Do I qualify?To qualify for these prices, you need to fit 2 criteria:
You can get the discounted downloads from Microsoft's special promotion website, The Ultimate Steal. Simply click buy, then fill in the forms as you would for any other online purchase.
Windows 7 upgrade for £30
For £30, you can upgrade to the latest incarnation of Microsoft's operating system, Windows 7, which improves on Vista's performance and offers a more intuitive and slick interface. We shan't get into the details here as there are far too many; read TechRadar's full review for the lowdown.
Both home and professional upgrade versions are available for the same price. The professional version adds a few extra features; 'Windows XP mode', which emulates XP to run older programs that won't work properly on 7; 'Domain Join', which is for quickly joining office domains remotely; and automatic backup, which does just that.
Can I upgrade?
Chances are most users of XP, and all users of Vista, should be able to upgrade without too much hassle, though some will need to do a clean install (i.e. back up all important files and then totally erase the hard drive and start again from scratch).
To save people grabbing the software that can't actually use it, Microsoft offers a free Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor, which'll tell you what's possible and what you need to do to get up and running, so download and run this first. Here's a quick list of basic system requirements for running Windows 7.
Office 2007 Ultimate for £39
Microsoft isn't skimping on the package you get for the cash, though it's worth noting that it's due to launch a new version - Office 2010 - in the first six months of next year. This is the top of the range 'ultimate' edition, including:
Cheap Office for Mac
Mac users can also get discounted Office software, though not direct from Microsoft. Both RM software and software4students sell Office 2008 Mac to students for £35.33 with free delivery, though this version isn't as comprehensive, comprising Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Entourage (email & task manager) only.
The websites above also offer cheap student deals on a whole range of other software, so they're worth checking regardless. To qualify for the cheap prices, the licensee must be a full-time school, college or university student, though purchases can be made by parents.
Free office alternatives
Whilst the prices above are far more palatable than the list prices, there are numerous other applications that provide the same functionality (or, in the case of online versions, even more) for the grand price of nada, zilch, zip. All of them and more are listed in the Free Office Software guide (plus free anti-virus etc in the Kit Out Your PC guide), but here's are the top few.
Online office suites are a big growth area, with even Microsoft itself getting in on the action; its Office 2010 will add a range of online features. As well as Google's docs, popular ones include: