Header Ads

Microsoft Unveils Office 2013

What happened? 

Microsoft revealed the next version of its Office suite. CEO Steve Ballmer describes it as the "most ambitious release of Office we've done".

Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook apps have been redesigned to work with a touch interface and the Metro design for Windows 8.

While Office 2010's 'ribbon' interface remains, it is tucked away, sliding into view when tapped or clicked. Otherwise, the applications look much more stripped down, with menus spaced out to make them easier to access on a tablet screen with your finger.

The suite lets you save documents directly to SkyDrive, Microsoft's cloud storage system, giving you access to files anywhere there's a web connection. However, it is turned on by default, so any users who do not want their files to head directly to the cloud should be wary.

Word features a 'live layout ' tool, which lets you format documents by dragging and dropping , while Excel has an intriguing new feature called Quick Analysis, which makes it easier to split text into different cells. Another new tool is 'inking', which lets you use a stylus to take notes in documents. You can even use a stylus as a laser pointer during presentations.

A preview of Office 2013 is available to try now, with the software set to arrive alongside Windows 8 this autumn. Microsoft hasn't announced pricing, but said Office 2013 will be offered as a cloud-based subscription, meaning users will get the latest updates automatically and be able to "stream" the software to use on any computer, bringing their own settings with them.

During its presentation of Office 2013, Microsoft didn't show it running on tablets using the RT version of Windows 8, but Ballmer promised it would have all the same features as the standard suite. Microsoft confirmed Windows RT will include Office Home and Student, featuring Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote on all versions, including on its own Surface tablets, as well as on devices from other manufacturers.

How will it affect you? 

This is bad news if you're not keen on using touchscreen interfaces, because Microsoft has made it clear that Office 2013 will work best on touchscreen devices. They will still work with a mouse and keyboard, of course, but they're designed for poking and prodding with a fingertip.

It's also bad news if you're not happy with your documents being stored in the cloud. While it’s a handy back-up if your computer fails or you forget to bring a document with you, it also means Microsoft has a copy of everything you're working on. There are many reasons why that might not appeal to you: for example, you simply might p refer a rival cloud storage system, such as Dropbox.

What do we think? 

The new look is stark and white, which might look stylish on a tablet, but Microsoft needs to remember that most of its users are still on desktop PCs. Plus, the touch inter face can be irritating to use. If Microsoft wants us to move to touch, it needs to sort out basic bugs and make it feel smoother. At the moment, we're not convinced that using Office 2013 will be as wonderful as Microsoft claims. These are only preview versions, however, so there's hope that Microsoft can iron out some of the problems before the final release.