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Reg Gothard - "Yonder Pedant"

Office Renovation

Like many people, I try not to buy into the latest versions of software. For a kick-off, my bank account won’t support it. It’s rarely just a single product you have to buy—there are usually system pre-requisites at both the software and hardware level.

Then there‘s the suspicion that product release dates are dictated by marketing and advertising campaigns, not by product readiness. (Wouldn’t it be odd if Office 2016 wasn’t released until 2017…) Closely tied to that is the niggling thought that the early adopters are really people who are paying to be beta testers.

And of course, there’s the perception that the new features might not be all that useful after all, and that the new version is more about consolidating a bunch of bug fixes into the base code and reminding the marketplace that the product is still being developed, maintained and marketed.

The personal computing environment is vastly more complex than the mainframe environment I spent twenty-one years operating, programming and supporting, yet the former has to appear to be simpler to install and configure than the latter.

So much pressure on the designers and developers, from all directions. So much potential for bugs that I’m no longer capable of diagnosing and fixing.

How I Cope

My response in the face of all this is to be a late adopter. Of the six computers in my house (all of which are used for business purposes), three are still running XP and three are still running Windows 7.

The price of Windows 10 makes me scared of it. A free OS? What’s in it for Microsoft? Literally. What is in Windows 10 that benefits Microsoft so much that they’re prepared to give it away? I know I’ll get forced into it sooner or later, but I have no idea what I’ll be giving up “under the hood”. Privacy? Hardware capacity? Software compatibility?

MS Office

I’ve only ever purchased three versions of Office; Office 97, Office 2000, and Office 2010. Office 2003 didn’t offer me anything I needed. (I knew this because my employer at the time standardized on it.) Office 2007 was a little too different for me to want to jump onto it, and besides, at the time, I was spending every spare dollar on building my video business.

I bought Office Professional 2010 in September 2010, and paid $668.00 for it. It was a more mature version of Office 2007 from my perspective, and Office 2000 was showing its age more than somewhat.

I’ve been happy with Office 2010 (except for the Help system, which for some reason has never helped me) and saw no reason to look at Office 2013. I did buy Visio 2013 a couple of years ago—a client needed me to update their Visio diagrams and I didn’t have my own copy.

FFWD to 2016

Today, I sat down to write this week’s Yonder Pedant post. It was going to be about setting the editing and proofing language in Word. As I was writing and collecting screenshots, I realized that I was working with a six-year-old version of the product and that perhaps I might get a little flak for that. I strongly suspect that “most” bigger companies are still using Office 2010 quite happily, but a large percentage of people who read blogs like mine work either for themselves or for smaller companies, and they might just have moved on to Office 2013 or 2016.

So four hours into the research and writing process, I abandoned, and started this post.

Should I Upgrade?

Although I have no need for the vast majority of the new functionality in Office 2013/2016, I cannot continue to write about how to use MS Office based on a six-year-old version. Therefore the decision to upgrade is inevitable, assuming that the new version is robust.

What Should I Upgrade to?

Office 365

Software subscription services concern me.

I can’t help thinking that I will always be paying for the “privilege” of being a beta tester.
It’s another online account I have to maintain and monitor and remember the password for.

At some point it will force the upgrade of one or more other products on me at a time that I don’t want to upgrade.

Even the price ($70 per year) is low enough to make me worry about why MS is so keen to have everyone move to the subscription model, and more to the point, what their pricing strategy will be when they achieve it.

I’m an old Puddleglum, aren’t I?

Finally, a software subscription service is basically a rental service. Pay the rent and you keep the software. Stop paying and the software gets disabled or crippled. I won’t always need to keep up with the latest versions. My Office 2000 purchase lasted for ten years because I didn’t need to upgrade.

Office 2016

This is my comfort zone as afar as upgrade is concerned. Problem is, I use Publisher a lot, which means that I need Office Professional, which in turn means the price is $400.00 (and at the time I write this, I don’t know if that’s American or Canadian dollars).
Office Professional 2010 set me back $668.00 in September 2010, which equates to $121.45 per year.

How Should I Decide?

Cost-based Decision

On cost alone, Office 365 is the winner. $70 per year is cheaper than the $121.45 per year that I’ve paid for my now-outdated Office 2010. For $100 per year, I could get five PC seats, five tablet seats and five phone seats. This would allow me to use MS Office on the road, an option I don’t currently have.

However, it would mean that my XP computers would need hardware and software upgrades in order to host Office 365; more expense. Also, as noted above, Office 365 is basically a rental, which means when I want to jump off the “latest and greatest” bandwagon, I’ll have to buy whatever the latest version is at that time (assuming that such an option is available by then).

Stability-based Decision

Assuming that Office 365 and Office 2016 are both as stable as Office 2010, there’s little to choose. It’s possible that Office 365 will inherit more enhancement-related bugs than Office 2016 (especially if I “protect” 2016 by deliberately delaying updates), but on the other hand, Office 365 will likely receive bug fixes sooner, especially if I delay updates to 2016.

There does seem to be a potential issue with the co-existence of Visio 2013 with Office 2016 (whether standalone or within Office 365). However, it also looks like a free upgrade to Visio 2016 might be available. Sigh—more reading…

Feature-based Decison

Most of the features that are of interest to me are available in both Office 365 and Office 2016. Therefore, a feature-based decision is concerned only with upgrading vs. saving my money.

One feature that appeals to me is the ability to edit PDFs (this feature came with Word 2013). However, I’m quick enough at re-applying formatting to content that I paste from a PDF document to conclude that this feature alone is not enough of an incentive to upgrade.

Co-editing isn’t really useful to me—I’m a one-man band, and any companies I work for will likely not be moving to Word 2016 in the near future.

OneDrive cloud storage might be useful, but unless it has any advantage over DropBox or Google Drive, it isn’t a factor in a feature-based decision.

The “Tell Me” feature is intriguing; perhaps it will address the problems I’ve had trying to get context-appropriate help in Office 2010. I’d certainly like to explore it further.

Having access to the current version is the most compelling case for upgrading. It means that articles I write about MS Office products will be useful to a much wider audience. Not only will I be able to address the most recent version, but I will still be able to offer advice for Office 2010 users too.


I need to upgrade so that I can provide advice based on the latest versions. I need to satisfy myself that the new versions are stable and are not buggy.

If the upgrade doesn’t suit me, I could always reinstall Office 2010.

There’s a “try before you buy” option for Office 365, which should make assessing the condition of the software relatively risk-free. It’s only available on the $100 per year option, but the opportunity to downgrade to the $70 per year exists, so it looks like there’s enough flexibility in the sign-up process to make it worth trying.

OK Microsoft, I give in. Where do I sign?

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