same level of skill. Plus, with Office 365 subscriptions nobody in the company is going to have to sit down and re-image everything when the company adopts a newer version of Office. Just sign in and there it is, ready to go.

There’s a good description of the various Office 365 plans available, so potential subscribers can see what they’ll get for their money.

Seriously, if you remain unconvinced that cloud computing and subscription software are worth considering, a careful read of the first part of this book will go a long way toward convincing you. It certainly convinced me.

Entering the cloud

After the expert sales pitch for the concept, Office 365 for Dummies, Second Edition carefully explains how a business can move into Office 365 and cloud computing without too much stress and anguish. Again, the emphasis is on persuading the reader of the benefits of such a move, and again, the authors do a careful and thorough job. They review the benefits and features of Office 365 and explain why making the move makes sense.

It’s not just cloud computing and subscription software that businesses will have to change their minds about. Since some versions of Office 365 include such new approaches as an in-house chat application, a Pinterest-like app called Delve, and the ability to create company-wide Facebook-like pages (among other things), the authors of Office 365 for Dummies, Second Edition go to great lengths to explain why those kinds of social-media apps can have a very beneficial effect for businesses. It may be difficult for managers who are accustomed to telling people they can’t mess around on social media sites on company time to understand why company-specific private social media sites can actually boost productivity and company collaboration, but I believe the authors do a good job of laying out the case for setting these things up on the company’s Office 365 account. Granted, Microsoft’s extremely unfortunate decision to name their chat app Yammer might cause a few problems for people who know what yammering is all about. :)

The general-purpose introductory sales-pitch chapters are followed by introductory sales-pitch chapters for the individual components of Office 365. In each case, the authors carefully lay out the case for the superiority of Office 365’s approach over the traditional buy-licenses approach, and they do a good job. Each component (SharePoint, Exchange, Skype for Business, OneNote, Word, Excel, and Powerpoint) gets its own chapter detailing its own advantages. And then there is an introduction to the basics of using each component, which should be enough to get people up and running. However, for a more detailed look at all the features of each component, you’ll have to find a different reference. Honestly, if each component got a full explanation you’d have to pick up this book with a forklift.

Again, if you are skeptical about any of that, you may find that by the time you’ve read through the reasons why each component can be a true productivity booster you’ll see things in a different light.

Getting down to business

The introductions, the sales pitches and the overviews take up more than half the book. Then Office 365 for Dummies, Second Edition explains exactly what needs to be done to prepare for a move from in-house software to cloud computing. It’s not just a matter of one day you use the company license for Office and the next day you sign into Office 365. There are definite steps that have to be taken in order to assure the smoothest possible transition. These are laid out in step by step order. And there is information for developers who may want to customize the interface for a specific business use. SharePoint, as the backbone of the system, gets a development chapter all its own. Of course, people who aren’t interested in that information can just skip it.

Once again, the authors explain why each step is essential to success, and why proper preparation is the key to making Office 365 work for your business. Again, people who go into it thinking “We can’t possibly use that, we have no need for it” may come out thinking “Hey, that would work for us, let’s give it a try.” Since there are different versions of Office 365 with different components and different prices, knowing ahead of time what you want in your subscription is key (although you can change your subscription package at any time to suit your company’s needs).

The chapter “Meeting Office 365 Requirements” lays out what is necessary in terms of equipment, internet bandwidth and individual skills. And the authors are very honest about the pros and cons of moving to the cloud. It’s not all fun and games, and they’re upfront about that. This chapter really should be required reading. The next chapter guides the reader through deciding which plan will work best. That too should be required reading because cloud computing may be an entirely new experience for the reader, and having all the information about all the plans is a plus.

There are chapters on preparing for the move, implementing Office 365 (which includes the steps necessary to get everyone ready for it), and managing Office 365 (including Exchange, Skype for Business and SharePoint). Again, this is not a complete and exhaustive reference guide, but it should get people over the hump and into day to day use.

Tens and tens

One of the best parts of a For Dummies book is the final chapter or chapters called “ The Part of Tens”. In this case, there are three such parts. One for “ten signs it’s time for you to move to Office 365,” one for ten reasons why Office 365 can be of incredible value to your organization, and one for ten tips to increasing productivity. Besides being entertaining reading, those chapters do a good job of selling the value of the product, which is kind of like frosting on the cake.

Pros and cons and more

Here’s what I feel are the good and bad points about Office 365 for Dummies, Second Edition:

Pros:

  • As with most For Dummies books, well written by people who know what they’re talking about
  • Excellent “sales pitch” for the product that I can say with assurance is good for convincing the skeptics
  • Logical progression from one topic to another, each building on the previous topics, which is why this book should be read from beginning to end rather than piece by piece
  • Enough basic information to get you up and running with each component
  • Plenty of useful links to add-ons and additional information (I reviewed the Kindle edition)

Cons:

  • The book title should make it clear that this is primarily for business clients
  • One of the things I do for a living is copy editing, and I must say I was irritated by grammatical mistakes in the book. Maybe I’m pickier than other people because of what I do, but things like “Can I do my job easier or not” were annoying (for the record, it should be more easily ). And oh, can we delete the word “functionality” from the English language, please ? It’s technobabble and in almost every single instance can be replaced by something better.

Where To Buy

TO KEEP IN MIND: If what you want is detailed information about using all the components of Office 365, this is not the book. However, any good reference book for Office will go into the proper detail If you need more than this book provides.

Product Rated
4/5

Verdict

Office 365 for Dummies, Second Edition did a great job of proving to me that my bias against subscription software was unfounded. I can now see that the subscription model has clear advantages for business users. The book really didn’t go into the advantages for home users, which is why I believe the title should have made it clear what its focus is.

It also showed me that there are advantages to using social-media components in a business setting. Pity my former employers never read this book. :)

It was a good read, and if you’re part of a business that depends on Office, you should definitely pay attention to the content.