Do I need the new £40 version of Office 2007?

Microsoft Office Ultimate 2007 retails at £600. It’s now available, for students, at £40, or £12 for a year1. As of Wednesday, I’ll be an official student. I’m trying to decide whether I need it.

I’m mainly after Word and Excel – the other programs look interesting, but I don’t see any need for them. Right now, Google Apps handles most of my document/spreadsheet needs, and anything more complex is farmed out to OpenOffice. I really like GA’s online model, so I’d be using Word/Excel for anything difficult or where WYSIWYG is important. This is actually quite rare, but I guess uni may change that.

I have plenty of issues with OO Writer – formatting bugs seem to crop up all the time – but I can usually iron out the problems and end up with something decent. My subjective impression is that Word/Excel are less buggy, but it’s not a big issue for me. I think there’s a general quality difference, though. Word and Excel are much smoother and more pleasant to use, in my experience, but, again, I’m not worried about that.

I don’t think there’s much difference in features. OO seems to be capable of all the complexity I’ll ever need, if I take the time to investigate it properly. Compatibility issues could conceivably crop up, but OO has done a great job of saving in whatever format I need so far. And the new XML file formats should help with that. Eventually.

Finally, there’s the technical support side – it helps to know Office when helping people over the phone, and given the major UI changes in Office 2007 it’d be useful to get some experience. I don’t get many questions about Office, though.

The biggest reason against is that the student license prohibits commercial use, whereas I can use OO professionally. I’m aware that nobody’s going to check, but I’d still feel bad – Office may be extortionately priced, but the decent response is to use something else rather than steal it.

I fully expected to snap up this offer, but I can’t currently think of any reasons to, other than curiosity about the new UI. The scheme is apparently around until next March, so I’ve time to change my mind. I’m much more excited about Photoshop CS3 student edition. The GIMP is pretty good, especially the new beta, but I recently installed the CS3 30-day trial and it’s undeniably superior.

  1. thanks for the tip, Ben []