How to affordably own your office software

How to affordably own your office software

Summary: Dump Microsoft Office, with its new licensing restrictions, and get LibreOffice instead.

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If you take a close look at Microsoft's new Office licensing, it's crystal clear: Microsoft no longer wants you to own your office software. They want you to rent it. So, why not get LibreOffice for free instead?

LibreOffice4
LibreOffice for free, or MS-Office for a perpetual annual fee or a higher one-time price and locked to a single PC. It's your choice.

You don't have to believe me, the open-source, Linux guy. I quote Ed Bott, ZDNet's Microsoft maven, "You can no longer buy Office, Microsoft’s flagship product, on removable media. You can’t even download offline installer files for the three retail editions of Office: Home and Student, Home and Business, and Professional."

But, wait, there's more, much more. "Multi-PC editions are no longer available," and "Your perpetual license is locked to one PC." Your PC goes up in smoke? Too bad, you can't legally or physically reinstall "your" copy of Office on another PC.

Why is Microsoft doing this? Well, as Bott explained in an earlier article, Microsoft is applying the classic 'carrot and stick' approach to force you to rent Microsoft Office instead of buying it. The bottom line is it will cost you more to buy Office and you'll get less for your money than if you subscribe to Office annually. That's great for Microsoft. Lousy for you and your company. 

Call me old-fashioned, but I like "owning" my software. I like picking and choosing where I can install it and how I use it. And, also call me sensible. I can pay $150 a year for Office 365 Small Business Premium forever and a day or I can use LibreOffice for free forever and use it anyway and anywhere I want.

Sure, they're not the same thing. Office 365 Small Business Premium comes with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, and Access. LibreOffice 4.0 comes with Writer (Word); Calc (Excel); Impress (PowerPoint); and Base (Access). LibreOffice doesn't have equivalents to OneNote or Outlook. On the other hand, you can always use Thunderbird instead of Outlook and LibreOffice includes Draw, a graphics program.

So, unless your business depends on OneNote, which is just fancy note-taking software, I don't see any good reasons to making MS-Office a perpetual part of your IT budget. Besides, if note-taking really is a big deal for you, may I suggest Evernote instead? 

Document format compatibility between the two office suites remains an issue, but it's much less of one than it used to be. Microsoft has gotten better at working with LibreOffice's native Open Document Format (ODF) and LibreOffice has gotten the hang of working with Microsoft's OpenXML format.

To me, it all comes down to whether you want to be a renter or a "buyer." When the cost of buying is zero, I think anyone who can shake themselves from the delusion that they must use Microsoft Office because they always have will know which is the wisest course.

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Topics: Enterprise Software, Microsoft, Open Source, Software

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146 comments
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  • Loverock davidson will be here any second with something special to say

    Not everyone needs Microsoft Office in a cmpany - so why buy something if it not required- LibreOffice 4.0 is out and everyone should take a look at it -

    http://www.libreoffice.org/#0
    Over and Out
    • Try IBM Lotus Symphony

      Not that I have anything against LO or OO, but IBM's Lotus Symphony (based off OO in an Eclipse Shell) has better "usability" than either LO or OO. Plus side of LO is that it now supports Visio documents. However, I feel IBM has put in some thought and effort to make an easier to use Office suite.
      GoForTheBest
      • Lotus Syphony is dead

        it will be replaced with Apache OpenOffice IBM Edition in the future.
        but Apache OpenOffice 4.0 needs to be finished first.
        Travis Kendick
    • Because people will send you office documents and expect them sent back

      So they have to be 100% compatible. I use open office, libre office and program's such as abinword.

      They are good, but they are not MSoffice when it comes to opening MS documents. When I send things out electronically, I always check it in MS first so I know how they will see it.

      There's nothing I can't do, and I prefer the traditional layout. But so long as people use MS by default, you need to check formatting. Additionally everyone knows how to use office, businesses want to avoid training costs.

      If apache open office does go fully no java in future releases it may gain more traction; many IT guys in the industry almost have a heart attack at the mention of java, even though both projects are very quick with security patches and there is no wild malware.
      MarknWill
      • SoftMaker Office can do this

        That's only Office replacement that can keep the formatting in Word-type docs from drifting if the TextMaker component in SoftMaker Office (now as version 12). This is something WordPerfect could not do, which is probably the main reason die-hard law firms finally abandoned it for the less powerful Word.

        With that said, I've been impressed with LibreOffice 4.0 so far, at least with the Linux version. I had written off the OpenOffice and its derivatives a long time ago for their maddening sluggishness, but it looks as though someone finally stumbled upon a clue.
        JustCallMeBC
      • Re: Because people will send you office documents and expect them sent back

        Well -- that rules out MS Office too, then...
        bswiss
        • Thank You!

