It's here, it's touch and stylus friendly and it's up in the cloud, Microsoft has officially released the Customer Preview of Office 2013.
Naturally, with all this new support, some interesting things can now be done with the Office suite. It's now possible to use touch gestures such as pinch-to-zoom and scroll. The term 'Inking' has cropped up again since we last heard it at the unveiling of the Microsoft Surface tablet, in Office 2013 terms, it means it will be possible to use a stylus for note taking, handwriting-to-text and as an aid when presenting, including laser-pointer like functionality.
Whilst the entire Office package has received an overhaul of its UI to better conform with the Windows 8 paradigm, OneNote and Lync in particular have had somewhat more serious redesigns, allowing touch to be a primary form of control, with OneNote featuring a new touch-friendly menu system.
Cloud support comes in different levels; naturally, Microsoft is expanding its 'Office 365' cloud subscription service to feature its latest products, with online-streaming of the entire collection of applications possible. On the offline side of things, Office will automatically sync documents to SkyDrive and allow you to 'roam', where it's possible to sign-in on another computer and have personalised settings, templates, dictionaries and recently used files automatically download, with previously open documents instantly pulled-up on the screen.
Microsoft has been working on its Office's social integration as well, Skype now comes pre-bundled and anyone with a subscription receives 60 minutes of Skype World minutes each month. Skype contacts can now be integrated into Lync, creating a single point of access for business contacts, with Lync opening up possibilities of HD web conferencing with new support for the H.264 SVC codec standard. SharePoint has been updated to allow individuals to follow teams, documents and sites, enabling content from these sources to show up on the home-screen for easy updates.
Alas, Microsoft has yet to announce its full line-up of offline packages and prices, which it says will be revealed sometime this fall. The firm did introduce three new Office 365 subscriptions however, which are Office 365 Home Premium, Office 365 Small Business Premium and Office 365 ProPlus. Microsoft did re-affirm that Office 2013 Home and Student would indeed be shipping free, as standard, with all Windows RT ARM-based devices.
To download a copy of the Customer Preview, head on over to the following link: http://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/officepreview