Microsoft Office 2010 Starter Is Not Worth The Price

  • MORE

Now that Microsoft Office 2010 has hit the streets, new netbooks and notebooks will no longer come with Microsoft Works and a limited free trial of the Office suite. Instead, users will have the option to purchase or activate one of the full versions of the program or roll with the pre-installed Starter edition.

We’ve known for a while that this was coming and that Starter would have some limitations. I myself predicted that this “choice” would send consumers running for free alternatives like OpenOffice. After having used Starter, I’m sure of it.

Office 2010’s Starter Edition is meant to give users a taste of the new suite while taking away enough features to ensure they’ll want to upgrade. The moving ad in the corner, the even more annoying ribbon on top (I know, I didn’t think it could get more annoying, either), and the sidebar taking up way too much space in my work window are definitely enough to annoy me away from the program. Then there are these lists of all the things Word Starter and Excel Starter won’t do. My favorites:

  • No Ribbon customizations
  • No footnotes/endnotes
  • No citations or bibliography
  • No comments
  • No Track Changes
  • No document protection
  • No PivotTables/Pivot Charts
  • No connections to external data
  • No changing column and row headings

There are a few other differences to note here. Users can still open documents with these and other features, but Starter won’t create or modify any of them. It’s like Microsoft took a list of things students were most likely to need and made sure to hamper or disable them all.

The most annoying aspect in my eyes is the sidebar on the right. It takes up a lot of pixels. So many that, when on a standard 1024 x 600 netbook screen, there isn’t always enough room to see a full page horizontally at 100 percent zoom. You have to take it down to 90 percent unless you like wider margins.

This sidebar is persistent because that’s where the ad unit is. Right now it appears to only run Microsoft ads, though that will change soon, I'm sure. Thing is, the MS ads are bad enough -- they won’t stop moving. The animation is limited to slides that change too often right now, but it doesn’t fill me with confidence for the company’s ad quality control. Are we going to get animated ads next? Will random music start playing?

This, of course, distracts from whatever you’re trying to do. In a word processor, it’s a safe bet you’re likely writing. Try concentrating on that with an ever changing image in the corner annoying you for attention every 3 seconds.

Via this ad I learned that right now Microsoft Office 2010 Home and Student is only $119, down from $149. That’s nice to know. However, if I’m a college kid on a budget, or the parent of a college kid on a budget, or just a person in the world on a budget, and I’ve just paid hundreds of dollars for a computer, I might not have $119 for an office suite. Especially if the computer in question is a secondary device, like a netbook.

If I were the people behind I would find some way to scrounge up the money to advertise the fact that your product offers far, far more functionality than Office 2010 Starter but is just as free. And doesn’t come with ads! There’s a huge opportunity here, especially with the Back to School season around the corner.

I’d offer the same advice to Mozilla, who really hasn’t done enough to promote Thunderbird 3.0 as a viable alternative to Outlook for consumers and businesses.

My advice? Don’t even bother with Starter if you don’t intend to buy the full version of Office 2010. Just download OpenOffice and get on with life. If you’re not a fan of OpenOffice, you’d still be better off finding inexpensive (and unopened) older versions of Office still lingering on the Internet then settling for this free alternative.

Add a comment
  • Jonathan Says:

    I'm using Starter, and would agree with all the complaints. On my small notebook the available space left is too small to see a lot of documents (and makes trying to minimize windows in order to look at two documents at once almost impossible). I recently corrected a book chapter for someone, and was really annoyed by not being able to show comments/track changes. And right now I'm upset because I can't do footnotes either.

    So yeah, I'm downloading Open Office now and hoping that that works for those purposes.

    p.s. - yes, Office Starter works for some grandpas, and even for simple users like me 90% of the time...but I doubt that those users are the kind of people looking to this blog for advice on word programs.

  • Steve Says:

    As a PC technician I can tell you Starter works for easily 90 percent of my residential clients, and of the rest they would for the most part purchase the full version or get their kids to pirate a copy before using OO. Agree with comments above, students rarely pay for software and Tbird needs to DIE.

  • Mitch Says:

    Oh and as for the comment about Thunderbird, it is not a viable alternative to Outlook - it is buggy and corrupts emails. If people want a free alternative to Outlook they should use Windows Live Mail. When compared with Thunderbird it has a cleaner UI, is more responsive, and more importantly does not corrupt emails.

  • Mitch Says:

    For a free product it isn't bad. Of course functionality is going to be reduced in a free version of commercial software, what did you expect? For someone who occasionally needs to write a letter or create a simple spreadsheet it is great. I use Office Starter along with Windows Live Mail on my laptop and for what I need this works just fine. If you aren't happy with Office Starter you can always upgrade or use free alternatives, I don't see the problem.

  • Howard Says:

    Download OfficeAdRemover by Ondrej Pokorny. Google it and download. It removes the annoying sidebar.

