Microsoft released the preview version of Office 2013 less than a week ago. This new installment of the productivity suite has many of the same features as its previous versions, 2003, 2007, and 2010: Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, and Outlook. But there are other programs as well, and Microsoft has connected the Office Suite to the Azure Cloud.
In this review I’ll discuss the requirements for installation and the installation process. I’ll also discuss the contents of three of the Office 2013 suite programs, Word, Excel and PowerPoint, and how the cloud-based Office 365 may change the way many users work with the suite. I’ll also talk about Windows 8 integration, and wrap up with a discussion about the impact that Office 2013 can have in business enterprises.
For Starters: The Requirements
Okay, let’s talk about the requirements for Office 2013. It will run on Windows 7 and Windows 8, on desktop PCs, notebooks, tablets, and mobile phones, or on Windows Server 2008 R2 or later. The Office 2013 family includes a large number of desktop apps as well as server products like Exchange and SharePoint. Office 2013 will not run on Windows XP or Vista; this means that more than half of all computers currently running Windows will need an upgrade first.
Component Office 2013 Preview Requirements
Computer and processor 1 gigahertz (Ghz) or faster x86- or x64-bit processor with SSE2 instruction set
Memory (RAM) 1 gigabyte (GB) RAM (32 bit); 2 gigabytes (GB) RAM (64 bit)
Hard Disk 3.0 gigabytes (GB) available
Display Graphics hardware acceleration requires a DirectX10 graphics card and 1024 x 576 resolution
Operating System Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Server 2008 R2, or Windows Server 2012
Browser Microsoft Internet Explorer 8, 9, or 10; Mozilla Firefox 10.x or a later version; Apple Safari 5; or Google Chrome 17.x.
.NET version 3.5, 4.0, or 4.5
Multi-touch A touch-enabled device is required to use any multi-touch functionality.
Installation. So you decide to get Office 2013. Now what? First you must download and install the preview edition. You will be guided to the Windows Live ID screen, to get access. When you sign in you are given the option to download a Click-to-Run installer that handles the entire installation online. You must remain connected to the Internet until the installation is complete.
One new feature is that you can install Office 2013 on up to five PCs. The system allows you to deactivate the installed copy of Office from one or more devices so that you can install it on a new device. Once the installation is in place, you will see the suite appear on the start menu, in programs.
Roaming Apps, With the attention given to using Office on different devices, what if you want to use an app that is not installed, is that possible? A new feature, Roaming Apps, will allow you to use an individual app on a device where Office 2013 is not installed. First, sign in to your Microsoft Office account, open SkyDrive, and then open a document using the Office Web App. Click or tap File and then click or tap Edit to display the screen. But Roaming Apps is just one of the features, here are others.
The 2013 Office Suite
So what are the main differences between Office 2013 and 2010? Microsoft has moved Office to the cloud, just as it did with the Windows 8 operating system. What this means is that Office users can benefit from synchronization features to work with their own personal settings on all computers they sign in to.
The settings are stored in Microsoft's cloud and synced automatically with SkyDrive, SharePoint and local drives Office is launched from.
This opens another interesting possibility, as you can continue to work on a document even if you switch computers, for instance after leaving work and going home.
Users who sign in to Office will automatically have Office select SkyDrive as the preferred save location for documents.
Word 2013. Here is what you get with Word. New templates and design tools help you put the finishing touch on documents, and you’ll find new and updated ways to share and work with others. There is an improved screen-reading experience. How? Well a new Read Mode Text reflows automatically in columns to make it easier to read. And Object Zoom allows you to view tables, charts, images, or online videos, a finger tap or mouse click in greater detail. When you’re done, another tap or click returns them to their original size.
Also, Word automatically bookmarks your last-visited spot. So if you step away, and return you can pick up where you left off-- even if you are on a different PC or tablet.
File Saving and File Sharing: First your documents are saved online to SkyDrive or SharePoint by default. So you can send anyone a link to the same file, along with their viewing and editing permissions. They will see the latest version. And that is not all, because you can also share your document with others even if they don’t have Word. Do this by sending them a link, so as you read through the document on your screen, they can also follow along on their browsers.
Microsoft’s second standup software program, Excel brings some new features. The overall configuration is the same. There are nine tabs. File, Home, Insert, Design, Page Layout, Formulas, Data, Review, View, and Add-Ons.
But there are several areas that stand out. The first is better accessibility. Excel users will be able to have a better grasp of their content and what they can do with it. This means that there will be guidance on how to make graphs and charts look better.
Plus Excel 2013 now supports multiple monitors. You can have two Excel workbooks open at once. There are also new Business Intelligence capabilities.
Two pieces of software for Excel 2010 -- PowerPivot and SharePoint -- are now integrated into Excel 2013. So sharing spreadsheets will be possible. Excel Everywhere is a new addition. Microsoft is making sure that people will be able to access their Excel documents on any device wherever they are, just like Word.
Finally, with Excel 2013, apps can be designed for Excel using HTML5. These apps will work on both the standalone Excel environment and the cloud-hosted Web app. Now let’s look at the tabs.
Our final review will be on the PowerPoint differences between the 2013 and 2010 versions. PowerPoint is a presentation program used for showing information while a presenter is giving a talk. In structure, PowerPoint is the same in the two versions. They both have 10 tabs, File, Home, Insert, Design, Transition, Animations, Review, View, and Add-ins. But the overall program has some interesting features.
You can work on the same version with others at the same time. You can make you presentation look more interesting with wide-screen themes, plus you can add videos, pictures, and shapes, and create customized icons. Then there are the design elements that you have available. You can use the Union, Combine, Fragment, Intersect, and Subtract tools to merge two or more shapes into the shape you want. You can select a theme, add a design variant, and align text and pictures.
Windows 8 Integration
As mentioned before, Office 2013 will only run on Windows 7, Windows 8, or Server 2008 R2 or later. Of especial importance is how this Office Suite will integrate with Windows 8. Microsoft has made a large commitment to the new operating system. This commitment comes from the fact that they are geared to change how Windows works with PCs.
The big move for Microsoft is not Metro, but touch. The touchscreen will change the character of user interaction. Sure at the beginning there will be resistance, but over time users will look at the touch technology as the best thing since sliced bread. Why? Because it will be more natural to use. The keyboard and mouse won’t disappear but they will have their use changed
Businesses and Office 2013
Looking at the upcoming changes from a business perspective, why should a business make the jump to Office 2013? There are some negatives.
1. The upgrade factor. Office 2013 won’t run on the older operating systems, XP or Vista; only Windows 7 or Windows 8. This means that there will have to be a hardware upgrade to stay current.
2. Training. That’s always a hiccup. If users are working with Office 2007, or Office 2010, they can use their current technology skills and upgrade to the new set as needed, not all at once. This should not be a drawback.
3. Upgrades. Companies will have to upgrade, eventially. So why not upgrade to the most current version now? To that end, Microsoft will offer a server-side release of Exchange 2012, SharePoint 2012, and Lync 2012. These programs will provide access to the new collaborative features built into Office 2013. This will be an inducement for IT to not hang back as usual.
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