Software

Which edition of Office 2007 is right for you?

Microsoft offers eight versions of Office 2007 -- which is nice in terms of flexibility, but it certainly complicates the decision-making process. Deb Shinder looks at the price structure, explains which applications each suite includes, summarizes the capabilities and enhancements of the various applications, and describes three sophisticated features that certain editions support: Integrated Enterprise Content Management, integrated electronic forms, and Advanced Information Rights Management.

This article is also available as a download. For a capsule summary of the features and apps each edition includes, check out this quick-glance PDF chart.

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.

Summary

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.

About

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 add...

26 comments
jennyzhao
jennyzhao

I'll never pay for hundreds for an office suite which can be free. After trying free office suites like openoffice, kingsoft office, i now stick to kingsoft, same interface and features. The android version is my favorite.  http://www.ksosoft.com

TechExec2
TechExec2

After 15 years of happily running Windows and Microsoft Office, the version of Office that is right for me is this one: http://www.openoffice.org/ Outstanding! Highly recommended!

toukiota
toukiota

awww, look at the silly windows users buying software. only an idiot would shell out $679 (or for that matter $1) for the equivalent of a free product. so i say, the right office 2007 for me is not office 2007 at all, but rather openoffice 2.2

afasdfasdf
afasdfasdf

Buy it from a college bookstore and save at least 50%

pwcraig
pwcraig

Do you know which version of Office 2007 can be installed on my desktop and laptop?

StillWaters
StillWaters

I also received Business Contact Manager with my OEM upgrade to Office Basic 2007. Not sure if this was unique in my case.

apotheon
apotheon

Yeah, that's pretty complicated. It's a lot easier to make a decision like this when you can try stuff on for size and swap it out for something else at whim. When you have to make sure you get the right decision the first time because otherwise you'll end up blowing about six hundred dollars you can ill afford to waste on the wrong choice, suddenly the stress level of making decisions based on poorly-documented choices like this can get pretty high. Thanks for the run-down, Deb. I'll have more information in easily digestible form available the next time someone asks me for advice on an MS Office upgrade.

laman
laman

While it seems that one should be able to pick 1 out of 8 different packages , the problem is that there is no upgrade path for a lower edition. So if the most basic package suits me at this moment and any forseeable future, and the business changes in an unexpectable way and need a higher featured Office, I would have to buy another box of Office or a stand alone box of such application. In both ways, it is still expensive. Of course, one can argue that I should pick the right one from the beginning, but this is easier said than done. Business environment can not be predicted all the times.

rkuhn040172
rkuhn040172

Is choosing one from a choice of eight "challenging"?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Only an idiot would think one size fits all. Some businesses don't have a choice. Customer contracts often mandate the application to be used. We have some customer-supplied Word templates that we must complete and include with every shipment. Since they don't open correctly in OO, that isn't an option. Incidentally, calling people names in your first post is a great way to introduce yourself and earn respect for your opinions.

apotheon
apotheon

I stick to Vim as much as possible. When I need to read a DOC file, I generally use catdoc to dump the text from it. I tend to end up installing OpenOffice.org for a couple days about once every six months or so, because some business requirement demands that I deal with MS Office file formats. Other than that, I stick with plain text.

lisa2k65
lisa2k65

Are you NUTS?, it sounds like a great idea but you do not save anything because the cost is the same as retail, if not more. i went to my bookstore at a University online to purchase Office and the rates are the same as Staples or Office Max (an office supply store).

lisa2k65
lisa2k65

Are you NUTS?, it sounds like a great idea but you do not save anything because the cost is the same as retail, if not more. i went to my bookstore at a University online to purchase Office and the rates are the same as Staples or Office Max (an office supply store).

Absolutely
Absolutely

but I'm not sure. There may be a licensing arrangement that allows that.

Fil0403
Fil0403

"(...) suddenly the stress level of making decisions based on poorly-documented choices like this can get pretty high." That's the typical comment of a lazy person who didn't even have the trouble to check Microsoft's website for all the Office 2007 information one needs, including this: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/suites/FX101635841033.aspx

Fil0403
Fil0403

It's not Microsoft's fault that a given business didn't pick the right one from the beginning, they don't have to be paying for other people's mistakes (no matter how wealthy they are, LOL).

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

You'd be surprised at the number of people who look at the menu (the same one they've looked at every day for the last three years) for five minutes moving their index finger as if reading a book while repeating the Sacred Chant, "Uh... Uh... Uh...". :)

Doug719
Doug719

One thing missing is the "Military Appreciation Version". Available to active duty or retired military members with valid ID cards through the Post Exchange, Base Exchange, etc. It is the FULL STANDARD VERSION (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook). Cost is $79.95 and one of the best deals Microsoft has every offered. I went from XP to the 2007 version because of this. THANK YOU MS.

106142.1036
106142.1036

I use Office 2007 at work and I find it frustrating to use and will definately not be changing to it at home. Office 2003 does everything I need and easy to use, so why bother changing at great expence to something that is awkward to use? Microsoft have not done their homework on this one(or two if you include Vista(yuk!)).

Jaqui
Jaqui

oddly, MS believes one size fits all that's why they go after the manufacturers of systems in prelload windows. so the "one size" os is on every computer. office is no different, the app set doesn't change the fact it's still a "one size" product.

Absolutely
Absolutely

Now, to the subject of this thread. I haven't used Office 2007, but I've listened to and read more of Microsoft's marketing for it than necessary. There is one feature in it that isn't in version 2003, which I know I could put to productive use, and that's the increased row capacity in Excel. But, I wouldn't pay for a new full version just to get that feature, even if I used Microsoft products in the first place any more than I would buy a new pickup when all my hauling requirements indicate is a canopy & trailer hitch. The 8 available versions are probably just fine for new users -- students about to enroll in college, startup businesses buying their first volume license, whatever -- but imagining myself a prospective customer, what would be much more attractive to me is if owners of any license of a previous version could buy feature upgrades in more modular fashion.

VMACS
VMACS

Buying at a university bookstore is only beneficial if you are a current student. The bookstore cannot sell it at the discounted educational price if you are not.

apotheon
apotheon

Have you noticed that this conclusion won't hold your weight? What I said still stands.

Absolutely
Absolutely

Offering 8 different suites instead of the modular, per-component purchase options described by laman may prove to be a mistake. If it is, nobody will "have to be paying for" it, except Microsoft, no matter how wealthy they are, or by then, were.

lisa2k65
lisa2k65

your whole post is correct. It took me awhile to get use to Office 2007. i am so use to old ways of Word (plus the new aditions) but Office 2007 is just too functional to even mess with. too many questions at the rate of Daytona Nascar Racing.

Fil0403
Fil0403

I use Office 2007 at home and I find it intuitive to use and will definitely recommend everyone I know to change to it. Office 2003 does everything I need and use too (so does Office 97 for that matter), but changing to Office 2007 for less than ?150 has made me more productive and took me less than 15 minutes to learn (either I'm a genius or you're dumb). Microsoft has done its job on both this one and Vista, you ABM's (Anything But Microsoft) are actually the ones who haven't done your job (you bash Microsoft for revolutionizing with Office 2007 and you bash Microsoft for not revolutionizing Vista (huh?!)).