Microsoft today announced the availability of the customer preview of its revamped flagship software, Office 2013. Code-named as ‘Office 15’, Microsoft calls it as the “most ambitious release ever for Office”, which just by the looks of it looks like it sure is.
Office 2013 is a significant overhaul to the Office product line seen in years, unlike Office 2010, which was at best an incremental update to its ribbonized predecessor. Office 2013 has been (you guessed it), built to work best with Windows 8 and heavily enhanced for touch devices.
What is New?
Everything, starting from the logo is overhauled. Really. Though Microsoft was stingy enough to just show some smattering changes here and there for most of its office components, and we will be able to explain in detail once we get our hands on it. Wait for our full review of Office 2013 Preview soon. Here are some key features showcased during the webcast
With Windows 8 just around the corner, incorporating improvements for touch support was quite obvious. Office 2013 ships with a ‘tablet mode’ toggle button to switch between the normal desktop interface and a new tablet interface, where the ribbon buttons and other touch elements are visually larger and finger-friendly.
Microsoft has been aggressively pushing SkyDrive lately with more features and integration with its existing products amid increasing competition by Google, Dropbox and other key cloud players. The new Office is no different and features a tight integration with SkyDrive, which is perhaps its most significant feature.
In Office 2013, once signed in with your SkyDrive account, Documents, templates and even settings can be synced across multiple devices which have Office 2013 installed.
Also the business modules of Office, like SharePoint now make extensive use of social features thanks to Microsoft’s new acquisition of Yammer. Skype is also integrated in Office and you can make a live meeting with your colleagues and work on a document simultaneously. The demo during the webcast showed five people working simultaneously on a document on a live meeting.
Microsoft emphasizes that it is “trying to make the presenter more confident than ever before with“. The controls during the launch presentation for the presenter were significantly better, and Microsoft has also introduced a new cockpit style “Presenter” overview of presentations, which provides the speaker with many tools, like notes, timer and more. Also the overhaul interface is optimized for touch, though I should say not as much as you will see in Word, OneNote and Outlook.
Again, there is no invasive changes to Excel and we thank Microsoft for that. Some spectacular new things that were shown in the presentation were, the ability to preview charts and tables live for your data (finally!). Also now depending on the data you use, Excel can now intelligently fill the data pattern for you, again impressive.
The major focus here was the introduction of the “Reader mode”, which hides all the controls, providing more space to read the content. You can seamlessly switch between Reader mode and the normal editing. A cool part is where you can leave document while you are editing it one device, and retrieve the document from the SkyDrive and continue editing from exactly where you left off. Oh did I mention that now you can edit PDF’s directly?
This one, is completely metrofied and perhaps the only other application in the office suite apart from Lync to feature separate Desktop and Metro interfaces. The Metro UI for OneNote looked subtle and simple. This will be a great productivity tool especially for students who have a Windows 8 tablet. A new addition is the Radial menu, which features dynamic buttons The ridiculously cool feature which was showcased was the dynamic Radial menu, which changes its content to suit upon what you are working upon.
Outlook 2013 probably reflects all the core changes made to the overall Office experience. The interface has been made much cleaner than ever. Instead of cluttering the UI with everything available, Outlook 2013, makes extensive use of “peeks” which lets you take a look at your calendar, tasks and contacts just with a hover.
Now developers can make their own webapps to be consumed within the Office environment. The Webcast showed a cool webapp which integrated Bing Maps with the new outlook. The web-apps can be built using the Visual Studio 11 Beta.
The best Office Suite on the market has made a giant leap to the cloud. This is Microsoft’s best possible answer for those who were wishing for Metro productivity apps for Windows 8 and it is sure to start a trend. Though dropping support for Windows Vista and XP might be something they could have not done.