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Would you pay $70 for a good word processor?

Just a sanity check - I keep reading people talking about Office being overpriced. Of course, between MSDN and now the job, I haven't bought Office in years, so I finally went and took a look.

$350 retail for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, and Outlook. That's roughly $70 each.

Now granted that some people only need the equivalent of MS Works, and some people don't need Access or PowerPoint. But if you have a serious need for the capabilities of the applications, that really doesn't seem like unreasonable pricing to me. I mean, I just spent $40 on a *text editor*. And there seem to be a lot of folks who routinely pay $50 for a game they can finish in a few weeks.

I'm honestly curious.

Philo [MSFT]
Permalink Philo 
March 18th, 2005
I've always found Excel to be far more useful than Word. Excel would be worth $70 to me easily, but Word... 99% of the time I'm just formatting text. The most complex things I do involve columns and printing odd pages before even pages.

Columns and odd/even page printing doesn't seem to be worth $70 to me.

*If* I wanted to do desktop publishing, I'm not sure I'd want Word either, I'd want something with more features, and I'd shoot right past $70 and go on to, say, $200.
Permalink MarkTAW 
March 18th, 2005
Word is now packaged with Microsoft Works. So for roughly $70 you could buy that plus lightweigth versions of the other (Office) apps you mention.
Permalink NYCCoder 
March 18th, 2005
I'd pay $70 for Excel, but not for word. I've never paid for any copy of Office except for the copy that I got for my girlfriend's Mac, and then I bought the student edition because my daughter uses the computer.

I'll always go looking for open source before I go anywhere near paid offerings, and even then I'll look for alternatives to Microsoft before giving Microsoft a dime. I don't believe in Microsoft, it's not an ethical or socially responsible company.
Permalink muppet 
March 18th, 2005
I have MS Works. I forget if I bought it, or if it came with something else I bought. Actually, I have a few versions of MS Works I've somehow acquired over the years. I always felt the word processing was good enough, but the spreadsheet fell short. I think I'd be much more likely to buy a MS Works/Excel bundle.

But anything that isn't MS Office simply isn't MS Office, so why buy MS Works when I can get Open Office for free?
Permalink MarkTAW 
March 18th, 2005
And I suspect that what some people mean when they say "Microsoft Office is over priced" is really "I don't really like Microsoft, and I articulate that as an issue with price."
Permalink muppet 
March 18th, 2005
> Would you pay $70 for a good word processor?

A year and a quarter after my Mum first acquired a computer, she has expressed an interest in formatting the text that she prints and sends as mail: and so I migrated her from notepad to wordpad.

I, on the other hand ... I like to spend a few hundred for any remarkably important tool that I would use for work: and a *good* word processor would be one of these tools.

Word (I'm using Word 2000) doesn't meet all my definitions of good though ... I prefer something (like HTML) with more separation between appearance and content; support for navigating/editing a suite of documentation (like FrontPage or better), especially to support traceability between less-detailed requirements-level documentation and more-detailed implementation-level documentation; support for querying the documentation, to make specific "views" that show only the types of information that I'm interested in (for example "construct a document that consists of the title text and first paragraph from those sections which don't have the 'reviewed=true' attribute); multi-user capable (at least to the same extent that multiple developers simultaneously can edit program source code); easy to learn (no more than a week to learn); and no worries about my documentation depending on a tool from a vendor that might go out of business.
Permalink Christopher Wells 
March 18th, 2005
I guess the point is, you've got a WYSIWYG editor, so all that matters is the end product. I can't tell you the number of times I've seen people center things using the space bar, and that's OK. It screws up if you move things around, but they can fix it and it's good enough.

On the other hand, you're doing accounting or whatever with your spreadsheet, now the process for getting that end product is much more important. You can't hit space a bunch of times and get the compound interest in your mortgage. (Which I still don't know how to calculte in Excel, there should be a compound interest wizard or something.)

Outlook is great too, contacts, calendar, to-do's, etc. I don't think I've found a better application for this than Outlook. This is the kind of stuff that should be built in to you computer, but for some reason nobody's written a decent program that does all this except Microsoft, and on top of that, you have to pay for it.

Very strange. If I can't put together a To-Do list, schedule activities and manage my contacts, why did I buy a computer?

