REVIEW: Microsoft Office 2013

Software giant Microsoft has unveiled its latest version of the Office software suite, in which it has optimised Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Outlook to work better with touch-screen-controlled computers. HumanIPO had a chance to review the subscription version of the new software.


Office 2013 versions

Office 2013 comes in a range of versions for business and home users. The subscription-based cloud services for Office 365 come in different grades, namely Small Business Premium (shared calendars, business-class mail, HD conferencing), Home Premium (20GB of SkyDrive storage and 60 minutes of Skype world minutes a month included), and ProPlus (enterprise).  

Obtaining the standalone versions of Office 2013 merely guarantees maintenance updates. However, staying subscribed to Office 365 guarantees access to future updates.

Office Home and Student 2013 RT includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. The Microsoft RT version of Office for ARM-basedtablets has been included at no cost on RT devices including the Surface RT tablet.

Devices supported

Office 2013 standalone versions can only be installed on a single PC, while the Office 365 subscription versions can be installed on up to five. The versions can be deactivated and installed later on other devices. A user will however need to sign up for a free Microsoft account to access cloud-based document sharing through SkyDrive.

Revolutionary milestones

Office has been updated in its visual outlook, making it more touch- and stylus-friendly for Windows 8 tablets. Latest social networking features and Skype integration are additional interactive features, although they tend to replicate what can be accessed on PCs through other apps and services.

Other features include Lync and OneNote that add interactive note-taking and video-based communications. In addition, the inclusion of stylus (‘inking’) support in tablet mode makes of it possible for users to execute freehand note-taking or casual pen-based markups of docs. For system requirement, a user will need a Windows 7 or Windows 8 PC, or a Windows RT tablet.

Google Docs-like features

Office 2013 offers a free range of applications such as Web apps via SkyDrive that function like Google Docs. Cloud connectivity is ensured via a user’s Web browser – without software purchase or monthly charges. Though the Web apps are not as rich as full versions, they can prove useful for more casual Office users or for quick edits to documents. The apps on offer in this case include Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. A user will have to sign up for a Microsoft account to use the Web apps.

Operability on tablets

Office 2013 is streamlined expressly for tablets and smartphones. Its layout has been abridged and integrated with additional changes making it more touch-friendly. Button-cons have also been included. Though the Ribbon remains in Word, users can remove interface clutter for wider view. Other additions focus on consumption and media use. For instance, Read mode optimizes a document for tablet reading with book-like page flipping. Also, videos can be viewed within the documents while images can be captured from the tablet’s onboard camera while at the same time resized into the doc.

iOS compatibility

Microsoft’s new software only supports Web browser access that works on iPhone or iPad. OneNote is however available on iOS, Android and Symbian phones, too. Windows phones will support Office via SkyDrive, seamlessly updating saved changes.

Skype Use

Microsoft Lync supports Skype for multiparty video chat, and within Office for collaboration on documents. The biggest highlight here could be in office meetings – on an 80-inch Perceptive Pixel screen, it can create a giant interactive whiteboard and two-way meetup.

Choice of version

A preferable version would depend on the extent one applies the tools in the suite. The standalone version could be the best bet for users who make use of only a couple of the programmes and tend to overlook the future upgrades.

Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 are available at $139, the low-end standalone option that comes with Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote. If looking to add Outlook, Office Home and Business are obtainable at $219. If a user wants all the tools, he can spend $399 on Office Professional, which includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access.

Alternatively, users can sign up for Office 365 subscription, which offers similar downloadable Office apps, all future upgrades to the software while you keep the subscription, Office on Demand, 20GB of space on SkyDrive (in addition to the free 7GB you get now) and the right to install the suite on five computers.

With the setup, a user can choose Office 365 Home Premium for $99 per year, which bundles Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, and Access.

According to Microsoft, the full details on packages with more business features for larger companies will be announced on February 27.

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