We’ve already taken you through a screenshot tour of the new Microsoft Office 2013, and at first glance it didn’t seem like much changed. Think again! Microsoft hasn’t just been busy working on Windows 8, Metro UI, and bankrupting Nokia.
The latest version of Office has several dozen features not seen in predecessors and I’ll introduce them starting with my favorite one.
The first feature I want to talk about is Word’s newly granted ability to edit PDF files. This might seem insignificant, but I can tell you it is probably the single most useful upgrade added to any individual app in the new 2013 suite. Previous versions of Word required add-ins to have this functionality.
- SkyDrive integration across the entire suite. If you allow it, every document, presentation, notebook, and doo-dad is saved to your SkyDrive folder. This gives you access from any internet-capable device and also provides a solid backup. New integrated sharing features bring in a Google Docs style permissions list. You no longer have to attach docs to email or worry about that pesky Cloud Connect service.
- Excel has a new “Flash Fill” that recognizes patterns in your data and fills in remaining cells automatically, if allowed. It’s also smarter in other ways. It will recommend which types of pivot tables or charts should be used depending on the data you’ve entered.
- Excel now has social network integration that allows you to instantly embed parts of your worksheet into a status update on Facebook or other network. Lync now allows you to share presentations online as well.
- Skype integration. We’re still in the works of testing this out. But what we do know is that a 365 subscription gives you 60 free Skype World minutes each month.
- Track Changes are less cumbersome, just click a red line to expand the thread that includes edits and notes.
- PowerPoint presenters in slideshow mode now have new “behind the scenes” features. This includes a new Navigation Grid. This gives you teleprompter-style notes on the back end of that your audience never sees.
- Office will only run on Windows 7 or Windows 8, despite 50% of PC users being on Windows XP or Vista.
- Office 365 wasn’t very impressive, so it has been completely revamped.
- Touch Mode, a more touch friendly way to use Office.
- Resume Read via SkyDrive. Documents stored on SkyDrive will save the page you are currently reading similar to how the Kindle behaves when reading books, except SkyDrive allows you to do it across multiple internet-capable devices.
- Commenting revamped. Threaded comments and the ability to add comments anywhere on the margin.
- Built-in Handwriting recognition software for touch-screens.
- The option for subscription pricing instead of buying it in the box.
- Improved start/welcome pages. This makes PowerPoint less scary for beginners, and that is important.
- PowerPoint has more shapes!
- Improved alignment system, objects stick and line up better. If you use Photoshop this new system in Office 2013 might seem a little familiar.
- The View tab offers a new read mode that lets you read documents like an e-book.
- In read mode you can zoom in on objects that were scaled down to fit on the page. This comes in handy seeing pictures in their original size.
- Simultaneous online co-authoring. Microsoft has taken another note from Google on this one. Now everyone on your team can jump into a doc using the web app and edit it at the same time.
- OneNote allows you to insert entire files, not just pictures and links. Insert Excel charts pulling data from a spreadsheet on SkyDrive and you’ll see live updates if the spreadsheet is altered.
- OneNote has a mobile app for Android, iPhone, iOS. This makes it available everywhere, all the time. And, when a platform-specific app isn’t available you can always turn to the web apps.
- Exchange ActiveSync works with Hotmail, Gmail, and other popular email services that aren’t run on a private Microsoft Exchange server.
- Outlook connects with Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social networks. This lets you receive status updates and a few extras.
- Outlook calendars can now be shared directly from the app. This is a huge simplification of the process! There is also a built-in weather bar with a 3-day forecast.
Keep in mind that this is just covering the Office 2013 365 Home Premium Preview version. As Microsoft gets closer to an official retail release, there will inevitably be more changes and features to point out.
What do you think about the updates so far? Is Microsoft on the right track? I’m impressed with what has been done with this new suite, particularly the SkyDrive integration. If Microsoft can master the web apps, I think Google Docs is going to look a little shallow in the near future.