Does it still make sense to buy Microsoft Office?

Though the Microsoft Office suite still drives the business world, aren't most consumers better off with something that costs a lot less -- or costs nothing at all?

Microsoft

As you've no doubt heard by now, Microsoft just announced Office 2013 and The New Microsoft Office suite.

Not announced: pricing.

Call it a hunch, but I suspect Microsoft will charge at least as much for Office 2013 as it does for Office 2010. After all, the new suite is chock-full of new features, giving Microsoft ample justification for keeping prices the same -- or even raising them.

Currently, Office 2010 Home and Student and Office 2010 Home and Business sell for $119.99 and $199.99, respectively. That's for a single-user license. The three-user version of Home and Student costs $149.99, while a two-user Home and Business license will run you $279.99.

As a certified (and certifiable) cheapskate, I've developed a healthy (unhealthy) indignation about Microsoft's stubbornly high Office pricing. It just strikes me as out of whack relative to consumers' needs and the available alternatives.

And that brings us to today's question: Does it still make sense to buy Microsoft Office?

A loaded question, to be sure. If you're half the smart aleck I am, you no doubt shouted at the screen, "It never made sense!"

I ask because I'm in the process of "divorcing" Outlook, a program I've grown to hate with a passion, and I continue to find the rest of Office 2010 to be overkill for my home-office purposes. Unless Microsoft does the unthinkable and prices Office 2013 around $50, I won't be buying it -- no matter how sexy it might be.

My needs break out like this: word processing frequently, spreadsheets occasionally, presentations rarely. Most of the writing I do actually takes place in various blog tools, and often I'll compose my posts in Google Docs -- seeing as I'm already in my browser anyway.

Google Docs is, of course, free. It's available pretty much anywhere I want it, though it's pretty anemic on phones and tablets. The New Microsoft Office could really find a foothold if it pairs as well with Surface tablets as it appears to in previews.

That said, I really prefer a traditional (as opposed to browser-based) word processor when I'm writing anything long-form, like a magazine feature or product review. For the past few months I've been using Kingsoft Office Suite Free 2012, and it more than covers my needs on all three office-tool fronts.

In fact, it offers one great feature Microsoft Office still lacks (even in Office 2013, as far as I can tell): a tabbed interface for easy switching between multiple open documents.

Kingsoft's product is just one of many free or cheap Microsoft Office alternatives, including LibreOffice, Lotus Symphony, ThinkFree Office, and, of course, OpenOffice (which is in the process of becoming Apache OpenOffice). In fact, out of all those options, only ThinkFree Office has a price tag attached (ironic given its name). The others cost nothing.

So, does it still make sense to buy Microsoft Office? Did it ever? Let me know if you think the suite is worth the cost (and why), or if you're planning to jump ship and never look back.

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