Only 2 weeks until Office 2010 beta expires

October 17, 2010 at 2:01 pm

The witching hour is near. Just two weeks from today — on October 31 (Halloween) — the beta version of Office 2010 will go “poof!” Its demise is unlikely to be marked with a puff of smoke or similar theatrics, but it will stop working as of November 1, 2010.

In order to continue using Office 2010 after the expiration date, you’ll need to do one of two things: (1) download a trial version (good for 60 days); or (2) buy a retail version of the suite (or of individual components thereof, such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint — which are, in fact, sold separately).

Microsoft has made available a confusing array of versions of the Office 2010 suite. You can find a list on the company’s Office 2010 pricing information page. You’ll note that Microsoft offers two different sets of prices for each edition of the suite. One is the “estimated retail” price (and it is, in fact, just an estimate; you might be able to do better if you buy the software at a major office supply store or order it from Amazon or a similar site), and the other is the price for the software if you use a “Product Key Card.”

As always, do your due diligence before making a purchase. Although at first blush it appears that the Product Key Card will get you a better price, looks can be deceiving. In fact. the retail price can end up being a better bargain because the license included with most retail versions permits you to install the software on up to three different computers. whereas with the Product Key Card, you will be able to install the suite only on a single machine. For more information, see this post (“Office 2010 – comparing the value of box and Product Key Card”) on the Office Watch site, as well as this one (“No savings with the Office 2010 Product Key Card”).

To compare the different editions of the suite, take a look at this page on Microsoft’s site, and some of the links thereon.

If you decide to download a trial version from Microsoft, you will need to create a (free) Windows Live account — assuming you don’t have one already — and provide your contact information. After doing so, you will be taken to a page that has a link to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Office 2010 trial; be sure to read the FAQs — or at least skim them — prior to starting the download. Also, you should uninstall the beta before downloading the trial version.

Depending on which version you download, the downloading method you use, and the speed of your connection, it could take several hours to complete the process. There is a chart on the FAQs page that estimates the various download times.

Once you have downloaded the trial version, you’ll need to activate it. There is a FAQ that explains how to do so.

The trial period will run from the date you activate the software. As the deadline approaches, you will see a pop-up whenever you start one of the programs in the suite, reminding you that you will need to convert to (purchase) a full retail version shortly. If you don’t buy a full version prior to the expiration of the trial, the software will go into “Reduced Functionality” mode. That is, it will remain on your computer, and you might be able to open the programs, but you won’t be able to create new documents or save any modifications to existing ones. (Microsoft says the software will act like a viewer rather than an editor.)

One very important caution: When you install (set up) the software– whether the trial version or a full retail edition — go slowly and pay close attention, especially if you have one or more earlier versions of Office that you wish to keep on your computer, in addition to Office 2010.[1] In particular, watch carefully to see if you are presented with the option to “Upgrade.” Unless you are certain that you want to remove the earlier version(s), do not accept the “Upgrade” option! If you accept, the installer will replace your prior version(s) with Office 2010, and you will not be able to reinstall those older versions unless you have the original installation disks.

Instead, choose the “Customize” option. When you do, you will be presented with three choices, including one labeled “Keep all versions” (or something similar).[2] Make sure to select that option before proceeding.

[1] Various versions of Office can coexist on the same machine, with one notable exception: You can have only one version of Outlook at a time, so you will have to choose the version you prefer at the time of installation. Again, go slowly and methodically so that you don’t accidentally remove software you intended to keep.

[2] The other two choices involve removing older versions of the office suite or individual components thereof.

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