Obviously this represents a big increase to the cost of a new $500 computer so why do so many people fall for the marketing spiel? One clue is in Microsoft’s own advice to manufacturers: “The emphasis of any end user advertising should never be on Office Starter 2010. Research shows that advertising or promoting Office Starter 2010 will distract your customers and deter them from purchasing a full Office suite“.
Distract your customers??? No, the idea of not mentioning it at all is to hope that customers won’t even notice that it is included free with their new computer purchase… Microsoft go on to suggest an actual phrase that manufacturers should use to describe computers preloaded with it: “Purchase an Office 2010 Product Key Card or Traditional Disc to activate preloaded software on this PC”.
Again, not a hint that this ‘preloaded software’ actually includes Starter for free – just more emphasis on buying the full Office suite. With marketing practices like this it’s no surprise that many users are suckered into buying the full product 2010 – without considering whether the free Starter edition would meet their needs, or even being told it exists…
But now you know better – so what exactly is it?
If you need an Office product (even if only for the occasional Word document) you have several options which include: Use Office Starter 2010 (if available) or buy one of the full Microsoft Office 2010 suites or install a free MS Office compatible program like the excellent LibreOffice (see my review here) – a free office suite that includes Word Processor, Spreadsheet and Presentation programs that can read and write documents used by MS Office.
Whilst LibreOffice is far superior to Office Starter in terms of features, it does have a learning curve – if you use MS Office at work and have Starter pre-installed on your new computer then you may as well consider giving it a try.
Work your way down the differences of Starter below – if you come across a deal breaker then either opt for a better alternative like LibreOffice or buy MS Office. But if you reach the end of the list then Office Starter most likely meets your needs i.e. you won’t have to buy the full version (although you could do later on if your needs changed).
Office Starter 2010 Differences
Compared to the $120 Office Home & Student 2010 edition:
1. Starter is free but only available preinstalled on a new Windows 7 computer (you can’t download it or buy it) – if it isn’t preinstalled on your computer then you’re out of luck
2. It includes Starter versions of Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel
3. It does not include Powerpoint but it does include Powerpoint Viewer 2010 – so you can view any Powerpoint presentations/slideshows that you come across but you can’t create your own new ones
4. It does not include OneNote (planning/notetaking software)
5. Starter editions of Word and Excel include adverts in a side panel – typically these are Microsoft adverts for their own software and aren’t too intrusive (no flashing animations)
6. Word and Excel Starter 2010 are simplified versions of the full products – although the format and layout is basically the same, some ‘business’ and ‘advanced’ features are missing.
– People who only use Word to create a CV or write a few letters etc almost certainly wouldn’t have used such features anyway – and even a ‘missing’ feature means that you can still view, edit and copy that feature if it appears in a document someone sends to you – you just can’t create it yourself in a new document.
– E.g. in Word Starter it is not possible to create a Table Of Contents but, if you open an existing document that contains a table of contents, you can still use it, refresh the data, copy and paste items, format the text or delete the table of contents.
7. Home & Student can be installed on up to 3 computers but Starter is preinstalled on a single new computer. However, one lesser known feature of Office Starter 2010 is that you can create a portable copy of it.
– i.e. you can easily copy it onto a USB flash drive – plug that flash drive into another Windows 7/Vista computer and you can run your Office Starter programs on that computer as well, regardless of whether it had any form of MS Office already installed. When you unplug the flash drive, Starter is removed from that computer.
If you need specific advanced features then you may have to buy Microsoft Office but many home users would be served perfectly well by the free Office Starter 2010 pre-installed on most new computers – or by a free alternative like LibreOffice if they require more features.
It is a shame that Microsoft’s advice to manufacturers appears to treat end users (that’s us) as too dumb to understand the concept of a free, albeit limited, version of Office – in favor of pushing an expensive product that may well be overkill for the basic requirements of many users.
What do you think? Have you tried it? Let us know in the comments below.