The latest version of Microsoft Office has a whole new interface and a slew of cool features that make it easier to dress up your documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, as well as built-in security mechanisms to help protect your data. But it also comes in eight (count 'em!) editions. Although this gives you a lot of flexibility so that you can pay for only what you'll use, choosing among all those options can be a confusing task. In this article, we'll take a look at the differences between the suites (hint: It's more than just a matter of which applications are included) and give you the information you need to make the decision that's best for your budget and your productivity needs.
Eight is (more than) enough
Or is it? When I recently landscaped my front yard, I was frustrated to find that the stone edging I wanted didn't seem to exist. I could get the color I wanted in the wrong size, or the size I wanted in the wrong color. So even with eight editions of Office to choose from, you may find that you can't get the extra applications and features you want without paying for others you'll never use. Nonetheless, Microsoft has tried to analyze the typical needs of various user markets and create packages that will match the needs of as many as possible. And if the package that's right for you doesn't include one application you need, you can usually buy it separately. Some editions you'll be able to eliminate from consideration right off the bat, because they aren't available to you or they obviously don't fit your needs.
Here are the eight editions and their list prices:
- Microsoft Office Basic 2007: This edition is not available for retail purchase and thus you can't upgrade to it from earlier versions of Office. You can only get it through OEMs, preinstalled on new computers. It contains only the basic applications: Word, Excel, and Outlook.
- Microsoft Office Home & Student 2007: This replaces the old Student and Teacher edition, which was one of the options for Office 2003. Now it's available to home users as well as those in the academic world. Pricing is comparable, at $149, but there is no upgrade path from Office 2003. This edition includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.
- Microsoft Office Standard 2007: Aimed at the typical business user, this edition costs $399 for the full version or $239 for the upgrade version. You can upgrade from Microsoft Works versions 6.0 and above, the Microsoft Works Suite 2000 or later, or any Office 2000 or above program or suite except Student and Teacher edition. It includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook.
- Microsoft Office Small Business 2007: This edition includes programs that are especially useful to small businesses. It costs $449 for the full version and $279 for the upgrade version. You can upgrade from the same products listed above under Office Standard 2007. This edition includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook with Business Contact Manager, Office Accounting Express, and Publisher.
- Microsoft Office Professional 2007: This edition is aimed at business users with more sophisticated needs, particularly database creation and access. It costs $499 for the full version and $329 for the upgrade version. You can upgrade from the same products listed above under Office Standard 2007. This edition includes everything you get in Small Business edition (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook with Business Contact Manager, Accounting Express, and Publisher) plus Microsoft Access.
- Microsoft Office Ultimate 2007: As the name implies, this edition includes more applications and features than any other. It's the most expensive edition available through retail outlets, costing a hefty $679 for the full version and $539 for the upgrade version. However, it includes just about everything except the kitchen sink: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Outlook with Business Contact Manager, Accounting Express, Publisher, Infopath, Groove, and OneNote. It also supports Integrated Enterprise Content Management (ECM), integrated electronic forms, and creation of Information Rights Management (IRM) protected files in a Windows Rights Management Services (RMS) network environment.
- Microsoft Office Professional Plus: This edition is aimed at business users who need some, but not all, of the enterprise features. It's available only through volume licensing agreements, and upgrade pricing is not applicable. It includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Outlook (without Business Contact Manager), Publisher, InfoPath, and Office Communicator 2007. It also supports integrated ECM, electronic forms, and IRM/RMS.
- Microsoft Office Enterprise 2007: This edition is aimed at the typical enterprise user. Like Professional Plus, it's available only through volume licensing with no upgrade pricing. It includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Outlook, Publisher, InfoPath, Groove, OneNote, and Office Communicator and supports ECM, electronic forms, and IRM/RMS.
Microsoft offers a quick-glance summary of the features of all editions in table format.
Sorting through the applications and feature sets
Before you can make a decision as to which edition you need, you have to understand what the various applications and features do.
To help you decide which applications you need, here's a quick summary:
- Microsoft Word: Creates sophisticated word processing and basic desktop publishing documents, can be used as a WYSIWYG HTML editor and to publish to Web sites. New features in Word 2007 include the Ribbon interface for easier access to commands and options, Quick Styles and galleries, Live Preview, building blocks for adding preformatted content, new charting and diagramming features, better document sharing and comparison, Document Inspector to find and remove hidden metadata and personal information from documents, the ability to add multiple digital signatures to a document, conversion to PDF or XPS, instant detection of macros, and new XML-based file formats that reduce file size and improve corruption recovery. More about Word 2007.
- Microsoft Excel: Creates spreadsheets and workbooks. New features in Excel 2007 include the Ribbon interface for easier access to commands and options, Quick Styles and galleries, Live Preview, support for a large number of rows and columns (1 million rows and 16,000 columns per worksheet), conditional formatting, easier formula writing, improved sorting and filtering, table enhancements, new charting tools, shared charting with Word and PowerPoint, and new XML-based file formats that reduce file size and improve corruption recovery. More about Excel 2007.
- Microsoft PowerPoint: Creates sophisticated slideshow presentations. New features in PowerPoint 2007 include the Ribbon interface for easier access to commands and options, Quick Styles and galleries, Live Preview, custom slide layouts, designer-quality SmartArt graphics, new and improved visual effects, new text formatting options, table and chart enhancements, cut and paste from Excel, proofing tools, Presenter View, slide libraries, new security mechanisms, and new XML-based file formats that reduce file size and improve corruption recovery. More about PowerPoint 2007.
- Microsoft Access: Creates and provides access to databases. New features in Access 2007 include new Ribbon interface, tabbed objects, navigation pane that replaces the database window, report layout view, embedded macros, column summaries, improved filtering and sorting, new design tools and templates, split forms for fast browsing of data, multivalued fields for complex data, enhanced field list pane, strong integration with SharePoint, improved security features, data collection using InfoPath forms and Outlook. More about Access 2007.
