Microsoft has given its venerable Office suite a major revamping and the new version - now in beta testing and due out next year - packs a number of new and enhanced features that should be of interest to IT pros and knowledge workers.
This is true for both major flavors of the new Office - the conventional Office 2013 editions, licensed perpetually for a single device, and the subscription-based Office 365 editions, which are delivered and updated via the cloud, and can be installed on up to 5 Windows or Apple OS X computers per user license.
Here we will focus on Office 2013 and Office 365 editions such as Office 2013 Professional and Office 365 ProPlus that are made up of end-user productivity applications, such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, and exclude those that include server products, such as Office 365 Enterprise, which comes also with the online versions of the Exchange, Lync and SharePoint servers.
Cloud storage, mobility and developers
Probably the most dramatic change in the new version of Office is how it's linked to the cloud for a wide variety of purposes in ways that either didn't exist or were much more limited in Office 2010 and previous editions.
For starters, a tight integration with Microsoft's SkyDrive online storage service is intended to make it simple and convenient for end-users to save their files in the cloud both in Office 2013 and Office ProPlus. This ties into the increasingly popular workplace use of services like Box.net, Dropbox and Google Drive, which simplify not only access to files but also sharing them with colleagues, leading to better collaboration.
In addition to files, end-users can also save settings, preferences, templates and other elements to the cloud in Office ProPlus, and access them in multiple internet-connected devices, a tip of the cap to the increasingly mobile workforce and the BYOD (bring-your-own-device) trend.
Tying with those two trends - mobility and BYOD - Office ProPlus lets users access the suite in more than the five Windows or OS X computers where they install it. Through a new feature called Office on Demand, users can do a one-time, temporary streaming of the suite and their documents to a borrowed Windows 7 or Windows 8 computer - such as those in a hotel business center or an airport lounge. The software and files disappear from the borrowed computer once the user logs off.