Saturday, December 1, 2018

Microsoft giveth and Microsoft taketh... or: the death of Office 2010


I was the proud owner (user? licenseholder?) of Microsoft Office 2010. And now it is no more...

An arm and a leg

Admittedly, it wasn't a normal retail copy. Back in 2010 Microsoft would charge an arm and a leg for a regular Office package, so private users could hardly afford a (legal) copy. Fortunately my employer at the time supported the 'you can use Office at home as long as you are en employee' thingy deal.

A good run

That was in 2010, and 8 years and one employer later it was still working. Until today.

I cannot complain. I mean, I was using a legally installed version on my home machine, even after I switched to a new employer. Which, in effect, made it illegal I guess. But it still worked, though I rarely used it. (LibreOffice all the way here, baby!)

Today, it died. Rightfully so in my case.

But what if you purchased an online version back in 2010, and decided to reinstall your PC today? What if you were completely happy with your (old) copy of the (old) Office 2010? What if you didn't need the new fancy features of later editions, and weren't worried about security issues with the old version of Office? What if?

You'd be desperate. I'd be desperate, as of today.

You see, the whole validation server for Office 2010 seems to have disappeared. Bye bye legally acquired Office.

The (mouse) click of death

It's somewhat sad that platform owners (Sony PlayStation, Microsoft Xbox, Valve's Steam) can with a click of a button block you from using software you purchased. That is, if you purchased the software, because typically you purchased a license and that license gives you certain user rights. Unfortunately most of those licenses give the seller / manufacturer the right to withdraw your right to use it. Whenever they want.

Or they do not revoke your right, they simply switch off the license validation server, so you can no longer activate your software... euh, their software. So you'd still have the right to use it, but you can't because you cannot activate.

Such is life. It's understandable, as companies need to make money. Even if I don't like the arbitrary and lopsided nature of the deal, I have little choice but can live with it.

It's getting worse if software is entirely linked with hardware. Yeah, the license probably states something like: 'only for installation on one PC' but is that one PC one time (your typical Windows OEM license) or just one PC at a time (which means you could transfer it to another machine if you get new hardware).

It's in the license!

Yeah, well, that's where the problem lies. It's sometimes in the license. But not always. And it might simply be written in such a way that it's completely non-understandable. And often the only moment you get to see the license is after you purchased the product.

Proof in case: I considered buying Microsoft Office 2019, and visited the Microsoft website. And started looking for the license conditions of Office 2019... and there is... drum roll... absolutely nothing.

I think every software manufacturer should be very clear about this, and the license should be readable on their website so you can read it before purchase. The license should be in regular readable language, not a zillion words long, and at least mention the following:

  1. Can you use the product on more than one PC simultaneously?
  2. Can more than one user use the product simultaneously?
  3. Is there a limit to the number of automated installs or activations? If so, how many?
  4. Can this number be increased?
  5. Can the license be moved to a new PC? Is it bound to specific hardware?
  6. What will you do once you discontinue the product? Can people still activate it?

So here's my call: dear producer, author, manufacturer, software company: tell us about your license, and tell us up-front. You expect fair play from your customers, so please do the same.

No more Microsoft Office?

I was about to purchase my copy of Office 2019, a kind of impulse purchase, but managed to stop myself in time. I don't need it. LibreOffice works just fine. It's not 100% compatible with Microsoft Office (complex Word documents get messed up) but it is good enough for me.

I still would have bought Microsoft Office 2019. But I couldn't figure out if I would be able to use it on another (newer) PC once the current one dies. It will, one day, or I just might want to get something faster. (I'd probably switch to Linux the same day, unless some specific application or game would require Windows. I still use Windows. For now.)

Sorry Microsoft. No deal this time. But don't worry, you're not the only one doing their best to confuse their customers.

In a way software companies are like governments: you give them your money, but you're never entirely sure what you will get in exchange.


I actually like it, and it has been stable for me. My biggest complaint would be it seems to be quite a bit slower than Word when you're using too many images and other graphical frills.

But still. It serves me well. I guess I'll continue without MS Office then (I consider Office 365 too expensive).

Give LibreOffice a try.


If you sometimes change your word-processor and sometimes use complex layouts then I strongly suggest to save your document, once ready and done, as a PDF as well. Then you won't have to struggle with layouts and fonts when re-opening / re-printing an older document.

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