What's New in Office 2013 and Office 365? Where to Buy It?

On the 29th of January, 2013, Microsoft has launched the new Office. In the press, it was referred to as Office 2013 or Office 365, or both. Confusing it isn't it? To help our readers, we decided that it would be best share some useful information about this product launch. We will share the differences between Office editions, the most interesting new features, the pricing and distribution methods used by Microsoft, where to buy the new Office and how much you will have to pay for it.

Microsoft Office 2013 or Office 365? What's the Difference?

With this recent product launch, you are going to hear about two products: Microsoft Office 2013 and Office 365. What's the difference? How are they similar?

Microsoft Office 2013 is the actual Office suite, that includes the standard Office applications: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, etc. It does not include other tools and apps.When you buy Microsoft Office 2013, your license never expires and you can use it, theoretically, forever. When a new version of Office is made available, you need to purchase it separately.

Office 365 is a service provided by Microsoft. It existed in the past but it was aimed only at business customers. Now it is the first time Microsoft targets consumers.

Office 365 offers the Microsoft Office 2013 suite, as a service. You pay for it on a yearly basis and you also get other benefits. One of them is that you always have the latest Office version available on the devices on which you are using it. Therefore, with time, when Microsoft launches a new version of Office, Office 365 will give you access to it automatically, without paying anything extra. When you stop paying the yearly subscription, your access expires as well as your access to Office applications and the additional services bundled with the subscription.

Key Features in the New Office

Here are some of the new features included in this new version of Office:

  • Integration with the cloud - users can easily save documents on SkyDrive or on the company's SharePoint as if they were on their local PC. They can share documents with ease, collaborate with others through these services, and get all their work synchronized automatically.
  • Support for touch devices - while not ideal, the new Office is the first to make some strides in the touch department. You will be able to use it on tablets with Windows 8 or Windows RT. Also, this is the first Office that works on ARM systems.
  • Support for Office apps - apps can be developed by third parties and used to better visualize or manipulate the data in your documents.
  • Remodeled Start screen for all Office applications - allows users to access pre-made templates, re-open documents and access settings faster than before.
  • The new Office makes it easy to add pictures and media from just about any source, be it your computer, your SkyDrive or online services such as Flickr or YouTube.
  • There are major updates for Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook and OneNote. Fewer updates were made to Access and Publisher. Here are some of them:
    • The ability to return to the last viewed or edited location in Word and PowerPoint.
    • Word is now able to open and edit PDF documents. It includes also a new Reading Mode, designed to focus on reading documents without unnecessary distractions. Word can embed videos and play them directly from your documents. When collaborating with others, you can have conversations using comments and replies. You can also mark comments as done, signaling that a conversation has been addressed.
    • Excel introduces Flash Fill - an easy to use tool that recognizes patterns in your data and autocompletes remaining data, without using formulas or macros. Also, it makes it easier than ever to create Pivot Tables, visualize data with the Quick Analysis Lens or the Recommended Charts features. It also includes new limit models that allow it to process even more data than before.
    • PowerPoint introduces native support for the 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio. Besides that, it has lots of new tools, including a new presentation mode with useful features for zooming, viewing information about your next slide, highlighting presentation elements, etc. Also, it adds many alignment guides and theme variations that did not exist in previous versions. You can now merge shapes and co-author presentations using the free PowerPoint Web App.
    • Outlook finally gets a ribbon based interface and introduces the concept of quick inline replies to messages. It also has a new navigation bar that improves the way you browse through your inbox, contacts, calendar, tasks, etc. With the help of social connectors, it can integrate data from major social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) with your Outlook contacts. Using the Peek feature you can quickly view emails, your schedule or details about a specific person, without moving screens or losing context.
    • OneNote is the first Office application to get a full touch based app for Windows 8. It is available in the Windows Store, for free. The new version has improved inking tools and it integrates with Outlook, so that you can take, store and share meeting notes. On top of that, you can create audio notes and then search through them, just like you would with written notes.

