Microsoft has announced that the Technical Preview for Office 15 for all of its Office products and servers is available for a group of select testers, and is giving no hint as to what's in it. I'm not privy to plans, but here are five things I'd like to see in the next version of Office.
A useful Web version
The Web-based version of Office is, to put it mildly, underwhelming. It does a very nice job of accurately keeping formatting in documents created on the client version. But it's so underpowered as to be almost useless except for the most basic of tasks. I've yet to come across anyone who uses it, and with good reason. In some instances you can't apply themes or backgrounds, or even create new documents. Whenever I need to turn to a Web-based document creator or editor, I always turn to Google Docs instead, even though I use Office as my main office suite. A version that competes -- or better yet, outcompetes -- with Google Docs would be very welcome.
Automatic syncing to the cloud
Microsoft has a very good cloud-based storage service, and very good software for syncing files and folders, Windows Live Mesh. But neither are integrated well into Microsoft Office. You should be able to work on an Office document and have it always sync to the cloud, and then to all of your other devices. When you work on the Web-based version of Office, the same thing should happen -- documents should sync to all of your devices. It's baffling why Microsoft hasn't done this yet. It's a must-have for the next version of Office.
Better integration with social networking
The Outlook Social Connector was a very good first step towards integrating email with social networking. When you get an email message from one of your friends who is a member of a social networking site, you can see the history of your communications with him, both email and via social networking. You also see his latest social networking updates. But communications isn't two-way -- you can't update social networking sites from within Outlook. There needs to two-way communications as well as deeper social networking integration, not only in Outlook, but throughout Office.
A single interface for opening and managing files
Not uncommonly, when I'm in Word I'd like to open an Excel or PowerPoint file, or vice versa. Why can't I simply use the File Open dialog in Word to open other file types, and then have those files open in the app that created them? Other Office apps, such as OpenOffice.org, have done this for quite some time. It would be exceedingly easy to do this. It should have been done at least a decade ago. Now is the time to finally do it.
An Android version -- and how about one for the iPad?
I have an Android-based phone, an Android tablet, and an iPad, in addition to several PCs, laptops, netbooks, and a Macbook Air, along with other assorted hardware. I'm not an outlier -- plenty of people who use Windows and Office as their main computing platforms use other operating systems on other devices. Microsoft needs to recognize that and build versions for Android and iOS. Do I expect this to happen? No. But I'd be one of millions of people to welcome it.
This story, "Office 15: 5 Things Microsoft Should Do" was originally published by Computerworld.