Should I Upgrade To Office 2010?

Dear Lifehacker,

I've always used Microsoft Office for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations. Now that Office 2010 is launching for business customers and coming in June for the rest of us, I'm curious: Is it worth upgrading?

Yours in thrift,

Uncertain About Office

Dear Uncertain,

That's a great question! We've toured Microsoft Office 2010 in videos and screenshots, highlighted its killer features and explained how to get the lowest price on the productivity suite. But between all the solid free alternatives and previous version of Office, is it worth upgrading?

The answer is, of course: It depends. The fact of the matter is, many of us don't need the insanely powerful feature set offered by Office 2010 (or even older versions of Office) for the basic document creation and spreadsheet editing we do from day to day. (Hell, you can even tackle mail merge with Gmail and Google Spreadsheets.) Beyond that, absolutely free, open-source tools like provide many of the more powerful features you'd want from a desktop office suite.

So why would you upgrade to Office 2010? Really, you'd do it when you want the best of all worlds. If you need every powerful number-crunching, presentation-making, email-managing, document-creating features available only in Office, you rely on tools like Outlook or OneNote, you need rock-solid offline support (big one), or you have to traffic in Office documents for the work you do (alternatives like Google Docs will export to Office formats and import Office docs, but it's not perfect), then definitely upgrade. The upgrade comes with plenty of perks, including improvements to the ribbon, some integration with Microsoft Office Web Apps (Microsoft 's lacklustre version of Google Docs that syncs with your desktop files) and plenty more. When it comes down to it, though, they only reason to upgrade to Office 2010 - or pay for a suite like Office at all - is if it's the only tool capable of doing what you need done, and it does it how you prefer it done. As PC World's Harry McCracken put it:

Google Docs and Zoho [both web-based Office alternatives]are both impressive pieces of work, but when it comes to precision formatting and other power-user features they remain profoundly uncompetitive with Office 2010, in part because so much of what Office offers still can't be replicated in a browser. As Web-based services, they're also built to be used when you've got an Internet connection, which is a problem for virtually anyone who uses a laptop outside the home or office.

Google Docs will continue toward some sort of HTML5 support for offline storage (Zoho likely will, too), but it's not there yet. On the other side of the coin, the new, opt-in version of Google Docs supports real-time collaboration the likes of which Office still doesn't seem to accomplish. (Likewise, if you're using Office to collaborate, all your collaborators need Office, too.) With Google Docs, on the other hand, all the other user needs is a browser.

For my personal use, for example, buying Office really isn't worth it. (Note: I still will buy it because it's my job, but if it weren't, I can happily live without it.) Your use may differ. If you need it for work, get your employer to pay for it, or at the very least keep your receipt for a 2010 tax deduction.

I realise it's not a very simple answer, but hopefully that helped.



P.S. Planning to upgrade? Let us know in the comments.


    Usually when people just say they're using Open Office at work on principle, I just say I'll look for a free version of whatever their company does "on principle".

    For my own home use, OneNote is the only app I would upgrade outside of the cycle of hardware replacement. For collaborative use inside an organisation nothing else even begins to compete - especially when you're living on the productive cutting edge of voice, handwriting and multilanguage features.

      Hi Mike Williams,

      I am a web developer. I use Linux and I use OpenOffice. If somebody came to me and said they are looking for a service offering free DIY websites I would tell them to go for it and enjoy themselves. Primarily we develop highly customised, feature-rich Drupal sites. Drupal is a free open source product and if people can use it by themselves for free then that is their choice. As a matter of fact the founder of Drupal has created a product called Drupal Gardens, which is a hosted version of Drupal customised to make it absolutely foolproof.

      In the same way, OpenOffice is free and open source and anyone is allowed to use it. So if they can get out of paying for something they can get for free then they've just kicked a goal. If this is hurtful to Microsoft then frankly they need a competitive advantage that makes it worth paying hundreds of dollars for. But if MS Office is really that much better then that's a reason for people to go for it, which is the same reason why we have clients.

      I guess another example, would you send an email over a letter? An email is free, a letter costs 55c or so these days. You would only send a letter if there was a real need for something physical to arrive at the destination. This probably also relates to Google Docs vs MS Office.

      On another note, have they fixed HTML rendering in Office 2010 yet?

    "they need a competitive advantage that makes it worth paying hundreds of dollars for"

    You may not remember when buying just a standalone DOS-based spreadsheet program was many thousands of today's dollars. Getting all the features you can currently find in the Office suite today for a few hundred bucks (a month's worth of cigarettes for some?) is an amazing amazing bargain.

    OpenOffice would not be free if the likes of Sun & Oracle were not funding it purely out of spite. There's no substantial R&D into improving these tools.

    "So if they can get out of paying for something they can get for free then they’ve just kicked a goal."

    A short term goal. There's always a price.

    I can't see the point of your email vs letter analogy in this case. You do pay for email, but the cost is handled downstream by your ISP and others. With email vs letter, I'm paying for bits vs atoms and possibly a different experience for the recipient. I don't email on the principle of putting the post office out of business.

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