Computers and Peripherals

Microsoft Office 2013 Announced

Jul 16 12:04

Microsoft Unveils Office 2013: Ready for Tablets, Web

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announces Microsoft 2013 in San Francisco.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announces Microsoft 2013 in San Francisco.
Microsoft launched its "customer preview" version of Office 2013 and a revamped Office 365 at a media event in San Francisco today. The company's next-generation office suite looks to be tightly focused on mobile devices, touchscreens, and the cloud.

Like Windows 8, both Office 2013 and its cloud-based cousin, Office 365, represent a significant departure from their predecessors. Microsoft has changed features and conventions big and small in the revamped suite, with the stated goal of streamlining productivity and embracing mobility.

The now-familiar ribbon interface is carried over from the previous generation of Office, but you can hide it from view to maximize the screen real estate available on smaller displays. Each component of the suite--Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and the rest--has received new features.

Word retains its Ribbon, but it can be hidden.
As it has done in the past, Microsoft will offer consumers and businesses several disc versions of Office 2013 that can be installed locally on a computer. But Microsoft also plans to market its Office 365 subscription service to both consumers and businesses. Subscribers will be entitled to download and install Office 2013 on up to five devices, including PCs and tablets running Windows 7 and Windows 8. The final version of Office 365 will also include Office for Mac.

Microsoft intends to steer users of both versions toward its SkyDrive cloud-storage service by encouraging them to sign in with a Microsoft Live account. This will enable users to store their files in the cloud, where the files can sync with and be opened from virtually any platform that has Internet access.

Outlook integrates with Bing.

The new offerings from Microsoft include Office 2013 and an updated version of Microsoft's Web-based Office 365. Microsoft has also indicated that Windows RT tablets will come loaded with Office 2013 versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.

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Microsoft's decision to abandon its tradition of maintaining almost perpetual backward compatibility--which it also did in the case of Internet Explorer 9--continues: The new Office 2013 and Office 365 applications will work only with Windows 7 and Windows 8.

Microsoft outperformed Wall Street expectations in its third quarter, thanks in part to the performance of its Microsoft Business Division, which is responsible for the company's Office products. The division reported revenues of $4.57 billion for the quarter, a 9 percent increase over the same quarter last year. A recent USA Today article explained the importance of the Office franchise to Microsoft: The publication reports that Office revenues "accounted for $22.2 billion of Microsoft's nearly $70 billion in fiscal 2011 revenue and $14.1 billion of operating income, by far the most of any unit."

Excel QuickStart page

Microsoft faces increasing pressure from rival cloud-based productivity suites such as Google Docs and open-source suites such as LibreOffice. Office 2013 and Office 365 might raise the bar in some areas; but by excluding Windows XP and Windows Vista users, Microsoft also opens a door that might allow its competitors to gain market share.

PCWorld editors have been using this early release of Microsoft's new software for the past week. You can read our first-week impressions of the tablet, laptop, and desktop versions, and we'll follow that up soon with a comparison of these programs to some other cloud-based offerings. In the meantime, if you'd like to check out the software for yourself, you can download Office 2013 Customer Preview here.

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Jul 16 12:01

Microsoft Word 2013: Hands On

The new Microsoft Office was unveiled earlier today by Steve Ballmer at a media event in San Francisco. Following the trend set with Windows 8 and Windows Phone, Microsoft is reinventing Office to adapt to the times and remain competitive in an increasingly tough market. Let's take a closer look at how that's working out with the new Word 2013.

New Greeting

Normally when I fire up Word, it just opens a blank document, but Word 2013 it takes you to a landing page. The page is similar to what you'd see in Word 2010 if you start a new document from a template: In a pane on the right, it hosts various thumbnail images illustrating the different templates; and in a smaller pane on the left, it lets you select from recent Word documents or open other existing files.

The Word 2013 Start Screen lets you select from various templates.
I've always liked the ribbon bar, and I'm glad to see Microsoft embracing it across virtually all of its products--but I realize that many users loathe it. Word 2013 adopts a hybrid approach that should work for both parties. The ribbon bar exists, but an arrow on the far right allows you to collapse it so that it appears to be a simple menu of links across the top. When you click a link, though, Word opens the associated ribbon interface instead of an old-school drop-down menu.

Touch the Sky

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Jul 16 12:10

Microsoft Office 2013 Preview: Hands On

Office 2013 is touchscreen ready and cloud friendly, and it adds bold new twists to the Microsoft Office franchise. On Monday Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer outlined what he said was the "biggest most ambitious Office" update to date.

For the desktop, Office 2013 delivers a host of smart updates to Word, Outlook, and Excel. But where Office 2013 shines is in embracing the mobile world and the cloud, delivering deep integration with Microsoft’s cloud service SkyDrive and collaboration through its recent acquisitions Skype and Yammer. Windows 8--and the upcoming release of Microsoft Surface tablets and Windows Phone 8 smartphones--have also played a huge roles in coloring Office 2013 with new features.

Ahead of Microsoft's big news Monday Microsoft provided PCWorld with two Windows 8 tablets (no, not the Surface) and access to the customer preview versions of both Office 2013 and the cloud-based Office 365.

Here's a look at how the software suite runs on laptop, desktop touchscreen, and tablet platforms.

