Should You Upgrade to Office 2013?

Recently I was pulled into a conversation between our technical staff and my client. The client had decided to migrate to Office 365, and was considering whether to update their local version of Office to 2010 or 2013. After several comments back and forth I decided to jump in. Here are some of the questions that came up and my responses.

What are all of these versions of Office that come with Office 365?

Office 365 is Microsoft’s cloud based offering for running productivity applications and accessing your documents online. It is Microsoft’s response to Google Apps and Docs. With Office 365, there are three different versions of Office. Not all versions are available in all of the Microsoft Office 365 plans. Check the Office 365 version comparison chart to determine the version.

  • Office 365 has three different ways that you can work on documents:
  1. Office Web Apps: The Office Web Apps are browser based online versions of the original Office applications. The apps are very usable and can do most things that the desktop applications can do. A great option when working on a different computer where you just have to view a document or make some basic changes (sorry, no pivot tables in Excel). You will need Internet access to be able to use these applications. It is also useful for devices where streaming isn’t supported (Macs) or when you can’t install a product (Chromebooks).
  2. Office on Demand: In this version, the Office Web Apps are “streamed” down to your computer. They don’t require a browser and they are the full Office applications. You need to have Internet to be able to download the streamed applications. This is a good solution for people that need the full running applications, but move between different computers like a work computer and a personal computer at home.
  3. Office 2013 – The traditional Office product that gets installed on the local PC. The benefits of this product are that it can be used without Internet access, it is supported on both Windows and Mac platforms, and it has native integration with cloud applications especially Office 365.

We are using Office 2007. How difficult will it be for people to use Office 2013? Should we only upgrade to 2010?

It will be easier for people to use Office 2013 over Office 2010; my advice is that you upgrade to Office 2013. There are lots of folks who have written about the expense, adding that the upgrade from 2010 to 2013 isn’t worth the additional cost. I won’t argue that point. But in this instance, I believe the client needs to make a choice that is focused on functionality and performance.

I utilize all three versions. Currently, I use Office 2013 on my Mac (running Windows 8) and Office 2010 on my virtual desktop in our data center. The look is similar, but Office 2013 is much more intuitive. Plus, the integration of Office 365 and other cloud applications just work better on Office 2013. Visually, Office 2013 is clean and precise. Even with the number of features in both versions of Office, I find it much simpler to find what I need, and have unused features hidden away.

Should we provide training for Office 2013?

This is a more difficult question to answer. Personally, I think adults learn best when they have a need and can be provided with training or job aids to directly address those needs. We all have hectic, busy lives so sitting through a general training isn’t always the best use of time. It often lends to rushing through, or glossing over items before the user has had a chance to really understand their needs and can come prepared with questions.

What people do want is support when they have a problem. If your IT staff can’t provide some just-in-time learning opportunities when your employees need help, people are going to be frustrated. There are not any inherent problems with Office 2010 or Office 2013, but change is change and it can often be difficult to approach.

I would suggest that you let employees know what’s going to happen, respond to any requests for information, provide them with resources, and set up a system where needs can be responded to quickly.

If you have additional thoughts on this matter, I would love to hear about them. If Office 2013 didn’t work for your organization, I would be interested to learn about your experience. And let me know your experiences with Office on Demand.