With Windows 8 just around the corner, it was inevitable that Microsoft would refresh its Office suite of productivity apps to reflect the Metro style of the new OS.
Microsoft did just that yesterday at a press event in San Francisco, revealing Microsoft Office 2013 officially along with a new Consumer Preview available to download and try out for free right now.
Being the Office suite to launch with Windows 8, Office 2013 has been designed with touch-based devices in mind, meaning that it will work well on tablets, smartphones, and touchscreen PCs. The standard mouse and keyboard-operated PCs aren’t forgotten either.
However, those stuck on Windows XP or Vista will not be able to upgrade to Office 2013. Microsoft has designed the software to work smoothly with the latest PCs using Windows 7 and Windows 8, leaving older machines in the dust.
For tablet computers using the more basic Windows 8 RT operating system, Microsoft announced that Office Home and Student 2013 RT as standard, which is neat.
Microsoft’s jolly CEO Steve Ballmer put an emphasis on social aspects at the event yesterday, claiming that the new software “unlocks modern situations scenarios in reading, note-taking, meetings and communications and will be delivered to subscribers through a cloud service that is always up to date”
When Microsoft talks about social in Office, it’s talking Skype and social networking. Skype is compatible with the software in various aspects, and thanks to Microsoft’s acquisition of Yammer, it will be able to offer social networking features for businesses, combined with the SharePoint software.
Documents will be automatically saved online to the cloud using Microsoft’s SkyDrive service, and can also be picked up on another Windows 7 or 8 machine by signing in to your Microsoft account. Stylus support has been touted for touchscreen machines, allowing the user to jot down notes and even handwrite an email.
A full lineup of packages and prices will be announced later in the year, presumably alongside the launch of Windows 8. Steve Ballmer did however announce three packages yesterday, all of which will include new versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access. These packages will be accessible from up to five PCs, Macs, or mobile devices.
You’ve got Office 365 Home Premium, Office 365 Small Business Premium, and Office 365 ProPlus. Each package is catered towards a specific type of user, with the Home Premium pack offering an extra 20GB of SkyDrive cloud storage and 60 Skype minutes per month, and the Small Business Premium pack giving business grade email and HD webconferencing.
If you want to give Office 2013 a spin right now on your Windows 7 machine, head over to office.com/preview to download and try the Consumer Preview.