Friday, January 26, 2018

Windows vs. Office - a relationship seemingly designed to confuse people!

Okay...let's start with a joke. And if you've read this one before, feel free to scroll past it! :-)

ABBOTT:  Super Duper computer store. Can I help you?
COSTELLO: Thanks. I'm  setting up an office in my den and I'm thinking about buying a computer. 
COSTELLO: No, the name's Lou.
ABBOTT:  Your computer?
COSTELLO: I don't own a computer. I want to buy one.
COSTELLO: I told you, my name's Lou.
ABBOTT: What about Windows?
COSTELLO: Why? Will it get stuffy in here?
ABBOTT: Do you want a computer with Windows?
COSTELLO: I don't know. What will I see when I look at the windows?
ABBOTT: Wallpaper.
COSTELLO: Never mind the windows. I need a computer and software.
ABBOTT: Software for Windows?
COSTELLO: No. On the computer! I need something I can use  to write proposals, track expenses and run my business. What do you have?
ABBOTT: Office.
COSTELLO: Yeah, for my office. Can you recommend anything?
ABBOTT: I just did.
COSTELLO: You just did what?
ABBOTT: Recommend something.
COSTELLO: You recommended something?
COSTELLO: For my office?
COSTELLO: OK, what did you recommend for my office?
ABBOTT: Office.
COSTELLO: Yes, for my office!
ABBOTT: I recommend Office with Windows
COSTELLO: I  already have an office with windows! OK, let's just say I'm sitting at my computer and I want to type a proposal. What do I need?
ABBOTT:  Word.
COSTELLO: What word?
ABBOTT: Word in Office.
COSTELLO: The only word in office is office.
ABBOTT:  The Word in Office for Windows.
COSTELLO: Which word in office for windows?
ABBOTT: The Word you get when you click the blue 'W'.
COSTELLO: I'm going to click your blue 'w' if you don't start with some straight answers. What about financial bookkeeping? You have anything I can track my money with?
ABBOTT:  Money.
COSTELLO: That's right. What do you have?
ABBOTT:  Money.
COSTELLO: I need money to track my money?
ABBOTT: It comes bundled with your computer.
COSTELLO: What's bundled with my computer?
ABBOTT: Money.
COSTELLO: Money comes with my computer?
ABBOTT: Yes. No extra charge.
COSTELLO: I get a bundle of money with my computer? How much?
ABBOTT: One copy.
COSTELLO: Isn't it illegal to copy money?
ABBOTT:  Microsoft gave us a license to copy Money.
COSTELLO: They can give you a license to copy money?
(A few days later)
ABBOTT: Super Duper computer store. Can I help you?
COSTELLO: How do I turn my computer off?
ABBOTT: Click on 'START'.............

I am often asked questions about Windows and Office that reveal a very common confusion among everyday computer users about what exactly are these software products and what do they do for you. So let me see if I can resolve some of the confusion once and for all!

A computer is just a collection of electronic components without some software to allow it to accomplish basic functions. This basic software is called the “Operating System”. Computers by companies other than Apple are typically called “PCs” and the vast majority of them run the “Microsoft Windows” operating system. Apple computers, which include the iMac and Macbook, plus a few others, run Apple’s “Mac OS” operating system. Most PCs in use today run Windows 7 or Windows 10, and most Apple computers run some version of Mac OS X (pronounced oh-es-ten).

Completely separate from your operating system is the productivity software that you use to get your work done. Many years ago, Microsoft started bundling together their e-mail, calendar, and contact management software – called “Outlook” – with their word processor (“Word”), spreadsheet (“Excel”), presentation software (“PowerPoint”), and a few other programs too. This bundle of productivity software is called, collectively, “Microsoft Office”.

Microsoft used to name versions of both Windows and Office based on the year in which they were released – Windows 95 and Office 95, Windows 98 and Office 98, Windows 2000 and Office 2000. But after the year 2000, Microsoft has been wildly inconsistent in how they have named these products. Windows diverged after Windows 2000 and the last few versions have been called Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 10. In the meantime, Office continued matching its name with the year of release through Office 2013, and then Office 365 came out. With Office 365, which is a subscription-based product, it is very difficult to know what version you actually have of various programs since they update it frequently over the Internet. You are also charged for your subscription based on when you bought Office 365 and NOT based on when Microsoft has something new to offer to you.

To add even more confusion, the versions of programs WITHIN Microsoft Office may still be found to correspond to the year. For example, you may have Office 365, but your version of Microsoft Word may be “Word 2016”. It is possible, however, that newer versions of Office 365 may contain programs whose versions track with the year – such as “Excel 2018”, or they may start tracking with the version of Office – such as “PowerPoint 2018”. Microsoft has been a bit unclear about their plans in this regard.

So, in summary, if somebody asks you what version of Windows you have (like a telephone tech support person), they are talking about your operating system – most likely Windows 7 or Windows 10 (for now!). If you are asked about your version of Office, that has to do with your collection of productivity programs and you may have Office 2013, Office 365, or something else older or newer. Finally, if they want to know your specific version of a program such as Outlook, Word, or Excel, they will have to walk you through checking the version of that program, or, possibly, take over your computer by remote control to check it out themselves!

I hope this is at least somewhat helpful in clearing up the confusion. As always, leave a comment or send an e-mail if you have questions.