We recently began a consulting project that requires us to produce a deliverable document that could quickly amount to several hundred pages of information. I have experience managing and organizing large documents like this and already know that Google Docs is not going to be up to the task. Since I became a Google Apps user a few years back, I rarely use MS Office outside of a few monthly tasks or the occasional massive spreadsheet. Because I don’t use MS Office, I haven’t updated it since 2007 and knew to do the project right, it was time to upgrade. I began my search by going down to the local Office Depot because the tech support here in Wellington is usually very knowledgeable. They showed me the new versions of MS Office for Windows and Mac and I started to read the boxes. I quickly discovered that I was only going to be able to install either on one machine. Since I work on both my Windows desktop and Macbook laptop every day, it was going to be around $400 for all the software I needed. I also noticed that they all showed the Office 365 version having all the features. When I realized it allowed me to install both Windows and Mac versions on my machines, I had to try it out. Installing Office 365 was easy and it automatically detected my Outlook email settings to get me up and running with no interaction. The interface on the applications is different, but the layout and functionality all seem to be where I expected it.

The First 10 Days (While Traveling)

My first experiences with Office 365 started while traveling for a consulting project that required me to use it to its potential. I travel with a Macbook and because of the size of the consulting document I was writing (about 500 pages) I wasn’t completely comfortable using Google Docs for something this large.

MS Office for Mac

While on the road I quickly adapted to the MS Office on the Mac and it had most of the general functionality I needed to get the project started. Word, Excel, PowerPoint and even Outlook all worked as expected and allowed me to prepare the foundation for the document on-site with the client.

Although the Mac version does have all the same features as the Windows version (at least all the ones I needed), but some of them were more difficult to find in the menus. Getting started with citation tools took some searching, but once I had located my core tools things were easy to use. It would be great if the interfaces on both systems were more similar, but we take what we can get.

For this project I also needed MS Visio to create process flows, organization charts and other diagrams. Microsoft does not offer MS Visio as part of MS Office 365 or even a Mac version, so I had to run the program from the Windows Parallel environment.

The native MS Office applications for Mac are far more responsive (and consume less battery life) then running the Windows version in a Parallel environment. Overall the experience on the Mac has been great… And when I got back to the office, everything was seamlessly available on my Windows and Mac machines.

Back at the Office

When I got back to the office I was able to move right over to my Windows machine. I quickly installed MS Office 365 applications, set up MS Outlook and started working. I was upgrading from MS Office 2007 so the updated interface was nice and took about 5 minutes to get used to. Once I started using MS Office 365 in a native Windows 7 environment I could really see the improvements they have made since back in 2007. The applications run quickly and they integrate with each other well. Embedding spreadsheets, Visio diagrams and other assets into Word documents is quick and easy. You can even edit the imported assets right in MS Word without having to reopen the original program file. Overall upgrading to MS Office 365 has been a great experience. The seamless integration between my desktop (Windows) and laptop (OSX) makes it a lot easier to get real work done on the road.

MS Office 365 Pricing

The pricing for MS Office 365 is very reasonable at $9.99/month or $99/year. The cloud pricing is a little higher overall compared to buying a single disc license, but it provides a better overall value. MS Office 365 comes with 25 GB of online drive space SkyDrive and provides continual free updates to your software along with the ability to download the latest version as soon as it comes out. To sign up for MS Office 365 visit http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/.