Access is a sort of specialized product, definately geared towards small businesses that need "something like xyz, but customized." Not useful to everybody, and you have to hire someone to come in and program it for you anyway.

Bottom line: Outlook should come with windows. Excel is an important small business application. Word is more powerful than most people need, not powerful enough for desktop publishing (at least, looking at price/performance ratios here), but people will use it for that anyway because they already have it and it's easy to use. Access is something people are paying for, but not using, but if you take it out of the package, I bet nobody would ever use it.

By bundling these things, you're taking the things people absolutely need - Outlook and Excel, and packaging them with things people sort of need, Word and Access, you're forcing the desktop publishing folks to put even more features in to justify the price tag of getting something on top of Office, and putting customized applications into the hands of those who need them. They're paying a premium for them (for the work), but feel comfortable with the program because it's already on their desktop.

Does that sound about right?
Permalink MarkTAW 
March 18th, 2005
If Word allowed me to seperate presentation and content in a manner similiar to HTML/CSS, and lost the proprietary and EASILY CORRUPTABLE file format, then I'd pay $70 for it. If I could copy the raw content out of a word file with zero of the formatting -- hell, if I could generate BAREBONES html output that wasn't full of NON-OPTIONAL spans and embedded CSS intended to preserve whitespace, I'd pay $70 for it.
Permalink muppet 
March 18th, 2005
muppet, have you onsidered FrontPage (it's a WYSIWYG HTML editor)?
Permalink Christopher Wells 
March 18th, 2005
>>> $350 retail for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, and Outlook. That's roughly $70 each.

Not sure where your price comes from, but it costs us Can$600 for a license for Office Pro 2003. Most corporate customers have to buy Open Licenses so they can actually manage their software - it's almost impossible with OEM or Retail versions.

Since we use Exchange, we don't actually need the license for Outlook, so effectively we're paying for only 5 apps. Of those, people mostly use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, so it's more like $200 each. If there were a way to pay less and only get those 3, but have an easy way for someone to use Access the one or two times a year they need it, we'd go for that in an instant.

The original value proposition for the Office suite was that it cost about the same for Office as for a single App. We haven't bought licenses for just one app for a few years, but the last time we did, it was about $500 for a license for excel vs. $800 for Office.

As a customer, there's no way I can look at it as only $70 for a good word processor. The fact that an MS employee can have such a wildly different view of things from a customer is a good indicaion of why so many customers aren't really happy even though they are still buying MS products.
Permalink Ward 
March 18th, 2005
Chris, what I want is to be able to write a document in a word processor, use that document as a word processor document, but should I decide to plug it into the submit form of the CMS on my website, I want a nice, clean HTML version without <meta generator... <style... <doctype... <span style="... all over it.

Frontpage is not that :)
Permalink muppet 
March 18th, 2005
> Would you pay $70 for a good word processor?

Not when there is OpenOffice! If you can somehow differentiate yourself from it, then maybe, but that is a BIG maybe!
Permalink dilbert 
March 18th, 2005
"Not when there is OpenOffice!"

With all my disdain for The Beast - OpenOffice SUCKS!
Permalink Flasher T 
March 18th, 2005
When I buy my new laptop (one of these years :)

1) I'll try OpenOffice

2) I'll give a go to the StarOffice trial version (I think you can download one)

If I'm happy with 1 I'll stick to 1, otherwise I'll go for 2. I need compatibility with some legacy Word stuff.

Most of my friends just rip illegal copies of Microsoft Office, though, without ever trying anything else.
Permalink Daniel Daranas 
March 18th, 2005
Or would you pay 0$ for openoffice??
Permalink Karthik 
March 18th, 2005
What is it about OpenOffice that sucks, and which version are you talking about? Just curious.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 18th, 2005
Don't know where you're getting $350; Amazon lists it at $415. But the point is that Excel is good, and Access is good, but the rest... I might pay $70 for a good word processor, but I wouldn't pay over $20 for PowerPoint, because I don't need it. Nor would I pay for Outlook, since I don't use it. Nor Publisher. Which leaves us with Word, Excel, and Access at $138 each. Or just Excel and Access at over $200 apiece if I don't want to use Word.

