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
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 OpenOffice.org 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.