- Microsoft Outlook: Provides e-mail, calendaring, contacts, and task management. New features in Outlook 2007 include the To-Do Bar, Instant Search, color categories, redesigned interface, minimized navigation pane, attachment previewing, improved scheduling capabilities through Exchange, better access to SharePoint Services, RSS feeds, calendar snapshots, subscriptions and overlays, electronic business cards, ability to export to PDF or XPS, InfoPath 2007 integration, Unified Messaging support, e-mail postmark, and improved security mechanisms. More about Outlook 2007.
- Business Contact Manager: Outlook add-on that provides additional features for tracking contact activity and sales opportunities. Previously available as a download for Outlook 2003, it now comes with Outlook 2007 in the Small Business, Professional, and Ultimate editions of Office. More about Outlook with Business Contact Manager.
- Microsoft Office Accounting Express: Basic accounting package for creating invoices, tracking sales, and paying vendors; supports online banking and includes sales tools for eBay and PayPal. Imports data from Excel, Microsoft Money, and Intuit QuickBooks. You can download it for free.
- Microsoft Publisher: Desktop publishing application for creating newsletters, brochures, and other publications. New features in Publisher 2007 include a redesigned interface to make it faster to start or open publications, more templates, marketing tips and integration with other Office programs to track marketing activities, ability to save to PDF and XPS, improved print preview, and better mail and e-mail merging. More about Publisher 2007.
- Microsoft Office InfoPath: An application for collecting and managing data and creating and deploying electronic forms; can be used in conjunction with SharePoint Server. New features in InfoPath 2007 include better integration with Outlook for using e-mail forms, browser-compatible form templates, including those designed to run on mobile devices (which eliminates the need for users to have InfoPath installed to fill out forms), wizards to convert existing Word and Excel files to InfoPath form templates, ability to export to PDF and XPS, more options for designing views, Design Checker task pane, better offline options, support for IRM/RMS, and more options for merging, printing, and previewing forms. More about InfoPath 2007.
- Microsoft Office Groove: A collaboration application for creating team workspaces ("virtual offices") that can be synchronized, whether users are online or offline, in a Groove Server 2007 network environment. Users can share files, have online conversations, manage projects and meetings, and track data. More about Groove 2007.
- Microsoft Office OneNote: An information-gathering/note-taking application that lets you organize text, pictures, and drawings, handwritten notes and diagrams, audio/video recordings, URLs, and links to documents in notebook pages and sections in a binder-like interface. New features in OneNote 2007 include support for multiple notebooks and access from multiple computers, ability to share notebooks with others, automatic synchronization of changes made by different authors, easier navigation, new drawing tools, text recognition within images, hyperlinked notes, ability to send Web content directly to OneNote from Internet Explorer, tables, better Tablet PC support, and improved integration with other Office programs. More about OneNote 2007.
- Microsoft Office Communicator: Client software that integrates with other Office programs and works with Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005 and Office Communications Server 2007 for enterprise-level instant messaging, Voice over IP, video conferencing, and unified communications. More about Office Communicator 2007.
Understanding supported features
Once you've narrowed down the Office 2007 suites that include the applications you need, consider whether you also need advanced features such as Integrated Enterprise Content Management, integrated electronic forms, and/or advanced IRM and policy capabilities.
For example, Microsoft Office Standard might include all the applications you need, but if you want to be able to create IRM-protected documents, spreadsheets, presentation, and e-mail messages, you'll need an Office edition that has that capability. Here's an explanation of the features that are supported in some editions of Office 2007:
- Integrated Enterprise Content Management: Organizations can use Microsoft's ECM to integrate with SharePoint Server 2007 for management of content created with Office programs. For example, PowerPoint slides can be stored in specialized slide libraries so users can share and repurpose existing individual slides. Workflow templates can be applied to documents to improve the review and approval process. Barcodes and labels can be embedded within documents. Office 2007 Professional Plus, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions allow full use of ECM capabilities. Users can initiate and complete workflow tasks from within the Office applications, publish presentations and individual slides and spreadsheets to libraries, and create barcodes and labels from metadata. Users of Office 2007 Standard, Professional, Small Business, Home & Student, and Basic editions can initiate and complete workflow tasks from a Web browser, browse the libraries and build presentations from slides in the library within PowerPoint, view and use spreadsheets from the libraries in the Web browser, and read and print existing barcodes and labels in Office documents. More about ECM.
- Integrated electronic forms: Electronic forms are created via InfoPath 2007 and can be filled out either via the InfoPath client or within a Web browser when the forms are published to a SharePoint server. InfoPath 2007 client software is included in Office 2007 Professional Plus, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions, so you need one of these to be able to create the forms.
- Advanced IRM: You can create and read IRM-protected content in Office 2007 Professional Plus, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions. If you only need to be able to read IRM-protected content created by others, you can use Office 2007 Standard, Professional, Small Business, Home & Student, or Basic editions. You can read — but not create or change — IRM-protected content with Internet Explorer 7 or Internet Explorer 6 with the rights management add-on, which is a free download.
Selecting the right edition of Microsoft Office 2007 can be a challenge, but with so many editions to choose from, there is probably one that fits your needs and your budget. The key is to evaluate what's included in each and get all the applications and features you need, while at the same time avoiding paying for more than you'll use.
Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MCSE, MVP is a technology consultant, trainer, and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security. Deb is a tech editor, developmental editor, and contributor to over 20 additional books on subjects such as the Windows 2000 and Windows 2003 MCSE exams, CompTIA Security+ exam, and TruSecure's ICSA certification.