Microsoft has unveiled Office 2013 at a press event in San Francisco, and a customer preview version is available for download now. It heralds a new dawn for its work suite software as it embraces the company's much loved Metro interface and the new Microsoft operating system Windows 8.
Taking to the stage, Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO, announced the new software package before detailing what it featured.
Available at office.com/preview, the preview release features an intuitive design that promises to work with touch, stylus, mouse or keyboard across new Windows devices, including tablets.
"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 that is always up to date," said the company.
"We are taking bold steps at Microsoft,” Ballmer said at the press event.
"The new, modern Office will deliver unparalleled productivity and flexibility for both consumers and business customers. It is a cloud service and will fully light-up when paired with Windows 8."
While Office 2013, the software and service, will work on former versions of Windows, several features are focused on Windows 8 integration. For starters, it has many functions aimed at touchscreen tablet and computer users, with pinch and zoom, swipes and tap controls.
Microsoft is also promoting stylus control in Office 2013, with handwriting recognition so that you can scribble emails. You could even use a stylus as a laser pointer for your presentations.
Applications OneNote and Lync will be the first to offer truly Windows 8-style experiences, including a radial menu in the former note-making software that will respond perfectly to touch.
And Microsoft has even announced that Windows RT will come with Office Home and Student 2013 RT as standard. These will work on ARM-based Windows 8 platforms, including the company's own Surface tablet.
Other features Microsoft has so far announced include automatic document saving to its own SkyDrive cloud storage; roaming functionality that allows you to pick up where you left off, using your own personalised Office experience; and both Office on demand, which allows you to use applications from any internet-connected PC, and enhanced features and multiple licences will be available if you have a cloud-subscription.
Social integration is also a key improvement to the latest Office. Skype compatibility is finally included, now that Microsoft owns the voip service. And other Microsoft acquisition Yammer offers free social networking features for businesses when combined with SharePoint.
There are plenty more enhancements and improvements, which Microsoft will announce over the coming months leading up to release. The company will announce a "full line-up of offerings and pricing plans in the fall".
However, Ballmer did reveal three Office 365 subscription packages that will be available, which will include the 2013 versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access, and be accessible from up to five PCs, Macs or mobile devices.
Office 365 Home Premium is designed for families and consumers. It will include an additional 20 GB of SkyDrive storage and 60 minutes of Skype world minutes per month.
Office 365 Small Business Premium will include business-grade email, shared calendars, website tools and HD webconferencing.
And Office 365 ProPlus is designed for enterprise customers who want advanced business capabilities and the flexibility to deploy and manage in the cloud.
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