Word 2013 has a couple of nice features worth calling out. One is a viewing mode designed specifically for reading, which is pretty similar in theory to Reader mode in Safari, with text reflowing in columns to fit the display and all navigation and editing tools being hidden to present the document in a consumption-centric manner. The other is much better handling of PDFs - Word 2013 can now open PDFs and treat most content (text, tablets, formatting) exactly the same as standard Word docs. If you’ve ever had to deal with the nightmare of copying content from PDFs to Word, this is wonderful news. Unfortunately, now I’m done with college; it’s unfortunate that Microsoft didn’t decide to implement this in Word 2007 when it would have been legitimately useful to me. (Sidenote: perhaps this is a sign that I’m getting old, but I’ve had a number of moments in the first month of this year when I see new tech products and think to myself “Damn, I would have killed for that 5 years ago when I was an undergrad.”)

PowerPoint comes with significantly better audio and video media support, the ability to add pictures from online directly to the presentation instead of having to save and insert them, a new presenter view when you have a second screen (which is done automatically), more (and better) themes, some cool new transitions (in a category called “Exciting”), and better sharing and editing tools.

Excel’s improvements are primarily related to new charting options, but also a couple of new data tools. The new chart object styles are awesome, and the customizability of the data point styles and transparencies is much easier than it used to be. Other than new content and the visual refresh, the way you interact with the software hasn’t fundamentally changed much with the added features, which is why I’m kind of glossing over Excel and PowerPoint. They’re evolutionary improvements that don’t radically alter the user experience.

Outlook has been redesigned to look like a much more powerful version of the Windows 8 Mail application, with a colour scheme change from gold to blue. Inline replies are now the default, there are plenty of animations, and social networking integration is being touted as one of the more important new features. Clearly, this is not my father’s Outlook we’re talking about. It takes some of the better features from current mobile mail applications and integrates them into what was already the gold standard in desktop mail programs. There are new flyover boxes (called Peeks) to quickly show you schedule, calendar, or contact details without switching windows. The contact manager also does a better job of consolidating multiple contact details into a single card to reduce duplicates. Faster search, better filtering, and new views and in-line attachment and Bing map previews make the 2013 edition the sleekest and easiest version of Outlook yet. After using Outlook for a few days, going back to the Mail app is just a painful and torturous exercise. 

With Office 2013, OneNote is making the jump from interesting and useful Office application to really being a vital component of the Office suite. With the rise of tablet computing and the touch-centric nature of Windows 8, this is understandable, particularly since most of the Intel-based tablets are coming with Wacom, N-Trig, or other active (pen-input) digitizers and even the Windows RT slates work well when paired with capacitive styli. That most Windows RT slates don’t come with capacitive pens out of the box is a failing of the device manufacturers, since the platform really lends itself to pen input. 

OneNote 2013 features a lot of cross platform integration, with easily embedded objects and Office files (which automatically update when changed). So, if I was to put an Excel grocery list file into OneNote, any changes I made to it in Excel would be reflected in OneNote as well. Outlook meeting integration gives OneNote much more scope in the business realm than it previously had, particularly when combined with the improved search and linked audio features. Better inking, photo snipping, auto-save, and a full-page reading view just improve what OneNote was already great for. 

Look and Feel Cloud Integration and Parting Thoughts
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  • quickbunnie - Friday, February 1, 2013 - link

    No outlook.

    If you don't use outlook and have only 1 computer, this round is a big value loss.
    If you do, Vivek's pricing value is valid.
    Reply
  • Ant-Acid - Sunday, March 10, 2013 - link

    But it's not the same bundle. The old Home and Student is Word/Excel/Powerpoint/OneNote. The HP also has Publisher/Access/Outlook.

    Most Mum's and Dad's want Publisher as well so the new Office 365 HP is excellent value (Source: I retailed PC's from 2000-2010).

    In my house of 5 it is cheaper to subscribe for 10yrs than to purchase the included software outright, and you get the upgrades to the new versions free when the release with the subscription.
    Reply
  • JediJeb - Sunday, February 3, 2013 - link

    MS just wants to switch everyone over to a rental model so they can maintain a constant revenue stream. For people like me we can function perfectly well running Office95 if only it would still load on newer machines. Honestly there is absolutely nothing the newer Office versions offer that I need above what the older versions offered.

    Another problem I would have switching to Office365 would be the need for constant internet access to make it operate. Even at work we often suffer from internet outages that can last all day, are we supposed to just shut down because our apps quit working?

    Microsoft hates the fact that I could purchase a piece of software and function perfectly well with it for 10 years, because that means they can not receive a constant stream of money. At work we just got rid of our last W95 machine a couple years ago, a W3.1 box a year before that and still have two running WinNT4, MS really hates us I am sure, but if they function as needed, why spend money?

    5-10 years is definitely not uncommon in many shops, especially if the budgets are tight.
    Reply
  • mayankleoboy1 - Friday, February 1, 2013 - link

    No info on how well excel performs ? If it supports better multithreading, or uses more SSE4/SSE4.1/AVX instructions ? Are calculations faster ?
    Are image manipulation faster in powerpoint ?

    Also, how well does the UI use the GPU/Direct2D ? (which was supposed to be a big change in Win8. Remember "Everything accelerated" blog )
    Reply
  • philosofool - Friday, February 1, 2013 - link

    Really?

    It's office, dude. If you can run Vista or later, this will run just fine. You could wonder about performance, but for the vast majority of users, performance increases won't even be noticeable, much less valuable. I used to be able to slow excel down by making it compute three and four variable linear regressions on my pre-intel MacBook... Haven' had the slowness problem on any x86 processor I've used in the last decade though.
    Reply
  • Parhel - Friday, February 1, 2013 - link

    I used to have to wait quite a while with Excel 2007 whenever I would do a VLOOKUP on a calculated value with a large dataset. There were ways around it, but it was never all that hard to choke Excel. I don't use it much anymore, so I can't speak to the newer versions. Reply
  • Kevin G - Friday, February 1, 2013 - link

    I've been able to bring my Ivy Bridge Core i5 to its knees in Excel 2010 via using array formulas over medium sized data sets (~30,000 rows). This stuff if run through a good JIT compiler should only take moments. I'm confident that Excel has continually regressed in performance for the past 15 years. Reply
  • MrEcho - Friday, February 1, 2013 - link

    Does the new Office 2013 or 365 offer real time collaboration like Google?
    For our company this is a huge thing for us, we love it and really use it.
    Yesterday we had 7 people working on the same spreadsheet, at the same time, no joke. And everything worked great. And the built in chat per document, very nice.
    If your not trying to write a Masters thesis, and want to do some basic work, MS Office is a bit over kill. I could never justify spending $100+ per seat to my CEO.
    Reply
  • Freakie - Friday, February 1, 2013 - link

    Yes, if your company gets the Office 365 subscription with Lync then you can have up to 249 people all working on a single document, with video and voice chatting built in as well. It even brings the current speaker's video feed front and center (when someone talks, their video becomes the "main" video). You can also keep the same "Meeting" going while switching documents in and out; it is sort of a digital whiteboard. Lync is also an instant messaging system that allows you do contact everyone in your business and organize them like they would be in an Active Directory (Company, Department, Unit, Individual or however your company is organized) So you can instantly communicate with anyone in your company without using email/outlook and through any device as Lync is available on just about every mobile platform. It also integrates with your cell phone number and you can send/receive all of your text messages with Office 365 so when you are at your desk you can keep up with your mobile communications while still on one device (your computer) Reply
  • steven75 - Sunday, February 3, 2013 - link

    You're aware gchat existed for years now along side Google Apps, right? Reply

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