I've put the just-released Office 365 Home Premium through its paces, and it's very clearly a winner. Here are six reasons to love it.
It can save you a lot of money
Let's start with the bottom line first: This version of Office can save you plenty of money. It's a subscription-based service and costs $100 per year. For that, you and your family can install it on up to five PCs and Macs (including Windows tablets). It comes with the core Office applications of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, and also includes Outlook, Publisher and Access.
To get those same applications by buying Office in the traditional way, you'd have to buy Office 2013 Professional, at $400 for one license. On five machines, that adds up to $2,000, compared to a $100-a-year subscription for Office 365 Home Premium. When upgrade time comes around, you'll have to pay full freight again for Office Professional, but Office 365 Home Premium's $100 subscription includes free upgrades. Even if you don't need to buy for five machines, the subscription model makes sense.
You get Office on Demand everywhere
One of Office 365 Home Premium's niftier features is called Office on Demand. With it, you can be on any Windows 7 or Windows 8 Internet-connected computer and use a free version of any Office application, even if Office isn't installed on it. Head to your Office 365 Home Premium's command center on the Web, and you'll be able to download and temporarily install any Office application. Do your work, exit the application, and it's gone.
Free Skype minutes
If you use Skype to call phones, you get a big bonus with Office 365 Home Premium --- 60 free Skype minutes a month. So start calling your friends in Paris, Moscow, Beijing; the minutes are on Microsoft.
With Office 365 Home Premium, Microsoft gets syncing right. Create documents on a PC or Mac, and they sync to Microsoft's cloud-based syncing service, SkyDrive. So on all your machines you've got access to your latest documents.
Extra SkyDrive storage
When you buy Office 365 Home Premium, you get an additional 20GB of free SkyDrive storage, in addition to the 7GB you normally get.
Office 2013 beats previous versions of Office
The new version of Office is much cleaner-looking and less cluttered than previous Office versions, and sports a flatter Ribbon that seems to fade into the background. In addition, each application has gotten new features, such as Word being able to edit PDFs, and Excel getting new analytical tools. You'll want to upgrade just for that.