Dropping Microsoft Office At Home

I recently got a new computer, and decided to go back to the Microsoft Home Use Program to get a new key to get Excel installed on my new computer. Much to my surprise they’ve completely gutted that program and the package now costs $70 / year for one license or $100 / year for 6 licenses. This is a huge increase when it was only $20 for a permanent license as recently as 2018. Now my old computer is completely gone, so I kind of gave up on rescuing my old license some how.

Free Alternatives : LibreOffice, Rstudio, and Google Sheets

As you know from this website, my typical data analysis toolkit is Excel, R and PHP/Javascript, so I’m currently exploring the open source options. So far, I’m really getting used to LibreOffice. LibreOffice is related to OpenOffice, but has been kept more up to date than OpenOffice. It looks like OpenOffice has basically been frozen in time for like 5+ years and really isn’t a great option at this point. A lot of the functions are the same as in Excel, but the only bad part about LibreOffice is that it feels a lot like using Excel 2003 from the UI perspective. It just isn’t as slick and fluid as the newer versions of Excel, but it does seem to be getting the job done. Pivot tables work, and the structure is very similar to how they are used in Google Sheets.

libreoffice screenshot
LibreOffice looking very 2005.

I’ve also started to lean a little bit more heavily on R (specifically RStudio) to do exploration via coding vs spreadsheet style. It certainly has been a learning curve, but I also feel like R is a marketable skill. I’ve also been using Google Sheets quite a bit for smaller spreadsheets, but Google Sheets feels a little clunky if you try to use a sheet that’s large.

Is the Microsoft Home Use Program worth it for some people?

Yes, it is worth it if you are going to use the 1 terra byte in free cloud back up. If you’re a light user of Docs, Excel and PowerPoint, LibreOffice or Google Docs should cover you pretty well for free.

If you’re trying to run a business from home, I could also see it being useful in situations where you’re going to be sharing files with clients or contractors. I can see it being important to make sure that your files are formatted perfectly across computers. For me, since my hobby data analysis work isn’t really shared via Excel, I don’t think that it’s worth an extra $70 / year for that.

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