Posted by:Monica Samuel July 19th, 2012

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, released a customer preview of the ‘biggest most ambitious Office’ update to date, Microsoft Office 2013 on Monday, July 16 at a San Francisco event. Hands-on reviews confirm that the newest Office version is designed for the cloud and mobile environment, is tightly integrated with cloud services Microsoft Office 365 andSkyDrive, and works well on touchscreen devices.

However, Microsoft Office 2013 will only support Windows 7, release preview of Windows 8, Windows Server 2008 R2 or Windows Server 2012. No support for Windows XP or Vista. That’s a slight letdown because at least half of the Windows-using population will have to consider an upgrade to enjoy the latest Office version.

Touch-based capabilities of Microsoft Office 2013

PCWorld reviewers tested the application on a Samsung Series 7 Slate PC running Windows 8 Consumer Preview. The touch sensitiveness was responsive. Microsoft has done a good job of integrating regular functions with touch such as pulling up a list of corrections from Office’s thesaurus on placing a finger on a misspelled word. Touch on different regions of the screen has been mapped with the popup menu associated with right clicks.

Though the tabs on the ribbon interface of Office applications are hard to tap on accurately because of limited space, you can make the ribbon invisible to get more editing space for documents. The onscreen keyboard that comes with Windows 8 is fluid and supports quick and accurate typing. A number pad is also included which is great for Excel applications.

Overall experience was good though there were minor issues such as the keyboard not appearing automatically on tapping in a text field. These issues could be a problem based on preferences. However, what’s more important at this point of time is to see how well Office 2013 will continue to perform on the less powerful Windows RT version that is not for x64 or x86 CPUs.

Unanswered questions

Office spokespersons have hinted at the mobile devices that would support Office 2013 or Office 365 – possibly a variation of the Office Mobile will be made available for iOS andAndroid devices. Another doubt is whether the mobile version will be available offline. And how will the interface look like on the much smaller screen of smartphones?

Not many expect the mobile version of Office 2013 to be as full-fledged as the desktop version but still there are hopes that it will be more powerful than existing apps in terms of editing, formatting, saving to the cloud, file management and more complex tasks.

Other highlights

Microsoft Office 2013 will come with many other enhancements and additions such as:

  • Metro interface
  • Inking with stylus
  • PDF import into Word for editing
  • PDF embedding into Word
  • Searching from Word and embedding HTML code
  • Account pane to manage online services
  • Simple markup view
  • SkyDrive integration
  • Subscription services
  • People card
There’s also Office Home and Student 2013 RT that contain new versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote applications, and will be included on ARM-based Windows 8 devices, including Microsoft Surface. You also get 60 minutes of Skype world credit every month on purchase of Office.

Microsoft hasn’t announced the price of Office 2013 yet but don’t expect it to be anything cheap.

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