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Family Tech: Software subscriptions for the whole family

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Posted: Monday, January 28, 2013 11:03 pm

Buying software for your PC or Mac can put a major dent in your family budget.

Microsoft, Adobe, and others are trying something new that might be advantageous for some of us.

A copy of Microsoft Office for Home & Students 2010 is $149.99.  It includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.

Per Microsoft licensing, you may install the software on three PCs in the home.  If you have more than three PCs, you need to buy additional packages.

There is no upgrade path for Home & Office, so when a new version comes out, you have to buy it all over again.

Their upcoming Office 2013 will be $139.99 for their Home & Office version, but will allow installation on only one PC.

However, and this is where it gets interesting, they will offer some attractive subscriptions.

For $99.99 a year, they will offer not only Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, but also Outlook, Publisher, and Access in their Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium.

When there are upgrades, you will get them for free.  You will always have the most recent version.

And here’s the best part, you can install them on five PCs or Macs in your home.

For those who need the extra apps of Publisher, Access, or Outlook, this is a great deal.  It would also be attractive to families with over three PCs and Macs, or those who want a firmer control on their software budgets.

There are, of course, free alternatives to some of the Office apps.  I use Google Drive for writing this column.  It offers word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and drawing.  No one would suggest, though, that it is as feature rich as Office.

Google Drive requires internet access. OpenOffice and LibreOffice are regular software programs that perform many Office functions, and are free.

If you have anyone in your family needing access to high-end creativity tools, Adobe has a great new way to obtain their programs.

Adobe makes the famous Photoshop.  It is a high-end digital imaging software.  It is used by professionals to improve photographs and even create new images from scratch.

It is much more than anyone needs to remove redeye from a photo or crop an awkwardly composed photo to make it better.  It is for hardcore professional use.

Photoshop full retail is $699.  Daunting to say the least.

Adobe has a new subscription service as well.  At $29.99 a month for qualifying students and teachers, subscribers get not only Photoshop but also their high end video editing software Premiere.  There are also programs for web creation, Flash programming, audio editing, DVD creation, and many more.  There are twenty-three applications in all.

These are professional grade packages used in TV production, radio stations, major magazines, and by professional photographers.

If you have a college student majoring in journalism, photography, or any of the visual arts, broadcasting or the like, these tools would be empowering to them.  Thirty bucks a month gets them thousands of dollars of software.

And like Microsoft’s subscription for Office 365, upgrades are included.

I wouldn’t recommend this subscription for those with a casual need of this kind of software.  Even if the $360 a year is tolerable, each of these applications have steep learning curves.    You will find college level courses for many of them.

There are less expensive, even free, photo, video editing, and audio recording software available.  But if you need professional grade, this is a great deal. Non-student pricing is $70 a month.

If subscriptions are successful for Microsoft and Adobe, I think we will see it spread.

Mark Stout lives in Lake Ridge and writes about technology in his blog.  For links mentioned in the column and more information , go to http://www.familytechonline.com.

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