Microsoft Office 2013 for Winodws 8 with New Rules

Office 2013 for Windows 8

It's been a long wait, but the first version of Microsoft Office designed for Windows 8 is here. Office 365 Home Premium (a.k.a. Office 2013) — the real thing, not the preview — is now available for download.

And it brings the software suite into the world of touch, the cloud and collaboration via social networks. It's a needed upgrade, though it still isn't as convenient to use as simpler alternatives, such as Google Drive.
As of today, Microsoft Office 2013 for consumers is available in 162 markets in 21 languages for either a $99.95 yearly subscription. The subscription lets you install Office on up to five devices (PCs, Macs or a mix), comes with 60 Skype minutes per month and 20GB of SkyDrive storage, and entitles you to continual updates to the apps for as long as you subscribe.

You can still buy the new Office for the one-time cost of $219.99, but that only lets you install it on one machine, and you don't get the version updates. Office 365 University for college students and staff is also available for a $79.99 yearly subscription. The business version of Office, which is priced a bit higher and includes deeper integration with Microsoft's enterprise software, won't arrive until Feb. 27.

Today, only the Windows apps are getting a refresh. The Mac apps are still the 2011 versions, and don't have the new features in Office 2013 — cloud collaboration for instance, can only be done via the Office web apps. The Mac version of a major Office update typically lags the Windows one by several months, but it often gets a few extras when it finally arrives.

Cloud Productivity

The most powerful change to Office in the new edition is that it's made with connectivity in mind. It starts with how you get it: No longer do you need to go to a store and buy a package with a disc inside (though you still can) — a purchase gets you product code. Enter the code, and you're taken to an account screen where you can download the Office apps and manage your Skype minutes storage, and authorize (or de-authorize) your five devices running the software. It's all very logical.

 Downloading the apps takes a little while (it took my Samsung Series 7 tablet about 15 minutes), but you can start using them sooner than that. I fired up Word and began typing my notes for this review just a couple of minutes into the download.

Connection to the cloud — mainly via Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud service — is a constant presence in the new Office. Once you've connected your account, the default save location is SkyDrive, which also enables sharing and collaborating with others.

Microsoft was already using the cloud with Office 365, of course, but now the integration goes deeper. You can work on a SkyDrive document within the native Word app, for instance (as opposed to the browser), and it will even indicate if anyone else is editing the document at the time. If you want to ask what they're doing, it's easy to initiate an IM, call or Skype them without leaving the app.

The way Office 2013 works with the cloud is excellent, though I had a couple of issues with it: Word still needs any edits to be manually saved before they show up for other collaborators. It's a stark change for anyone used to Google Drive's real-time edits that just magically appear.

New and Improved Word

The apps that constitute Office have evolved over the years, but the core is still Word, Excel and PowerPoint. All of them have a new Spartan look that eschews the old toolbars for a revamped navigation across the top. Things like File, Home, Insert and View are all there, and tapping (or clicking) on one calls up a ribbon of clearly labeled icons. It's all very neat.

If you've ever tried to insert something like a photo into a Word doc, you know why page-layout apps like Adobe InDesign exist. Word 2013 does inserts better than any previous version, though, adjusting text wraps in real time as you move your object (be it photo, clip art or video). Options for inserting online images and videos are right in the menus.

Excel and PowerPoint Rise

Excel's new big "wow" feature is Flash Fill. In the "tour," the app takes a table full of email addresses, formatted "," and invites you to create a new column with just the first names. Start typing the first one, nothing happens. Start typing the second, and Excel figures out what you're doing and automatically fills out the rest of the column. The first time this happens, you might actually cheer.

However, it's a situation that I had a hard time replicating, usefulness-wise. This could be just me, but most of my tables I have don't have similarly formatted data, ripe for extrapolated partitioning. Still, it could save loads of time if you're doing a data "cleanup" — say getting contact information out of an old address book.

Far more useful, I think, are Excel's Suggested Charts and Instant Analysis. Got data? Excel can suggest several different kinds of tables that will be appropriate for it. I found its choices, like the chart below, to be very good, generally, needing only style adjustments and proper titles to make them truly pretty. It's a bit humbling when an app has better instinct than you, but I've never claimed to be a chart guy.

New Office Rules

These are just a few of the highlights of Office 2013, but they give you a feel of the direction Microsoft is heading in. Office has been a the go-to suite for core productivity apps for going on two decades, but it's overall experience felt tired and inflexible in the world of real-time collaboration with services such as Google Apps, Dropbox and OpenOffice.

With Office 2013, Microsoft has caught up with its competitors, but it hasn't surpassed them. It still needs to polish its experience (improving performance while saving to the cloud would be a big help) and make the experience even more inviting. Office certainly still has its edge on features and formatting — and the new layout is pretty — but it still has an intimidation factor.

The reason you should upgrade and get the new version, however, isn't the cloud integration or the cool new features. It's the subscription model. Spending $99.95 a year on a suite of world-class productivity apps that you can install on five machines — complete with cloud integration and continual updates — is simply a good deal.

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About Khawar Akram

Efficient professional with approximately 3 years of experience in a medium size digital web agency and geotechnical engineering organization. Has profound knowledge of web and e-commerce application development. Expertise and experience in application deployments, analysis user requirements and client trainings and support. And proficient in adapt latest technologies, motivated and accomplished IT professional with resource management and programming skills and cooperative to peers and friendly to the starters.