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:
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.
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.
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.
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,
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
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)
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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
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.
Subscribe to the Developer Insider Newsletter
From the hottest programming languages to commentary on the Linux OS, get the developer and open source news and tips you need to know. Delivered Tuesdays and Thursdays