Microsoft Office 365 vs. Office 2013 for the home user

When it comes to buying the latest version of Microsoft’s Office solution, home users now have even more choice than ever, with the release of Office 365 alongside Office 2013.

June 27, 2013

By Cindy du Toit, Microsoft Product Specialist at Drive Control Corporation

When it comes to buying the latest version of Microsoft’s Office solution, home users now have even more choice than ever, with the release of Office 365 alongside Office 2013. Cutting through the clutter of information around the products, what the various versions offer and what advantages there are to each product can be a challenging task. Deciding which solution is best for you depends on many factors, including the solutions you need access to, your budget, and the number of devices you use. Once you know which product offers what and for how much, the decision becomes a lot easier to make.

The first thing home users need to know is the fundamental difference between Office 2013 and Office 365. Office 2013 Home & Student is the latest home user version of the software we are all used to – you have a single license, and you either download the software or install it from a DVD. This license is valid for a single PC or notebook. Office 365 on the other hand is a cloud-based solution, which means that you are basically leasing a service from Microsoft for an annual fee. An Office 365 subscription can be installed on up to five devices, including PCs, notebooks and tablet devices.

This basic difference does not, however, tell the whole story. Office 2013 Home & Student includes the basic functionality of the Office Suite – Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote. It does not include Outlook, Publisher and Access, which are only available on the Office 2013 Professional 2013 software solution. However, once the license is purchased, it is yours, and can be used indefinitely. This license does not entitle you to upgrade to a newer version of the software when it is launched. Office 365 Home Premium, on the other hand, offers all of the features of Office 2013 Professional, but the subscription is only valid for a single year. However, during your subscription, should an upgrade to a newer version of the software become available, you will automatically be eligible for this upgrade.

Pricing is another important factor to consider. Office 2013 Home & Student retails for a recommended price of R849.99 including VAT, for a permanent license for a single device. Office 365 Home Premium carries a subscription of R649.99 per year for up to five devices. However, one must bear in mind the differences in functionality between these two. If you wish to purchase a license for similar functionality from Office 2013, you will need am Office Professional license, which retails at R3699.00 including VAT.

Aside from additional Office applications, Office 365 provides access to a host of other tools and advanced functionality, including a full Personal Information Manager in the cloud, and an Outlook web app which lets you access many of the functions of your desktop Outlook wherever you are on a mobile device. This web app synchronises with your desktop application and gives you added flexibility in how you manage your emails. Office 365 also supports the SharePoint Workspace offline tool, which lets you work on your desktop and then synchronise with the cloud when you are connected. Office on Demand also enables you to stream Office applications to any PC from, letting you use these applications normally and save documents to SkyDrive, uninstalling and leaving no trace when you are done. This means you can access your full Office suite from any computer, anywhere in the world with an Internet connection.

If you only require access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, and do not need this extra functionality, then Office 2013 may be the solution for you. Depending on your needs, Office 2013 may be more cost effective, particularly if you only have a single device, do not need access to advanced features, and do not need access to the very latest version of the software at all times. If you do not wish to pay an annual subscription, then this software is also ideal. Office 2013 is permanent, once you have purchased it, it is yours to use, whereas with Office 365 if you cancel your subscription you will no longer have access to the software and will only be able to read documents that you have saved.

However, in terms of value for money, Office 365 Home Premium is the perfect solution for any home user. It includes much more functionality than Office 2013 Home & Student and you have the option of upgrading to a newer version of Office should it be launched. With Office 365 you can install the latest Office suite on up to five Windows and Mac devices. It also has the added benefit of accessing Office from your mobile device, and is highly cost effective for a family with multiple PCs.

The decision of which solution to choose may have become more complex with the launch of Office 365, but the added functionality is a major bonus for many users. Cloud solutions such as Office 365 offer a cost effective way for home and small business users to access features and functionality that were previously only available to large enterprises, letting you do more for less and enabling you to work from home or ‘on the go’ with a familiar set of products such as the Office Suite.