The new Microsoft Office customer preview is now available (video)

17 Jul 2012

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has unveiled the customer preview of the new Microsoft Office, which will come as a cloud service that makes the most of the upcoming Windows 8 platform and Microsoft’s new tablet devices.

As predicted by last week, Ballmer revealed the new Office Suite at a press conference in San Francisco, California.

“We are taking bold steps at Microsoft,” he said. “The new, modern Office will deliver unparallelled productivity and flexibility for both consumers and business customers. It is a cloud service and will fully light up when paired with Windows 8.”

Built for new devices

What Ballmer means is that the new Office has been developed to showcase what the new operating system and the Surface tablets are capable of, working with touch, stylus, mouse or keyboard control.

The software will recognise gesture controls like swipe and pinch to zoom, while stylus users can handwrite notes and emails, which will then be converted to text, and colour and erase content. The stylus can also be used as a laser pointer for PowerPoint presentations.

Application interfaces have been updated to work with the new operating system, such as a new radial menu for OneNote, which has also been redeveloped to let users take notes with touch, stylus or keyboard, or all of the above, switching back and forth as they wish.

OneNote, Office 2013

OneNote’s new radial menu

Read Mode in Word automatically adjusts to suit the screen size of any device, while PowerPoint will now let users zoom, mark up and navigate slides on the fly while presenting using touch and stylus.

Perceptive Pixel, a recent acquisition for Microsoft, has even created 82-inch multitouch stylus-enabled displays that will enhance the use of Office for presentations, lessons and meetings.

Perceptive Pixel display Microsoft Office

Perceptive Pixel’s 82-inch multitouch, stylus-enabled display

Everything in the cloud

The new Office saves all the documents you work on to SkyDrive, Microsoft’s cloud platform, by default. They will still be available to you offline and will sync when you reconnect.

Users’ settings are also stored in the cloud, meaning that your recent files, templates, custom dictionary, and the point where you left off in a document are available no matter where you sign in to Office.

All of this comes as part of a cloud-based subscription service, which streams the Office suite to any internet-connected Windows device. Subscribers will also be upgraded automatically when applicable.

Word start screen (Windows 8, new Office)

Word start screen

Social and collaborative

Remember when Microsoft bought Yammer, the social network for business? Well, that acquisition is now coming into full effect as Yammer is integrated with the new Office. Users can sign up for free and the service offers integration with SharePoint and Microsoft Dynamics.

The new Office also comes with Skype, giving users 60 world minutes every month and allowing integration with Lync contacts.

SharePoint has also become more social, allowing users to follow people, teams, documents and sites and to view and embed content in activity feeds, while People Card gives users an integrated view of their contacts everywhere in Office.

Full line-up still to be announced

Microsoft’s new ARM-based devices won’t be left out of the mix, as the release also includes Office Home and Student 2013 RT for Windows RT.

The full line-up of Office’s 2013 editions and pricing plans will be announced in autumn this year, but some details for three Office 365 subscriptions – Home Premium, Small Business Premium, and ProPlus – have been revealed so far. Each of these subscriptions comes with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access, plus future upgrades and use for up to five devices.

Windows 7 or 8 users can sign up for a preview of Office 365 Home Premium here.


Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.