Microsoft Corp.'s CEO Steve Ballmer recently unveiled the customer preview of the new Microsoft Office, optimised for Windows 8 and touch-based devices like tablets. This release features an intuitive design that works beautifully either with touch, stylus, mouse or keyboard across new Windows devices. The new Office is social and unlocks modern scenarios in reading, note-taking, meetings and communications, and will be delivered to subscribers through a cloud service. We decided to give it a quick try and here are our initial impressions on the widely used applications that form Office 2013.

SkyDrive syncing

SkyDrive syncing

Aesthetics and UI enhancements

Office 2013 is slick and buttery smooth. There hasn't been much change to the UI, with the same ribbons, options and enhancements still there, but there are a ton of new features that we have individually covered below. However, the overall aesthetics and user interface of this new version is simply beautiful – from the smooth refresh rate for the cursor and the lag-free, fluid scrolling to neat little subtle animations, everything feels buttery. The colour styles are well chosen, giving this new Office a very minimalistic yet professional look. Let’s have a look at the individual applications below. 

Word 2013

Images in Word now come with live layout and alignment. What this indicates is that if you add an image to your text and move it around the page, your text automatically aligns itself based on where the image is placed, in real time. You also have a simple mark-up view that provides you with a clean, uncomplicated view of your document, but you still see markers where changes and comments have been made. You can click on the vertical bar on the left side of the text to see the changes. Or click the comment icon on the right to check out comments about the text. The read mode has got a neat little trick – all images can be expanded from the read view itself, giving you a uniform read in a single window. 

Word 2013

Word 2013

Users can also add and play online videos inside their Word documents. You can also add pictures from Facebook, Flickr, and other online photo services without having to save them to your computer. Click Insert > Online Video to add a video to the document.

Image-only PDFs didn’t have as many editing options like we have seen with free online software, but PDFs with texts are now easy to edit and save. We’re not sure if this is a good thing, though; editing PDFs was always known to be a complicated process and this may just be an easy way out for those wanting to make changes in their PDF files. 

Excel 2013

Flash filling your data is now a part of Excel 2013. It’s really helpful for those working with insanely large numbers of spreadsheets with similar actions for particular rows and columns. For example, you start typing the first names of your email IDs which are in column 1 and the rest of the names are added automatically. Simple, yet saves a lot of time. 

Excel

Excel 2013

You can analyze data using live previews and Excel gives you a quick analytical chart in the column itself, showing you the differences between the different values. A recommended chart option in the Insert tab lets Excel recommend you charts based on the data you have entered. The look and feel of Excel may not be a complete overhaul from previous versions, but why fix something that’s not broken? With the new subtle animations and smooth transitions, the experience with Excel 2013 makes us like it even more. 

PowerPoint 2013

Presentations have always been all about brilliant slides and this new version comes with some brilliant presets to get you started. Layouts have been improved along with new features like merge shapes. The new Auto-Extend instantly applies the right settings for you, so you can focus on speaking instead of thinking about your display. A grid shows your slides at a glance – so you always know where you are and your audience only sees the slide you’re presenting. Collaboration with others is possible as you can simply share your presentation online and work together. Hitting Alt + F5 takes you to the Presenter View that lets you make notes, view slides while working on the main slide, letting you view multiple screens on one window itself. 

PowerPoint

PowerPoint

Even if your audience doesn’t have PowerPoint, you can project to their browser with Present Online. There is a PowerPoint Web App as well for your online work sessions. 

OneNote 2013

In case you didn’t know this, OneNote lets you take notes and sync them to SkyDrive or share with anybody with a PC, phone or tablet. It’s like your personal diary that you can access from anywhere. OneNote 2013 looks a lot smoother than the previous version. You can add sections for activities like trips, recipes, shopping, to-do lists, etc. You can even add pages inside each section to differentiate between the tasks involved. It works pretty well and you can take clips from the web and paste them into your notebook. 

OneNote

OneNote 2013

There's a OneNote app for mobile as well, so you can access notes on the go. The files are synchronised on SkyDrive so you can view and edit your notebooks that are on office.live.com. Also, if you are editing a note on your computer, you can view the changes being made on your phone and vice versa. 

Outlook 2013

Outlook 2013 lets you connect Outlook with Exchange ActiveSync. You can organise and control your e-mail flow and meeting schedules with new Outlook tools that help you pull it all together. A feature called Peeks lets you grab a quick glance at your schedule, an appointment, or details about someone you’re e-mailing — without having to re-arrange windows or lose your train of thought. The navigation bar gives you a quick option to open your e-mail, calendar, contacts, and tasks. With Social Connectors, you can get the latest updates automatically from people in the social networks you rely on most—LinkedIn, Facebook, and others.

Outlook 2013

Outlook 2013

The People Card lets you integrate multiple contacts into a single view while presenting social context and removing needless duplication. You can also make your calendar available for others to view so that scheduling meetings and responding to meeting invitations is easier and more convenient for everyone. In terms of usability though, it’s just that the experience has been more streamlined. The large icons for important stuff and the smooth animations all account for a smoother Outlook experience. 

This happened the first time

This happened the first time

Well, that wraps up our first impressions of Office 2013. It may not be a complete overhaul in terms of looks but that’s a good thing. People already know how to use these applications and the overall experience is just better. The features covered here definitely do not make for an exhaustive list, but we like what we see.

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