Ease of Learning: 5 / 5
Ease of Use: 5 / 5
Enjoyment: 5 / 5
Design: 5 / 5
Value for Money: 5 / 5
Three years ago Microsoft introduced the world to Office 2010, which, in my opinion, was only a slight UI change to the much criticised Office 2007 (and its new Ribbon menus). Microsoft has not been a company for pushing out new releases every year in the hope of bringing in higher profits, and with Microsoft products known to have a few bugs on release, we can only be grateful for that. With much talk about Windows 8 and the new Live Tile/Metro UI overhaul, I’d think it was the perfect time to update Office as well.
Microsoft has unveiled a new version of Office known as Office 2013 (also Office 15), complete with a preview version [http://www.microsoft.com/office/preview/en] for you to download. Most often first to be judged would be the latest version of Word, as it the most frequently used addition to the Office suite along with Excel and Outlook. With Office 2013, however, the focus is more on a subscription-based model, which ties in with your Microsoft ID. This means that you will be able to save files directly onto SkyDrive, which will then be available on other installation of Office 2013. This feature also saves all your existing edits, meaning that you will also be able to undo certain changes, even after closing and reopening on another PC. Another focus with Office 2013 is its social element, which I will explain in more detail later. Although the focus has shifted ever so slightly, an improved user-experience was always going to a necessity. We take a look at some of the new features.
Upon using MS Word 2013 for the first time, you will notice that you’re introduced by a new-look starting page (as seen below). The start page will display all recently opened and edited Word documents in the left hand pane, while offering a host of new templates to choose from on the right hand pane. Once you’ve chosen an option, you will be greeted by the good-old Ribbon menu, slightly updated. The good news is that you will find everything in the same place as you would on the previous version of Word, which goes the same for Excel, Outlook, etc.
It seems strange to think of how a social element will be integrated into your Office experience, but if you’ve ever co-written or edited a document with one or more persons, then I’m sure you could think of a way to improve that experience. Since you’re using your Windows Live account to sign in and save a document, you can also make it accessible for others to edit online. While you’re editing the document, it will keep track of all your changes by means of simple red lines, etc. In addition, you will also be able to work on a document almost concurrently with your colleague. This might seem an insane task, but with the help of a chat-like comments bar, you will be able to discuss whatever it you’ve highlighted in the document. The comments bar even includes a date and time of the comment, allows for more effective usage.
Despite being able to previously online video to documents, it wasn’t always as straightforward as inserting the YouTube link. Well, now it is. As simple as I made it sound, that’s really how easy it is to embed an online video. You can also embed videos from Bing or an embed code if you happen to have one. The only real drawback with this feature, and only a handful of others, is the compatibility mode. If you do require to embed a video, you will be only be able to use it in the .docx format, which isn’t a huge issue, since a number of users would have upgraded to at least Office 2007 by now…hopefully.
In previous version of Word, you would have noticed that you weren’t able to save a document in PDF format unless you downloaded the add-on. Word 2013 has made taken some steps to rectify this annoyance, in not only allowing you to save your documents as PDFs, but also to edit PDF documents as well. The biggest advantage of including integrating this into Word is that all your images, WordArt, etc. will be placed exactly where you left them when saving your PDF file. Additionally, you might have also noticed that when content in your Word document might not always convert to PDF format, and will also sometimes appear as blank images when printing. Microsoft has also addressed a number of these issues.
From first use, you will notice that the overall feel of Office is much smoother. The UI is very closely related to that of Windows 8, and if you’re worried about a huge transition between Office 2010 and Office 2013, the changes are much less dramatic than from Office 2003 to Office 2007; and I think you might actually enjoy the experience, I know I am. With Office now linked to your Microsoft account (Windows Live), you will notice your name and account photo on the top right corner of every app within the suite. The experience is so integrated that the changes made in a document will almost immediately be accessible on SkyDrive on another PC. In case you’re wondering, you do have the option of saving any files you’re working on to your desktop of removable drives.
I mentioned that you’re able to reopen any document and pick up from where you had previously left off. Whenever you open a document, you have the option of starting from where you had last edited, even positioning the cursor where you had left it. These are small features in the greater scheme of things, but stand out because of what they mean to the user.
Since Windows 8 is Microsoft’s push in the direction of touch-based devices, there’s little surprise that Office 2013 also offers the same touch-based friendliness. Be that as it may, I’m sure even the most expert of users would agree that reading documents using touch-based inputs is a lot more straight forward that when trying to edit, especially with the likes of an Excel spreadsheet.
With online video integration and a host of new features, Office 2013 is definitely worth the upgrade from Office 2010, when it’s available for purchase that is. This version, much like the Release Preview of Windows 8 is polished enough to use on a daily basis.
It’s difficult to do a complete review of most Microsoft products, such as Windows and Office, since there are details included that you may never stumble across. If you really wish to get the full experience and take Microsoft’s new software for a test run, then you simply have to download it for yourself. And since this freely available preview software, there is no crime against copying it from a friend.