A New Beginning
For tech junkies like myself, it was delightful to see a new product out for a preview. With the industry trend to move to the cloud this is an obvious push for Microsoft especially in the consumer market. Where businesses are aggressive in implementing private clouds the average consumers have embraced the public clouds. Now Office 365 has been around for awhile now in the corporate world where it has in some regards struggled to kick off. It has always been a solid niche filler for small the medium sized companies. Now they have expanded into the consumer market which is a marriage made in heaven. Now I am in love with Microsoft’s new slogan, ” Welcome to a Modern Office”. On the surface this may sound like some marketing term. Which it is… It’s importance is the idea that stagnation in technology is holding us back, and to grab our traditional ideas. Then advance them with modern concepts as using the cloud is a great direction to be moving in.
Now ideas are great but if execution is done poorly then you’ve accomplished nothing.Lets begin. I started my journey at Microsoft’s Office 2013 Preview. It was a painless experience with your traditional Microsoft Passport login. It downloaded a thin client installer which was quite optimisitic.
I was then greeted with an interesting prompt. I was asked how I wanted my Office to look. This question reinforces my original thought that Microsoft is pushing into a much more consumer focused direction. Even if it is a superfulous feature I like little touches like these. Ask any design expert and they will tell you that little things like these add greatly to the experience one has when looking something. Especially if you are going to be looking at it as much as the typical computer user does.
So after two more screens pointing out the new cloud integration you are good to go and they release you into your new “Modern Office”. The software included in the Home Preview include Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Access, Outlook, OneNote, and Publisher (I would provide a link, but Microsoft apperently forgot to create a product page for Publisher).
I decided to start things off I would go to the venerable Microsoft Word. Upon opening this application i was greeted by the new splash screen. Which i was pleased to find had a new updated look which was elegant unlike Office 2010’s splash.
My first impressions were quite good. It had a very snappy and quick start. The design of the application still had its Windows 8 elegant style to it.
I went ahead and opened a word document. Again the performance was reliable, quick, and snappy.
Some of the initial changes that I had noticed are your Microsoft Passport picture at the top with your email address confirming that you are signed in, and a new tab called “Design”. The first thing I did was start typing. This is where at first things felt a little weird. The cursor wasn’t snappy like I am sure everyone is used to. Instead of moving across the screen it glides. Now for the average person this will probably move across the screen quick enough that it is just visually elegant, but to a speed typer I can see this being annoying as it almost feels like its struggling to keep up. I decided that for the speed at which I type it wouldn’t bother me as I had to put a concious effort into speed typing to really feel like the cursor wasn’t keeping up.
The Design Tab
At this point I decided to explore this new “Design” tab. It resembles what most people will associate with picking your slide deck design for PowerPoint.
I found this to be a very welcoming addition. There are many features that most people don’t take the time to learn that are great in the newer ribbon based Office Suites. One of my favorites was the “Styles” section. What this design tab does is allows you to save presets of those styles that you can quickly and easily apply to your document if you properly use styles. This is fantastic! With only one click I made the document you saw above look like the one below.
And with only one more click i changed it again to the one below here.
What big differences with such little effort, and best of all. It applied the styles without even skipping a cycle. Very responsive.
Online Pictures and Video
One really neat feature I found is the ability to insert images from many online sources. What clued me off is the new button that appeared under insert.
I was very intrigued at first. I quickly clicked it to only be surprised, and get even more curious. You see I was greeted by a interesting window.
As you can see, now you can insert pictures straight from Bing, your own Skydrive, or the new clip art that features stock pictures much like iStockPhoto.com. Then on the bottom I saw the Flickr logo. You see, if you have a Flickr account you can also search for images there. To sweeten the deal, any image source can eventually have thier service added here making it even easier to pull in images from online sources. It’s almost like they realized most people start searching for images rather than use clip art.
Now if you are more interested in video adding them is even easier than before.
You can add video in much the same way. Even YouTube! Practically any video with an embed code can be used.
Office Now has Apps
The new office suite now lets you have apps that bring in more information without having to leave word. There are only a few at this moment as you can imagine. There are dictionary to encyclopedia apps. Great for doing research and not leaving Word.
This kind of functionality brings all kinds of new potentials to Word. This is a very good example of how Microsoft is focusing on pulling in all kinds of functionality that we all use other services for into Word.
This is one of my new favorite features. Comment has always been around, but its always been a little clunky. Especially when you leave a comment, and your coworker comments on your comment. Then you comment on the comment about your original comment. Then those comments become as hard to read as me explaining commenting in Office 2010. Now its a bubble with a threaded conversation. This is a truely collaborative tool.
PDFs in Word
Im going to make this simple. Here is an image of me opening a PDF.
Here is a picture of me reading a PDF.
Here is a picture of me editing a PDF.
This is me saving that edited PDF.
I have only worked with Word so far and I can say that I am impressed. Lots of people can knock Windows, but one thing Microsoft does well is office productivity applications. It is a big step into integrating with the cloud. They really started creating that bridge. I can’t wait to see what the other products hold. This version is definately something that I will be looking into buying soon after it is released for general consumption.