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Office 365 University

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Office 365

Over the weekend I bought a copy of Microsoft Office for the first time. In the past, I’ve managed with either what’s been pre-loaded on new computers, or, since I got my own computer, OpenOffice or its variants.

But now Microsoft offers Office 365 University. For £60, you get to use Microsoft Office on two computers, and an unlimited number of mobile devices, for four years. The catch being that you need to be a full-time student, or a member of staff at university. Thankfully, the latter is true in my case.
These two computers can either be Windows or Mac machines: Windows users get Office 2013, Mac users get the slightly older Office 2011. They can be in any combination, so one Mac and one PC, two Macs, or two Windows PCs. Although all users of compatible iPhone, Android and Windows Phone handsets can install the free Office Mobile app, Office 365 users can also use the new suite of iPad apps and be able to create and edit documents (non-subscribers can only view documents). Unfortunately, as my old iPad 1 isn’t capable of running iOS 7, this isn’t a feature I can yet take advantage of.

Other benefits of the Office 365 subscription include 60 minutes of free calls to regular phone numbers on Skype each month, valid in around 60 countries, and an additional 20 GB of storage space on Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage service. As an early adopter of this service I already had 25 GB, plus a 3 GB bonus gained by enabling photo sync in the iOS app, so I have 48 GB of space now.

I’ve got Office 2011 up and running on my Mac, which in this edition includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook, with OneNote as a separate free download (previously reviewed by me here). Although be aware that the first thing you will probably have to do after downloading the almost 1 GB install package, is then download another 100 MB or so of software updates. This is Microsoft software after all!

For the most part, Office 2011 for Mac can do anything that Office 2010 for Windows can do, with a couple of exceptions – no ActiveX controls (so no embeddable YouTube videos in presentations), and no support for the OpenDocument file formats. This means that you’ll probably still want to keep either OpenOffice or LibreOffice around if you have documents in these formats. I was a little surprised at the ugliness and clutteredness of the user interface, when compared with Office 2010 and indeed the new OneNote for Mac. Whilst it uses the new ‘ribbon’ interface introduced with Office 2007, it’s not as well designed as its Windows counterparts. Hopefully this will improve as and when a new version of Office for Mac is released.

As for why I’ve bought Office 365 when I already have LibreOffice installed? The main reasons are speed and file compatibility. LibreOffice is still quite big and slow, when compared with the Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps on my Mac. And file compatibility with Microsoft’s own formats isn’t quite there, even after all of these years. It’s not helped by there being several forks of what was originally OpenOffice.org in parallel development – there’s now Apache OpenOffice, LibreOffice and the Mac-only NeoOffice.

In terms of the additional perks, I don’t think I will get to use the extra Skype minutes, bearing in mind that I never use the inclusive minutes in my mobile contract either. Whilst I wasn’t planning to use the extra OneDrive space, since I’m mostly a Dropbox user, I may need to think this through. Right now I’m paying £60/year for Dropbox Pro, but only using around 15 GB – theoretically I could switch over to OneDrive and still have ample space whilst saving myself some money. I’ll need to ponder this.

If you are a student or a university staff member, I would therefore recommend Office 365 University to you. It’s £60 on the Microsoft store, although Quidco users should be able to claim 15% cashback, making it about £52. On the other hand, it’s £52.56 on Amazon, which is probably a better option.

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