  • Jono Says:

    I'm typing this on my Father's new laptop and think it's absolutely fine for a FREE product - and a million times better than Microsoft Works, which is an oxymoron if ever there was one! I myself use Open Office at home and 2007/10 at work and yeah, ok, the adverts can be irritating but for someone like my old man, this has all the functionality he'll ever need without having to fork out for the full version, or getting confused by Open Office ("Son - what's an odt file?!").

  • serious sam Says:

    Let's be real. When it comes to the average college kid, they'll have no problem pirating the full MS Office suite. On their computers, you're also likely to find Adobe CS5 and 2TB of music and video they didn't pay for.

    My point is that I don't see any victims here at all.

  • chris Says:

    what your referring to is the STARTER!!!! of course its going to have ads and not have full access to all its features. its to try to persuade you buy it. If you went out and bought the full version, you wouldn't have ads and you would have access to all of the features. I have tried both Open Office and Libre Office and when trying to make a collage, it freezes and you can't move forward with your project. I would Highly recommend getting Office 2010 or an older version.

  • jean Says:

    Have just bought a netbook with Office 2010 starter. Am busy deleting it. No space left to to work! Will try Open Office and if I don't like it, then back to good old Office 97 professional - designed for adults who don't like stupid colours - that works brilliantly with Vista and XP on my other machines and will probably work with 7. Can't believe the amount of pre-installed trash on my new netbook. it's so irritating to lose an evening's work just making the thing comfortable to use. Why do I want ebay and amazon pre-installed, for pity's sake? It's like buying a fridge and finding it comes full of junk food and thing you're allergic to...

  • Greg Says:

    Office starter 2010 works fine on my 1920-1080 monitor (desktop computer) and offers the basic functionality that myself and most home users need. It might be a poor product for notebooks, but for free on my desktop I"m not complaining. I'm so used to banners and adds as part of my computer experience that I don't even notice them.

  • stan reichardt Says:

    An excellent free alternative to the suite is the forked code of the LibreOffice Suite managed by The Document Foundation. Runs on Windows, Mac OS-X, and Linux platforms. Both the and LibreOffice packages are full featured office suites that import and export Microsoft formatted files quite well.

    Also, there is the free cross platform AbiWord package for really simple word processing work. Small (7.9 Mb), fast and lots of features.

    All of above are Free Open Source Software (FOSS) without any adware or significant licensing issues.

  • Anthony Says:

    To Matt Harding:

    1024x600 is the standard resolution on the latest small netbooks. All those 10.1 inch screens. Personally I love OpenOffice for my PC but what should my kid use on his new netbook?

  • Michael Says:

    Wouldn't it be funny to see Open Office and Mozilla purchase ads to run in MS Office 2010 Starter promoting Open Office and Thunderbird?

  • Roxanne Harris Says:

    I'm confused??

    What do you mean that you can put in a serial number and get all the features unlocked for Office starter?

    And will that silly advert go away? where do I get the serial number from?

    And I thought that you had to pay to get the serial number, which is okay if it's not so expensive. I swear it costs half of what some netbooks go for!!!

  • Matt Harding Says:

    Office Starter Edition costs OEMs about US$5 to install on your nice new PC/laptop/whatever; so in essence it costs you absolutely nothing.

    If you dont like it, uninstall it; that process takes maybe 2 minutes? If you want to upgrade to ANY other Microsoft Office 2010 Suite; your computer has the files installed already, just punch in the serial number & all of the features of your suite will be made available...

    "Not Worth The Price"? but its basically free?! Honestly K. T. Bradford; I wonder if anything would make you happy.

    Oh, and who's PC has a screen res of 1024x600 these days? sounds like a complaint that will not be shared by an overwhelming majority of the population.

  • Rober Says:

    What if Starter comes free already installed on a netbook? would you trash it? sounds to me as if I would end up pissed off after about 10 minutes... I hate intrusive ads in products for which I pay.

  • pint Says:

    Openoffice wont need Java to run. The only things which may complain about java, are some useless wizards. Openoffice itself works perfectly without java.

    There's another thing, which Excel Starter cannot do - unfreeze frozen panels.

  • JJ_T Says:

    Well... not all people are as lucky as you. :(

    Some still have very old systems to work on.

  • K. T. Bradford Says:

    On a system with a 160GB or 250GB hard drive, 250 extra MB isn't going to harm you. And I've been running OpenOffice on my Samsung NC10 with 1GB of RAM and haven't noticed any undue sluggishness.

  • JJ_T Says:

    The alternatives you all suggested still needs Java to run on. That's an extra 250 Mb of lost hard drive space, not even to mention all the RAM it eats. :(

    Now who needs bloatware on their systems? ;)

  • KSO_user Says:

    There si much better choice now. It is called Kingsoft Office 2010 from BinaryNow. No advertisement and better compatibility with docx, xlsx, pptx than Openoffice and mainly, small, fast, no ribbom, perfect option for netbook users. It is not free, but I gladly paid $40 for it, after I got chance to test the trial from:

  • Paul Says:

    You got a choice....
    You got alternatives...

    Its OpenOffice! Its free. Its a very good alternative.

Back to top