Microsoft Office Comes to Windows… Sort Of

 

Over the years, we’ve been struck by how many people seem confused by the relationship between Microsoft’s two most successful product franchises, Windows and Office. That is, many people believe that Office is “part” of Windows and that these two very separate software solutions are thus one. And some are surprised when they reinstall Windows, or get a new PC, to discover that Office is no longer present. So we’ve spent a lot of time trying to educate people about the differences between Windows and Office, and how they are separately acquired.

To be fair, the reason so many people believed that Windows and Office came together is that, for many, they did. Most people acquire both Windows and Office together with a new PC purchase and thus don’t draw a distinction between the two. The problem is, if you’re not paying attention at the time of that PC purchase, you may not get Office at all, or you may get a version of Office that you don’t want.

Also, during the life cycle of Windows 7, many PCs came with a stripped‑down Office version called Office Starter that included two very basic Office applications, Word Starter and Excel Starter. This solution came free with many PCs and was designed to be electronically upgraded to higher‑end, paid versions of Office.

With Windows 8–and a new family of Office products branded as Office 2013–Microsoft is completely changing the equation. The ARM‑based versions of Windows 8, called Windows RT, actually do come with a special version of Office 2013, and while this freebie Office version doesn’t offer all of the power and flexibility of the high‑end Office 2013 suites, it’s a far cry from the basic experience previously offered by Office Starter. (Office Starter is no longer available.) Office 2013 for Windows RT version includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, and if you purchase any Windows RT‑based device, you’ll get these powerful applications for free.

 

Windows PCs that do not include these full‑featured Office applications will almost certainly include, or offer, some form of Microsoft Office. Check with your retailer or hardware maker for details.

Windows RT devices come with some significant downsides, however, as well, including one key issue: A lack of compatibility with traditional third‑party Windows‑based applications. We discuss these issues in Chapter 1.

 

As you may recall, with Windows 8 and RT, Microsoft has divided the PC market somewhat with two complementary Windows 8 families of products, one of which runs on traditional PCs (and, confusingly, device‑like tablet PCs) based on familiar Intel x86/x64 and compatible chipsets. But there are also versions of Windows 8 that run on the ARM platform, which is typically used on very thin, light, and elegant portable devices similar to Apple’s iPad. Those Windows 8 versions, collectively called Windows RT, do include the Microsoft Office applications Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. So that’s something to consider when you’re shopping for a device.

 

 

NOTE

Why do Windows RT devices include Office you ask? Though Windows RT looks and works much like traditional x86 versions of Windows 8, it is not compatible with traditional Windows desktop applications like Office. So Microsoft has made a special version of Office just for Windows RT, while focusing mostly on Metro‑style apps going forward on that platform.

 

There is some precedence for this product bundling. As long ago as 1995, when Microsoft launched the first version of Windows CE, a specially made version of Windows designed to run on non‑PC devices of the day, it also bundled basic versions of its Office applications, then called Pocket Office, with the tiny machines that ran that OS. And through the years, subsequent updates to that product line, including Pocket PC and Windows Mobile, also included these Pocket Office applications as part of the platform.

And in the modern Windows Phone platform, which is today now based on the PC version of Windows 8, Microsoft continues to bundle Office. Windows Phone 8 includes what’s now called Office Mobile 2013, with portable versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote that provide not just document compatibility and basic editing functionality, but also interoperability with Microsoft’s cloud‑hosted Office document repositories, SkyDrive and SharePoint. So it should be no surprise that Windows RT devices–that is, those machines that sit logically between phones and “true” (or at least traditional) PCs–would also offer similar functionality.

Expectations for Office on a highly mobile device like a tablet are, of course, somewhat reduced compared to those one might have for a solution that runs on a full‑featured PC. But since many Windows RT and Windows 8‑based devices can be docked or otherwise transformed into more powerful PCs with keyboards, mice, and external screens, the bundling of these applications is all the more interesting for those of us who want one device that does it all.

In any event, the bundled version of Office includes the following solutions:

• Word: When you think about word processing, you think about Microsoft Word, and while there have been many pretenders throughout the years, none have approached the power and utility of Microsoft Word, nor its amazing reading experiences. In fact, Word is so good, we used it to write this book.

• Excel: Excel is Microsoft’s spreadsheet solution, and like Word, it dominates the market in which it competes. Excel offers all of the number crunching functionality you expect and lets you analyze and visualize data in amazing, graphical ways.

• PowerPoint: Microsoft’s presentation package is a staple in offices and schools around the world, offering professional features, support for amazing embedded multimedia, and the ability to broadcast to any Internet‑connected PC or device.

 

Microsoft is also providing two Metro‑style Office apps with Office 2013, OneNote and Lync. These work with both Windows 8 and Windows RT.

 

• OneNote: Less well known than the other Office applications, perhaps, OneNote is ideal for portable devices, offering amazing, cloud‑connected note‑taking capabilities.

 








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