A Quick Tour of Office 365 Home Premium

Microsoft recently pushed out its latest version of Office. The app suite had been available in public beta for sometime, but nobody seemed to realize exactly what the company had in mind for the final release. Well, on January 29th the world found out and it was bit different from what most users were expecting.

First, the suite was released as not just Office 2013, but also as Office 365 Home Premium. While Office 2013 comes as traditional desktop software and in several different versions like Home and Student, Home and Office and Professional, it is an expensive suite and can only be used on one computer.

Office 365 Home Premium, on the other hand, is affordable at $99 per year or $9.99 per month (about $120 per year). As a bonus, it also comes with five licenses allowing you to put it on multiple computers, which is a great deal for a family. To boot, it also gives you an additional 20 GB of SkyDrive storage and 60 minutes of Skype credit per month.

Getting Started

Despite the fact that Office 365 is thought of as the online version of Office, you will immediately notice that when you purchase the “service” Office begins downloading to your computer. Yes, it really is a desktop app suite, despite what you probably thought.

It comes with all of the apps that most customers will want — Word, Excel, Access, Outlook, OneNote, PowerPoint and Publisher. All of the apps open as a desktop program and there is virtually no difference from what you would get if you purchased Office 2013.

The Start Screen

The first thing you will notice is that there is a brand new Start screen for Office. The screen provides easy access to your recently opened documents, frequently used templates and the ability to search for templates online in the Office web store. Template search is available right from the top of the screen. Below the search box you will notice headers for template categories.

If you don’t see what you are looking for then you can click on “Open other documents” from the bottom of the left column.

Users can control the templates shown by pinning new ones to this screen or unpinning existing ones. To do this, just hover your mouse pointer over a template and use the “pin” that appears in the bottom of the image. Alternately, you can also right-click a template to find the option.

Cloud Storage

It probably will not come as a shock to anyone that Microsoft has built its own SkyDrive cloud storage service right into the new Office. When you go to open or save a file then you will find SkyDrive as one of the default options. However, that does not mean it is the only cloud service you can use. If you have installed another service like Google Drive or Dropbox then you can easily access these as well. You will just need to browse to the designated folder on your computer.  Once Office learns the location then it will begin showing the location in its dialogue boxes.

Apps

While something called the “Office Store” is a new concept, the whole bit about apps and templates is not really new. You could browse the Office site previously for templates. However, much has been made over Microsoft’s move into this space.

Office now makes it easy to browse for these things as well. Head to “Insert” in the menu and then look for the “Apps for Office” icon. Click on this and you will be presented with a pop-up box that display installed apps that are available for Office the program you are using.

From this box you can also browse “Featured Apps” from a tab at the top of the screen. This will show you a number of the more popular plugins that are available. At the bottom of the screen you can click on “Find more apps at the Office Store”. That will open a tab in your default web browser and take you to the Office Store where you can look for both apps and templates.

Just recently Bing released a set of very useful apps for Office 2013/365. The set includes Maps, Finance, News, Dictionary and Image Search. Each app needs to be installed separately, so if you do not need all of them then just grab the one(s) you do need.

The Ribbon

The ribbon interface in Office 365/Office 2013 is largely unchanged from the 2010 version of the suite. It has, however, gained a few new options and has been slightly rearranged and cleaned up, gaining a more Metro-style look.

A new “Read” mode has been included that will lay out a document in a book format, similar to what you would find in an E-reader like Amazon’s Kindle. This can be accessed from the left side of the “View” menu.

Templates

Templates are not new in the latest version of Office and most of you are probably already familiar with them. You can find them in the Office Store as well as various locations around the web.

Conclusion

As I stated back at the beginning of all of this, Office 365 Home Premium seems the best deal, especially for families, or even a single person who has need to install Office on multiple computers. The addition of extra SkyDrive storage and Skype credit is a great bonus.

This latest version of Office is also the most useful version so far. The reasons stated throughout this post are all recommendations for upgrading from the 2010 or 2007 versions of the suite. However, if you do not need all of the apps or features included then you can always sign up for a free SkyDrive account and use the Office Web Apps that are included there.