In this story, PCWorld Senior Editor Michael Brown first gives his impressions of working with Office 2013 and 365 on a laptop and a desktop PC. Contributing editor Tony Bradley then writes about his tests of the new products on a tablet PC.

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Jul 16 12:01

Microsoft Outlook 2013: Hands On

The preview of Office 2013 was launched today, but I’ve had a few days to work with the new software. Here are my first impressions of Outlook 2013--the new e-mail, calendar, and contact hub of Microsoft Office.

Uncluttered and Quick

When I fired up Outlook 2013 for the first time, the first thing I noticed is that it’s cleaner. Outlook 2010 has four panes in the e-mail view--a navigation pane on the left, the Inbox pane, a reading or preview pane that displays the current message, and a pane on the right with a calendar and task list. In Outlook 2013 Microsoft has narrowed it down to just two--the Inbox pane and reading pane--and reduced the left pane to a small menu bar with icons.

Microsoft has streamlined the process of shooting off a quick reply in Outlook 2013. Instead of clicking Reply to open up a new email, you can simply start typing and reply inline on the message itself.

Outlook 2013's Peeks feature lets you see information without actually switching views.
In keeping with the streamlined theme, another new feature is Peeks. Peeks is similar to the Aero Peek capability of Windows 7--they both allow you to take a quick look at your calendar, contacts, or other areas of Outlook without actually switching views.

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Jul 17 06:00

Office 2013: What We Still Don't Know

We know that Microsoft Office 2013 emphasizes cloud integration with new Office 365 subscriptions for home users, a greater focus on touchscreens, and Office on Demand virtualization, but what about the things we don’t know? Microsoft is keeping quiet about several key issues, including pricing, release dates, and whether the software giant will be including Android and iOS devices in its Office 2013 rollout.

Introducing Office 2013

Microsoft recently unveiled the consumer preview for Office 2013, the newest version of the company’s productivity suite, calling it “the biggest, most ambitious Office” to date. The new version of Office includes integration with online services such as Facebook, Flickr, SkyDrive, and YouTube.

The company is also opening its Office 365 online-desktop subscription service to home users. If you sign up for Office 365 Home Premium, once it becomes available you can install Office 2013 on up to five PCs, plus you get 60 minutes of Skype calling minutes and an extra 20GB of online SkyDrive storage. The Office 365 Home Premium bundle includes Access, Excel, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint, Publisher, and Word 2013. Office 365 subscribers will also be able to use a feature called Office on Demand that can “stream” a virtualized version of Office to a PC; when you’re finished working, the program disappears from the computer, but your files remain wherever you saved them.

If an Office 365 subscription doesn’t interest you, regular boxed versions of Office 2013 will be available as well.

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Jul 18 06:20

Office 2013 on a Tablet vs. Touch-Friendly Competition

With the latest iteration of Office, Microsoft pledges to bring the documents and services you need to run a business to any screen you choose, from a PC to a touch-enabled Windows Surface tablet or Windows 8 Phone. After using the Office 2013 preview suite on a Windows 8 tablet, we are impressed by many of the steps Microsoft has taken to make its Office franchise touchscreen ready and cloud friendly.

If you're searching for the ultimate mobile-savvy office suite for a tablet, look no further. Compititors available on other platforms, such as DataViz's Docs to Go or Quickoffice and services, including CloudOn, Nivio, Online Desktop and InstallFree Nexus, which deliver virtualized, full-blown versions of Office apps, lack the unified soup-to-nuts office document, collaboration, and editing functionality that Office 2013 delivers.

But you’ll probably have to pay dearly for the no-compromise experience of Office 2013 or Office 365 (the subscription-based software-as-a-service alternative that combines desktop installations with cloud-based access on remote devices). Microsoft hasn't disclosed pricing yet, but it's difficult to imagine a scenario where the subscription fees in the course of a year or two would undercut what they'd charge for a conventional one-time desktop installation.

Comparing Apples to Oranges

Also, we don’t yet know what mobile devices either Office 2013 or Office 365 will support. When asked, Office spokespeople have indicated that some form of Office Mobile (currently available only for Windows Phone) will be forthcoming for Android and iOS devices. But it's highly unlikely we'll see a full-blown version of Office running on the Apple and Google mobile operating systems.

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Jul 19 06:00

Microsoft's Shift to the Cloud: What It Means for You

Microsoft's Shift to the Cloud: What It Means for You
Microsoft's announcement of Office 2013 is another linchpin in the company's effort to assume a leadership role as a cloud-computing services provider.

The new version of Office will be tightly coupled to the company’s SkyDrive cloud-storage service. SkyDrive, in turn, is one of the key built-in features of Windows 8.

Microsoft has yet to announce pricing for the new Office. But with Windows 8 Pro upgrades costing just $40 if you upgrade online directly from Microsoft, the software giant has already signaled a willingness to change its upgrade models.

That’s the most aggressive pricing yet for the company’s flagship operating system, and it could be a harbinger of Microsoft's approach to Office upgrades. One clear message that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer delivered at the Office 2013 announcement is the shift from packaged goods to services. Ballmer noted that the new Office was “the first round of Office designed from the get-go as a service.”

Although Ballmer repeatedly reassured the audience that Microsoft would continue to sell Office as purely local client software, he also punctuated his keynote at least once with the qualifier “for now.”

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