The Many Flavors of Microsoft Office: Office 2013, Office 365, Office RT, Office Online

Choosing the version of Microsoft Office that is right for your needs can be confusing. Here are some tips on ensuring that you’re getting the version that is tailored to your interests and budget.

Office 2013 on the desktop/laptop

Office 2013, the traditional release of Microsoft Office that runs on a desktop or a laptop Windows computer, comes in three versions:

  • Office Home & Student 2013 has a one-time cost of $139.99(US) per PC. All three versions of Office 2013 for the desktop/laptop include Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. This Home & Student version is licensed only for home use.
  • Office Home & Business 2013 costs $219.99 per PC and also includes Microsoft Outlook.
  • Office Professional 2013 costs $399.99 per PC and also includes Outlook, Publisher, and Access.

Office 365 – Office 2013 in the cloud

There are two versions of the Cloud-based Office 365: Personal and Home. Office 365 Personal allows one person to access the site with a PC, Mac, iPad, or Windows tablet and use the Office programs online. Your Office 365 account includes online storage of the documents that you create.

Office 365 Home offers the same services to as many as five family members. The Personal version costs $6.99(US) per month, and the Home version costs $9.99. You can save about 16 percent on either Cloud-based version by signing up – and paying for – a full 12 months of service.

It’s easy to access your account using an iPhone, Android phone, or Windows phone. Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook are included for both Windows and Mac users. OneNote is also available to both groups of users, but Mac users need to download it from the Mac App Store. Publisher and Access are available only to PC users.

Office RT – Office on Windows RT Devices

Office RT is the release of Office that is designed for use on Windows RT devices. There have been several versions of the software released since 2013, and the feature set seems to still be evolving. Before buying Office RT, visit Microsoft’s site and read about the feature-set and the licensing agreement that is currently in force.

Office Online

Office Online is a free Internet-based service from Microsoft. Microsoft describes it as a way to “collaborate in real time on shared projects” and says that Office Online “works great with Office 365.”

The Office Online site itself is a doorway to eight individual sites on which you can create and share Office documents. The eight main menu items are Word Online,, People, OneNote Online, PowerPoint Online, Calendar, Excel Online, and OneDrive.

Office Online runs in any standard web browser, and there is no need to install software on your desktop or laptop computer. Visit to get started.

Which Version Should You Get?

First, decide if you want to continue to run the traditional type of Office that gets installed on the desktop or laptop computer that is located in your home or office, or if you want to move your Office processing to the Cloud. The desktop/laptop solution offers more control, more privacy, and a consistent processing speed. The Cloud solution can slow down when your Internet connection becomes sluggish, and stop completely when you lose your connection to the web. You can decide if your data is more safe and secure on your local computer or on a professionally maintained server at some undisclosed location somewhere on the planet.

Next, decide which applications you need. Word, Excel, and PowerPoint seem to be available on all flavors of Office. Most other Office programs are only available at premium prices.

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