          If people want their documents edited and returned (how common is that?) they need to be told to send it in an OPEN format. Educate them on what an open vs. a proprietary format is. We already have a format that looks the same on everyone's PC - it's called PDF, an ISO standard now. In fact, LibreOffice has an option to save as a PDF with an embedded LibreOffice file. This allows anyone to read the file and anyone with a compatible office suite to open and edit it (LibreOffice will see the embedded file in the PDF and open it appropriately). MS liked this feature so much they incorporated it into Office now (who copies who?) but they only allow embedding their own format, not ODF. Hmmmm.....
          jgm@...
      • Re: Because people will send you office documents and expect them sent back

        How do you keep track of changes? Suppose you send a document to 3 different people, and get back 3 different sets of changes--how do you reconcile them? What's the office-suite equivalent of git-branch, git-merge and git-blame?
        ldo17
        • You mean the Microsoft Office version of this?

          It is automatic in Office, it figures out who changed what and it gets merged. Or even better is to put it up on SkyDrive and share it with the 3 other people who can edit it and save it there.
          grayknight
          • Re: and it gets merged.

            How does it resolve merge conflicts?
            ldo17
        • Edit - Changes - Record

          Hi :)
          It's really easy to track changes in LibreOffice. Just
          Edit - Changes - Record
          or to compare 2 different documents produced with any office suite then
          Edit - "Compare Documents"

          Git might be better but average office workers need something that is just point&click and avoids them needing to know or learn anything other than MS stuff.
          Regards from
          Tom :)
          Tom6
      • incompatible even between different versions of MS Office

        Hi :)
        Don't worry. The documents that look a bit wrong in AbiWord or whatever else also probably look wrong in MS Office unless you just happen to be using exactly the same version as whoever wrote your document happened to be using. If you go with MS Office you have to keep upgrading to keep up with everyone else if you want to share documents.
        Regards from
        Tom :)
        Tom6
        • For Version Conflicts

          For version conflicts, Microsoft always has undocumented changes in format between versions. They do keep the ability to load the 'old' version (up to about 3 years back, that's usually one version, sometimes two, with the option to buy additional versions back around 6 to 7 years. Expect the formatting to be screwed up, though.

          If you are using another package, such as Abi Word, Open Office, Word Perfect or Libre Office, don't expect the document to look exactly the same. Microsoft Office uses it's own font sets, which don't have the same precise spacing as anyone elses.

          Open Office and Libre Office will exactly reproduce each others documents, and will reproduce documents from earlier versions. Word Perfect is a fine WP tool. Word doesn't reproduce or even import totally documents from any of these. Never expect MS Office to be compatible with anything but the same version of MS Office.

          Seriously, there is no real business case for using Microsoft Office. True, there are some macros out there that do a lot of functions in MSO, but Libre Office will do most or all of the same functions. You just have to learn a different macro language. An added benefit is that you don't have to redo the macros every few years when you upgrade and find that some of the functions you used have changed.

          Insistence on using MSO comes mainly from Microsoft trained IT folks who feel threatened by anything non MS.

          Looking more than 5 years down the road, the writing is already on the wall, Microsoft will have to lower office prices to stay relevant. When browser based software fully comes out, it won't matter how many users the company has. You will just be using a server instance of the program, and your browser will just be displaying it. The company server will be running only one copy of the program, with 4 or 500 users, each with a different data set. To run remotely, you will just use the internet to access the intranet.
          YetAnotherBob
    • Kinda hard to be a MS fanboy on this one.

      I wonder what the next brilliant idea will come out of MS under Ballmer.

      Renting software is usually an option for people who can't afford the full price. I don't know if this is the case but eventually you lose users to such ideas as this. Sometimes authorization and license use is a big thing for some people.
      kitekrazy
    • Tried it

      Libre Office is *alright*, but it's nowhere near the product Microsoft Office 365 is. The pricing of Office is not only reasonable ($20 per PC per year for Home and Student @ $99 yearly for 5 PC's), meaning it costs you about $1.67 per month, per computer.

      I just bought a Surface Pro 128GB and Office 2013 to replace my 2010 Macbook Pro, and I couldn't be happier. Surface is a *fantastic* PC and Office is a great product.
      jasongw
  • How to affordably own your office software

    "So, why not get LibreOffice for free instead?"

    Because libreoffice sucks at opening Microsoft Office documents. Sorry but the business world uses advanced documents and spreadsheets all of which libreoffice has trouble opening. The format is screwed up in libreoffice but looks and works perfectly fine in Microsoft Office. Microsoft Office also provides a number of utilities within their programs to make it easier for goal setting, forecasting, and a whole slew of other options. The ribbon is pleasing to look at and makes using Microsoft Office easier. This solution works and there would be no reason to give it up because some free software fanboy said so.
    Loverock-Davidson
    • Shhhhhh - Shhhhhh Loverock-Davidson back under your bridge

      Please oh please Shhhhhh - Shhhhhh Loverock-Davidson and go back under your bridge where all trolls belong and while your at it go compile your wingie dingie for awhile ....

      that will take some pressure off your mind set. Poor Lovie will anything ever help him.
      Over and Out
      • pot calling kettle black

        You were the first to jump in and start trolling, even calling Loveroock by name. You can't just offer a reason why Libre Office is better so you always result to trolling. You need to go back under your own bridge, or momma's basement.
        hoppmang
        • hoppmang...your post is also so up lifting .....I know Loverock Davidson

          will thank you for comming to his rescue.....
          Over and Out
          • Existance

            Why do you even bother, find something better to do because ironically I can bet you use a copy of Microsoft Office every day...
            ingramator