What's new in Microsoft Office 2013?

Microsoft Office 2013 is yours to download for free. Well, the preview is anyway, so get on that pony quick before the software gets official and starts to cost you.

While you wait for that progress bar to chug along you might want to take a second to find out what’s actually new in Microsoft Office though. So, here’s a little tour of the main changes and features to look out for. Happy clicking.

Office 2013 general

There is one important theme of Microsoft Office 2013 that runs all the way through the suite. We haven't listed it for each of the programs individually but you can safely assume that it's there.

Cloud syncing
This is pretty much the cornerstone of Office 2013. All of your documents are automatically saved to the SkyDrive folder on your desktop meaning that you can then access them from any of your devices, whether they run a dedicated Office app or not. What's more, you can send out links direct from SkyDrive while also setting the levels of editing privileges when you want share your documents with friends and colleagues. If the person you’re sending to doesn’t have Office 2013, it doesn’t matter. A click on the link will open up a browser version online for them to read instead.

Word 2013

As ever, it’s look and feel leads the way with changes to Word. (How much more can one add to word processing at the end of the day?) Office 15 or 2013, depending upon which nomenclature you prefer, keeps the ribbon style format with each of the File, View, type options spread out across of the screen as you click on each tab. It’s with layout, previews and sharing where things start to get interesting.

Read Mode
Hit the View tab and you’ll find Read Mode listed first next to all the other preview usuals. Read Mode works as a kind of slide show of your pages and will even split your text into columns automatically to give it that magazine look and feel. Easy reading indeed.

Object Zoom
Once in read mode, you can double click on any inserted objects. So, tables, charts but, most importantly, pictures and videos now blow up to closer to full screen size on demand and allow to not only to view them but also interact with them in the case of movies.

Resume Reading
With SkyDrive at the helm as a point of save, the idea of resuming your reading of a document takes on a new dimension. Not only can you pick up where you left off, but you can also do so across any device. Open Word on your Windows Phone, step out of the house and carry on reading.

Comment and Reply
Collaborating on a document? Word 2013 now gives you the possibilitiy of turning someone else’s hard work into a mass of critical conversation. Click in the margin of the document and you add a comment. Click on another person’s comment and you can then reply to it in threaded style conversation.

Templates and Tools
As ever, a new version of Word means new templates to use. From the off the program will offer you Blog Post, Annual Report, Family Photo Calendar, Sports Certificate, Wedding Invitation and a host of other pre-set designs to give you a head start on your project.

PDF editing
It’s pretty demanding on your system - especially if the PDF in question is picture packed - but Word 2013 will allow you to open and view PDF files and also edit them as well, which rather seems to negate the point of a PDF in the first place but there you go.

Alignment and Layout
Trying to insert an object (chart, photo, table, video, etc) into your documents will no longer cause you to spend an hour tearing your hair out in front of your machine. All you need to do is use the onscreen alignment guides that appear on the page to get it just where you need it to be. If you’re not happy with your first choice, click on the object and drag it elsewhere. You copy will reflow around it automatically.

PowerPoint

With Word 2013 looking more like PowerPoint than ever before with its new Reader View and object embedding system, it’s easy to forget that there’s a real slideshow and presentation program at all. Don’t worry. Microsoft hasn’t forgotten.

Start Screen
The welcome page, when you load up PowerPoint 2013, has had a much-needed facelift - the kind that makes novice users far less scared of it. Like Word, there’s now a better choice of presentation templates to start from - each with a choice of colour and theme - and even more to search through online.

Alignment Guide
Again, like Word, PowerPoint 2013 also benefits from the new and improved object alignment system. Your words will flow around and move aside as you drag and drop your choice of videos, pictures and whatever else you intend to wow your audiences with.

More shapes
There’s a whole heap of shapes already preset in the PowerPoint 2013 options for you to use as the framework of your text and design bubbles. That said, if you still can’t get what you’re after, there are now also included tools to let you merge several until you get what you need.

Slide Zoom
Designed to help bring some focus during your presentations, you can double click on a diagram, chart or graphic which will them zoom it up to become the main area of attention before allowing it to sink back again with another click.

Navigation Grid
Gone are the days of flicking back and forth through your presentations to try to find a specific slide. An excellent new addition is the Navigation Grid which is a representation of all of your sheets that only you can see on your screen. Just pick the one you want shown to your audience with the mouse.

