Easy Ways to Save Money on Microsoft Office 2010

Amazon.com's selling the upgrade version of Office Small Business 2007 for $228.49, a $121.51 savings over the $349 for the single-license key card for Office Professional 2010. (A purchase of Small Business 2007 makes you eligible for an upgrade to Professional 2010.)

No Money Down, Free for Two Months...or Six

Microsoft hasn't yet shipped the retail versions of Office 2010, but it's already posted a free 60-day trial of Office Professional Plus 2010 on its TechNet site.

When you request the 650MB download, Microsoft generates an activation code that's good for 60 days.

You can extend the free deal to as long as six months -- assuming you time things right -- by not applying the activation code.

Instead, you'll use a technique dubbed "rearm" (named after the command in Windows that does a similar trick) to extend the life of the free trial to as long as half a year.

Like Windows 7, Office 2010 will run up to 30 days without a 25-character activation code. As the grace period comes to a close, however, increasingly-frequent messages appear on the screen to remind you that it's about to end. But by invoking a rearm, you can reset the time-until-activation to 30 days.

Office 2010 lets you rearm up to five times; with the original 30-day grace period, that means you can run the suite for 180 days free of charge.

The "My Digital Life" blog outlines the one-step Office 2010 rearm process.

Free Forever

While you can't have Office 2010 free for longer than six months, you can use the Office Web Apps free-of-charge for as long as you want.

Microsoft will roll out Office Web Apps on Windows Live starting June 15. (The company's said it might take several weeks to reach everyone, as it will make the online software available in stages around the world.)

Included in Office Web Apps will be scaled-back online editions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, the latter Microsoft's lesser-known note-taker.

But be warned: The online editions pale in comparison to their desktop cousins, with glaring omissions -- you can't print, for instance -- and an overarching attitude that Microsoft "is less than thrilled with the whole idea of online office suites," as Harry McCracken of Technologizer put it in his excellent eval of Office 2010 and Office Web apps this week. (McCracken is a former editor-in-chief of PCWorld, a sister publication to Computerworld.)

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at Twitter @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed Keizer RSS. His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

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