On the other hand, each individual program is nearly $200 if purchased by itself, so one could argue that I'm paying the regular price for Excel and Access and am getting Word, Outlook, and PowerPoint thrown in for nothing. But the only thing I know of that Word has over WordPerfect is its VBA integration.
Permalink Kyralessa 
March 18th, 2005
"What is it about OpenOffice that sucks, and which version are you talking about? Just curious."

I'm a technical writer. I write documents in Word and send them to developers for reviewing. It is a rare occurrence indeed when a DOC opened, edited and saved in OpenOffice can be opened again by the copy of Word that created the original without any errors; and I have yet to see it returned with the formatting intact.
Permalink Flasher T 
March 18th, 2005
So OpenOffice sucks because Word has deliberately obfuscated proprietary formats that make it nearly impossible to create interoperable software?

OK.
Permalink muppet 
March 18th, 2005
There's a bunch of similar answers, but whatever the licence cost it isn't some divided per app value that people consider.

What they consider is the whole price and the value of the things they won't use. On the whole you'll get two out of the three applications used and Outlook will be the only common application, the other two will likely be either Word or Excel. Some of course will use more, I use all sorts of apps but I'm statisticaly insignificant.

People generally have a job which requires just one of the major functions but all of them require Email. Whether Outlook is or isn't a good email client is by the by. That being so if I wanted to maximise the number of sales of individual apps then I would unbundle them all, or sell them as paired products with Outlook.

Maximising individual apps hasn't been Microsoft's marketing strategy since the late 80's though, rather its been to provide the entire general suite of applications so that no matter who was using a particular computer they could always use a Microsoft app to achieve what they wanted.

The argument for keeping the Office bundle, but making Access a kind of additional bundle was always that not everyone needed Access but ignored the fact that that was true for all the other apps as well.

As every machine already comes with Outlook Express (whether that's a cut down version of a email client that may or not be good in itself), getting Outlook in their Office bundle is rarely seen by the user (it may be by ICT or the management or someone else), as a benefit its just another similar email thingy and they already had one of them so what's the big deal.

Thus we have the real price, as perceived by the user, which is, granting Philo's street price, $350.00. That's why its seen as expensive.
Permalink Simon Lucy 
March 18th, 2005
Flasher T -

The other half of my question, please: Which version of OpenOffice are you talking about?

Your answer to the first half is something I can understand, but if the people you send to are using a really old version of OO, maybe that problem can be resolved if they use a more recent one. Maybe so, maybe not. I've never had problems quite like you describe, but I a) don't use many of the complex features of either Word or OO so maybe that's the cause, and b) I make sure to use the latest stable release.

I've heard many reports that interoperability has improved in version 2.0, but that's still in beta.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 18th, 2005
"So OpenOffice sucks because Word has deliberately obfuscated proprietary formats that make it nearly impossible to create interoperable software?"

OpenOffice sucks because it won't work with Word properly, and Word is what everyone uses. (Also, in my line of work, Track Changes is the Grail, and OO doesn't have anything like it.)

FWIW, I have never purchased a Word license. The companies I've worked for have, but my own spending habits remain untainted.
Permalink Flasher T 
March 18th, 2005
>I'm a technical writer. I write documents in Word and send
>them to developers for reviewing. It is a rare occurrence
>indeed when a DOC opened, edited and saved in OpenOffice can
> be opened again by the copy of Word that created the
>original without any errors; and I have yet to see it
>returned with the formatting intact.

Personally I think MS Word sucks too. It has its own problems that drive me nuts every day. Besides, the OP did not mention collaboration. I never used OpenOffice in a collaborative way. If I need to share anything, and DOC format is a problem, I create a PDF and send it. If someone needs to edit my document, then that might be a problem I guess, but I could easily have the other person install OpenOffice as well if it is an ongoing thing.

There are applications which require you to do the same like Adobe FrameMaker. Some companies use it, and I don't know of any way to get MS Word recognize that format.
Permalink dilbert 
March 18th, 2005
I think Office is overpriced because it costs more than the damned PC I run it on; it strikes me as being like buying a car for $10,000 and then paying $30,000 a gallon for fuel...

