Office Starter 2010: The fine print on Microsoft's Works replacement

Summary:More information is coming in from various testers regarding the Office Starter 2010 build that Microsoft released to a group of selected testers late last week -- including details on macro and file type support. Do any of these make Office Starter a non-starter, in your book?

More information is coming in from various testers regarding the Office Starter 2010 build that Microsoft released to a group of selected testers late last week.

Office Starter 2010 is the Microsoft-designated replacement for its Microsoft Works product. Starter will be a low-end, free (but ad-supported) bundle of Word and Excel.

One (of many) criticisms of Works was that it didn't support all the same file types as Microsoft Office did, making Works only somewhat compatible with Office. It looks like that same limitation will be present in Office Starter, based on a frequently-asked questions document from Microsoft that one tester forwarded to me. From that FAQ document:

Q: There is a file I can open in Excel or Word that I cannot open in Excel Starter or Word Starter, why?

A: Excel Starter and Word Starter do not support exactly the same file sets.  The following file types cannot be opened in Office Starter: .xla, .xlam, .dsn, .mde, .accde, .odc, and .udl.

Also, add-ins and macros are only marginally supported in Office Starter 2010. According to Microsoft, Office Starter does not support add-ins and will not load them. From the FAQ:

Q: Files have macros, but they cannot be run in Excel Starter or Word Starter, why?

A: Office Starter does not support the creation, editing, or running of macros. However, if a document with a macro is opened in Starter, the macro remains as part of the file.

Another often-glossed-over point regarding Office Starter is how it will be made available. It will be an OEM-only product and not available for download. Again, from the Microsoft FAQ:

Q: How will I be able to get the released version of Office Starter?

A: Office Starter will only be available as pre-loaded software on select new PCs pre-loaded with the Office suites.

As testers noted last week, there's a new Office-to-Go feature in the Office Starter product that allows users to take their Starter copies (and associated documents) with them on a USB drive. But that feature only works on Vista Service Pack 1 and Windows 7 machines. Since Starter is an OEM-only product that will be preloaded on new PCs, it makes sense it won't work on XP machines, as OEMs are phasing out XP support (the last bastion for XP -- netbooks -- won't be supported after next spring).

What do you think of these Office Starter 2010 limitations? Are any of them onerous enough to make Starter a non-starter?

Topics: Collaboration, Enterprise Software, Microsoft


Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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