The Features Available in Each Edition of Office 2013 and Office 365

There are many editions of Office 2013 and Office 365. Let's start with Office 365, since it is both a new product and service model:

  • Office 365 Home Premium - can be installed on 5 PCs and devices per household (multiple users can use it). It includes the applications you would find in Microsoft Office 2013 Professional: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Publisher, and Access. On top of that, it offers access to Office on Demand from any computer, 20 GB of additional SkyDrive storage, 60 minutes of Skype world minutes per month, and perpetual upgrades to the latest Office version, for the life of the subscription.
  • Office 365 University - identical to the Office 365 Home Premium except the price (you pay a smaller rate that gives you access to the service for four years) and the fact that it works only on 2 PCs or Macs.
  • Office 365 Small Business Premium - can be installed on 5 PCs and devices per user. It includes: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Publisher, Access, Lync and InfoPath. On top of that, it offers access to Office on Demand from any computer, shared calendars, 25GB for an Exchange Online inbox, 10GB plus 500MB per user in SharePoint online, public-facing and intranet web site capabilities with custom domains, and perpetual upgrades to the latest Office version, for the life of the subscription.

These products and features are active for the life of your subscription. If you are curious to learn what happens when the subscription expires, read this article: Microsoft's Office 365 Home Premium: What happens when subscriptions expire?.

Now, let's look at the Office 2013 editions:

  • Office Home & Student 2013 - includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. It can be installed only on one PC and its license never expires.
  • Office Home & Business 2013 - includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook. It can be installed only on one PC and its license never expires.
  • Office Professional 2013 - includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access, and Publisher. It can be installed only on one PC and its license never expires.

At the moment, all the new editions of Office run on Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows RT and Windows Phone. Office 365 subscriptions give you access also to Office for Mac 2011. The 2013 edition for Mac will be included with your subscription, when it becomes available.

Upcoming Feature: What we don't have yet, is support for iOS and Android. According to this article from The Verge, that is coming soon. Therefore, Office 365 customers should have access to these versions by default, without paying for any extras. Read here for more details: Exclusive: Microsoft Office for iPhone, iPad, and Android revealed.

What Others Had to Say about the New Office

I browsed through many reviews and I ended up being disappointed. There are many superfluous reviews, including some published by big names like Gizmodo or CNET.

However, I did find a few that are worth reading:

  • The lengthiest review I found, was published by PC Mag. They say: "I'm deeply impressed by the intelligence and care that went into Office 2013 and its Office 365 implementation. It looks terrific when you start using it, and many of its improvements are so subtly and unobtrusively slotted in that you may not notice they're there until you realize that many things that annoyed you—like that text cursor that flashed on and off as you typed—have quietly disappeared."
    Out of all the reviews I read, this one does the best job in highlighting both positives and negatives in the new Office. You can read it here: Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium.
  • Ars Technica are a bit more reserved in their review: "Just like Windows 8, this cloud-tethered version of Office may have a hard time convincing home users it's time to upgrade. There are many useful new features in some of the most heavily used applications of Office, and the new add-in apps provide a useful way to pull external content into documents and presentations. The real question is whether customers—especially consumers—will buy into the service format."
    You can read the entire article here: Review: Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium Edition hopes to be at your service.
  • Paul Thurrott is the only one that tested the Office for the Mac. He shared his conclusions here: Office 365 Home Premium: The Mac Experience. He also published a review of the whole Office suite here: Office 365 Home Premium Review. In this review he concludes: "Folks, Office 365 Home Premium is pretty much a no-brainer for any family with multiple PCs."
  • There is also a rather weak review from CNET, based mostly on the preview edition of Office and not the final version: Microsoft Office 2013 review: Designed for tablets, but great for everyone. Even so, they do say that: "Office 365 Home Premium tries to cover all the bases for personal productivity, and in my tests it did an admirable job. With the focus on making the suite available on Windows 8 tablets, the company made many actions easier across the suite out of necessity, and so it's easier to use in general, regardless of the type of device you are working on."

Many other reviewers were shallow in their coverage and the most common complaint they have is about the pricing of the new Office.

Where to Buy Office 2013 and Office 365

There are many places from where you can purchase the new Office. First of all, you can find it in Microsoft Stores, or online at the Office website.

You will notice that Microsoft heavily promotes Office 365 Premium in its stores. If you are interested in purchasing Microsoft Office 2013 retail editions at a better price, then look for promotions at your favorite retailer(s). Most probably, you will get a better price than when buying directly from Microsoft.

You can also find Office online, at some reasonable prices, on Amazon. Here are a few links & prices to help you out:

Where to Download the New Office

Another important change about the new Office is that Microsoft does not offer it on any kind of discs. The packaging for all editions includes a product key card and a quick manual, showing how to download, install and register your copy of Office.
Do not throw those away. You must keep them safe, so that you can reinstall Office any time you need it. Also, to download Office 2013, go to the Office website, log in with your Microsoft account and follow the instructions found in the manual.