Microsoft Office 2013 Professional - The Latest Outing For Microsoft’s Flagship Productivity Suite (Part 1)

6/6/2013 6:01:33 PM

While Microsoft’s new Office 365 online subscription service sees a rolling update schedule, the desktop software continues its cyclic updates, office 2013 is the latest outing for Microsoft’s flagship productivity suite.

A redesign sees clean white backgrounds throughout the productivity suite, and the net effect is less clutter. More subtle is the use of animation that can make transitions look more fluid.

Word, Excel and PowerPoint no longer show a blank page at launch. Instead, a landing screen presents templates and other options for creating or opening a document.

The suite integrates with Microsoft’s online storage service SkyDrive, as well as commercial SharePoint server accounts. This arrangement makes available documents wherever you need them.

Microsoft Word

Word’s most visible changes is a Read Mode that dispenses with the ribbon toolbar and lets you see documents like a printed book. You can’t edit. But you can access search tools for lookups related to highlighted content. A navigation pane is useful for getting around lengthy documents.

Word has a new Read Mode that allows you to view documents like a book

Word has a new Read Mode that allows you to view documents like a book

You can click graphical elements to enlarge them for closer study, then click them again to return to the original layout. Word automatically bookmarks the page you were last on when you closed a document, and returns you to it when you reopen the file. That bookmark travels with the document and, when saved to SkyDrive, your other Office 2013 installations also open on the bookmarked page.

If you’re using a web-connected PC or device, you can watch video embedded in a Word document without leaving the program. You can search photo-sharing sites for images and directly add them to the document. The same goes for screenshots: an Insert Screenshot command brings up thumbnails of all running apps on you choose ready for cropping. Insert an image or other object, and Word reflows the text immediately.

A new Design tab gathers in one place styles and other formatting options, so you can easily try out different looks for your work. Word finally supports PDF editing (converting PDFs to Word, then saving them as PDFs). In our tests, Word mangled the formatting on a complex PDF, but it fared better with simple forms.

You can show your document to the Wordless by sending a Share link (with or without editing privileges). This lets the recipient see and potentially edit the document  in a web browser. You can also post to social networks a read-only or read/write link to the document in SkyDrive/

Microsoft has tweaked Word’s review and revision tools, too. The cleaned-up Simple Markup view spares you the clutter of deletions and comments in a heavily edited document. Word now supports replies to comments for more orderly tracking of conversations, and when a comment’s been addressed, you can mark it as such. You can password-protect your documents to prevent tracking changes, which stops other from fiddling with a document without your detection.

Microsoft Excel

Excel 2013 has some appealing and potentially useful additions that should help with the entering, analyzing and presenting of spreadsheet data.

Flash Fill can delete patterns beyond the numerical and date patterns that Excel has long recognized, and autocompletes empty fields as appropriate.

For example, if you’ve pasted into a column a list of similarly formatted email addresses (say,, you can type the first two first names into the first two cells of another column, select the column, and click the Flash Fill to see Excel instantly insert the rest.

Excel Flash Fill can detect patterns and autofills empty cells as appropriate

Excel Flash Fill can detect patterns and auto fills empty cells as appropriate

Excel 2013 makes it easier to wrangle data in a spreadsheet, too. Select an entire table, and a Quick Analysis button appears by the lower-right corner. Click to view thumbnails of several graph and charting options, the click one to apply it.

Not sure how to massage the data? Excel offers buttons that generate chart and pivot table recommendations. A timeline slicer makes it easier to examine data from a specific time period. Creating Mashups with third-party data sources is also easier.

Each workbook gets its own window, which makes viewing two or more at once a lot easier. As with Word, you can share your spreadsheets with non-Office users by sending links.

Microsoft PowerPoint

Changes in PowerPoint 2013 mirror those in Word, including a reading view, the capability to add screenshots and art from photo sites, object zoom, instant visibility for formatting changes, enhanced commenting features, and the Design tab.

The latter simplifies adjusting design elements by showing options in a new formatting pane to the right of the slide. You summon the pane by right-clicking a selected object such as an image, shape or text.

Powerpoint Presenter View makes it easier to access notes and preview the next line

Powerpoint Presenter View makes it easier to access notes and preview the next line

Enhanced media support includes wider video-format support and the option to have background audio play across your entire presentation. When presenting with two screens, Presenter View makes it easier to access notes and preview the next slide. If the screens are revered, a Swap Display command quickly deals with the problem. Co-authors can collaborate on a presentation using the PowerPoint Web app.

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