Upgrade Before Microsoft Office 2003 Support Ends in April 2014

September 2, 2013

Microsoft Office 2003 Support EndsLast week I told you to Put a Plan in Place to Upgrade From Windows XP before its support ends in April 2014. The clock is ticking and now there are only 217 days left (when this post first appeared). On that same date, support also ends for Microsoft Office 2003.

Why is it so important to stop using either Windows XP and Microsoft Office 2003 before support ends? Think about how you feel when the lottery jackpot grows and you dream about the insanely slim possibility that you would hold the winning ticket.

That’s exactly how many hackers feel about support ending for a very popular operating system and office suite. If the hackers can find a security hole and infect thousands or even millions of computers, they can have their own lottery payday. So if you think there isn’t motivation for these criminals to hack your computer, you really need to think again. And no matter how hard you try to be safe, they will be trying even harder to find a way to infect your computer and take it over!

Reasons Users Give for Sticking With Office 2003

Microsoft Office 2003 was the last version with two features that users claim to be very important. First, it was the last version with a menu system. Microsoft replaced the menus with the ribbon in all future versions of Office, including Office 2013. The second big change was to the file formats of each of the programs. In a memo Bill Gates wrote to employees in early 2002, he made it clear that Microsoft “can and must do better” with regards to security. File format changes were necessary because of many Office vulnerabilities involving malformed data files.

If your concern is about the change in data files, the newer versions of Microsoft Office can open all of the old files just fine. They can also save backwards to the old formats, though there are times that something can be lost when saving backwards.

For that worried about the “ribbon” interface, it just isn’t that hard to switch. I remember having to look around for something the first few days, but after a very short time I was able to find everything I needed to find. If you really, really, really must have menus, there are add-ons that will restore the menus. I highly recommend you at least give the ribbon a chance first!

A few users also say their decision to stick with Office 2003 is either because it does everything they need or they claim that their finances don’t allow for an upgrade. When your computer is hacked and you have to pay someone to clean up the mess, how much is that going to cost you? I guarantee you it will be a lot more than whatever you’ll pay to get a new version. Office 2003 certainly can’t do everything you need after April 2014 as it won’t keep your computer safe! You may also be surprised to find some new features that truly are helpful to you.

Folks, we’re talking about software released in 2002. It is already eleven years old! It is time to quit living with ancient technology and move to something newer.

Security Holes Patched in the Last Year

If you don’t think Office 2003 is insecure, we only need to look at the security bulletins Microsoft has released in the last year. There have been 10 security bulletins from August 2012 through July 2013 and 5 of those security bulletins were rated as critical. Even though this is very mature software, security holes are still being found quite regularly and those holes will continue to be found after April 2014. The difference is that Microsoft won’t release a patch to close the hole and your system will be at the mercy of a very motivated group of hackers.

A Few Office Options to Consider

Some of you will say this is just a grand plot for Microsoft to sell you new software and there is a small bit of truth in that. If you released a product or project 11 years ago, would you still want to go back and keep it updated for customers who haven’t bought anything in more than ten years? Sure, they want to sell new software, but they are tired of paying programmers to fix ancient software.

The first option is to get the latest version of Microsoft Office. For non-corporate customers, it is only available as a download. For a small business, one of the better choices for a one-time purchase is Microsoft Office Home and Business 2013. Another option is Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium, though you are purchased a 1-year subscription. There are a variety of options and each of them is listed on the pages I provided. Complain about the price if you like, but I guarantee any of the prices are less than you’ll pay to get the infection removed from your computer if you stick with Office 2003.

For those of you who would prefer to purchase a suite from a different software provider, Corel WordPerfect X6 is an option. While it most likely has the features you need, it does work differently from Microsoft Office. And if you want a free option that runs on your own computer, you may want to investigate LibreOffice.

Those are only some of the many options that are available. The key is that you really need to investigate the options and make a change before Microsoft ends support for Office 2003 in April 2014. The perfect choice for you is not necessarily the product that is best for me. That said, I’ve been very happy with Microsoft Office 2010 and will soon be moving to Microsoft Office 2013.

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