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Welcome to the Office 2013 Public Preview


Today, Microsoft is formally unveiling Office 2013 via a public preview. And it's not just the software suite: The entire Office family of products is getting upgraded in this incredible wave of change.

We have a lot of ground to cover here.

So let’s start at the beginning. Four months ago, I provided the first exhaustive preview of the Office 2013 productivity suite. That series of articles, listed below, was based on the Technical Preview versions of Office 2013, which was released only to a small group of private beta testers.

Microsoft Office 15 Preview
What's Coming in Microsoft Office 15
What's Coming in Microsoft Word 15
What's Coming in Microsoft OneNote 15
What's Coming in Microsoft PowerPoint 15
What's Coming in Microsoft Outlook 15

Later, I also covered some updated versions of the Office 2013 Technical Preview in the following two articles:

Quick Peek: Office 15 Beta Refresh
Office 15: The Mile-High View

I haven’t really discussed this much, but the fact remains that I’ve actually been using the Office 2013 suite on Windows 8 for most of the year, and I feel like I have a pretty good perspective on what Microsoft is trying to achieve, and how this version of the office productivity suite, in particular, is different from its predecessor. I’ve only recently gained access to other parts of the Office 2013 family of solutions, however, including Office 365, SkyDrive Pro, the Office Web Apps, and so on.

Today’s release is much, much broader than the Technical Preview. First, Microsoft has of course been busy updating its next Office and what we’re looking at today is a public preview, available to one and all. Second, this isn’t just the Office productivity applications and suites, it’s everything that makes up the Office 2013 wave of products: The suites, new and improved Office 365 versions, Office servers (Exchange, SharePoint, Lync), the Office Web Apps, and, eventually, versions of Office 2013 for Windows Phone, Mac, and various mobile platforms. There are even two Windows 8/RT Metro-style apps coming: OneNote RT and Lync RT. You’re going to freak when you see them, and how Microsoft overcame the supposed limitations in Metro when it comes to complex productivity solutions.

A lot of ground, remember?

As with Windows 8, I’ll now be writing about all of the Office 2013 products and services on an ongoing basis, with new Tip and Feature Focus article series aimed at helping you get the most out of Microsoft’s productivity solutions. For today and the next week or so, however, I am focusing on what’s being announced at the public preview. And you can consider this article as a tour guide, an overview of the other content I’ve posted today.

There’s a lot of stuff.

First, I know a lot of you don’t want to be bogged down by text: You just want to see what the next Office looks like. So head on over to my Office 2013 Screenshot Gallery for a peek at the new office productivity suite and apps, the new version of Office 365, and the next Office Web Apps.

One of the most interesting innovations in Office 2013 is the new Office On Demand installer, a modern version of the Click-To-Run technologies Microsoft used previously. With this amazing online installer, you can be up and running with Office 2013 within just a few minutes—yes, really—and can even run this new Office alongside the previous version. Check out Office On Demand for more information.

You’re probably familiar with today’s Office 365 service, which offers cloud-based Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync functionality to both small businesses and enterprises (and, more recently, educational institutions). For the next Office 365, however, things are getting very interesting. First, each version of the service is getting updated to the Metro-like Office 2013 look and feel, which should make for a far simpler experience. There’s a new Office 365 Home Premium offering that will combine the cloud-based services with a copy of the Office 2013 suite for up to five computers. And the business-oriented Office 365 versions are being bolstered with a new ProPlus edition that includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, OneNote, Access, Publisher, InfoPath and Lync, and supports up to 25 users. I’ve got the scoop about both in Office 365 for Home and Businesses.

Looking at the office productivity suite specifically, it won’t surprise you to discover that Microsoft is overhauling its desktop applications with a modern, Metro-like user interface that works well on both traditional PCs and newfangled, touch-based devices. In New Features in Office, I highlight changes that are common across the applications and discuss how Microsoft has modernized one of its most venerable product lines to meet the changing needs of its customers and align with the user experience updates in Windows 8.

For many people, Outlook is the center of their daily productivity experience and for Office 2013, Microsoft has thoroughly revamped this complex product and infused it with a simpler, Metro-based design. Read more in my coverage of Outlook 2013.

Microsoft Word is, of course, the Office application I use the most frequently, so I was curious to see how the software giant would improve this product. They did, and then some, thanks to a range of new capabilities that should be surprising in its depth and scope given the maturity of this application. Find out more in my report about Word 2013.

Microsoft’s presentation package is getting even better in its PowerPoint 2013 guise thanks to amazing new presenter tools, theme variants, new guides capabilities, and more.

And while the biggest changed to Microsoft’s note-taking solution will come in a new Metro-style app called OneNote, even the venerable desktop application is getting the once-over, with a simpler UI, new file embedding capabilities, more powerful tables, and more. Find out what’s new in my article about OneNote 2013.

Interested in using Office 2013 with a multi-touch-capable Windows 8 (or RT) device? Then be sure to check out my article, Multi-Touch and Gesture Support, which walks through the various touch and gesture capabilities present in Office 2013.

Finally, Microsoft is also updating its Office Web Apps, which provide online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. Available in SharePoint and SkyDrive, the Office Web Apps are all getting updated with this generation, though the new capabilities will vary from app to app. I’ve got the rundown in Office Web Apps.

And that’s it … for today. But there’s a lot more Office 2013 information coming in the days and weeks ahead. Now that Microsoft has officially opened the floodgates, there’s plenty to talk about.

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