In the office recently we had a discussion about the number of ways that a user can install and run office products. It quickly became apparent that there was not a consistent understanding of all of the options.
There are now two different ways to purchase the Office suite:
This is the traditional method of purchasing the software as a single package that contains installation media and a licence key. The installation media usually takes the form of a DVD or a software equivalent of a DVD and a long, complex set of characters and digits that make up the key.
EDIT: The packaged installation can also be activated using a Microsoft Account with an appropriate Office 365 subscription.
This is a version of the Office suite that is only available through an Office 365 subscription. It requires one of the Office 365 plans that include Office applications.
The “Packaged” format is paid for once and the user has rights to use the software without a time limit.
The “Online” format requires a subscription that is paid for either on a monthly or annual basis.
Installation & usage
The traditional mechanism for distributing software provides a DVD or software equivalent is provided as part of the “packaged” purchase mode.
This format can be installed on any Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Server 2008 R2 or Windows Server 2012 computer, or if a version for Mac is purchased, Mac OS X version 10.5.8 or later.
The licence key can be used only once.
Click to Run
The Office 365 versions of the Office suite are installed from the Office 365 web site. Click to run technology streams the products from the Office 365 site to the computer and installs the product in an isolated, virtual environment that allows the product to be used before the streamed download is completed.
Once the download has been completed, the product can be used without requiring a connection to the internet.
The Office suite can be downloaded and installed on up to 5 PCs or Macs.
There is no licence code involved, instead a user logs into Office with there Microsoft Account and that is used to validate the user’s permission to use the software.
This mode of usage is available for users with an Office 365 version of the Office suite. It allows a user to download a temporary version of Office onto any Windows 7 or Windows 8 device. The Office suite will then be available for the user while they are logged on and will be removed when they log off the device.
The advantage of this option is that the device may have older versions of Office or no version of Office installed.
As the only way to access Office on demand is via OneDrive, the user is implicitly logged in and therefore there is no licence key involved.
Office Web Apps
Office Web Apps is a service that allows Office documents to be opened and edited using a web browser. Office Web Apps are commonly access via SharePoint 2013 or via SharePoint Online (a component of Office 365).
The advantage of Office Web Apps is that there is no requirement for any download or installation.
And finally there is Office Online which is accessible to every user with a Microsoft Account. Office Online is not linked to a purchased version of the Office Suite and has no option of running the full Office Suite.
The features vary between the different versions:
To sum up, there are two main varieties of Office: Traditional and Online. Microsoft are pushing the online model through the provision of features that simply are not possible with the traditional model.
The benefits of the online model are more suited to those users with more than one device where content needs to be transferred and edited on both devices, e.g. personal and work or laptop and tablet.
The online model also offers a constantly updated version of all software without the need to carry out difficult and expensive upgrades of critical software.