Comment and Reply
Just as with Word 2013, there’s also a rather neat commentry system with PowerPoint. Click in the margin of the document and you add a comment. Click on another person’s comment and you can then reply to it in threaded style conversation.

Online coauthoring
Work on the same presentation as your team all at the same time. Best of all, not everybody needs to have PowerPoint 2013 installed. You can use the web app too.

Outlook

It’s easy not to bother with a desktop email client, especially on a home computer. Nonetheless, Microsoft has done its darndest with Outlook 2013 to draw you back from web mail.

Exchange ActiveSync
One set up option you’ll find a nice, friendly and consumer facing comes in the form of Exchange ActiveSync. It means that your version of Outlook can match up with popular services like Hotmail or Gmail and the like, and get access to all your calendars, contacts and everything else you have associated with those accounts and push alerts to the facts as well.

New Look
It’s cleaner, it’s meaner and, yes, it’s sexier. The interface has been spruced up with a new navigation bar and, although it’s a little tough getting used to finding all the bits and pieces that you once knew, once set in your mind, it’s a good change.

More social
If email isn’t social, then nothing is. Just in case you’re not already addicted enough, Outlook 2013 will ping you all the latest updates from all your friends and followers on LinkedIn, Facebook and all the usuals.

Calendar sharing
You can share your calendar direct from the interface on Outlook now rather than having to go through the laborious process of whatever your email provider passes as a simple solution.

People Card
The People Card is a neat way to integrate your many contact strings into one single profile per person. Rather than sit in a soup duplicates, the People Card is designed to organise all your buddies without you having to lift a finger.

Peek
Much as was introduced with Windows 7, Outlook 2013 lets the user take several peeks by hovering their mouse over different bits of on-screen information. Take a peek at your schedule, appointments or even a contact, all without having to open and close windows left, right and centre.

Weather Bar
A rather nice addition to Outlook is the Weather Bar. It pretty much does what it says on the tin. It tells you what the weather is like and what it’s going to be like too. That should help you plan your schedule a little better.

OneNote

OneNote 2013 has been entirely redesigned for Windows 8. So far, we’ve only seen the desktop version of the software but Microsoft has confirmed a Metro-style experience too where you’ll be swiping your notes around like nobody’s business.

On everything you own
With OneNote apps now on just about every platform, you can sync your notes between lots of devices out there - Windows Phone, Android and iOS all included.

Embed files
You can drag and drop in links, pictures and whatever else you like to your notes but now you can also add whole files as well. Stick in an Excel spreadsheet, for example, and you get previews of the charts which even update automatically as you alter the mother document itself.

Inking
The touch-friendliness of Windows 8 means that OneNote 2013 is ready and willing for you to get your hands all over it. Draw, erase, edit, doodle naughty bits and whatever you’d like to do - all with your finger or stylus. There’s also some in-built handwriting recognition software.

Improved tables
You can get a little more in depth with your use of tables in OneNote 2013. Better control means that you can manipulate the rows and columns more easily, create charts and perform calculations too.

Excel

Finally is probably the least sexy of the whole side of the Office 2013 suite - apart from Access which we’re just not going to cover. Fortunately, what Microsoft has focused on here is how to turn your data into meaningful tabular and pictorial representations without really having to know too much.

Recommended pivot tables
Ah, pivot tables. Never was there a less appropriate conversation topic in the run up to lovemaking. Fortunately, Excel 2013 is trying to help you think about them a little less by analysing your data and suggesting ones that suit you the best. Previews of each option are included so you can make sure that both you and your machine are on the same wavelength.

Recommended charts
Much as above with pivot tables, Excel 2013 will also recommend you a chart. Select your relevant data clutch and it will tell you how you might with to best represent that including previews of your scatters, histograms, pie charts and all. Once chosen, you can use the Quick Analysis Lens and Formatting Control sections to tweak, redesign and annotate your charts as you like.

Flash Fill
Fill Down has always been one of the best functions of Excel and this edition of the famous spreadsheet software package takes you one step closer to nirvana by filling in a more intelligent manner. Flash Fill recognises any patterns you start to make with your data functions and will then auto-complete the rest of sheet including formulae, macros and all.

Share on the social
So, you can now do this but please don’t. Excel 2013 gives you the option to take selections from your worksheets and embed them in social network streams. How to lose friends and followers in a flash.

Present Online
Better is probably to keep your Excel work sharing to your colleagues and clients. You can present your workbooks online through Microsoft Lync as well as allow those in on the conference to take control of them as well.

Hands-on: Microsoft Office 2013 review



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