's productivity suite that consists of word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, database, and e-mail applications, has been through several revisions and, while many people accuse each new version of introducing more bloat
than new features
, the new versions keeps coming and often do add a few new and interesting components. Some OEM
s offer the package when buying a new computer, but as always it is available off the shelf, albeit for a rather steep price tag: usually somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 for the "standard" version and $700 for the "professional" version. Academic license
s come cheaper and are only available to students and learning institutions. Corporate licenses offer discounts based on the quantity of licenses needed. Typically the more licenses one buys, the cheaper Microsoft
will offer those licenses.
Now, as for this "standard" and "professional" business. The "standard" version of Office includes Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Powerpoint, and Microsoft Outlook (note that's Outlook and not the freebie Outlook Express that comes with Internet Explorer). The "professional" version includes all the programs from the "standard" version, but adds in Microsoft Access, Microsoft Publisher, and small business tools. Microsoft's web editing software, Microsoft FrontPage, is considered part of the Office family, but does not come with the bundle. That software will cost you an additional $250 off the shelf.
The Office set began life as Microsoft Office 3.1 for the Windows 3.1 operating system. When Windows 95 hit the scene so did Microsoft Office 95, followed by Microsoft Office 97, a Windows 9x compatible suite of the applications listed above. Aside from the CD key needed during installation, the software did not include further copy protection. As such, many people purchased only one license and proceeded to install the programs on every computer they and their friends owned. With the introduction of Microsoft Office 2000 (designed for Windows 2000, but also being backwards compatible with the Windows 9x family) Microsoft added a registration requirement that chooses you to either let the software phone home to Microsoft and report its own installation or allow the suite to time out and cease to function after fifty uses. Software installed and registered to one machine could not be installed on additional machines (except without Microsoft's intervention). Microsoft Office XP, the Windows XP version of the suite, also included this registration than ran together with the registration requirement of the operating system itself. The next version of Office, Microsoft Office 2003, is not Windows 9x compatible. Users of Macintoshes also have an Office suite available to them in the form of Microsoft Office 98, Microsoft Office 2001, and the newest version, Microsoft Office v.X.
Due to the rising cost of the Office package and Microsoft's registration requirements many users have found themselves gravitating away from the Redmond firm and choosing an alternate office suite, such as OpenOffice or the many products available from Corel. Many businesses find themselves locked into the Microsoft Office suite due to the cost of dumping their existing licenses and buying up new ones from another vendor. Love it or hate it, the Microsoft Office suite is fast becoming the de facto office application, making the ability to read *.doc, *.xls, and *.ppt files nearly manditory (especially in an academic setting). Gosh, Clippy would be proud.