Social Icons

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Microsoft Office 365 Review

Disclosure: I received these items for the purpose of a review. All opinions are 100% my own. I was not compensated for this review. Your opinion may vary from mine.
Microsoft’s Office 365 Home Premium brings the productivity of traditional office like applications to the next level; to the cloud. Unlike other cloud accessible productivity applications, Microsoft allows you to select how integrated into the cloud you wish to be. This provides you with the level of comfort for your information that you wish, and not forced to push everything online if you do not wish too. With many of the old features and workflow that we have come to love, polished with a more elegant look and streamlined access to files Office 365 maintains the leadership role in productivity applications.

With all of this talk about “the cloud”, what really is the cloud? It is a series of servers that are tied together to provide a service to the customer. “Clouds”, or these servers are securely grouped together that allows an extremely large number of individuals access services such as Office 365 without noticing a slowing in speed. As a result, when you connect to what seems to be one web page, you could actually have thousands of servers providing you your software!
While this is a software as a service (SaaS) product, it also offers you the ability to download and install the application on five computers simultaneously. This is much different than a stand-a-lone client where one license is valid for one computer. With the suite you receive the following applications:
  • image· Word 2013
  • · Excel 2013
  • · PowerPoint 2013
  • · Access 2013
  • · Publisher 2013
  • · Outlook 2013
  • · OneNote 2013
The first major change that I have noticed is the potential to have complete accessibility of saved information no matter where you are and on what device you are on. This is accomplished by offering free SkyDrive online storage to save files and a feature called Office on Demand. Essentially, this allows you to run any of the applications such as Word, Excel, etc. without having to install them. This requires only internet connectivity and a compatible device.
Fortunately, many devices are capable of running this application include those running Windows 7, Windows 8, or Mac OS X version 10.6 or later. In fact, you can even utilize this on Windows Phone running version OS 7.5 or higher! For those who are not comfortable utilizing the online features of the application, it very much installs and lets you save on your local computer just as the previous versions of Microsoft Office has in the past.
So what is the benefit of Office on Demand? Access to your applications regardless if you are at home or on the road. Just as a brief example, let us go down the imagination trail that you are in college and you have finished a major paper. After completing the paper you have reviewed it fifteen times before printing it out and are convinced that it is the masterpiece you are looking for! While spending a few minutes in the library before class you read the paper one last time and realized that you improperly referenced one of your sources and you do not have your notebook! What should you do? The solution is easy. Go onto one of the library computers and load Office on Demand! Since you saved your paper on SkyDrive, you are able to load your file and make the corrections in time before your class starts!
When I first saw that there was a feature to access my applications on demand, I thought for sure that there would be a minimizing of features to reduce the load time. I was quite surprised that the online version is identical to the installed application with an extremely fast load time. Here is a side by side comparison of the offline installed version and the online on demand version. The graphic on the left is the offline version, while the one on the right is online. You can click on the images for a larger view.
So how did we manage to get the file even though we were not near our computer? SkyDrive is a storage area that allows users to have seven gigabytes of storage, but with the purchase of Office 365 Home Premium you receive twenty more for a total of twenty-seven gigabytes. This gives you plenty of space for your documents, photos, and files. In addition, it is available anywhere with an Internet connection through one of the previously mentioned compatible devices. This is a great benefit for someone like myself, as I like to have full access to my files no matter where I am. In addition, your application preferences will automatically be transferred over to both the On Demand and installed versions on all computers.
Now keeping your files on the internet may seem like a risk, but Microsoft utilizes several technologies to ensure that your data stays safe. Active protection is utilized at the server level to ensure that unauthorized individuals do not gain access. As well, your files are password protected by a password that you set. With anything, the stronger password you set the more secure your files will be. Lastly, they utilize SSL (Secure Socket Layer protocol) to transfer your files to and from your computer to ensure that nobody else is receiving the file. Lastly, the files are stored on multiple servers to prevent your files from being lost by hardware failure. With all of this protection, I feel more than comfortable placing my files in the SkyDrive!
clip_image007Graphically, the same “ribbons” exist from the 2007 and 2010 versions, but with a graphical enhancement. You can choose which design to enhance your office with to provide it your own personal style and flare. There are also choices for colored themes to slightly modify the color from white, light grey, and dark grey. The design tab has gained some more themes and header types which allows you to easily create that perfect look for your documents. Templates are of no shortage either as there are thousands to choose from for your spreadsheet, document or PowerPoint presentation.
Some new features in the Insert ribbon are quite noticeable as now they insert the following options:
  • Online Pictures – Allows you to choose from the online picture gallery, search Bing images, SkyDrive, Facebook, or Flickr.
  • Screenshot – Allows you to take a screenshot of your computer, and insert it into your document.
  • Apps for Office – Provides you access to the Office store where you can download free and pay for apps. An example would be a QR creator, which would allow you to create and insert QR codes into your documentation.
  • Online Video – As the feature states, it allows you to embed video from online, or search and import from Bing’s search.
Overall, I am very impressed with the speed and depth of the features located inside of Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium. The largest feature that impressed myself was the integration into the cloud that allows fluid productivity no matter where I could possibly be. In addition, the cost at the time of writing is $99.99 per year, or $9.99 per month! As a result, it makes it affordable for almost everyone to utilize great productivity software without a large out of pocket cost. A benefit is that with Office 365, you always have the latest version of Microsoft Office available. I heavily recommend this software as it provides you with every feature you can ask for in a productivity application!
To find out more information or to subscribe to Office 365, click here.
Like the Post? Do share with your Friends.