Office 2013 overview

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What you need to know about Office 2013 and getting the preview.

Office 2013 is now available for public preview. As you’d expect Office-Watch.com has been and will be looking at Office 2013 in detail. We don’t rely on the glib promises and cozy half-truths sent out by Microsoft. Instead we take our time and check out the new software and features ourselves – a quaint and almost old-fashioned approach but there you have it.


What’s new?

Frankly – there’s not a lot. Sure there are some new features but, after looking at Office 2013 for some time, nothing that leaps out as being ‘gee whiz’ let alone ‘must have’. We’ll be publishing detailed articles on Office 2013 features in the days and months ahead. They’ll be based on our own research and use of Office, not warmed over versions of Microsoft hype.

(What we say now we say with regret since we like Office and always have.)

Office 2013 has more to do with advancing Microsoft’s corporate aims than providing benefits for customers now. Many of the ‘new’ features are simply integration of existing Microsoft products like Skydrive and Skype. That’s good but not enough to justify paying for Office 2013.

The hyped major changes are in the way Office 2013 will be sold – with a concerted effort towards buying Office on a subscription basis – something that Microsoft has desperately wanted for over a decade. Office 2013 will be sold mostly as a service bundled with Office 365 hosting.  ‘Traditional’ download or disk sales of Office 2013 will be available to those who look for it.

The interface changes range from the petty (the Office 2013 ‘look’) to screen gobbling menus which may make sense on a touch screen but are a nuisance for most of us. The new ‘flat’ look for tabs and ribbons makes it harder to visually separate items. The whole look seems more like change for the sake of it rather than an improvement to benefit users.

Laptop and netbook users will likely hate Office 2013’s grab of valuable screen space, some of which is pointless for non-touch users, which is most of us. Microsoft tacitly acknowledges that with the new Full Screen Mode.

Integration with Skydrive and the ability to ‘see’ the same document on multiple devices is a great step forward for individual and small organizations. Same goes for sharing Office settings between computers. It’s something that large companies and Small Business Server users have enjoyed for years. However there are privacy issues that are a serious concern.

Naturally Skydrive integration will work best with Windows devices so anyone straying from the Microsoft fold (like the millions of Apple and Android users) will have to put up with second best.

It may be that Office 2013 will make sense for Windows 8 users with the yet-unseen touch devices – but for people using a computer right now in the real world (not Microsoft’s fantasy land) it’s hard to see much worth the price of upgrading.

We’ll be publlishing detailed articles on Office 2013 features in the days and months ahead.  They’ll be based on our own research and use of Office, not warmed over versions of Microsoft hype.


System Requirements

Only Windows 7 and Windows 8 users need apply. Windows Vista and XP are not supported.

Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2012 are also supported.

Officially you need 1GB of RAM for the 32-bit version of Office 2013 and 2GB of RAM for the 64-bit version. As usual these are ‘low ball’ requirements from Microsoft. In practice a minimum of 2GB is needed to run Office 2013 without frustrations and waiting.

About 3GB of hard disk space is needed.

The detailed system requirements (read minimums) is here.


Bundles

For the customer preview you have these choices.

Office 365 Home Premium Preview includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, OneNote, Access, and Publisher. Install on up to five machines. 20 GB of extra online storage on SkyDrive (on top of the usual 5 GB with a free SkyDrive account).

Office 365 Small Business Premium Preview includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, OneNote, Access, Publisher, InfoPath, and Lync. For companies with up to 10 employees and each user can install Office on up to five machines. This is a cloud integrated package with hosted email, shared documents (SharePoint), and HD videoconferencing using a Lync server hosted by Microsoft.

Office 365 ProPlus Preview same as the Small Business package with up to 25 user accounts who can install Office 2013 on up to five machines.

Office 365 Enterprise Preview For large organizations wanting enterprise level cloud integration. Take the Office 365 ProPlus package and add Exchange Online, with archiving and legal hold features plus SharePoint and Lync Online.

This is for the preview only – Office 2013 will have different bundling,


the Office 2013 Preview

If you want to try Office 2013 with the cloud based installation; click to run and streaming install go to http://www.microsoft.com/office/preview/en and click on ‘Sign up’

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To get the ‘traditional’ (Microsoft’s phrase) install of Office 2013 you have to dig deeper and we’ve made a separate article to help you find your way.


Pricing

Not known – that will come later. Clearly the main focus will be on buying Office 2013 on a subscription basis probably with an Office 365 subscription for email hosting and other services. The purchase of the software alone and for an upfront price will be possible but discouraged.


When will Office 2013 be sold?

Also not announced. Some guesses are for soon after Windows 8 and before the Christmas sales rush. On the other hand, it would be better for the stability and reliability of Office 2013 if Redmond didn’t rush things so we’d like to see a 2013 release.

The ‘Windows RT’ version of Office 2013 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote only) will be included with Windows RT touch based devices and they are not expected until later this year or, more likely, 2013. Again, there’s a marketing imperative to rush this product out quickly. Since Office 2013 for RT is a mostly new product on a new hardware base (ARM chips not Intel) we’d prefer to see this product released later instead of sooner.


Office 2013 for Mac

What about Macintosh users?

There will be a new Office for Mac version available at some stage. Microsoft has their usual weasel words about support for the Mac saying that Office 365 will support Mac users. Foolish commentators have taken that to mean Office for Mac will release about the same time as Office 2013 for Windows – as if.

When a new version of Office for Mac will appear is anyone’s guess but it’ll be later in 2013 and on a different schedule to the Windows releases.

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