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Office 2013 RT

Office 2013 RT

Office 2013 RT has caused some confusion because people don’t know where to get it. There’s one clear answer: You can’t, unless you purchase a new tablet running Windows 8 RT (Lenovo, Dell, Acer, Asus, Samsung, and Microsoft all make Win 8 RT tablets) and Office RT comes preinstalled on the system. You’ll find Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and now—as of June 5, 2013—Outlook in the RT version of Office 2013.

Office 2013 RT is designed to function almost identically to the traditional Office 2013, but it is optimized for systems built on ARM architecture and designed to reduce power usage and swap the workload in such a way that the tablet functions as smoothly as possible.

Office 365

Office 365 is Microsoft’s in-the-cloud service offering. With an Office 365 subscription, you have access to a variety of services, including email, team sites, and Office 2013. The Office 365 Home Premium plan, shown in Figure 1, is available as a free one-month trial ($9.99 thereafter), and you can install Office on up to five PCs or Macs and five mobile devices as well. You have access to the full slate of Office products—Excel, Word, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, and Access—and can store your files seamlessly in 20GB of storage in SkyDrive. Another recent addition is that Office 365 users also get 60 Skype world calling minutes per month, which make it possible for you to talk to international friends on Microsoft’s dime, at least for one hour.

A big perk Microsoft offers as a selling point for the Office 365 approach for Office 2013 is that the software is always up-to-date, and users receive the most recent updates as soon as they are available.

Figure 1 Office files are front-and-center in Office 365.

Another perk Office 365 offers is that Mac users running Mac OS X 10.6 or higher can use the service seamlessly and have access to Office 2011 for Mac.

Office on Demand

Office on Demand is a new offering from Microsoft that makes it possible for Office 365 subscribers to stream Office to any computer that has Internet access, whether or not Office is installed on the PC. This means that you can use another computer and still review, edit, and save the Office files you’re working on, as long as you have access to the web.

Office on Demand works on Windows 7 or Windows 8 computers, and is available with Office 365 Home Premium, Office 365 University, and Office 365 Small Business Premium plans.

Office Web Apps

The Office Web Apps were first introduced with Office 2007, and they give you an easy way to review and do light editing on your favorite Office files. You can access the Office Web Apps by signing in to your Microsoft account on Office.com or by logging in to your SkyDrive account. You can also access Office Web Apps through an Office 365 subscription, but a subscription isn’t necessary to use the Office Web Apps.

The Web Apps enable you to view and make simple file changes but don’t offer the full range of tools and features available in Office 2013. As Figure 2 shows, the Insert tab in the Word Web App offers only four tools: Table, Picture, Clip Art, and Link.

Figure 2 The Office Web Apps enable you to view and do simple editing of your Office documents in your favorite browser.

Because the Web Apps appear in your browser window, you can use the Office Web apps on a variety of browsers, including Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. You can also use the Office Web Apps on your Windows Phone, iPhone, iPad, or Android phone.

Office Mobile

The Office Mobile suite is included on all Windows Phones that are sold today, and offer an Office Hub that organizes your files and gives you access to recently used folders. Figure 3 shows a simple Windows Phone screen; note that you can tap Office 365 to move directly to the files you’ve stored in that account. If you aren’t using Office 365, you can still use the Office Hub to retrieve and open files you’ve stored in your SkyDrive account.

Figure 3 Office Mobile makes it easy for you to open and view Office files on your mobile device.

In the summer of 2013, Microsoft made Office Mobile also available for iPhone, downloadable for free from the Apple App Store.

Which Version Works Best for You?

So how do you choose the Office version that will work best for you? First, let’s simplify the options. Out of the six different Office offerings—Office 2013 suites, Office 365 Pro Plus, Office 2013 RT, Office Web Apps, Office on Demand, and Office Mobile—you really only need to make a purchase decision between two products: Office 2013 proper, or Office 365.

The decision is simplified because you can’t get Office 2013 RT unless you purchase an ARM tablet on which it is already installed. And Office on Demand is available only to Office 365 users. What’s more, if you use your SkyDrive account, you have access to the Office Web Apps (for free), and if you have a Windows Phone, Office Mobile is installed on your device by default.

So the question comes down to whether you want to download and install a full, traditional version of Office 2013 or you’d prefer to subscribe to Office 365 online, download the Office applications, and let Microsoft handle the updates from here on out. If you work independently, Office 2013 proper may be your best bet; if you work with a team—especially a team that includes remote workers—Office 365 may be worth a closer look. You can sign up for a free month at Office365.com and take some time to explore the features and flexibility the cloud version offers you.

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