Although a specific date is unknown, Microsoft should be releasing the consumer retail versions of its Office 2013 suite sometime before the end of the month. As we discovered in early October, the final release-to-manufacturing build has already been produced, and has been available to volume licensees ever since.
If you're a regular consumer who can't wait to get their hands on the final build and want it now, Microsoft has you covered. It's just begun offering a trial of the full retail Office 2013 Professional Plus edition, which lasts for 60 days. This edition includes all of Microsoft's Office products, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, Access and Lync.
As Professional Plus is aimed at larger businesses, most home and small business users will find some of the included apps to be pointless. As such, the regular edition of Professional foregoes most of the exotic software, leaving Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access. That edition will retail for $399.99. Home & Student will remain the most attractive option for regular users, offering the same as above but removing Outlook, Publisher and Access. This edition will retail for $139.99.
Despite Microsoft now offering a trial for the stand-alone edition of Office 2013, it's clear that its real push is the subscription-based Office 365, and in many ways, it is more attractive. For $99.99 a year, users will be able to support up to 5 PCs, add Access and Publisher to the mix (vs. the stand-alone Home & Student), gain 20GB to your SkyDrive account, be given 60 minutes of Skype world-calling per month and be rest-assured that you'll always be kept up to date.
I'm not what you'd call an Office enthusiast, but I've been using a trial of Office 2013 for the past month and I have to admit that I've been rather impressed. To me, this is much more of a major upgrade than the move from 2003 to 2007 was. The aesthetics are greatly improved, and so is the implementation of many features I use most often. Still, is it worth upgrading to from 2007? Give the trial a download and see for yourself. You'll have the benefit of being able to run it alongside earlier Office versions, so you'll be able to easily uninstall it if you wish to go back to your usual install.