Ask LH: What Can I Use As Temporary Office Substitutes?

Dear LH, I recently bought a new desktop for my work and a new laptop for my son (both PC). Because they’re new, I would have to buy Office again. But with Office 15 arriving soon, I was wondering if there were any good cloud office solutions I could use until Office 15 is available because I don’t want to buy two different copies of Office for two computers. Thanks, Officeless

Dear Officeless,

An important first point. While it seems likely that Office 15 (or Office 2012; the name isn’t fixed yet)will make an appearance soon, it doesn’t have an official release date yet. It might come out with Windows 8 (expected in late October, though that’s not confirmed either), but it might not. It could appear earlier, but it could well be delayed. There’s clearly sense in not buying new software when you know an upgrade is imminent, but you don’t know how long you’ll be waiting.

The second point: if you take advantage of your son to buy the Home & Student edition of Office, that runs to $239 for a copy that workson three machines. I’m not saying that’s free, but it isn’t massively expensive compared to earlier incarnations of Office. (It’s a pity you didn’t look into getting Office bundled with your new PC; that sometimes works out cheaper, but the moment has passed.)

If you’re happy to wait, there are solid options to tide you over. As an existing Office user, the obvious choice is the Office Web Apps that are part of SkyDrive. They’re not as full-featured as their desktop equivalents, but they’re more than ample for basic work. More to the point, since you’re already used to working in Office, there’ll be a smaller learning curve.

The other obvious alternative is the Docs suite found in Google Drive. It’s a good suite of basic apps and excellent for collaboration, but it lacks many of the additional features found in desktop applications. Whether that matters to you will depend largely on which apps you use and how. Basic documents? No problem. Complex spreadsheets? You’ll find the experience frustrating.

Either way, those will tide you over if you want to wait for Office 15. And since they’re free, if you do decide you have to buy a full copy of Office, you won’t have wasted any money in the meantime.


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