Writing tools

Microsoft Office 2013: Should you buy or rent?

What’s the difference between Office 365 and Office 2013?

Or rephrased, should you buy or rent?

A problem I have with Microsoft is that they have great information available but half the time you don’t know it’s there, and even when you do know, you don’t understand what they’re saying until you’ve worked it out for yourself.

And that sentence is about as confusing as I find Microsoft is, but translated it means when you know what they’re talking about the information they provide is good. Before that it may as well be written in another language.

Note too that everything I say here is for the PC. There are some limitations for the Mac. I won’t go into these, as I don’t have a Mac, but be aware that you don’t get everything if you’re running things on Apple.

So, Office 365 and Office 2013?

Underneath, they’re pretty much the same product. The main differences.

Office 2013

  • Buy once, use forever. A flat, one-off price
  • Only use on your own PC
  • Different versions have different products—for example, Office Professional version has Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access, while Office Home and Student has Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. There’s a full list of versions on Microsoft’s Which Office is Best For You page. This page also shows Office 365 to compare with

Office 365

  • An annual fee. You pay every year. Effectively, you are renting the software
  • You can use it on up to five computers
  • You get the full Office suite (even if you only use Word)
  • You get some online storage – think Dropbox for Microsoft
  • If you’re on another computer—say an internet café—then you can still use Office (your documents have to be online for this, but it’s still a nice feature) — think GoogleDocs for Microsoft

So think of Office 2013 as your standard Microsoft Office product and Office 365 as standard Office plus the Microsoft equivalent of Google Docs and DropBox. Except that Google Docs and DropBox are free, whereas Office isn’t.

One thing that worried me when I first looked at Office 365 was whether I had to be logged on to use it?

No, and I proved this during my morning and evening train commutes, where I turn off the internet and simply use Word and the PC, and save to my c: drive. Everything worked fine.

Of course, I couldn’t access anything on my skydrive while I was offline, but I expected that.

So why isn’t everyone renting?

On the face of it, Office 365 has so many advantages why wouldn’t you choose it over a standard Office suite?

There are two big minuses.

First, you are renting the software. In 12 months time you have to pay another fee to Microsoft to use it for the next 12 months. You have no control over the price, and you don’t know what’s going to happen. Suppose you don’t have the money to upgrade. Suppose you don’t want to. Microsoft is effectively holding you to ransom here. If you are a writer who only uses Word, and you’re the only one in your household who uses it, why not simply purchase Office 2013 Home and Student. It’s less than the cost of two years’ rental of Office 365.

Also, I’m not a big fan of the cloud, which is Microsoft’s fancy name for online storage. I like to be in control of my data. I don’t like it that someone else has access to my work. Or to some of it, anyway.

Why we chose Office 365

In the end we went for Office 365. We had four PCs between us, which meant we had to buy four licenses anyway, so we factored in that even paying four years’ rental we’d still be better off.

Provided Microsoft keeps their costs down and their licensing model the same.

Plus we do want to share documents. We already do this with OneNote, synchronising across machines, and we love it. We could save something on our c: drive, and next time we joined the network OneNote would synchronise everything.

This was probably the deciding factor.

We’ll let you know how we go.


p.s. As an unexpected bonus, when we upgraded to Office 365 it didn’t delete Office 2007, so the machines with 2007 on them still have valid working versions. If we ever choose to revert back.

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