Just when everybody was getting impatient to see what was becoming of the latest Office (code named Office 15), Microsoft decided to release the app suite for an official Public Preview. Called Office 2013, we first caught glimpses of it during a presentation that showed how Excel would look running on an ARM tablet. And a few quick snaps was all the information we had up until now. Office 2013 became available on Monday and we have gone hands on with the entire suite.
Microsoft has worked hard to make Windows RT a good case for replacing laptops and tablets and Office 2013’s touch abilities will go a long way in to making that claim more solid and appealing to the working masses. Office 2013 is really tablet and touch friendly.
And if you didn’t anticipate it — it is all about cloud integration from this version onwards. Cloud syncing, sharing and syncing of all custom preferences and sharing. SkyDrive naturally is at the fore front here, as all the syncing and sharing is done via the proprietary cloud from Microsoft just like the rest of Windows 8.
Click here to read original Office 2013 review.
If you have worked on any of the latest versions of Office, you will be comfortable working on Office 2013. The interface has remained quite the same, with the ribbon UI intact and well. It is hidden by default but then you can change that whenever you want.
Office 2013 also displays your account name and photo wherever you are in the app. This serves the dual purpose of confirming that you are indeed logged in and syncing to your account and to show you that you are logged in to the right account or that you need to log in to your own account. Since it is all cloud based now, it is important that you sync everything to one single account.
Office 2013 is the same at first glance but then you can easily change it to become touch friendly by switching on the Touch Mode. There’s a button that looks like a circle with a dot in the middle, which can be found under the downward arrow on the upper left corner. This is the same control that toggles your hidden icons. Once you trigger touch mode, not much happens. Things just space out a bit to make way for a finger driven control set up. The UI becomes somewhat flatter and menus especially so, just so that it is easier to navigate through. You will not see sudden bits of Metro appearing all over the UI. It prevents you from getting disoriented and helps you maintain your workflow even after transitioning in to Touch Mode.
Microsoft has been all about integrating things in to the cloud of late and Office 2013 is no different. Just like Windows 8, Office 2013 is completely plugged in to SkyDrive and the result is a fully connected suite of applications that are profile aware and are able to change in to the custom set up of the currently logged in user.
All your documents are stored on SkyDrive by default (you do still have local copies available). The integration is deeper than last time and all your changes and progress is synced in real time. A progress bar show you how much has been synced up. Surely there will be plug ins developed for a similar integration with DropBox and Google Drive at some point. But since your profile is synced to SkyDrive, it makes more sense to stick to the default. Especially if you are one of the lucky ones who got a free 25GB storage space (or you intend to buy space on SkyDrive).
Cloud syncing also paves way for better syncing. You can now go to the file menu and choose “Get Link” to share a copy of the document with someone or choose “Invite People” to start collaborating on the document. The others don’t have to have their own copies of Office 2013 because they will be able to use the web apps. You can also do the usual sharing by email or via social networks from within Office itself.
Office also works better at integrating online content in to your document. You can now directly log in to Facebook and Flickr and pull images from there. The apps now also support direct embedding of videos through HTML code, the likes of which are provided by YouTube and Vimeo when you want to embed videos somewhere. There’s also a Live Layout feature that adjust text and wraps it around your image, shape, chart, video, etc.
Cloud syncing also makes sure that you are carrying your custom settings, custom dictionaries and your documents with you wherever you are going. When you log in to the system, all your settings, custom dictionaries are there and your documents are in the exact state as you last left them. This means even your cursor will be in the same position as you had last left it. This is true for every Office app, so no more lost presentation or excel sheets because you got shut down halfway through your work. Saving happens automatically and in the background.
Microsoft’s Office 2013 is available only to the users of Windows 8 and Windows 7. The decision to exclude Windows Vista and Windows XP has got to a lot with the need to make users upgrade to the latest version so that they can have access to the latest features like full cloud integration. The general availability will be around October and will be available in retail packages unlike Windows 8.
Office 2013 is too large to get it all in to one single broad review, so will go deeper in to each application and review them individually. There are in fact some very important improvements in Excel that make life easier for users by making certain repetitive tasks simpler.
The latest Office is has no drastic change and that’s the best part. It has enough changes to make sure that your Office experience will change for better but it is still similar enough to smoothen out the transition and not make you feel alienated.
Date: July 26, 2012