For OpenOffice naysayers, try AbiWord -- I've never had a problem with documents it creates not opening in Word, but I also agree with the notion that it's not OpenOffice's fault that reverse engineering the DOC format hasn't gone perfectly.
Permalink Mat Hall 
March 18th, 2005
Word's track changes scores close to Britney Spears in my personal "most hated" list.
Permalink Daniel Daranas 
March 18th, 2005
Flasher -

Forgive me, but your argument would make more sense worded "Word sucks because it's not interoperable but I have to use it because everybody else is locked into it." Yours really isn't a good argument for why OpenOffice is a bad application.
Permalink muppet 
March 18th, 2005
Muppet, you're thinking like an engineer.

OpenOffice sucks simply because it will not let me do what I want easily. FWIW, I've used OpenOffice myself, and found it less user-friendly than Word (though mostly because the shortcut keys were different).

The simple truth is that the world uses Word, and if OO doesn't work well with Word, that's OO's problem.
Permalink Flasher T 
March 18th, 2005
I have 4 words for you: Student and Teacher Edition.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B0000C0XT1
Permalink Brad Wilson 
March 18th, 2005
Btw, I have OO 1.1.4 installed, and I just checked, and it *can* track changes. Sorry.

Dunno if that interoperates with Word change tracking, but it does have it.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 18th, 2005
Despite being a member of the MS sales team Philo appears extraordinary ignorant about his own companies pricing.

The price for a single copy of Word, Excel, Access, Powerpoint is $229, not the $70 he mentions. Front Page costs $199 and Outlook only $109.

Now of course these prices are theoretical since it is doubtful in anybody anywhere pays them.

Most people who just wanted word might buy Works suite for $99 and get Encarta and a load of junk thrown in. They will however only get Word 2002, and of course Word 2003 is the program that has most changed in the jump from Office 2002 to 2003.

Then of course Outlook costs $109 but if you buy a Pocket PC then you get two copies of Outlook you can install on tow other PCs. And as it is doubtful if it is worth buying Outlook unless you are using Exchange Server or wish to synchronize with a handheld I doubt if there are many sales there.

The company buys office for compatibility reasons and because the suite is worth more than its constituent parts. Access's value increases considerably when you can use it to mail merge into word or analyse your data with Excel. Individuals get the suite at greatly reduced prices - probably about $70 if bundled with a machine and so only viable for the life of the mobo and around $150 if they buy the students or academic editions for which nearly everybody qualifies, and the same price for buying an OEM version not tied to the motherboard for those that don't.

So the question is "Is Office 2003 worth between $70-$150?", and the answer is, probably yes for many people. For a teacher Word XML has got some very useful feautures, and as has been pointed out, Excel has many uses for the home user or small businessman.

But for the average user $70 for a Word Processor is a joke, when Open Office is for free and older OEM editions of Lotus Millenium suite or Word Perfect Suite can be picked up for $30 or even free.
Permalink Stephen Jones 
March 18th, 2005
I find full versions of Office 2003 Pro for anywhere from $200 to $600+. There are plenty of vendors selling it for around $350.

http://www.pricegrabber.com/search_getprod.php/masterid=991291/blsrt=1
Permalink Nathan 
March 18th, 2005
Flasher -

Nope, it has nothing to do with thinking like an engineer, it has everything to do with not thinking like an idiot. You're right, the world is imperfect, but the cause of the situation is not applications that do their level best to work with Word's deliberately evil file format, the trouble is anti-competitive and anti-social practices by a convicted monopolist corporation.
Permalink muppet 
March 18th, 2005
*shrug* Fair enough. But our clients give us more money if we have nice-looking Word docs.
Permalink Flasher T 
March 18th, 2005
For a Mac user, the answer seems to be "yes, or at least if an awesome presentation program is included with it."

Pages and Keynote (iWork) are $79. Haven't bought it yet, but buzz is that a lot of people are and finding it worth that much. I did play with Pages at an Apple Store, and like everything else from Apple, it's frickin' gorgeous. Makes you want to start a newsletter or something just so you can play with it.

From a UI standpoint, it's very different from everything else out there, in a good way. Most things are done through the Inspector, a kind of floating palette that changes to reflect all the things you can do with the current selection. Word Mac has a similar idea, but Pages goes much farther with it.

The idea of separating content from presentation with the use of a powerful style system is there, but perhaps not to the extent of muppet's idea of an HTML/CSS separation.

