Office 2013 on Demand

A temporary copy of Office 2013 on a computer.

The concept of ‘Office on Demand’ started with Office 2010 (the Starter edition and Office to Go) but is being expanded in Office 2013 for subscription customers.

Office on Demand uses ‘Click to Run’ technology to install Office directly from the Internet using streaming. It’s different from a standard installation that drops the entire program onto a computer for permanent use. ‘Click to Run’ create a minimal ‘sandbox’ on a computer and only downloads the parts of Office that it needs to run.

Microsoft has been shamelessly pushing streaming technology as the way to preview Office 2013 while burying the traditional download.

Office 365 users with a software subscription is another example of ‘on Demand’ in use. With Office 2013 a single subscriber can install up to 5 copies of Office 2013 using ‘on Demand’.

That means a subscriber can install Office on a temporary computer – say at a branch office – and use the same software and version as they usually do.

From the control page on the web, click on ‘Install’ and the ‘Click to run’ process starts. First a small startup proggie then the streaming of Office begins. How long this takes depends on your Internet bandwidth but it should not take more than a few minutes. Microsoft may start downloading parts of Office even before you click on Install just so the startup process appears even faster.

One downside of Office on Demand has always been touted as a feature by Microsoft. According to Redmond, software streaming means you always get the latest version of the software with the automatic assumption that’s what customers want. For small security patches that’s true, but larger updates can break existing functionality. In the past we’ve seen Office updates that remove features to satisfy court rulings against Microsoft or new versions that change the interface in ways customers don’t like.

The v2 of Click to Run deals with that problem to some extent. ‘Side by Side’ support lets you keep two versions of Office running but only ‘during the transition’ – the length of that transition period isn’t stated.

Unlike traditional Office installation and activation, you can deactivate an ‘on Demand’ install of Office so you can use the same licence elsewhere.

Online or offline?

We stopped short when we saw this sentence in the Office on Demand announcement. “You have to be online to use it, and you have to be logged in to Office to validate your rights to use the software“. That would appear to mean that you have to be online to use Office on Demand which doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Hopefully that’s just poor wording by Microsoft and we asked them for a clarification which came quickly but too late for the original article.  Here’s the entire response:

As noted in the Office Next blog post, yes, you have to be online to use Office On Demand, and you have to be logged in to Office to validate your rights to use the software. As such, Office on Demand allows people to have the full, rich Office experience even when they’re not at their primary PC. You can get Office on Demand on any Windows 7 or Windows 8-based PC, even if Office is not already installed (e.g., a PC in the library or one you borrowed from a friend). You can stream Office quickly, get all of your documents and personal settings, and leave nothing behind when you close the application and log off.

So it seems you’ll have to be online the entire time you use Office on Demand – no room for installing on a laptop and using offline until the license expires (say 24 hours).  It will be interesting to see how this works in practice – for example if there’s a temporary outage of Internet access.


The idea of being able to grab a copy of Office to use on a temporary basis is a useful trick to have up your sleeve.  It’s fills the gap been the limited features of the browser based Office Web Apps and a full installation of Office.   For Microsoft, it lets the company add another benefit to a subscription of Office that won’t be available to buyers of a traditional installation.

Office on Demand is certainly clever technically but we’re not sure that the benefits for customers are as great as the benefits for Microsoft. This service gives Microsoft a tighter control over Office licences than a traditional installation, possibly too much control over the version used and paying by subscription is a goal that Microsoft’s financial gurus have wanted for years to smooth out the cash flow.