Microsoft Office 2013: The Verdict

By Peter Gothard
20 Jul 2012 View Comments
office-excel-1

Office 2013 (or Office 365 in enterprise circles) is being sold not only the basis of its enhanced collaboration and social functions, but also on its tablet friendliness.

Further reading

In this article, Computing will take you through some of the new features offered by Word, Excel and Powerpoint, but entirely experienced on a tablet device, unfettered by keyboard, mouse or monitor.

For your information, that's a Samsung Galaxy Slate, with the full-blown Windows 8 preview on it - not the cut-down RT version. And yes, that is 1996's Paint Shop Pro 4.0 down in the taskbar that we're using to grab screens. If it ain't broke...

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Setting up, and Office 365 legacy crossover

First, is was necessary to run a bolt-on setup program to make new Office 365 interface happily with Outlook 2010 on Computing's office network. A small, 3.12MB download, plus an additional .NET Framework 3.5 install, was also required on top.

This took about 10 minutes, with the progress bar stopping unnervingly at several points. A few other steps followed to make Office 365 backwards compatible with 2010.

Still, it should be noted that this is a preview version, and it worked, and got there in the end.

After all that, Outlook 2013 remained broken, but calendar features from Outlook were being successfully exported to Microsoft Lync 2013. Meanwhile, it was possible to video conference and chat between Lync versions with no problems at all. Overall, we'll give it the benefit of the doubt for now, this being a preview version after all.

Word

So yes - the Ribbon is still here. But it's hidden; an attractively minimal menu bar now just keeping everything nice and simple before a quick touch of File, Insert, etc. brings that familiar old muddle flowing back down.

Everything's spaced apart in a tablet-friendly way, though, proving fairly elegant even under Computing's sausage fingers.

The key features of Word, according to Microsoft's enterprise keynote earlier this week, are collaborative. On a basic level, integration between saving in Word, uploading to SkyDrive (with a new, smooth interface, pictured) and sharing editing privileges with colleagues all still worked well.

 

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Clearly, the word-balloon comments feature, annotations of which are supposed to lead back to Lync dialogues should the originator be online, are not backwards compatible for now. It should work pretty well in practice, however.

The other vaunted new feature is greater control over content importing, including an excellent in-Word video browser for Bing, YouTube and even html embed code. We couldn't get the Bing search to work at all, but YouTube was fast, smooth and pretty. It's also possible to insert an instant screenshot from any other application that's running on the system, which is neat.

Finally, inserting PDFs is not just possible - as everybody had hoped - but seriously impressive, letting you not only edit the PDF as Word converts it into text, but also interpreting tables as Word table data. Watch out, Adobe Acrobat.

Overall, Word's a sensibly conservative upgrade, with well-considered new features, all of which seem possible to use in tablet format with minimal finger or brain ache.

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