Keynote rocks, too. It's what the Steve uses, so buying it to do presentations is kinda like buying Air Jordans so you can fly like Mike (sorry, dating myself).
Permalink Jim Rankin 
March 18th, 2005
"(sorry, dating myself)"

It's ok -- Onanism isn't a crime, and we all do it...
Permalink Mat Hall 
March 18th, 2005
> *shrug* Fair enough. But our clients give us more money if
> we have nice-looking Word docs.

Nice looking? Why, do they hang your Word docs on their walls? *laugh*
Permalink dilbert 
March 18th, 2005
Speaking of which, I think we should start a thread dicussing whether Photoshop (or the entire Adobe and Macromedia suite) cost too much.
Permalink Li-fan Chen 
March 18th, 2005
The only input I have in this matter is not even a strong point, but here goes, the guy who paid USD$40 for a text editor? He is probably going to do something amazing with it. The guy who just kinda paid the USD$350 tax for Office? Might or might not create a New York Time best seller. If you look at download/preinstallation vs purchase, that's the picture you get between MS Office and some odd text editor.
Permalink Li-fan Chen 
March 18th, 2005
I wouldn't even pay $70 for Word. As far as I'm concerned, Office 95 would meet 95% of my word processing needs. Hell, even that old AtariWriter from 1982 would do! (It was actually damn good)

I current use Office 2K, but I'm definitely looking at using OpenOffice. The 1.1.4 version is a nice improvement over the 1.0 I tried a while back.
Permalink QADude 
March 18th, 2005
"There are applications which require you to do the same like Adobe FrameMaker. Some companies use it, and I don't know of any way to get MS Word recognize that format."

FrameMaker can save to RTF, that should work. As you noticed, Microsoft didn't really bother to keep their import/export filters up-to-date once they got 95%+ marketshare... hell, Word still can't produce PDF files out of the box.
Permalink Chris Nahr 
March 18th, 2005
Would I pay $70 for Word?

Personally, no, because of OpenOffice.

If I own a business, then I have to, because everyone else is using it.

If I have a choice, it depends on the price for the upgrades.
Permalink Rick Tang 
March 18th, 2005
I guess there's a reason they call it Microsoft OFFICE then...
Permalink MarkTAW 
March 18th, 2005
They aren't separate in my mind. They are one single application now. Breaking out each function by price seems an odd thing to consider. It's like asking how much is the control panel worth to you.
Permalink son of parnas 
March 18th, 2005
I agree that Word, Excel and Access should go together, with the option of not buying Access.

Powerpoint and Outlook should be seperate.

Do anyone script PP and OL with VBA?
Permalink Rick Tang 
March 18th, 2005
I scripted Outlook from Access once because I was too lazy to just do a new e-mail every time I needed to send out an update once a week.

(I think laziness, not necessity, is the true mother of invention. There's nothing that can be done through programming that can't be done some longer, more boring way too.)
Permalink Kyralessa 
March 18th, 2005
On the subject of buying a car for $10,000 and then paying $30,000 a gallon for fuel, I calculate that an average car wil run for 130,000 miles. Most carns get about 20 mpg. And gas is $2/gallon. 130000/20*2 = $13,000 you spend on gas for your $10,000 car.
Permalink Rich Rogers 
March 18th, 2005
20 is pretty poor gas mileage, only SUV's get that kind of mileage. 30-40 is much more common.
Permalink MarkTAW 
March 18th, 2005
Mark -

On what planet is 30-40MPG more common than 20-30? Maybe on a moped.
Permalink muppet 
March 18th, 2005
http://www.toyota.com/vehicles/modelselector/mpg.html

The worst car in the Toyota lineup gets 31 MPG highway.
Permalink MarkTAW 
March 18th, 2005
That's under optimal conditions. The car is spec'ed for that. Find me an actual Toyota actually on the road that actually gets that.

Good luck.
Permalink muppet 
March 18th, 2005
Move somewhere with a real gallon and your MPG will automagically jump 20%.

OT, interoperability is key and file formats are killer items in the purchase decision checklist. "Roundtripping" is the stuff of nightmare in CAD circles when tiny important details break during external file interchange.
Permalink trollop 
March 18th, 2005
My Toyota Corolla averages 25+ MPG, and it's fifteen years old.
Permalink Kyralessa 
March 19th, 2005

This topic was orginally posted to the off-topic forum of the
Joel on Software discussion board.

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