Review: Microsoft Office 2013 features new look, prices
At a Glance
Microsoft Office 2013 Professional
Office 2013 introduces design refinements and usability improvements for connected users, but the price of upgrading may put off Office 2010 users who can get similar cloud functionality with free...
Word offers a few innovative sharing options beyond SkyDrive. For instance, you can show your Word document to someone who isn’t running Word by creating and sending a share link (available either with or without editing privileges). This lets the recipient see (and, if authorized, edit) the document in a browser as you scroll through it. The program also has a command for posting to social networks, which basically provides a read-only or read-write link to the document in SkyDrive.
Microsoft has also tweaked the review and revision tools. The cleaned-up Simple Markup view spares you a lot of the clutter from deletions and comments in a heavily edited document. Word now supports replies to comments for more orderly tracking of conversations, and once a comment has been addressed, you can mark it as done. You can also password-protect the ability to stop tracking changes, so no one can fiddle with a document without being detected.
Excel adds tools for analyzing data
Excel 2013 has some of the most appealing and potentially useful new features in the Office 2013 suite, as the additions help with entering, analyzing, and presenting spreadsheet data.
The new Flash Fill feature can detect patterns (beyond the numerical and date patterns Excel has long been able to recognize), and autocompletes empty fields as appropriate.
For example, if you’ve pasted a list of similarly formatted email addresses (say, firstname.lastname@example.org) into a column, you can then type the first two first names into the first two cells of another column, select the entire column, and click the Flash Fill option to see Excel insert the rest of the first names instantly.
Excel also makes it easier to figure out how to wrangle a bunch of data in a spreadsheet. Select an entire table, and a small Quick Analysis button appears by the lower-right corner. You can click the button to view thumbnails of several graph and charting options, and then click one to apply it. Not sure how best to massage the data? Excel also offers buttons that generate chart and pivot table recommendations. A timeline slicer makes it easier to examine data from a specific time period within a larger set of data. Creating mashups with third-party data sources is also easier.
A more mundane but welcome change involves keeping multiple spreadsheets open. In Office 2013, each workbook gets its own window, which makes viewing two or more at once a lot easier. As with Word, you can share your spreadsheets with non-Office users by sending a link (so the recipients can either just view the document or both see and write to it in a browser), or by posting to a social network.
PowerPoint: Design, collaboration, sharing tools
Many of the innovations in PowerPoint 2013 mirror those in Word, including a reading view, the capability to add screenshots and art from photo-sharing sites from within the application, object zoom, instant visibility for formatting changes, enhanced commenting features, and the Design tab.
PowerPoint 2013 makes adjusting design elements simpler by showing options in a new formatting pane to the right of the slide. You summon the pane in the menu that appears when you right-click a selected object such as an image, shape, or text.
Next page: More about PowerPoint, plus Outlook and more