Microsoft has formally introduced Office 2013 and Office 365. Office 2013 is the successor to Office 2010 and Office 365 is the rental version. I’m not going to discuss 365 today, in fact, I want to talk about one component of Office: Word. Word is probably tied with Excel as the most used application on the planet.
Before I start, I want to give a quick overview of the Preview version of Office that Microsoft made available today. (You can grab it here.)
You start the process of acquiring the preview by clicking a bevy of Try It! buttons. Once you get to your Live account page, you click the install button to begin the download. Once started, the process is fairly quick. It downloaded and began the install process in just a few minutes. Within 15 minutes, you can actually start using the suite. Performance is below par until the entire process is complete, but, once it is, I found the suite to be pretty snappy. Your account page on Live.com will show you how many machines you can install it on and will track that for you. It will show you the name of the computer(s) you have installed it on. You have the option of deactivating office on a computer so you can install it on another. You have up to five computers for the home edition.
The first thing you notice about Word (or any of the apps) is that it has a Metro ‘feel’. No tiles, but the typography and colors match Windows 8’s Metro appearance. Office, however, is a DESKTOP application, not a real Metro app. That said, it has a Metro look and feel. Word looks terrific. Gone is Aero and the chrome associated with a ‘normal’ Windows app. There’s no Window border and the open, close and minimize widgets are small and out of the way.
Upon opening a document,I noticed several things right away: the open file dialog box is now full screen and if you hit the BROWSE button, only then will you get a standard file open dialog. The open file page also has a link to your SkyDrive. SkyDrive is a 20gb file store that lives on Microsoft servers somewhere on the planet. Microsoft have integrated its web services very nicely and pretty seamlessly. Also, you notice all of your options are now in a bar down the left side of the page and there’s an Account option that gives you control over what services you want, your SkyDrive and a few options for Office itself.
When your selected document loads, you get a navigation pane on the left. It shows the structure of your document, provided you actually use the headers and sections properly (which I often don’t.) It is a convenient way to organize and edit your document.
The Ribbon has been refined further. It is now flat (following the Metro mantra) and can be tucked out of the way, only to show when needed. The organization and presentation of the ribbon is much nicer than in previous versions of the suite. The most used features are prominent on the ribbon and most of the keyboard shortcuts are still there.
Word is, first and foremost, a text editor. As such, Microsoft added several things to enhance its editing abilities. Text flows more smoothly and more intelligently when you move objects around your document. In previous editions, moving an image could sometimes result in your text going to a completely different page. That does not happen now.
A bit of Google Docs has been incorporated as well. I speak of the ability to share a document and have a group edit it. Versioning and comments are integral and there is now the ability for an editor to respond to a comment without affecting the document. Sharepoint like functionality is possible with SkyDrive. Microsoft really has embraced the web, in ways I never thought they could.
One interesting, though totally unimportant feature: themes. Office 2007 gave you three color schemes. Office 2013 gives you Zune-like themes. There are no color schemes, oddly enough. And the ‘themes’ are simple backgrounds that are unobtrusive and barely noticeable. They blend in while you work and are not in your face. In fact, you don’t really notice them. I’m not sure if this is good or not or why they bothered.
One annoying thing: as the result of Microsoft losing a bogus patent lawsuit, custom XML tags were removed from the DOCX format. So, when I tried to load such a document, I was greeted with a message informing me that the XML custom tags would be removed. Not earth shattering, but annoying.
Overall, I’d say Office 2013 may prove to be a bigger deal than Windows 8 and I’d love to try it on a Windows 8 touch screen device. It will ship on the Surface tablets, so when you purchase a Surface, you will get Office with the device.
The preview edition is available now and you can download it from here.
EDIT: Changed references to Office 15 to Office 2013.